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.

12 May 2010

lunch & tasting

What delicious stuff the Duke is!
Here we are in the lab. Tim, Kevin Mitchell, and I tasted the new vintage of Duke Grenache to see what vineyards made the cut to make the bottling.

The guys measured out the blends in a number of ways, and we ended up with 99% of the Grenache blend and 1% Shiraz added in. It was delicious, considering it was a raw wine.

All of the tastings you do in a barrel room have to be taken into consideration differently than when you're trying a finished product. They're rougher, more masculine, and the oak jumps out at you. If you can get past the edginess, you have a chance to see what the wine is going to be about. And this wine is going to be GOOD.
You'll see the medicine bottle-looking collection behind the glasses, with the different selections of barrel samples we were trying.

Our break for lunch in Sevenhill included salt and pepper calamari, a beautiful chili plum dipping sauce, and salad. The Knappstein reserve lager was delicious!

Here are Nedd, proprietor, and Andrea, chef at the Sevenhill Hotel.

Nedd and I went down to check out the wine cellar and he showed off his Kilikanoon 3 liter. Diners at the Hotel can go downstairs and pick out their own bottles. Seems he's selling some Special K--he had to order a little of everything for the upcoming Gourmet festival.

Tomorrow we start getting the wines ready for the festival, but for now I'm going to have a glass of the Charles Melton Rose of Virginia I snagged at the hotel. It is delicious!

barrels and other glamorous undertakings

Today I got the start of my short internship here. Tim McNeil, head winemaker at Kilikanoon, apologized for giving me a "non-glamorous job"--I'm just so happy to be here!

My first task is to wash out barrels. I imagine that the 28 barrels we have out in the warehouse are from the new vintage of the Duke Grenache, as it is in the process of going into the bottle.

The contraption used has a long arm and then a nozzle that turns, shooting hot water out in every direction to get the entire barrel clean. It takes 3 minutes for each barrel, so I was equipped with a stopwatch so there was enough time to get the barrels clean but not waste precious water. Yep, that's really me--stopwatch, barrel gloves, and "gumboots".

You spin a barrel around so the hole for the stopper (or bung) goes from the top to the bottom, draining a little wine. Then turn a bit more so the nozzle can fit in, then straight down and turn on the water. After 3 minutes, angle up to get the nozzle out and then back down one more time for the rest of the water to drain out. Those gloves became important in a hurry!

It smelled rich and sweet as the first bit of wine came out of the barrel, and then the hot water took over--I had my very own steam facial going on!

Good news--after I finish washing 28 barrels, I get to TASTE some Duke--yes, I will work for wine!

airports and wine

Welcome to Australia!! Before I even boarded my connecting flight to get to the Clare Valley, lo and behold, there was a tasting in the Sydney airport. These forward-thinking wine sellers, from a company called Wine Selectors, let the locals taste a few wines and place an order--and then deliver it to their doorstep. Unfortunately, the shipping would be a bit much for those of us in Georgia, but I loved the concept! Oh, what the future could bring. . .

For right now, what the day is bringing is a little bit of sparkling Riesling from Knappstein winery right here in Clare. It's a bit chilly out but I'm really enjoying the farm life outside my window when we "knock off" of work. For anyone who hasn't heard, the Clare Valley is Riesling central--some of the best in the world are made within 15 minutes of where I'm sitting in this picture!

pictures from day one

Hi there and G'day!

I forgot my camera cord to show pictures of the early stages of the trip so here are a few:

First off, the cottages are lovely. We're thoroughly enjoying them. but here is our view in the morning of Mount Rufus.

And here's a shot of that fabulous first meal in the Clare Valley too. This is the seafood salad and the Trillian's sparkling red from Pauletts.

more to follow!

Kilikanoon: Week One of My Australian Adventure

The destination is, of course, the glorious Clare Valley, my particular favorite in Australian wine country. I am working at Kilikanoon, my dream job, for the week. Now, keep in mind, I say that it's my dream job, but so far the description is “pulling hoses around the cellar.” So we'll see how hard Kevin Mitchell has me working and how much dirt gets under my nails this week! I'll keep you in the loop.

So far, I've just gotten settled and am starting this morning at the winery. I'm about to take off for it from my beautiful bed and breakfast, Riesling Country Cottages. It is a lovely pocket of 2 cottages next to a farm house right here on the Riesling trail in Clare Valley. The view here is remarkable—the name of our place is Mount Rufus, named for the view of the mt. just outside our back porch on the other side of the hills full of sheep grazing. We've enjoyed a morning of watching scissortails flying all about the back, keeping guard over a nest on the back of the house. We're already at home here, and are grateful to the owners for a great dinner recommendation last night.

We ate at Clare Asian Cuisine in the small downtown of Clare. It was absolutely wonderful. My dinner of a Seafood salad (with scallops, prawns, squid, and giant mussels) with cabbage and chilies along with Tom Yum Goong, shrimp with chilies, lemongrass, and mushrooms, was fantastic, and husband Ian loved his lamb mansala curry—he couldn't resist getting lamb as soon as he could.

And my first wine I ordered here? Oh, you KNOW it was sparkling red! I am so predictable! Next on the list is sparkling Riesling. Pretend you're surprised. One of the things I love here is that the local restaurants are loaded with wines from the area on their lists. There are so many to choose from, you don't miss the lack of international selections. My sparkling last night was Cabernet, Merlot, and Shiraz from a vineyard I'd never been to. Well, off to work! Wish me luck as I bring a little Georgia style to a great Aussie operation.