Sunday, 11 December 2011

Tasting the delights outside the Paris of the south... (Or a short segue to the Yarra Valley) Part 2.

Underwhelming photo of Medhurst, twas good though!
Apologies for the delay!...  If you would like to read part 1.

As I listened to the broadcast of Australia playing New Zealand at the Gabba, the Victorian James Pattinson wreaking destruction upon the black caps; here was a reminder that I needed to complete part II of my short tale of the Yarra Valley. It seems many good things come from Victoria.

So I believe we were heading over to Medhurst for more wine and lunch, it was a chance decision that turned out to be a highlight of the day. The drive up to the cellar door was was pretty and the weather fickle as ever with cloud and showers scudding through, quite beautiful, as long as your in the car or at the bar. Medhurst has a new and impressive tasting room/restaurant which is quite an architectural statement which commands some fine views. This theme of growth and development is continued with construction nearly complete on their own winery on-site. The wines on offer come in two tiers, with the Red Shed label at about the $20 mark and the The main range, for around $25. Whilst this still gives a considerable choice to try, I like the fact that there aren't seemingly endless wines at different price points. It can seem a bit ridiculous with some producers when they have endless wines which can all often be similar shades of grey, better to make fewer wines but have quality and distinction in all of them.

The Red Shed offerings were all good quality wines, straight forward but tasty and good value. This high quality was reflected in the main range. Sauvignon Blanc was pleasant and in a restrained style I enjoy rather than having excess tropical fruit and gooseberry. Rosé was again in a very fine, restrained style, pale colour. It was very subtle but tasty. I can't tell you about the Chardonnay as they appeared to have run out though I'm sure judging by the other offerings that it's ok... Similarly all the reds were lovely wines: Pinot was good, though didn't stand out for me, I felt the pick of the reds and all the wines, were the Cabernet and Shiraz. On the day the Shiraz really impressed me, but a later tasting of the Cabernet was equally impressive. Without writing a tasting note, both of these wines were fantastic in there balance, sophistication and restrained power. No doubt they also both benefit from a little bit of time in the bottle with the current release being 2006.

Interestingly the Shiraz and Cabernet are bottled under cork which is more the exception to Stelvin these days. I really don't have a problem with cork, providing it's high quality, but one does have to ask why would you when SC is almost foolproof, but then I'm being provocative, think about it... The argument from this producer goes something along the lines of allowing variation between the bottles in a good way, make of that what you will but I rather like the idea. So to soak up some of the booze we had a great platter of antipasto, Anthony being designated driver had a coffee or two and I admit to having a glass of the shiraz. It could not be helped! On we went, but I watch this producer with interest and will definitely have to make a return trip.

This time of the afternoon is a difficult one when your tasting, you've just had lunch, a few wineries ticked off, so a bit of palate and mental fatigue can kick in. I'd be interested to know what others do to rejuvenate and energise, we just pushed on. You can chomp all the raw cashew and apple you like, but there is a limit, it's tough man! On we went, next stop Coldstream Hills.

Now Medhurst was stylish, and so was Coldstream Hills, if a little cold. I have to preface this next bit with a disclaimer of sorts; I have every respect for James Halliday, he knows what he's on about, likes wine, writes the odd review and so on, I even make the odd joke about him, which for those who know me is a token of my esteem. What I dislike is all that being blasted at me at every opportunity, you know what I'm on about, this or that wine being given 95 points by the man, 5 star wineries and all that... Anyway Halliday was one of the original owners here, though don't take it from me, if you visit the cellar door you will get told this 47 times. Signed copies of the next decades wine guides will be available, because you have to face facts sooner or later and check what's rated 5 stars, who would visit a winery otherwise?

You cannot complain about the view from Coldstream Hills...
I may have been a little stuffed from lunch, the view was lovely, the wines were all very high quality, some probably sublime. Great. However the approach to it all was lame and the experience exemplifies what I'm on about. Our barman, expert, taste guide or whatever we title them was disinterested and run off his feet, scampering between 4 different groups. The cellar door has a nitrogen injection system in place, so as the tasting bottles are exhausted, the wine doesn't oxidise, or the process is at least slowed. In theory this is good; didn't work with two of the wines I tried, but of course I had to effectively argue with the poor guy behind the bar and then accept profound apologies when he actually tried what he was offering. All rather tiresome, the high point was watching some of the AFL Grand Final as the TV was perched on the bar.

In short, very good wine but a totally underwhelming experience.

The weather was on the improve as Anthony and I rolled down the path to the car and headed to our final pairing of the day, Allinda and De bortoli. I told you we were dedicated!

Stay tuned for part III as it's taking a bit longer than I thought, bear with me!

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