20 May 2010

Welcome to the 2010 Clare Valley Vintage Tasting!

This tasting kicks off the Gourmet festival every year. Participants pay for a glass to do the tasting and then keep the glass for the remainder of the events--or if they don't come to the tasting, buy a glass at the first winery they go to and keep it for the weekend.

It's a mix of winemakers, consumers, and people who work with or for the wineries. It's easy to pick out the ones that aren't in the trade, as we are all spitting! Remember, these are young, raw, unfinished wines. Great to try to see what the finished product will resemble, but not really want you want to sip over dinner.

AND we are spitting because there are 144 wines here! The tasting is 2 and a half hours long and I want to get to as many as possible. As you can see, it wouldn't be hard to spend a couple of days going through all of them. I am doing the best I can to speed taste, with just a quick moment to shoot a picture of me in the middle of the Riesling table!

If you remember, I like to talk about how this section of the country is world renowned for its Rieslings. Well, the proof is on the table--there are 33 Rieslings here from the 2010 vintage! Which means out of the 100 or so other wines, that's divided among all the reds from 2 different vintages, plus a smattering of other whites and roses.

Speaking of famous Rieslings, I was able to meet Jeffrey Grosset (of Grosset Polish Hill fame). His wines are oustanding even in this young form, as is his Gaia red blend. His wife, Stephanie, is the winemaker for Mt Horrocks, a winery across the road from Grosset--and she was here too! Neil Pike didn't make it but his wines showed tremendously well -- and Kilikanoon showed great! I know I'm biased, but they really were jewels in the middle of a lot of really good wine.

(whatever! told you Kevin was the man--here he is as the speaker that day, to a crowd completely enthralled by what he had to say about the vintage)

And here I am with Katie and Anna from Kilikanoon--note the black teeth! And we were spitting! Told you these were concentrated. All in all, I sampled a total of 100, trying all of the whites and roses and all of the 2009 reds (since Kilikanoon was my favorite of the 2009s and I'd had their 2010s, I opted to cut out for lunch instead! Wood fire pizza, anyone??

tastings, tastings...

We're busy at Kilikanoon today! The Clare Valley Gourmet Festival starts tomorrow, and the gang has to select what will be the representations of several wines for the taste of vintage.

Katie, assistant winemaker, and I are looking for samples. We have a list of 2009 and 2010 Shiraz, Cab, and Grenache that we need to find and taste. Our instructions are to find as many as we can of ones formerly rated highly by Kevin and Tim, and then to taste some of the others to see what makes the cut into the next tasting to determine the winners. Katie and I are armed with a siphon, a flashlight, and mini bottles, along with tape and a sharpie to mark what we found and what barrels they came from. Watch Katie climb these barrels! We're joking about how she is a monkey, but I'm really impressed while I watch her scale the barrel mountain to get enough for us to try.

And here are our notes--Katie is making sure that we have enough examples. We could only find one 2010 Grenache, so we hope the boys like it! But we have over half a dozen of most of the examples.

And now here is another tough project--we have to taste all those barrel samples again! But this time we are looking at them side by side. Tim and Katie left the room, and I poured them blind and then we all took notes on what we liked. The goal = to find good examples of what the final blend will look like. They will take note of what we included, but the final blend could be a completely different group of vineyards, depending on what the wine does in barrel over a longer period of time. But it is so fun to be included in the selections!

We are going to submit to the tasting: Morts Block Riesling '10, MB Reserve Riesling '10, Chardonnay '10, Oracle Shiraz '09 and '10, Prodigal Grenache '09 and '10, Covenant Shiraz '09 and '10, and Blocks Road Cab '09 and '10. If we can find a single vineyard, that's great--if we have to blend some that works as well.

So just to clarify--we are not blending Oracle 2010. We are simply looking for the best representation of what Kevin wants the 2010 to look like by the time it is bottled and on the way to my shop and our customers. We should have taken a picture of me when Ian picked me up from work--we all had black hands and purple teeth!! But the '10 vintage from Kilikanoon is going to be beautiful. We tried dozens of wines and there will be some insane juice coming from the vineyards this vintage.

Another plate of food that we love--olives with Clare Valley Olive Oil, Dukkah, and fresh crusty bread! Dukkah is a middle eastern-inspired dip or coating, depending on how you use it. It is based on almonds, with sesame seeds, spices, and sometimes other nuts as well. It makes for a wonderful fish or pork coating, and is delicious when you dip bread in oil and then the Dukkah.