24 April 2015

McLaren Vale Day 1: d'Arenberg & Maxwell

 Welcome to McLaren Vale!!  It's yet another beautiful region within South Australia, and it is unique in that it is a Mediterranean climate.  A distinct difference from the massive, burly wines of the Barossa, and even more elegant than the cooler Clare Valley.  
It was an early vintage--most of the grapes have been harvested already, but the very late-ripening grapes are still on the vine.  And I mean late ripening.  Here is some Petit Verdot at Maxwell Wines.
Maxwell got its start with Mead way, way back.  They were actually responsible for introducing Mead to Australia, and remain the largest producer in the Southern Hemisphere.  They are equally renowned for their Shiraz, Merlot, and Cabernet.
Another very late-ripener:  Sagrantino.  With its Mediterranean climate, Italian varietals do very well.  SagrantinoSagrantino is a burly, tannic wine, so I was surprised at how delicious they are right off the vine.
This is Olivers Road--it comes off the main drag in town and connects Maxwell and d'Arenberg.
Maxwell also hosts an olive grove on the property.  In the future, look for a line of delicious oils!  (remember, it's a Mediterranean climate - which means that not only wine grapes grow well here)
I was lucky enough to enjoy a fabulous luncheon at the Verandah, one of my favorite restaurants.  Always a memorable stop, today Chester Osborn is speaking for a group of wine industry folks from the UK (and yours truly) sponsored by Wine Australia.

This was an extraordinary tasting:  instead of focusing on his own wines, Chester expounded upon the virtues of the valley he calls home.  We discussed the history or Grenache there: in the 1850s, it was mostly Grenache and Mourvedre.  Between 1900 & 1930 there was a Grenache boom because fortified wines were so popular in Oz; As dry reds had a resurgence, Grenache remained strong in the area.  There are almost 60 growers here, and though it is only 5% of McLaren's production, there is still a strong emphasis (it's 70% of what d'Arenberg makes!)  It has super low yields and is mostly dry grown and old vine.  It does well on the hilltops with shallow soil (Shiraz needs more water).
Speaking of history, d'Arenberg was established in 1912--a hundred-year-old winery seemed like an appropriate place to talk about the region as a whole.  d'Arenberg is beautiful.  I could actually hear the magpies chirping on the property.
Here was our study of McLaren Vale Grenache in different forms:
-Shingleback Red Knot GSM 2012
-Wirra Wirra Original Blend 2011
-Rosemount GSM 2011
-Chapel Hill Bush Vine Grenache 2011
-Rosemount Nursery Project Grenache 2010
-Willunga 100 Grenache 2010
-Willunga 100 The Tithing Grenache 2010
-d'Arenberg Derelict Grenache 2009
-d'Arenbert Ironstone Pressings GSM 2009

Chester was a great host of the valley.  My favorite quote of the day:  "Reputations take a long time to build; quality will always win out."
Thanks for the great history lesson and warm welcome, d'Arenberg!!
The food at the Verandah is amazing, and they do a fab job with pairings.  We had a Grenache-centric menu that started with rabbit roulade with panchetta and anchovy, radish/fennel salad, and a buttermilk mustard emulsion.

Pork belly, fig chutney, and local radicchio and fennel was next on the table.
What's better than a sweet dessert? Gruyere, local pears, walnut crisps, and truffle honey, of course!