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PlumbBob goes sideways for a wine from downunder

December 11th, 2009

About a month ago a friend of mind dropped off a recent copy of the Wine Spectator.   I confess  I’m really provincial when it comes to wine: mostly I drink the local wineries, of which there are several that I think offer great value (Vino Nocceto, Terra Rouge, Revolution Wines, Boeger to name a few).  So typically I don’t chase wines, and typically my price points range is $15-$20 per bottle, with a couple of $10 wines that I think are a great value (a wine from Lodi labeled Reds, and  Sobon Old Vine Zin from Amador).  So I don’t have any particular reason to read wine magazines.

But I have in front of me right now an empty bottle, consumed last night, the nose of which is still so good, so marvelous, that it makes me happy.  Roses, Chocolate, Vanilla.  The wine is Schild Estate 2004 Barossa Shiraz.  A beautiful thing. The bottle is empty, but still very much alive with the presence of wine.  And that is my metric for measuring a wine: smell the bottle the next day.  If it’s intriguing, if it’s alluring, if it makes you hungry, now that’s a great wine.

So  my neighbor dropped off copy of the Wine Spectator.  It had a list of several hundred ratings and tasting notes, which I read casually as time allowed.  Casually, but with an eye towards opportunity,  that being the opportunity to find a wine that might interest me enough to seek it out.  Which was not likely, because like I say I stay close to home. And in any case the WS can be a challenge, as many of their higher ratings are expensive, hard to get, or both.  But buried in there were some tasting notes about a wine from Australia, Schild Estates Shiraz.  Another confession: I don’t like Shiraz, mostly it reminds me of Petite Sirah — not a bad thing, but I think there are better choices in wine .  More then that, I don’t find Southern Hemisphere wines particularly interesting, not Australia, or South America, or South Africa.  Mostly I think they are a bit one dimensional.  So you see I have some really strong bias in play here (some might say preconceived, and myopic, determinations that limit my ability to experience life).

But the tasting notes on Schild hit on every quality in a wine that find worth pursuing: Tobacco, and Cherry, and Licorice.  Did I mention I love a good Pinot Noir?  Well, I love a good Pinot Noir. I love those rich colors, herbaceous flavors, the tobacco, the tea, the leather, the cherry/cranberry, that balance of oak, fruit, and earthy qualities that  great Pinot’s have in common.  The Sierra Foothills don’t produce those kinds of Pinot’s, so I have to go further out: Carneros, Sonoma, Santa Luica, Anderson Valley, and Russian River.  Sometimes France (can you imagine that?).

So you see, when it comes to wines, I don’t like Shiraz, I don’t chase wines very far, I’m in the $10-$20 range, and I’m bit cranky.  A bit difficult to please.

But I read those tasting notes and said you know that sounds like a Pinot.  The kind of Pinot I love. And priced at $20. So I had to lend myself to the chase.  I called my usual wine shops and they didn’t have it (no surprise).  So I went to the Schild Estate webpage, which led me to The Australian Wine Connection, who told me to call the San Francisco Wine Center, aka Big Wines Inc. DBA Indie Wine Co.  I spoke with a gentleman name Brian McGonigle.  By the sound of  his voice, a young man; by his demeanor, an entrepreneur, and by his expressions,  a man who “nose” his wines.

I said, “2007 Schild Estates Barrossa Shiraz”.  He replied, with gentility, and a bit of humor, that the 2007 wasn’t in the country.  However, he had some (the last two pallets no less) of the 2004 and 2005 Schild Estates Barrossa Shiraz, which he said were incredible wines (high ninety ratings from WS).  The price was only marginally more then the $20 I was ready to pay for the 2007, so I said “done deal for the pair”.

The wines arrived as expected, well contained, and cool to the touch. That was Tuesday. I arranged for my wife and I to have dinner with a friend at our house — good food, friendship, good wine. That was yesterday.

I assumed the wine would be robust, still young, full of flavor.  I could have gone with Filet Mignon, but wasn’t in the mood for that.  So I decided on linguine with chicken sausage, a bit of garlic, some caramelized onions, with  Saffron and white wine as a base.  If the Shiraz was balanced, if it were really well conceived, the paring would work.  If not, well there was always dessert and port.

It worked.  The Schild Estate 2004 Barrossa Shiraz is still full of vigor, very young, but very balanced with licorice, tobacco, and cherry/vanilla  (in that order), and a smooth hint of cayenne on the finish. A very complete taste every time.  The nose was really enticing — roses, vanilla, cherry.  The oak cooperage really shows here.   I did not decant; I suspect a couple of hours (kept cool ) in a decanter would help the wine open up to reveal something of its future.  Temperature at consumption was probably 15 centigrade.  I would say the acid/sugar blend was correct, but this is a big wine (ripe fruit, and oak cooperage), somewhat like a port.  Now I’ve know that very “port-like”  quality (high alcohol, low acid)  in wines inspires a certain amount of debate, and frankly I think in most cases it is a flaw, but not in this case.  This is a really big wine, with lots of flavor and ambition.

As is my habit with new wines and old friends, the wine was tasted blind.  In those situations I like to ask what varietal, what region, what year, and what price point.   My friend, a man of many such tastings, nailed it right off: he said Zinfandel, which is really very close to what it tastes like. So to advance the game, I said what country, which was a dead-giveaway it was not a Zin, and he said Australia (on a hunch, keep reading), and my wife (who had not ever tasted the wine yet) said, well then it’s a Shiraz.  Had I was!  So I asked, what year?  My friend had recently been to Australia, and understood 2004 to be a good  year, so he said 2004.  He knew me well enough to know $20 or thereabouts was the price point. So now I was completely uncovered.  Nothing left but to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Which we did.  And as I write this, the empty bottle still smells true to it’s past.  Did I mention I still have a bottle of the 2005 yet to drink?  Exactly so.

Best wishes, and thanks for stopping by.

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