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This week (Thursday 18th October), the team at Xanadu Wines in Margaret River were awarded the coveted Jimmy Watson Trophy at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show for their 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (aka the black label).

Winemaker Brendan Carr, Chief Winemaker Glenn Goodall, Rathbone Group CEO Darren Rathbone

Winemaker Brendan Carr, Chief Winemaker Glenn Goodall, Rathbone Group CEO Darren Rathbone

The Jimmy (as it is affectionately shortened) is awarded to the producer of the Best Young Red Wine (2016 or 2017) and is the most sought after wine award in Australia.  This is the second time in three years that the award has gone to a Margaret River Cabernet – in 2016, Deep Woods took it home with the 2014 Reserve Cabernet.

“We are very proud of the quality of Cabernet we have been able to produce at Xanadu over the last 12 years.  Winning the Jimmy Watson Trophy is a huge honour, and it is fantastic to get the recognition with such a prestigious award.” Darren Rathbone, CEO of the Rathbone Group

Since Glenn Goodall’s first vintage as Chief Winemaker 13 years ago, this Cabernet Sauvignon label has amassed a staggering nineteen trophies and thirty-six gold medals at a succession of prestigious Australian wine shows, including eight National Wine Show of Australia trophies. Now, with the iconic Jimmy Watson under its belt, Xanadu is cemented as one of Australia’s leading Cabernet producers.  Glenn, Brendan Carr (winemaker), Suzie Muntz (viticulturist) and the rest of the hardworking team down at Xanadu have worked together to create a suite of highly awarded and respected wines, both by consumers and wine industry personnel alike.

“We are absolutely stoked and extremely proud to be bringing the Jimmy back to Margs. It’s a testament to the hard work of the entire Xanadu team, our growers, and highlights the strength of the Margaret River region.” Chief Winemaker Glenn Goodall

Another quick fact:  DID YOU KNOW that since the acquisition of Xanadu by the Rathbone Group in 2005 (which was the year Goodall stepped up the the plate) the winemaking team has collected 72 trophies across its wine portfolio (this does not take into account gold medals and numerous other wine awards).

And if you’re wondering how much this wine is?  Hold onto your hat: $39.00.  You can buy a Jimmy Watson Pack here.

If that’s not the cheapest premium cabernet in the country, well, we don’t know what is.

The Penfolds Collection 2018

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Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2016

Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2017

The Penfolds annual release is typically something to get (very) excited about. Somehow, Peter Gago (the Chief Winemaker, showman, ambassador and magnetic, charming personality) manages to translate Australia’s most iconic and recognisable luxury brand into something that is approachable, understandable and desirable. Naturally, the wines are always up to scratch, so it’s a morning that unfurls into a day of great wine, lively conversation and strangely, poetic prose.

Crisp morning in Melbourne

Crisp morning in Melbourne


2018 Bin 51

Riesling, Eden Valley

Lime blossom, Greek yoghurt, green apple skins, shaved cucumber and sweet pea florals. Talcy palate, fine minerality. Lovely line and length. The acidity is bright; the palate is plush and ripe. A soft, full and desperately pleasurable Bin 51. Purity is the key here, and it wears its Eden Valley regionality on its sleeve.

12.0%, $40 RRP


2017 Bin 311

Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, Tasmania, Tumbarumba

Fine matchstick complexity on the nose and palate – yellow peach, red apple skins. The impact of the small percentage of new oak is gentle and imparts pistachio, hints of saffron and layers of turmeric. Finger lime, dragon fruit and lemon curd. Lovley. Bin 311 spends 8 months in French oak (25% new).

12.5%, $50 RRP


2017 Reserve Bin A

Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills

After Schroeter’s mouth-watering 2016 rendition of the same wine, I was more than a little eager to look at this 2017. It was a cool and wet growing season in the Hills, but what that has produced is something truly lovely. Crushed graphite, red apple skin, oyster shell, white peach and cashew on the nose. The usual nashi pear, white pepper, stone fruit and saline lick on the palate; the wine retains purity and precision whilst being layered, complex, and very ‘solidsy’. This is an absolute cracker. Long. Concentrated. Nervy. Complex. Full. Reserve Bin A spends a relatively short time in oak – 8 months in French barriques (40% new); 100% malo, hand-picked, whole bunch pressed and all wild yeasts.

12.5%, $125 RRP


2016 Yattarna (Bin 144)

Chardonnay, Tasmania, Henty, Adelaide Hills, Tumbarumba

2016 experienced almost ideal growing conditions across the four regions and with good yields. Incredible restraint in the glass; fine and elegant, there is latent power here. The flavour and impact rests on the back of the palate – it is all stone fruit, brine, crushed quartz… this goes for an age. Very (very) long and powerful. Totally different to the Bin A – this is polished, glossy, restrained and with astounding persistence of flavour. 8 months French oak barriques (35% new).

13.5%, $175 RRP


2017 Bin 2

Shiraz Mataro, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Wrattonbully

Typically glossy Penfolds shiraz is bolstered by mulberry and earth from the mataro. The palate is succulent and delicious – the savoury and sweet of the two fruit profiles meet harmoniously on the mid-palate. If you’re a sucker for Mataro, you’re a sucker for Mataro. First vintage was 1960 – a classic wine. 8 months in French (10% new) and American oak. There’s enough fruit, structure and acidity to cellar this, but it is in such a great place right now. This is the bargain of the release.

14.5%, $40 RRP


2017 Bin 8

Shiraz Cabernet, Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Wrattonbully

The cabernet sits atop the shiraz here – black currant, black pepper, leather/cigar box and bay leaf. The palate could almost be described as succulent – the concentrated core of fruit unfurls out across the finish. Closed at this early stage, but a polished rendition of the classic Aussie blend. 10 months in French and American oak..

14.5%, $50 RRP


2017 Bin 23

Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills

Red cherry, cola, sarsaparilla. Pretty. Silky and fine. 9 months in French oak (30% new), 15% wholebunch, hand-picked.

13.5%, $50 RRP


2016 Bin 138

72% Shiraz, 16% Grenache, 12% Mataro, Barossa Valley

Supple and juicy, a lovely wine with berries and black jube. The palate is medium weighted with a soft swoosh of acidity. It is kind of mouth-watering in a juicy/ moreish way. Pleasure and satisfaction in this glass. 12 months in French and American oak.

14.5%, $60 RRP


2016 Bin 128

Shiraz, Coonawarra

It sounds obvious… but a wonderful shade of red – really ruby and bright. Gah! Delicious. Supple, chewy, vibrant. Totally wonderful. What more could you want from a drink. The cool climate fruit lending bucketloads of spice – we’re talking sweet paprika, white pepper, pink peppercorns… the fruit is red berry, summer raspberry, black currant pastille. The tannins are grippy and chewy. Everything about this is delicious. 12 months in French oak (30% new). This will cellar (10-15+?) but why would you?

14.5%, $60 RRP


2016 Kalimna Bin 28

Shiraz, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Upper Adelaide, Wrattonbully

Darker in fruit spectrum than anything that has come before it today. The fruit here is powerful, tannic and rich. This is crushed black pepper, game, tobacco leaf, blackberries. The tannins are grippy and pervasive. Where the Bin 128 is elegant and subtle, this is black hearted, meaty, brooding and very serious. 12 months in American oak hogshead.

14.5%, $50 RRP


2016 Bin 150

Shiraz, Marananga, Barossa Valley

Mulberry, summer raspberry, fresh and beautiful. The palate, while full, is vibrant and plush – there is plenty to love here. There is a real savoury character to the fruit – like red dirt, tomato leaf, saltbush. This is just gorgeous! Bin 150 holds the Barossa flag high and proud – from nowhere else in the world does Shiraz taste like this. It’s hedonistic really… unapologetic. Totally old-school – if you yearn for that ‘Barossa feeling’… this is where you’re gonna get it. 12 months in American oak (25% new), and French (7% new) hogsheads and puncheons.

14.5%, $100 RRP


2016 Bin 407

Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa valley, Wrattonbully, Padthaway

Blackcurrant, but it is redder than that… crushed pink peppercorn, charred oak, tobacco leaf. The palate is all structure and tannin built around a solid, swirling core of black fruit. The aftertaste is wonderful. A blend of regions, vineyards, and a blend of French (25% new) and American (9% new) means this wine is so immediately identifiably Bin 407. Made in the image of Bin 707, this is drinkable far before its bigger brother.

14.5%, $100 RRP


2016 Bin 389

51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 49% Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully

Red fruits, crabapple florals, crushed peppercorn, Kalamata olive, poached strawberry – this is bloody delicious. Ripe raspberry, blackcurrant, red apple skins, hints of juniper, bay leaf… raw cocoa, chewy tannin. Oh boy do I love this. Plush. Lush. Plump. Structural. This. Is. Very. Good. The classically Australian cab/shiraz blend just makes so much sense: never more so than when you get 389 in the glass. The structure of the cabernet fruit marries perfectly to the plushness of the shiraz, making this a wonderful expression as a sum of its parts. 12 months in American (37% new) hogsheads. Glorious now, or well into the future.

14.5%, $100 RRP


2015 St Henri

93% Shiraz, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, Robe, The Peninsulas, Barossa valley, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills, Mt Benson

This is pure fruit on the nose: elegant and pretty. I always love this wine, this vintage is no exception. The palate has star anise, salted licorice, red licorice, jubes… ripe summer raspberry. The tannins are polished (like whipped egg white). Supple and gorgeous. The aftertaste has hints of black olive tapenade and green peppercorn. 12 months in 50 year old large oak vats. Confirming that this is one of the best premium red buys of the release, as per usual.

14.5%, $135 RRP


2016 Magill Estate

Shiraz, Magill Estate vineyard

Magill Estate Shiraz: the only single vineyard wine in the Penfolds release. On the nose there is lavender, geranium/nasturtium, blueberry. It is elegant and pretty, yet serious. Formidable structure through the finish. This is all about line, length and finesse. It is polished. Blue fruits, black pepper, there is a hint of something like crushed almond, rose petals and red licorice. 13 months in new French and American oak hand-picked, basket-pressed.

14.5%, $150 RRP


2016 Bin 169

Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra

13 months in 100% new French oak and the fruit gobbles it up completely. Pomegranate. Cassis. Black currant pastille. It is so closed I find it hard to read right now, but surely it will open up gracefully in time. There is aniseed and venison, graphite and bay leaf. Generally a warm and dry season in Coonawarra, although the Jan and Feb months were milder – perfect conditions for extended ripening. The wine is powerful and structured, a real force to be reckoned with. Typically challenging to track down a bottle of this…

14.5%, $360 RRP


2016 RWT (Bin 798)

Shiraz, Barossa Valley

Chinotto, blood orange, blood plum. A savoury palate, chewy tannins – there is restraint here – honestly I like this an awful lot! It is old school, unapologetic, balanced. It will be great in time, but it is great now, too. Now THAT is a mouthful. Tannins are pervasive but enjoyable. Crushed coffee, blackberry, tomato leaf, bay leaf… If I had to choose a most memorable red from this release, one that both surprised and delighted, it would be this – the RWT. 12 months in French oak (72% new). A muscular, firm and strangely alluring wine.

14.5%, $200 RRP


2016 Bin 707

Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills

A sweet nose. The oak is so boisterous right now – 20 months in new American hogsheads. This needs time to absorb and come together. Built for power, not speed. Powerful and structured. This is by no means made every years. Since 1964, it has skipped 10 vintages due to unfavourable conditions – this is made only in the best vintages, and made for the long haul. Older 707’s have been beguiling and luxurious, so I can only assume that this will be exactly the same in time.

14.5%, $600 RRP


2014 Grange

98% Shiraz, 2 % Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Wrattonbully, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Magill estate

Wowee… after much (much) swirling to bring out the nose… summer florals waft out of the glass. Sun warmed pink bud jasmine, alongside charry oak and abundant red fruits… this is powerful, dense, layered and long. There is saltbush, nasturtium, crushed slate, raspberry, mulberry, red liquorice and an umami rich back-palate of hoi sin and soy, which pulls me in for another sip, more than anything else – like a curled and beckoning finger. It is restrained and closed right now; the flavours are all locked up, although there are symphonic red fruits rising already. The tannins are glossy and chewy. Grange spends 20 months in new American oak hogsheads. As Australia’s most famous luxury item, it is becoming difficult to distinguish the wine from the legend. How can it be honestly and critically reviewed when we know so much about it before we even start? It’s infallible – constructed like a Rolls Royce and priced accordingly.

14.5%, $900 RRP



Available in good liquor retail outlets (such as Liquor Barons) from Thursday October 18th

The main event

House of Arras, with Ed Carr

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It’s not everyday you get to try wines made by someone who is… peerless.  Ed Carr is peerless in the Australian wine industry.  He is widely regarded as Australia’s greatest sparkling wine maker, and while his reputation preceded him, his wines absolutely spoke for themselves.

Arras with Ed Carr 14.09.2018

House of Arras Rose 2007

“We started using oak seriously in 2006, and we are very pleased with the results.” 1styear French oak, high char fine grain.  Adds tannin and richness.  Rose petal, pomegranate, pink peppercorn, lychee, red apple skin.  2007 was a hot year, dry, with frosts.  The pinot suffered damage which affected production.  Chardonnay elegance assists in old age.  More oak requires less dosage.  The pinot we us has special retention of colour.  Tache of red dosage.  Fairy floss, nougat, crushed pistachio.  Glorious.

9 years on lees, 7gm/L

$90 RRP, 750ml

House of Arras Grand Vintage 2007

“incredibly fresh.  It is still green in the glass.  A spray of sea salt, green apple, summer florals.  Steely and spritzed with minerality.  There is a grip and a structure, the yeasty/bready characters are really restrained on the front palate.  There is a suggestion left behind, yellow grapefruit.”

10 years on lees, 4gm/L.  All Grand Vintage wines spend 9 years on lees, but the magnums spend one year longer.

$300 RRP, 300 magnums produced only.

House of Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2004

“Pink grapefruit, sea salt / brine, oyster shell, Geraldton wax, plush and complete.  2004 was a pleasant year in the middle of a cluster of tough years.  A classic year.  This wine spent 13 yrs on lees.  No oak used in the base wine fermentation, but worked into the liqueur.  1% addition ‘and you’d be surprised what a difference that makes’.  Immaculately balanced and poised.  Powerful.  Finesse.  White peach, hints of saffron, laser acid, super fine.  Exceptional! Super exciting stuff.”

13 years on lees, disgorged March 2018, 6 months under cork.  4gm/L

$200 RRP, 750ml

House of Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2003 

Iodine and seaweed on the nose, seriously complex, Greek yoghurt, grapefruit, white peach.  Palate is muscular and rich – refreshing core – seamless base of pinot and chardonnay.  Red berry, red apple skins, talcy minerality, waxy florals.

14 years on lees, disgorged March 2018.  4gm/L

$400 RRP, 750ml

119 magnums produced only.

House of Arras Museum Release Blanc de Blancs 2001

Preserved lemon, lemon curd, yellow peach, nashi pear, sea salt, white currant, nougat, fresh sourdough.  Greek yoghurt, vanilla bean, fig, wafer, waffle cone, white pepper, crushed oyster shell!  Enormous length.  Finesse.  Elegance and poise.  Dosage is perfect.  Not a whisker over or under.  I’m going to go out onto a very sturdy limb here – this is hands down the best Australian sparkling I have ever tried, and an energetic knock on the French door.

15 years on lees, disgorged May 2017.  2gm/L

$350 RRP, 360 bottles produced.

Hardy’s with Paul Lapsley

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Hardy’s Tasting with Paul Lapsley 13.9.2018

2018 HRB Riesling

70/30 Clare Valley / Tasmania

“Juicy, Germanic Tassie overlay.” Crunchy green apple, lime flesh, and lime citrus.  Fleshy mid-palate with a chalky/talcy finish.  Graceful, fleshy, and floral.  Soft! Wizz Fizz sherbet sticks.  Hand picked whole bunch. Sat on lees in bottle.  4-5g/L

$30 RRP


2016 HRB Chardonnay

Yarra Valley, Margaret River, Pemberton, Tumbarumba, Adelaide Hills.

“Creamy white peach, lemon curd, nectarine, red grapefruit, cashew mealiness.  Southern Alpine Districts 800m above sea-level.  Hazlenut, stone fruit, citrus, red apple skin, salty, preserved lemon, savoury.  Oak is a touch old fashioned, but the salty palate is very modern.  Barrel ferments wild yeast toasty oak.

$30 RRP

2016 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay

Yarra Valley, Tasmania

Yarra: 1-10-V1 Clone.  Lemon curd, white flesh grapefruit, white peach.  Tasmania south of Swansea.  95/96 Bernard Clone. Crunchy and phenolic.  Crushed sesame, white pepper, crushed oyster shell, red apple skin.  Finesse and length of palate.  I recently drank and 2010, and a 2006.  Both were glorious in their own ways.  Certainly this ages gracefully.

$100 RRP


2017 HRB Pinot Noir

85% Yarra Valley, 15% Tasmania

Whole bunch (25-30%) wild yeast, barrel ferment lees for one year.  1000 cases made.  Red fruits, cherry, palate feels amazing: silky.  Strawberry and cream character.  There’s a sourness that isn’t too appealing… ‘sappy’ perhaps?

$30 RRP


2016 was quite spectacular in South Australia. It was one of our best red vintages ever. – Paul Lapsley


2016 HRB Shiraz

McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Pyrenees

5% whole bunch.  Elegance first. Ripe raspberry fruit, dark berries, it’s got concentration and power without weight.  Mulberries.  9000 doz made. 14.5%ABV

2016 Tintara, Upper Tintara Single Vineyard

McLaren Vale

From the Bob Hardy vineyard.  Block next to the Eileen Hardy vineyard.  Purple, blueberry, purity.  “Bobs Block’, juicy fruit, fine tannin, no additions.  25-30% new French barriques.  4500L + 300L 1 and 2 year old for the rest.  Delicious.  Exciting.

$70 RRP


2016 HRB Cabernet Sauvignon

McLaren Vale, Frankland River, Margaret River, Clare Valley, Barossa Valley.

Much more brick red than the fuschia shiraz.  Wilsons Pool may be better than Justin’s Vineyard in time.  Elegant and lovely.  Back palate juiciness is a great pleasure.  Inky and dark fruited.

$30 RRP


2015 Eileen Hardy Shiraz

McLaren Vale

Aromatic, intense, savoury umami character – moreish.  Amazing.  Elegant.  Powerful.  Refined.  A real wow wine.  Rich.  Excellent length of flavour.  Sourced from Upper tintara.  Plush.  Silky.  Block 4 Contours. Planed 1891.  Bob’s Block.  Similar heat year: 2008, 2007, 2003.

$125 RRP

165th Anniversary Cabernet Shiraz, 2014

99 pts James Halliday, 99 points Tyson Stelzer

“Old vine fruit has tannins that melt in your mouth, like fucking Russian black caviar.”

51% Cabernet Sauvignon: Frankland River (Block 13, Justin’s), Coonawarra (Balnaves)

49% Shiraz: McLaren Vale

“2014 was spectacular.”  Elegant and medium bodied at best.  Finesse!  Tannins are cabernet dominant; structured with bright acidity.  Raspberry and blackcurrant on the nose, great length of flavour.  Black and inky without weight.  Lovely interplay between cabernet and shiraz.

Launch October 2018.  RRP ~ $250

A 2016 vintage was made, Frankland River fruit was used again.

Penfold’s – a special bottling 28 years in the making –

Today, Penfold’s released a new range, called the Penfold’s Special Bottlings.  Within it are three new directions, giving the winemakers the opportunity to work without any limitations:

  1. Lot 1990 Pot Distilled Single Batch Brandy – this is the first release of a 28 year old Single Batch Brandy.  There is only as much as there is – limited.
  2. The second release, due later this year (September 2018), Lot 518, a Spirited Wine – a premium fortified Barossa Shiraz (94%), enlivened with the Chinese Spirit Baiju.
  3. The third release, due 2019, is a Champagne – released in time for Penfold’s 175th year.

… A special bottling 28 years in the making …

Lot 1990 Pot Distilled Single Batch Brandy.

We identified almost immediately (in 1990) that it was quite exceptional, and we’ve been ageing it, watching over it and looking after it ever since.  It certainly proved to be as good as we thought it would be.  And with the opportunity that we’ve now been given to start expressing some of these things, we looked at it and thought “well… we could release a 1990 brandy.  So we did.  Everything that we do today, and over the forty years that I’ve been making fortifieds, follows the same philosophy: everything in balance so that no one thing stands out.  Every component you can discover to be in there, but it is designed not to be obvious, or to stand out over any other character.

– James Godfrey, Penfold’s Global Fortified and Spirit Winemaker.

LOT 1990 Pot Distilled Single Batch Brandy

RRP: $425 (750ml)

“The nose opens with aromas of honey, clove, star anise, aniseed, date, raisin, hints of white chocolate, red toffee apple, candied orange peel, saffron… it is smooth, long and warming.  On the palate there is crushed sea salt and caramel – there is a life and a lift here, no doubt from the influence of the time spent in chardonnay barrels – vanilla pod, richness, incredible length.  Last known vintage, 1919. [Ice is added – 2 cubes to about 30mls.] The sweetness is really elevated once the brandy is cooled down.  Custard, stewed apple, nutmeg, cinnamon, even hints of kiwi, red and white currant.  The flavour endures beyond a mouth full of water.  Wonderful.  Vibrant, fresh, vital, honey, cardamom.   97 pts

Produced in the Barossa.  42%ABV.  Released to cellar door and global travel retail.


Understanding and utilising the past, and recognising a future path.  We took grandfather oak, we took chardonnay oak, and we started ageing in that as well so that it added different flavours, gave different  tones, and added different complexities 

– James Godfrey, Global Fortified and Spirit Winemaker

Photo: The image above shows the tiny sample bottles that were prepared for this tasting, it speaks to the limited nature of the Brandy.


Penfold’s have been in brandy for a long long time.  It had always intrigued me that that was there.   So, to have this opportunity to do brandy… if you look at Penfold’s history, the stills in the 1880s at Magill were refurbished and done up.  When they took over the the Nurioopta site in 1913 they did a huge renovation on the distillation equipment there and they put in the largest pot still in the southern hemisphere which was 5000 gallons, and reinvigorated the whole spirit production.  Unfortunately it happened to be 1914 just prior to the war.  Then they missed 4 or 5 vintages when the war was on.  So the next opportunity was 1919, immediately following the war.  Not surprising that 1914 and 1919 were the two vintages that they had.  It always fascinated me that it was single vintage liqueur brandy.  The long history of Penfold’s gave us the opportunity to do this. To make it different we looked at all the cues you can add to a brandy to give it that ‘extra edge’.  So what we did: we took cues from other producers in other spirit worlds; we took grandfather oak, we took chardonnay oak, and we started ageing in that as well so that it added different flavours, gave different  tones, and added different complexities.  Everything we are trying to do, and everything we do in our blending, we have to remember it is a single batch single vintage -by its very nature there’s not much to play with.

– James Godfrey


VERTICALS Frankland Estate

The 2017 Frankland Estate riesling release across the four style was an exciting time for me.  I have long held the view that the rieslings from the Great Southern (Australia’s largest sub-region encompassing Frankland River, Porongurup, Albany, Denmark and Mt Barker) kick it alongside some of the best in Australia, and so, it was a real treat to see them side by side with winemaker, Hunter Smith.


2017 Alter Weg Riesling

Green apple, white pepper, the acidity is bright but round and soft.  Citrus blossom, the best kind.  Talcy.  That lovely musky character.  Delicate and fine – there is a sherbet life to the palate – my mouth tingles!  Certified organic.  Love this.  5/6gm RS/L 94+pts.

2017 Poison Hill Riesling

Ph: 2.8-3.  Certified organic – first vintage.  14kms north of Isolation Ridge vineyard. The nose here is astounding.  Orange blossom, hints of eucalypt, white currant, white pepper.  Such intensity on the palate!  Like a laser beam! A steely backbone, lovely minerality, it’s so lusciously green.  Petals, ripe granny smiths, lovely phenolics.  Will live for an age.  Jesus.  Maybe the wine of the day.  96+ pts

2017 Isolation Ridge Riesling

5% oak.  Here… summer flowers, a dusty sandy character.  The palate is textured and finely structured.  The acid structure is different to the two wines above – tighter and more lifted.  Clarity! Purity and finesse.  The youth has the complexity and power all packed away but the length is key here. Lovely lovely lovely.  95 pts.

2017 Smith Cullam Riesling

19gms RS.  Tightrope of tension: sugar / acidity.  Rounded yet fine.  Great length of favour.  The palate has hints of paperbark, bush florals, red apple skins, lovely minerality and texture.  Lemon sherbet, finesse, body.   Note: I recently looked at a 2010 S.C. riesling and it was just majestic.  With 8 yrs under the belt it had just bloomed into something wonderful.  Could have been the perfect food match of pig skin noodles at Liberte in Albany… but nonetheless, it made an indelible impression.  95+ pts.



*longer lees contact style.  Newer vintages with oak.


5% oak.  Summer florals, a dusty sandy character.  The palate is textured and finely structured.  The acid structure is different to the two wines above – tighter and more lifted.  Clarity! Purity and finesse.  The youth has the complexity and power all packed away but the length is key here. 95 pts


Picked earlier because acids started to drop away.  Riper and rounder, but the flavours are more restrained.  More immediate concentration.  Older style built for the long term.  Some in the room said that this was the riesling of the day.  That was not my reading, although it was very good.  94 pts


“This is the vintage that got us into Halliday’s Top 3 Rieslings of the year” (H. Smith).  Starting to show age complexity – it manifests as spice, braised apple.  There is a lift and life here that is magnificent.  Startlingly good in fact.  94+ pts


Toasted honeysuckle hints on the nose – acidity is unchanged, here we start to see the majesty of aged riesling.  Tightly coiled, complex and layered. 91 pts


And here… if possible this is even lighter in colour than the 2008… and ageing more slowly.  What a cracker.  This is less than half way through its life.  Astounding.  (There is an interesting story here about it being perceived as not being good enough on release for export… despite being ordered… so they were left with 400 dozen in the winery until not that long ago… lucky for us.)  95 pts

1994 Rhine Riesling – cork

Bright yellow in colour, again the acidity is rod-straight and coiled.  Toasted honeycomb, ripe and full.  Lots of spice and texture, it has become velvety with age.  Perhaps, it is at peak drinking now.  Anything older and it will lose what fruit it has.  93pts.


*graphite, chalk, minerality abounds in recent releases.  Shallow ferment in 2015/2016.  55% of this wine is exported.

2016  PRE – RELEASE (release date: May 2019)

Blueberry, raspberry, pomegranate, star anise, black pepper, red apple skins, strawberry.  The palate has silky fine tannins, velvety.  There is savoury spice and a graphite edge to the palate.  Wonderful, world-class wine.  Great length of flavour. 15% wholebunch.  25-30% new oak.  7T to the hectare.  Picked late April.  95 pts

2015 NEW RELEASE (release date: WC 14/5/18)

Taking on darker, more savoury characters – hints of hoisin, blackberry, iodine, elegance of tannins and elongated flavours.  Many many layers. 5% whole bunch. 94 pts


“This vintage started to touch on the style of shiraz that we wanted to make.”  Refined and spicy, definitely a difference in style to the two newer wines.  It is wonderful and complete, showing what 6 years in bottle will do.  Blood plum, mulberry, balsamic poached fruit.  (“tougher wine” – RJ). 93 pts

*note above wines all show a very similar colour! The 2010 extended maceration and a deeper ferment. 

1999 – cork

Spicy Asian flavours.  Much of the primary fruit has darkened and dropped away. 92 pts

1994 – cork

Iodine on the finish, the palate shows a lovely aged elegance, but much of the freshness and vibrancy has gone. Wonderful to see this wine, knowing the timeline of the estate (best 1988, but it was hard to look at next to the unbridled youth and exuberance of the younger wines, coupled with a more elegant style of wine.)  90 pts

2015 Olmo’s Reward – $85RRP

Cabernet Franc (72%), Cabernet Sauvignon (19%), Malbec (9%)

Leafy, floral aromatics – murraya, jasmine, citrus roe, cassis, raspberry, strawberry.  Textural, structured, eegant and refined.  Tannins are fine and chalky – grippy even, in a chewy way.  Very black fruit.  “Vines really settle down after 25yrs, so the higher percentage of C.F. can be attributed to greater vine age and the fruit really coming in to its own.”

2008 Olmo’s Reward

Cabernet Franc (62%), Merlot (17%), Malbec (16%), Cabernet Sauvignon (5%)

The fruit here is taking on that Chinese hoi sin character, hints of juniper, blood plum, showing garnet colour on the rim.


Devil’s Lair New Releases (plus one not so new)

“Since 1981 when Devil’s Lair was established, the viticultural team, under the guiding hand of Simon Robertson, has overseen a site that is visually understated, yet stunning, with a varied landscape of undulating slopes, blanketed by vines and vegetation, supported by the cool, maritime climate of Margaret River. With a keen sense of the idiosyncrasies of each block, the microclimates within the estate and the ways in which each and every vine responds in different conditions, Simon brings a sense of continuity with what was originally envisaged, what Devil’s Lair has become and what the future holds.” (devils-lair.com.au)

Devil’s Lair Hidden Cave Chardonnay, 2017

“Fruit sourced from Southern Margs.  Fruit forward, generous.  More Gin Gin clone in the blend.  Tight and closed at the moment.  Pink grapefruit, white peach, yellow peach.  It’s elegant.  Bright and fresh – great value! Lovely structure.  Wine is put through 50% malo – looking for phenolics and lees complexity.”

91 points, $20RRP

Devil’s Lair Dance With The Devil Chardonnay, 2017

“Described as ‘a winemakers playground’, by winemaker Ben Miller.  100% barrel fermented with wild yeasts, higher solids content than the Hidden Cave, the wine spends 6 months in 30% new French oak, the rest goes into one and two year old barrels.  There is cashew, grilled almonds, bruleed yellow peach, it is complex and layered.  Softer and more rounded than the Hidden Cave. Impressive length. The intensity of fruit is very good.”

92 points and $25-30RRP

Devil’s Lair Chardonnay, Margaret River, 2016

“The nose here is far more restrained.  Finesse, concentration, length, texture.  50/50 Gin Gin/Davis clone (the Davis component ‘grown like a sparkling cropped 9T to the hectare’).  There is a focus in the vineyard on maintaining thick skins for texture and concentration.  That is certainly evident in the wine.  This spends 9 months in French oak, and 50% of it goes through malolactic fermentation, so the texture and feel is at once creamy and bright. 2016 was another great chardonnay vintage in Margaret River: the more I see of it the more I like.  This was no exception.”

94 points, $50RRP

Devil’s Lair 9th Chamber Chardonnay, Margaret River, 2015

“Well.  This beautiful wine is all concentration, steely finesse, elegance and power.  The fourth release of this wine (I discuss the 2011 further on), it, like the cabernet, is just the ten best barrels of the vintage.  If there is a particularly strong vintage, Ben Miller does not opt to increase production of the 9th Chamber wines, instead more great wine flows down the hierarchy.  Hurrah to there being so many great vintages! White peach, pepper, pink grapefruit, toasted cashew, and grilled yellow peach.  On the palate it is all lemon zest, sea salt, a fine but definite chalky texture, and great great great length of flavour.  Rich, but restrained.  A wonderful wine.  If the 2011 is anything to go by, it will age tremendously.”

96 points, $100RRP

 Devil’s Lair Hidden Cave Cabernet Shiraz, 2014

“This is silky and bright.  A lovely example of cool climate elegance.  There is a hint of jolly on the palate, accompanied by fine tannins.  The shiraz is from Southern Margs.  A medium bodied, bright and perfumed style.”

91 points, $20RRP

Devil’s Lair Dance With The Devil Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016

“Dusty, earthy, lovely Margaret River fruit on the nose.  Cassis and wild raspberry.  4% Malbec with some Cab Frabc (3%).  The wine is matured in large oak demi-muids (600L barrels).  Magnificent wine.  Exceptional value for money.  Captures the life and elegance of Margaret River cabernet.”  93 points, $25-30RRP

Devil’s Lair Cabernet, Margaret River, 2014

“2014 really has come out of the docks as an elegant, classic, cabernet vintage in Margaret River.  I am very happy here.  This is medium bodied and elegant, but it is also powerful and well structured.  The tannins are silky, but they’re grippy.  This has a desperately satisfying chewiness about it.  I love this.  The fruit is not overwhelmed by oak, it’s all about the tannins drawing out the finish.  It is red-fruited.  It’s all about freshness and balance.  Sarsaparilla, black cherry, pomegranate, raspberry and cassis.  10 days on skins, pressed in separate batches – no fining – blended back together.  16 months in French oak.  The fruit for the estate range is estate owned.  In this case, sourced from 3 vineyards in Wilyabrup.  A truly lovely wine.  The most temptingly drinkable of the reds, now.”

95 points $50RRP

Devil’s Lair 9th Chamber Cabernet, 2013

“The nose is very closed right now, but the power and concentration is evident here.  18 months in 100% new oak. 250 cases only. This is only the second ever release of this wine.  The juice spent 6 weeks on skins to develop tannin and colour, and it has both in spades.  The 10 best barrels to make up this wine are selected 18 months later – all from one vineyard too.  Resinous/charry oak.  It is built for longevity.  It is intense and concentrated.  Honestly, today I would be drinking the estate.  In ten, or fifteen, or twenty years, this will be where I’m heading.”

94+ points, $120 RRP

Devil’s Lair 9th Chamber Chardonnay, Margaret River 2011

“I opened this last night* for two reasons: 1) I was curious, after seeing all the wines above, I wanted to see how this guy was travelling; 2) I had a chardonnay thirsty friend coming round for dinner and I didn’t want to disappoint.  Boy, did it not.  On opening, this was pure concentration.  We’re talking ripe lemon juice, yellow peach, red apple skins, a touch of bitterness in line with pink grapefruit, and the kind of concentration of flavour and acidity that comes from a juicy mid-summer mango.  There was brine laced through every last morsel of fruit, and the length just kept going.  It was pure deliciousness.  There was even hints of the ol’ curry leaf and white pepper that I search for in great chardonnay.  I just loved it.  Plenty of minerality and finesse, a truly great wine.  Went down a treat.” 97+ points


If the ’15 heads in this direction I will be very happy.  Not surprised of course – 2015 was a great year.  In my book, 7 years is about right age to drink chardonnay.  It has complexity from its age, but it is still overwhelmingly bright.  I feel the richness of chardonnay is such a delicate balance that I don’t like to see tipped over the edge of youth… and here, it was still blushing.


*The label is badly damaged because it has been in the back of my Vintec – but seeing as it is quality glass it is fatter than the other bottles, and cops a beating between shelves.  A bit irritating for accessibility, and not great if I am hoping to present the bottle in the best light, but it tells a story, so I’m ok with it.

South by South West, Viognier Chardonnay 2017

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South by South West, Viognier Chardonnay, Margaret River, 2017

“Green apricot, lemon, orange blossom.  Something good and tart like cream cheese frosting.  White pepper, white peach, green mango, kiwi fruit and green apple.  The palate has epic bright acidity from the chardonnay, and richness from the viognier (not that the Margs chard doesn’t contribute its own whack of weight, concentration and drive).  Here, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Thoroughly enjoyable and textural.  I can’t remember the last time I looked at a viog/chard.  Interesting that the less popular (but previously stated “cool”) viognier is listed first on the label before chardonnay: perhaps a pointed effort to set itself apart from the crowd – there is a lot of MR chardonnay on the shelves.  A good move.  Lovely low alc at 12.8%.  YES.” $48, and 94+ points

Relevant winemaking information summed up perfectly on their website:

“The Carbunup Chardonnay was de-stemmed, pressed, inoculated, and went through both a primary and secondary (malolactic) fermentation in charry toasted new French oak. This juice was matured on yeast lees and with regular bâttonage for 6-8 weeks to enhance mouth feel and complexity, then aged for 6 months.

The Wilyabrup Viognier was inoculated with the same Burgundian yeast strain in a stainless steel tank and, once the Chardonnay completed the secondary fermentation, blended together in equal portions into a barrel. With a naturally higher sulphur level present in the Viognier, blending the Chardonnay that underwent Malolactic fermentation was a perfect match.”


Nebbiolo – Vineyard 28

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Vineyard 28 Nebbiolo, Geographe Region, 2015

“A bright Langhe style.  Spicy black cherry, blood plum, hints of pomegranate, wet slate, white pepper and red apple skins – there is a pink peppercorn character here too.  In particular, in the mouth, the tannins are chewy and v pleasing indeed.  It has that moorishly refreshing acidity that is one of the (many) things I love about nebbiolo.  Fruit is handled with great care and precision.  A truly delicious wine.  Shame it’s sold out – one bottle was not enough.  A few nerd notes: 14 average year vine age (low yielding 2.5T/ha), aged in 3-5 year French barriques for 18 months.  Drinking perfectly now, but will age gracefully by the feels of things.”

It is bittersweet that I discover this wine, now that it is sold out.  It was a gift from a friend*, to say thank you, for giving them a bottle of wine (as a gift).  A thing like this makes me smile.

Nebbiolo remains a long-standing preoccupation of mine – each mouthful reminding why I find it so exciting.  So too, my interest in the Geographe wine region.  It encompasses 5 growing areas: Harvey, Busselton, Donnybrook, Capel and the Ferguson Valley.  I did extensive tasting through the region in January 2014, and it became very obvious very early on in the piece that the region produces an astounding number of high quality wines: riesling; shiraz; nebbiolo; tempranillo; sauvignon blanc and chardonnay (amongst others).

The thing that stuck in my mind about Vineyard 28, surprisingly, has nothing to do with wine.  Owner Pippa Nielsen is a keen patchworker and quilter, so the cellar door doubles as an art gallery supporting local artists.

*Many thanks to Liam’s dad, resident of Myalup, and avid wine lover – flying the local flag.



Viognier – very f*****g cool, but not fashionable

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That seems to be the way with so many wonderful wine varieties and styles, although if there’s ever been a time in pop culture to make the uncool, cool – it is now.  The minimalist 90’s are back in, and there’s not many less cool eras… maybe I say that from an 80’s standpoint.  I acknowledge all 90’s things are having a second time in the sun.  I even enjoy some of them.

2013 Yalumba ‘Virgilius’ Viognier, Eden Valley

I wanted something with body and acid, that wasn’t chardonnay.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s my favourite (?) white grape, but I do drink a lot of it.  I picked up this bottle from a wine store in Cottesloe about 8 weeks ago, and as soon as I thought of it, I dashed to the wine fridge to dig around for it.

This has ripe honeydew melon, rockmelon, pink grapefruit, white pepper, hints of vanilla pod, grilled yellow peach, and tempering spices like sea salt, crushed ginger, white pepper and a hint of curry leaf.  This did see some time in oak (French, 11 months), so there’s a dimension to the palate that just keeps flowering long after it’s been swallowed.   There is definitely a viscosity and thickness to the palate which is giving me my viognier kick, but the acidity pulls everything in to line and lightens it up.  Mouthfeel is plump and silky… I can’t help but roll it around. Wonderful stuff.

+ Winemaker: Louisa Rose

+ Yalumba’s flagship white wine

+ First vintage 1998

+ Stelvin since 2003

+ “Since 2005, Yalumba’s Virgilius Vineyard in Eden Valley has been home to the most clonally diverse planting of Viognier anywhere in Australia – allowing winemaker Louisa Rose the opportunity to create wines of great promise and diversity.”