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Overview: The Australian Wine Industry Today

First and foremost, wine production in Australia is expanding quickly. Over the last decade, it has more than doubled its production, and quadrupled its export to the United States. Australia now ranks eighth in the world in wine production. All this from a country with a population of 18 million!
In the south half of Australia, the more temperate part climatically, there are vineyards anywhere people have settled to live. We spent most of our three weeks in the South Australia territory, home to the bulk of premium wineries in Australia. In all, we visited six ultra-premium wine regions - McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Coonawarra, Langhorne Creek, the Barossa, and Hunter Valley. We’ll report on each of these areas separately, as well as discuss the sights and scenery in each area.

Before beginning our South Australia wine journey, though, let's start in Adelaide, the capital of the territory and home to the National Wine Centre of Australia.
The National Wine Centre is an ultra-modern museum/showcase for the wine industry. Located in downtown Adelaide, covering the size of a basketball arena, it houses exhibits showing the numerous varietal types grown, the growing season of a vine, the making of wine from harvest to bottling, a sensorial display of the aromas of grapes and wine contaminants, and many historical artifacts related to winemaking. Additionally, there are state-of-the-art holographic films that have winemakers, wine writers and famous chefs discussing the finer points of grape-growing, winemaking, varietal typicity, and food and wine pairings.
After this very informative self-tour, you end up in a tasting room, where you can sample many of wines from Australia’s winegrowing regions. Your $11 US entry ticket includes four thimblefuls of different basic varietal wines. For another $2 US to $15 US, you can try other, higher quality flights of four. At the end of your tour and tasting, you have the option of dining in a very nice restaurant and/or shopping for wine in the on-premises store.
As nice as the Wine Centre is, there are major drawbacks that are threatening to close it less than two years after its opening. First, the admission price seems steep for just wandering around the exhibits. Second, the additional cost for tasting higher-end wines is outrageous - the one-third ounce pours of four wines, totaling 1.33 ounces, represents about one-eighteenth of a bottle of wine. Multiply $15 US times 18 and you get $270 US per bottle - when the actual full retail of the high-end wines averages $45 US dollars. That is an insane mark-up for a facility purporting to befriend people to wine.
The wine store charges full retail plus, meaning you could get better deals at the local bottle shop…
The whole exhibit feels sterile and academic.
The problem, I found out, is that the wine industry itself is not involved in the Australian Wine Centre! It is, as one might guess, run by bureaucratic government hacks. The only way to save this beautiful showcase is to get the wine industry involved in running it. As we were leaving the country, a discussion to do just that was underway. I hope it succeeds. Wine is a sensual, living, fun experience. The exhibit needs to get a wine-lover’s soul implanted in it. At that point, it will be a real must-have-it stop for sightseers.
Australia is one of the oldest areas on our planet. Its large mountain ranges have long since been ground down into rolling hills. As a result, there are no snow-packed peaks, no rivers and streams, and no lakes. The only place one could settle and live was along the seacoast. Many people still collect rain into cisterns for their water in their homes. As we left from Sydney at the end of our trip, it was announced that two of the city's nine wells were drying up. Rain is still the life-blood of Australia - a severe drought of any length will devastate the country.
Adelaide is a port town, like nearly every other large city in Australia. The climate is temperate, very reminiscent of Southern California. We were there in July, the dead of winter. Despite occasional drizzles and rain, I rarely needed to wear my windbreaker. The temperature varied from a low of 45 degrees to a high of 72 degrees. Just like being in Los Angeles!
We didn't see a lot of the sights or museums in Adelaide, although we drove around and saw many of the old areas of the town. There are numerous buildings that have metal verandas on the second floors; they are very similar in style to the architecture of New Orleans. There was a great farmer's market in downtown Adelaide, where we discovered many vegetables that we had not seen before. One interesting shop we stumbled upon specialized in only kangaroo meat products. Yes, we ate kangaroo on several occasions.
As you might expect, there were many shops that sold opals, the mineral most associated with Australia. Yes, we bought some opal jewelry…
But enough of this background chit-chat. It's time to head out and explore the various wine regions of South Australia!
One final note about the prices given on the wines tasted below – I have converted the winery retail price into American dollars. Keep in mind, wines shipped into the United States for retail here will likely be somewhat (to a lot) more expensive… The wines listed were the top scorers at that particular winery. Space limitations prevent me from listing all of the wines we evaluated. I do have all of my wine evaluation notes on hand, however; if you want to know about other wines from a winery we visited, just drop me a line.

McLaren Vale
Our home base for the 16 days that we spent in Adelaide was at the Clarendon Hills home of friends. Nestled atop 20 acres of land a half-hour’s drive from Adelaide, it provided a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. Best of all, it was a mere 20 minute drive from McLaren Vale, one of the most famous wine appellations in all of Australia!
It seemed only right that the McLaren Vale was the first wine region for us to explore…

d’Arenberg Winery
Osborn Road, McLaren Vale
South Australia 5171
One of the oldest and most recognized wineries of the region, it traces its roots to 1912, when Joseph Osborn (the original Aussie Osborn! :·0) bought the present site of the winery, already an established vineyard. Frank Osborn, Joseph’s son, constructed d’Arenberg Cellars in 1928. Grandson d’Arry started at the winery in 1943, initiating the unique "red stripe" bottle design in 1957. Fourth generation Chester Osborn has been at the helm since 1984, making this truly a family owned and operated winery for nearly a century.
Besides the winery and Cellar Door (the Aussie term for tasting room), there is a great restaurant on premises, so we began our visit with a tasty lunch. Afterwards, we adjourned to the tasting room and went through a dozen or so of their current releases. Please note that they have very strange names for all of their bottlings.
2001 The Laughing Magpie, Shiraz-Viognier
Adding 10% Viognier, a floral white grape, is a traditional way of blending in the Rhone Valley in France, and d’Arenberg does it as well. And well it does it! It has a vivid dark purple color. The Viognier lifts the aromatics and provides a silky mouthfeel to the bright, fresh blueberry and Boysenberry fruit. A great wine drinking well now.
Cost: $17 US Rating: 91
2000 The 28 Road, Mourvedre
This wine was a real surprise. Smooth and harmonious, it offered up lots of black cherry and berry fruit, spice notes of clove, some terroir, and mocha from the oak.
Cost: $20 US Rating: 90
1998 The Noble, Late Harvest Riesling
Deep amber in color. Aromas and flavors of apricot jam, citrus blossom honey, and spice. While an excellent dessert accompaniment today, this wine has a track record of aging gracefully for a decade or three. The winery recommends using it like you would use a fine Sauternes. The Osborns drink it at breakfast with fruit, at lunch with delicate seafood, with pate as an aperitif, or after dinner as a stand-alone dessert. Sounds good to me!
Cost: $17 US/375 ml Rating: 93
2000 The Vintage, Fortified Shiraz
Dark, rich, and intense. A wonderful, syrupy nectar, oozing blueberries and blackberries, with a whiff of black pepper. Another wine that will age extremely well, it will develop nuances of coffee, leather, tobacco, anise, rosewater, mushrooms, orange rind, hazelnut and vanilla bean.
Cost $17 US Rating: 92+

Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards
19 McLaren Vale
South Australia 5171
This was one of our favorite wineries in all of Australia. First, you gotta go down (and up!) dirt roads to get to it; we missed the turn-off twice! Once there, you enter a very old barn-like building where the cellar door is located… Hmmm, nobody there but the friendly winery dog, who wants to play fetch... You ring a bell on the tasting bar. Voila! Out comes Colin Rayment, who happily took us through all the bottlings available. They make nothing but reds and fortified wines here, and they were all delicious! I wish I could have carried more home.
2000 Block 6 Shiraz
This bottling has a cult following, and it is easy to see why. Deep, dense, concentrated black berry fruits, melted black licorice, and lots of toasty oak notes. It’s a real teeth stainer, yet it is so soft and sweet in the mouth that it’s hard not to drink this in its youth. Yum!
Cost: $25 US Rating: 94
2000 Shiraz, Hillside Vineyard
100% Shiraz, the smooth, syrupy black berry fruit is complemented by aromas and flavors of cinnamon, black pepper, black licorice, and vanilla. One to three years of cellaring will smooth out the furry tannins at the end.
Cost: $20 US Rating: 91
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon
Loads of deeply hued, concentrated cassis and black cherry fruit. Lush and plush, the tannins are soft and rounded, making this a wine ready to drink now.
Cost: $13 US Rating: 90

Tatachilla Winery
151 Main Road (P.O. Box 196)
McLaren Vale S. Australia 5171
First planted to grapes in the 1880s, what we now know as Tatachilla Winery has gone through several incarnations. It began as The Wattles Winery, became part of the Penfold’s empire, did a stint as a co-op producer for local growers and , as of 1995, it became Tatachilla Winery.
In less than a decade, the Tatachilla wine-makers Michael Fragos and Justin McNamee, have twice been crowned McLaren Vale Bushing King, awarded for the Best of Show wine in the local wine competition.
We had the opportunity to try just about everything they had available during our stop there. Of the dozen or so wines tried, my lowest score was 86 points. Here are my three favorites:
NV Sparkling Malbec
I’ve guzzled my share of sparkling Shiraz, but sparkling Malbec? Actually, I thought it was great, with lots of red berry/cherry fruit, fleshy plum, and spice. Rich and complex, with a note of tartness in the mouth, the fruit lingered a long time on the afterflavor.
Cost: About $25 US Rating: 90
2000 McLaren Vale Chardonnay
Showing a nose of glazed pineapple, this is a fruit-laden wine that is very refreshing to drink. Lots of ripe sweet apple and stone fruit that turns creamy in the mouth and on through to the lingering, honey kissed finish.
Cost: About $15 US Rating: 90
1999 Padthaway Cabernet Sauvignon
The Padthaway region is just Northwest of Coonawarra, the best growing region for Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia, so the grapes were sourced well. The nose shows aromatics of mint/eucalyptus, cassis, and anise. All smooth and silky on the palate, with sweet fruit that seems to expand. The tannins are well-integrated.
Cost: About $15 US Rating: 90

Wirra Wirra Vineyards
P.O. Box 145
McLaren Vale S. Australia 5171
Located in the heart of McLaren Vale, this was a down-home, piece-of-history winery that looks like things haven’t changed in decades. As with nearly all wineries that we visited, the wines ranged in quality from very good to outstanding. Here, though, the sparkler and the stickies stood out. Clear-skins by the case were only $29 US, or less than $2.50 US a bottle!
1998 The Cousins
A sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the aromas and flavors are of toast, lees, apple and citrus. Bright in the mouth. Clean and refreshing.
Cost: $16 US Rating: 90
2000 Late Picked Riesling
There is lots of concentrated apricot jam and honey here, without any sense of cloying in the mouth. A well-done dessert sticky at a great price!
Cost: $11 US/375 ml Rating: 91
NV Fortified Muscat
They said it was from the 2000 vintage. Wow! Teeth-cracking levels of sugar. Very cloying. Lots of sweet Muscat fruit tasting like honey and orange marmalade. Not my style, but I know dozens of people who would love this.
Cost: $14 US/375 ml Rating: 90

Kangarilla Road Winery
On Kangarilla Road
McLaren Vale S. Australia 5171
This is a fairly new winery in the McLaren Vale; its first complete vintage was in 1998. Owner/winemaker Kevin O’Brien has one of the most successful plantings of Zinfandel in all of Australia. Unfortunately, it was not available for tasting. Known for its reds, I thought that their best wines were the whites.
2002 Viognier
Floral nose of honeysuckle, apricot, sweet citrus, and vanilla bean. A good balance of acidity to the fat unctuousness that is characteristic of this varietal.
Cost: $13 US Rating: 90
2002 Chardonnay
There’s lots of pear, white peach, vanilla and spice in the nose and on the palate. Clean and sweet in the mouth. A refreshing style of Chardonnay meant to be quaffed now. A real bargain.
Cost: $8 US Rating: 89

Penny’s Hill
P.O. Box 584
McLaren Vale S. Australia 5171
We usually enjoy finding smaller Mom & Pop wineries that we have never heard of – there’s something seductive about finding a jewel in the rough. Penny’s Hill certainly fills the bill. Owners Tony and Susie Parkinson bought some bare land in 1984, slowly planted what is now 45 acres of vines, and brought in Wirra Wirra’s Ben Riggs to make the wine.
2000 Grenache
This is one impressive wine, with varietal characteristics of spice, raspberry jam and notes of strawberry and black pepper. There is good weight and depth on the palate, where an earthy milk chocolate underpinning evolves and leads to the pleasant raspberry and spice afterfinish.
Cost: $12 US Rating: 90
2001 Shiraz Port
All the components are in place for a very pleasing Port a decade or more down the road. Deep and dense. Opaque purple. Room-filling aromas of jammy blackberry, spiced raisin, and blueberry syrup. Palate coating; guaranteed to give you a purple tongue. This could hold its own against many Ports from Portugal at a fraction of the cost.
Cost: $17 US Rating: 92

Scarpantoni Estate
Scarpantoni Drive (PO Box 84)
McLaren Vale S. Australia 5171
This is considered an icon of McLaren Vale, so we felt we had to go check it out. In 1958, recent immigrant from Italy Domenico Scarpantoni bought his first parcel of land in the McLaren Vale, a scarce 13 acres, and planted grapes. He worked as a viniculturist at Tintara Winery and Seaview, gradually buying more land. In 1979, with the help of wife Paula and sons Michael and Filippo, he built the Scarpantoni Winery. Today, the new facility is a real eye-catcher, built in a Tuscan motif.
We tasted our way through their entire current inventory, a total of fourteen wines. Only half of them weighed in at 85 points or better. Some went unrated due to excessive oxidation. If it wasn’t for the stickies, I wouldn’t write about them at all.
But, hey, the tasting room/souvenir shop was first-rate!
1997 Botrytised Riesling/Chenin Blanc
It took us thirteen wines to get there, but it was worth the wait. Deep amber color. Sweet and fat, with lush apricot puree and honey aromas and flavors. Yum!
Cost: $9 US/375 ml Rating: 91
1999 Vintage Shiraz Port
Dark and dense, with rose petal, woodspice, and raisin aromas and flavors. Nice now, but should age gracefully for 15 years or more.
Cost: $17 US/500 ml Rating: 91

Fox Creek Wines
On Malpas Road, Willunga
South Australia 5171
This is a darling of wine writer Robert Parker, and former home of winemaker Sparky Marquis, so I was really looking forward to tasting here. Hmph. All wines decently made, but nothing that rose to the level of a 90. An overall disappointment.
2001 Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc
The breakdown is 85/15, so you could really call this a Semillon. Zesty lemon-lime, fig, and passion fruit aromas. It turns full and creamy in the mouth, showing ripe fruit. Good value.
Cost: $9 US Rating: 89

Rosemount Estate
Chaffeys Road, McLaren Vale
South Australia 5171
I have been a big fan of Rosemount for a decade now, especially their Hill of Gold line and their high-end Balmoral and Mountain Blue. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any of the high-end stuff in the tasting room (!), and the only Hill of Gold bottling there was the 2000 Shiraz. The wines available were all well-made and rated between 85 and 89.
1997 Roxburgh Chardonnay
Over 5 years old and still drinking well! In the nose, lots of butternut, toffee, and citrus, with notes of smoky oak. Smooth and full on the palate, with lush flavors of peach cobbler. Good length to the finish.
Cost: About $20 US Rating: 89

Hugo Winery
RSD 230 Elliott Road
McLaren Flat S. Australia 5171
This unassuming boutique winery was a real shot in the dark for us, but we heard some locals say they made good wines so we sought them out. Am I glad we did! The vineyards were planted over 50 years ago by Colin Hugo. Son John Hugo joined the family business in 1970, and continues as wine-maker today. They have a total of 50 acres of vines planted to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Grenache, and Cabernet Franc.
1998 Reserve Shiraz
Deep, dark and intense, this wine offers up layers of blackberry, briary raspberry, black licorice, cedar and vanilla. Full in the mouth, with gobs of fleshy plum and dusty cassis which follow through to the finish.
Cost: $19 US Rating: 91
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon
Ripe raspberry and black cherry fruit with cedar and woodspice. Lots of fruit on the full yet supple and balanced palate, with fleshy plum adding to the mix.
Cost: $10 US Rating: 90

Chapel Hill Winery
Chapel Hill Road
McLaren Vale S. Australia 5171
This winery was a real find! The talented winemaker here is Pam Dunsford, who has the distinction of being, in 1973, the first woman in Australia to graduate as an enologist. Sometimes first is best, because I rated over half of the wines I tasted at 90 points or higher. This is an ultra-premium winery that is well worth seeking out.
1998 The Vicar
A blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, this reserve style bottling is fabulous. The deep, opaque purple color signals the depth and complexity of this wine, and it doesn’t disappoint. Loads of blackberry and black cherry fruit, roast coffee, cedar, and a firm tannic structure. Still a youth, it should continue to improve for another 5 years and hold for a decade after that.
Cost: $23 US Rating: 93
1998 Cabernet Sauvignon
Yum! Mint and eucalyptus lifts up the bright red currant fruit. The furry tannins add woodspice and chocolate notes. Drink up over the next 5 years and enjoy!
Cost: $14 US Rating: 92
1998 Shiraz, McLaren Vale
Another beauty. Deep color and concentration. Lots of jammy, dark berry fruit, cedar, and smoke. Drink now through 2010.
Cost: $14 US Rating: 91
2001 Reserve Chardonnay
Rich and buttery, with lots of spiced, baked apple fruit and roasted nuts.
Cost: $13 US Rating: 90
1999 Cabernet Sauvignon
A pretty, harmonious wine, showing cassis, blackberry, anise and minerals. Smooth.
Cost: $14 US Rating: 90

Adelaide Hills
Located between the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills winegrowing region is considered one of Australia’s premier cool-climate wine regions. Here, the best wines are produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. Although originally planted in the 1830s, it wasn’t until three decades ago that it re-emerged as a quality wine-producing region. Large producers like Henschke, Wolf-Blass, Tatachilla, Yalumba, Geoff Hardy, and Geoff Weaver all source from and have facilities here.
We took a day trip to the city of Hahndorf, located in the middle of the Adelaide Hills. It is noted for having been settled by German immigrants 150 years ago. It still maintains its Germanic heritage, and allowed us the opportunity to have a perfectly wonderful veal schnitzel in the middle of Australia.
Oh… yeah. There’s wineries in them thar hills! Since we were already there, it seemed only right to pop in at a Cellar Door in the middle of town…

Hillstowe Wines
104 Main Street
Hahndorf, S. Australia 5245
Founded in 1991, Hillstowe Winery produces a wide range of reds and whites. The Cellar Door tasting room is in a tastefully restored stone cottage originally built in 1845. There were some solid wines here, but some clunkers as well. As they used to say on Hill Street Blues, "Be careful out there."
2000 Udy’s Mill Chardonnay, Lenswood
Enticing nose of ripe tropical fruits framed by smoke and toast from oak aging. Full-bodied in the mouth, with a citric acidity that keeps it in balance. The long, lingering finish is all butter and spice.
Cost: $16 US Rating: 90

The Padthaway wine region is just 20 miles or so northeast of Coonawarra, but there is little else there besides acre upon acre of grapes. One winery just off the road caught our eye, so we decided to take a look-see. Are we glad we did!

Russet Ridge Winery
P.O. Box 1130, Naracoote
South Australia 5271
We had been driving for nearly four hours through desolate bushland when we stumbled onto this place. I had never heard of Russet Ridge, so I wasn’t expecting much… Boy, was I wrong! The wines produced and poured there include Jacob’s Creek and Orlando’s St. Hugo. The Jacob’s Creek Reserve line, priced at $8 US, were the bargains of the whole trip.
2000 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
This is serious wine at a ridiculous price. Aromas and flavors of black fruits, cedar, mint, and licorice. Fleshy in the mouth, with a nice, fruit-driven finish. We drank a lot of this during our stay in Adelaide.
Cost: $8 US Rating: 90
1999 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz
Deep color, with aromatics of blackberry syrup, menthol, black licorice, and streaks of vanilla. Rich and mouth-filling, leading to a delicious finish echoing black fruits and chocolate.
Cost: $8 US Rating: 90
Orlando St. Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra
Deep color. Nicely perfumed,with dusty blackberry and cassis fruit. Full and sweet in the mouth, picking up chocolate nuances towards the finish. There are some furry tannins at the back that should smooth out more with additional cellar time. But why wait? It’s yummy now.
Cost: $18 US Rating: 90

While the Jacob’s Creek wines were the best bargain, the best winery, bottle for bottle, was Coonawarra’s Penley Estates. The Coonawarra region is known for its exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, and I found myself making favorable comparisons to Napa Valley and Bordeaux.
Besides the great wines produced here, we found a little restaurant called Piper’s in the town of Penola, on the outskirts of Coonawarra. The food here was out of this world! A full four-course dining extravaganza, complete with Bring Your Own fine wine, cost only $25 US out the door. I think I’m still carrying around the five pounds I gained in our three nights in the Coonawarra region.

Penley Estate
McLeans Road, Coonawarra
South Australia 5067
With 400 acres in the heart of Coonawarra, Penley Estates is one of the premier Aussie producers of Cabernet Sauvignon. But owner/winemaker Kym Tolley doesn’t stop there. Since establishing the winery in 1988, Tolley has produced numerous classically proportioned wines. He prides himself on elegance and finesse, and it certainly shows in the wines. I tasted 6 wines there – my lowest rating was 89 points! I hereby proclaim Penley Estates the finest wine producer I visited on this trip.
1998 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
My favorite wine of the whole trip. A beautiful deep cranberry color, rich aromas of concentrated cassis, black fruits, plum, violets, and spicy French oak. Every-thing here is in perfect balance – sweet fruit, acid, and tannic structure – to ensure a long, graceful maturation. The wine gained in the glass for hours on end. Parker called it voluptuous and gave it 95 points. He may have rated low…
Cost: $35 US Rating: 95+
1998 Shiraz/Cab. Sauvignon
Lush, sweet, jammy, and concentrated blackberry, blueberry, black licorice, and molasses. This is a Hedonist’s delight. Drink up and enjoy.
Cost: $20 US Rating: 91
2000 Chardonnay
Full-bodied, well-oaked, made in the style of California, there’s lots of ripe stone fruit, woodspice, and butter. The finish is long and buttery. Great, considering that the 2000 vintage is considered sub-par overall.
Cost: $20 US Rating: 91

Jamieson’s Run
Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra
South Australia 5263
For over four decades, this property has been producing award-winning wines. Originally known as Mildara Wines, today it is more famous for producing the Robertson’s Well and Greg Norman labels. But I found their own label to be the best of the lot.
1998 Coonawarra Reserve
Essentially Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), this wine still has a youthful dusty purple color. Very floral, hints of lavendar mix with mint/eucalyptus and a solid core of blackberry. The great balance is what sets this wine apart from the pack.
Cost: $25 US Rating: 90
1998 McShane’s Block Shiraz
Juicy blackberry, blueberry, black licorice and molasses turns sweet and lush in the mouth and all the way to the fruit-driven finish. Well balanced; ready now.
Cost: $20 US Rating: 90

Wynns Coonawarra Estate
Memorial Drive, Coonawarra
South Australia 5263
The present property was originally planted by Scottish pioneer John Riddoch in 1891. After his death in 1901, it languished for 50 years, when Samuel and David Wynn purchased the site. For the past half-century, they have been producing some of the most sought-after wines in Australia. We enjoyed all of the wines poured here.
1997 Michael Shiraz
Their flagship Shiraz has been a consistent Gold medal winner. Even in a poor year like 1997, the wine is lush and buttery, with lots of fleshy plum and blackberry fruit. Notes of crushed black pepper add to the complexity. I’ve had the 1998; it is outstanding.
Cost: $35 US Rating: 90
1997 John Riddock Cab Sauv.
The deep, dark fruits have a layer of new oak painted over them. Very Bordeaux-like in structure. Needs time. The classic 1998 bottling is still a baby, and I’ve rated it 95 points.
Cost: $35 US Rating: 90

Punter’s Corner
Racecourse Road, Coonawarra
South Australia 5263
I can’t tell you much about this winery other than they make some fabulous wine in the classic years, and it is priced quite reasonably. Those of you who were fortunate enough to try the 1998 Spartacus Shiraz (HDWE 94) know how good this winery can get. All the wines here were solid, with one standout. Too bad the importer hasn’t brought it into California yet…
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon
Deep and dense opaque purple color. Do you like Heitz Martha’s Vineyard? Lots of mint here, mixed in with ample cassis and black berry fruit, anise, and chocolate. Smooth and buttery on the palate. I love it!
Cost: $14 US Rating: 92

Hollick Wines
P.O. Box 9B, Coonawarra
South Australia 5263
Owner/winemaker Ian Hollick started this family owned and operated winery in 1975, with its first commercial release in 1983. All told, they now have 150 acres under vine. Like many of the smaller producers, they manage to keep the prices reasonable, while putting out a very good product.
2001 "The Nectar"
Yup, it’s dessert time! Mostly Botrytised Riesling grapes, with a little Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling thrown into the mix. Bright, sweet and yummy, showing honeyed apple and apricot.
Cost: $11 US/375 ml Rating: 91
2000 Neilson’s Block Merlot
Deep, dark and concentrated, with layers of black cherry, mocha, and spiced oak notes. The tannins are silky. Drinkable now, it should hold for 5 to 8 years.
Cost: $25 US Rating: 91
2001 Sauvignon Blanc - Semillon
Here’s a real bargain! Very ripe stone fruit, melon, figs, and hints of field herbs. Crisp and zesty, with a clean finish.
Cost: $8 US Rating: 90

Langhorne Creek
On our trip home from the Coonawarra, we decided to drive up along the coastline.
Big mistake! There is literally nothing to see along the coast for over 200 miles. The shoreline is a maze of inhospitable salt marshes and lagoons.
About halfway, we drove into the lobster capital of South Australia, Robe. Our luck – lobster was out of season! Still, we found the one restaurant in town that did have lobster, as well as lots of other fresh seafood, and gorged ourselves on it.
About 10 miles past Robe, we came to the turn-off for Cape Jaffa, a small port town for fishermen. Here there is a small clumping of wineries, including one that is owned by friends of our Aussie friends. The winery is Cape Jaffa Wines, and we were impressed with the wines being produced here.

Cape Jaffa Wines
P.O. Box 437
Robe, South Australia 5276
Located in the Mount Benson wine appellation (part of the Limestone Coast), Cape Jaffa Winery produces a full line of reds and whites. The property was purchased in 1993 by the Hooper family and immediately planted to grapes. In 1995, using locally grown grapes, they celebrated their first harvest. At present, they have 25 hectares of vines planted, mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Owner Derek Hooper himself led us through the tasting. Here are our favorites:
2001 Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc
A 50/50 mix, barrel fermented and aged, it is round, rich and spicy, with fig, melon, and Key lime.
Cost: $11 US Rating: 90
1999 Siberia Shiraz
Dark and dense, with concentrated black berry fruits and cinnamon.
Cost: $20 US Rating: 89

Near the end of our drive along the coast, we came to Langhorne Creek. One neat thing about this part of the trip is that you had to cross the Murray River in your car by ferry. Ferry across the Murray – there must be a song in there somewhere. Nobody has gotten around to building a bridge there yet! But no worries, mate – we sailed across the 200 foot river in three minutes flat. No charge for the "E" ticket ride, either! Good on ya!
In Langhorne Creek, we stopped in at Bremerton Winery. This winery was recommended to us by Derek Hooper of Cape Jaffa. Again, very solid winemaking. The only detracting part was that the resident dog was a real sourpuss, and didn’t take kindly to strangers. It’s the first time I’ve ever met a winery dog that wasn’t completely mellow and laid back. Oh, well…

Bremerton of Langhorne Creek
P.O. Box 139 Langhorne Creek South Australia 5255
2000 Selkirk Shiraz
A spicy/mint quality lifts the black pepper in the aromatics, providing a nice counterpoint to the ripe blackberry fruit. It sweetens up on the palate, turning fleshy.
Cost: $10 US Rating: 89
2001 Verdelho
This obscure varietal, known primarily for use in the production of Sherry in Spain, is really making its mark in Australia. A crisp white, with lemon-lime fruit and minerals, it is a perfect match with fresh shellfish. Try this with fresh oysters (we did, and loved it!).
Cost: $9 US Rating: 88

Barossa Valley
Near the end of our stay in Adelaide, we took an overnight trip to the Barossa Valley. This is the home of Penfold’s Winery, where our good friends Daryl Groom and Mick Schroeter of Geyser Peak became master winemakers. In fact, we heard that Mick was in town at the same time we were, visiting family and catching up with old friends. We couldn’t hook up with Mick, but we met a lot of other fine winery people that we now call friend. It is a very endearing area, steeped in history. I only wish we had made more time for our stay there.

Yalumba Winery
Eden Valley Road, Angaston
South Australia 5353
Family-owned and operated for 5 generations, this is Australia’s oldest family winery. It was established in 1851 on 30 acres of land by Samuel Smith, after he struck a moderate amount of gold in Australia’s Gold Rush.
I have been a personal fan for some time, and carry a number of their bottlings in my High Desert Wine Emporium store. Of special note are the Port bottlings and their "The Signature" Shiraz-Cabernet blend. The 1996 Signature is a superlative bottling that I have previously rated 94 points.
1998 "The Signature"
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, this is Yalumba’s flagship wine. Fleshy black fruits, black olive and plum, with notes of anise. Mouthfilling, with a persistent finish. These wines are traditionally long-lived, and this one seems quite closed at this point. Judging by the 1996, I would wait 5 years for this wine to settle down and blossom.
Cost: $25 US Rating: 90+
2000 Barossa Shiraz
This is their front-line bottling, and a good one it is! Roast coffee, ripe black fruits, black pepper, and notes of licorice slowly unfold. Rich yet smooth, with soft tannins.
Cost: $11 US Rating: 90
1996 "D" Black
Take a reserve red like "The Signature," treat it like Champagne, and what have you got? A great red with bubbles! I have never been overly excited by this unusual treatment of good red juice, but this one is the exception. Fruit-driven nose, creamy and earthy on the palate, with cherry fruit echoing at the finish. OK, I guess I do like it…
Cost: $25 US Rating: 91

Tanunda Road, Nuriootpa
South Australia 5355
This is one of the Big Players in Australia. Yes, we went there. No, we didn’t have a good time. Don’t ask. One wine stood out.
1998 Res. Bin 98A Chardonnay
Their top-of-the-line Chardonnay, it is just now marrying together nicely. Harmonious butter, spice, pineapple, and citrus. Full bodied, mouth-coating; it sports a long, sweet, lingering finish.
Cost: $50 US Rating: 91

Charles Cimicky Winery
Gomersal Road, Lyndoch
South Australia 5355
I have had some Cimicky wines in the past, and enjoyed them fully. It was my plan to visit here anyway. Then Fate stepped in. We were spending the night at a Bed & Breakfast called the Barossa House, a quaint, century old cottage. The owner shared an appreciation for fine wine, so we sat down to sip a glass or two in the kitchen. He brought out a clearskin from the cellar. It was a big, dense, chewy wine with lots of character, and I liked it a lot. After further discussion, he said it was made by his friend Charles Cimicky! Then he offered to introduce us.
The Cimicky winery could be the poster winery for hygienic technique. Everything is meticulously in its place. Charles himself, an intense man of 40-something years, was quite animated about his latest projects – building an earth-covered aging cellar, replanting parcels of Shiraz, and experimenting with plantings of unusual grapes like Zinfandel.
Oh, yeah. The wines were quite good, too. The capper was that the 1998 Red Blend clearskin I had tried earlier was selling for $8 US. I wish I could’ve dragged a palate of it back with me to California…
2000 Merlot
Great dusky purple color. The nose assaults you with currant, raspberry, allspice, and mocha/roast coffee. There’s great acidity and integrated tannic structure. A winner!
Cost: $15 US Rating: 91
2000 Shiraz
Wow! Tremendous nose of cinnamon, blueberries, and mocha. Very elegant in style – claret-like, even – but, come mid-palate, there is an explosion of exotic spices and berry fruit. Who says you can’t make great wine in the 2000 vintage?
Cost: $15 US Rating: 92

Richmond Grove Winery
Para Road, Tanunda
South Australia 5352
A real surprise to me, as I have never seen these wines in the United States. As we learned, that is because they stay in Australia and other Commonwealth countries.
Too bad; we gave several wines here 90+ ratings, and they were well priced, too.

Hunter Valley
This was our final stop on our tour of Australia’s wine regions and, to be honest, we were pretty satiated by this point.
We spent 5 nights in Sydney, about a two hour drive from the Hunter Valley, and spent most of our time sight-seeing and eating at the fabulous restaurants in the area. Sydney surrounds a large bay, has a population of several million, has many cultural sights to see, has the worst traffic I have ever had the displeasure of driving in – in other words, it is the Aussie version of San Francisco, complete with a yearly Gay Pride parade.
Because of its proximity to Sydney, the Hunter Valley was one of the first Australian regions planted to grapes. Semillon is the star here, along with Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Verdelho.

Tyrrell’s Wines
Broke Road, Pokolbin
New South Wales 2320
Established in the 1850s, this is a very interesting winery with a unique outlook on selling wine, to wit: they only release wines when they feel they are ready to drink. Most of their Private Bin wines are sold as futures. Their Private Bin wines are their top wines from each vintage. We were privileged to be given a private tasting, where we were shown current releases side-by-side with the present futures release bottlings.
2001 Vat 9 Hunter Shiraz
Very Rhonish, with blackberries, black pepper, leather, and notes of eucalyptus.
Cost: $17 US futures Rating: 88-90
1997 Vat 9 Hunter Shiraz
Current release. Interesting, with strong eucalyptus, black fruits, minerals, saddle leather, and hint of aniseed. Tannins resolving. Ready to drink now through 2010.
Cost: $28 US Rating: 90
2001 Vat 1 Semillon
Bright lime and fig notes, minerals, and a pleasant herbal/grassy note.
Cost: $13 US futures Rating: 88
1996 Vat 1 Semillon
Great balance and mouthfeel, with buttercream notes, ripe fig, Key lime, and spice. The finish is long and persistent.
Cost: $28 US Rating: 91

McWilliams Mt. Pleasant Estate
Marrowbone Road, Pokolbin
New South Wales 2321
Founded in 1921, Mt. Pleasant winery is now part of the McWilliams Wine group, the largest family-owned, 100% Australian wine company. Among other things, they make Barwang, the Aussie wine imported by Geyser Peak. The wines here were quite good to excellent.
1998 Mt Pleasant Rose Hill Shiraz
Defines elegance, with full blackberry fruit, black pepper, aniseed, and woodspice. Soft and ready to drink now.
Cost: About $25 US Rating: 91
1995 Mt Pleasant Semillon
This is the Lovedale vineyard bottling. Still youthful, with citrus and apple aromas and flavors, showing a creamy complexity in the mouth. The apple flavors echo on the finish.
Cost: About $15 US Rating: 90

Tower Estate
Corner of Broke & Halls Road
Pokolbin, NSW 2320
After a wonderful lunch at Robert’s Restaurant, we trundled on down a few hundred yards to Tower Estate Winery. It looked impressive, in its new, trendy tasting room. It sounded impressive, calling itself "the pinnacle of excellence and quality." The prices were certainly high enough…
The best wine was the cheapest. Then it was all downhill from there. They weren’t terrible wines, just over-priced for what was in the bottle.
Because of the winery’s pretentiousness, we all got a laugh out of the winemaker’s notes about the Semillon: "Enjoy this wine young with oysters and fish, or with patients (sic) enjoy on its own…" Hey, maybe the guy was a friendly doctor in a past life!
2001 Hunter Valley Semillon
Take the right varietal, a great vintage, and I guess anyone can make great wine. Very flowery aromas of lemon and lime blossoms, figs, and chalk. Brisk acidity perfectly matches the rich, full body on the palate.
Cost: $11 US Rating: 90

[ 08-28-2002, 07:13 PM: Message edited by: highdesertwine ]
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Jeremy wrote:
HDW, well done on the report. Very comprehensive, have you ever considered becomming a wine journalist? Thank you for the notes and info.

Actually, I do write on the wine scene; this article will appear in my monthly newsletter and portions will appear in a syndicated weekly wine column. But, like most of us here, I am, first and foremost, a wine lover, and love the sharing of information. Hope to see you in November!

[ 08-29-2002, 12:22 AM: Message edited by: highdesertwine ]

Great report and I agree with many of your tasting notes too. [Smile] Thats unusual. [Wink]

In your post you state "As a result, there are no snow-packed peaks, no rivers and streams, and no lakes."

That's flat out WRONG! I would like to know what all those people are doing in the Snowy Mountains with thier skis at the moment? The Murray Darling River is about half as long as the Nile, not bad for a little creek. [Big Grin] Lake Eyre is only 90 miles long and doesnt often have much water in it, but its not bad for a mud muddle. [Frown]

Great trip..... to bad you were not able to visit Elderton in the Barossa - despite a change in wine makers in recent years, they still produce one of the best Shiraz (both Command and 'regular') wines in Australia - wines so big (that to paraphrase the old Campbell's soup ad), you can eat them with a fork. Despite their 'biggness' they still have balance and enough finesse to make them worthwhile.

In the same vein (or from the same vat if you will), is d'Arenberg's Dead Arm Shiraz - almost as big with even more structure and detail making them great wines to cellar
Awesome report HDW. Thoroughly enjoyable reading!

By any chance did you try any Orlando "Lawsons" Padthaway Shiraz (perhaps while tasting the Jacob's Creek stuff - same owner)? I brought three bottles back home with me last time I was in Sydney. Had one and thought it was outstanding (the '96 was their latest release as of January '02).

Pleased to see your notes on the '98 Chapel Hill Vicar. I lugged a couple of those back, too. [Big Grin]

Thanks again for taking the time to share these notes.

Thanks for the notes. The wines sound great but the pricing is troubling to me. As a wine retailer can you please help me understand why there seems to be such a huge difference (increase) between the retail/winery price of Aussie wines down under versus US retail. If anything the exchange rate to the AUD should be greatly in our favor, so it can't be that. I don't seem to find such huge discrepancies with wines from Europe.
Otisabdul: Nope, they were not serving the Lawson's Creek...

Tonester: This bothers me, too. I had it explained to me that regular big distributors only pay about $3 US a bottle to ship it to the US, while the Grey Market guys pay about $10/bottle to do the same. Even so, they both get back about 28% in those GST taxes, so it should be a wash. My guess is that it is good, old-fashioned Capitalism.

Example: I paid $25 US at Kay's Amery for the Block 6 Shiraz. I could also get back $6 US for the GST! So $19 net cost. The Grey Market importer, who is the only one who will sell it to me, charges $52 US wholesale! Even adding the $10/bottle to $19, that is one big mark-up!

You do the math.

The reason for the pricing difference is that you guys are preapred to pay it, simple as that!

Just for the record, there are a number of wines that are brought in by the gray market importers that cost less than the ones brought in by the agents. The last example I had was Jaspers Hill where a gray markket importer charged about $20 LESS a bottle than the official importer.

hidesertwine, sure its dry in the middle, but there are many hundereds of rivers all over the country, most of them are near the coast.

The biggest problem for people importing (or exporting to ) into the US is the distribution system adds unbelievable costs to the process. Matua ( Just been bought by Beringer Blass) had to sell to another company to gain entry to the US. The only company that regularly imports from NZ into the US is Brancott who is NZ's largest Wine Compnay (about 65-70% of all NZ wine.) and even then they have to do this through a distributor, because of the bureaucratic system that is set up from state to state. This creates great problems for New World winieries. Either they sacrifice their unique individuality and join a large company (even Cloudy Bay is owned by Veuve Cliq now) or they don't gain access to the US markets. Admitantly it does sound as though some distributors are creaming the crop but the with a system which discourages exporting to the US I would be inclined to mark my prices up to cover this cost ( I mean as a winery). I looked at exporting a container of boutique NZ wines to the US for some friends (and would've notified you lot.) but I pretty much had to double the price once landed, I didn't think this was fair, so I didn't do it.
What an outstanding post! Great job and I really appreciate your taking the time to share your marvelous adventure with us. Boy, I wish I could have been there!
Thanks again for some great notes on Aussie wines, which are a big favourite of mine. I will print this and hang on to it just in case I get to travel there, your post will definatly help determine where to visit!

Hats off to you! :>) [Big Grin]

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