Visiting Barossa Wineries – Day 1

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This blog post, and the next 4 subsequent posts, will all centre on a recent visiting Barossa wineries. I went to the Barossa Valley in the middle of March 2015. This is a trip I undertake ever 2nd year, as the years I go, as a generalisation, tend to coincide with even year releases – which for the Barossa tend to be the year’s which produce the best vintages (1996, 98, 2002, 04, 06, 08, 2010 & 12).

When last went in 2013, most of the top 2010’s were being released by the wineries, which meant by going this year I was going to get to experience all the top newly released 2012’s – a vintage considered to be even better than the 2010’s. I was bound to taste delicious wine after delicious wine.

The first day began at 10am, and my partner and I went to Schild Estate, down at the southern tip of the Barossa. I’m always a huge fan of the Schild Estate Ben Reserve Shiraz, but this year’s release was still the 2011 vintage…not a bad wine, just not up to its usual mouth pleasing standard. Its good for an 11, but not something I’m interested in – nor would I recommend it (just to many other wines from 10, 12 and now even 13 which would be better drinking for the same money). Their other wines are always easy drinking crowd pleasers. The pick of the bunch from Schild was the 2013 Elma Reserve Chardonnay ($18.00 a bottle), the 2012 Estate Shiraz ($16.00), the 2012 Estate Cabernet ($16.00) and the Reserve Grenache they now make. Though I wouldn’t call it value for money…I’m putting it up against tough competition, but I always compare my Grenache with the Cirillo 1850’s (to be mentioned in a later post). I like the Schild Grenache, but I would spend my $50.00 at Cirillo if I’m to be honest.

The next winery was pretty much a surprise; we had 30 minutes to kill before we went to Rockford. So we drove to Kies Family wines, a slight detour, but nothing gained from having not tried. Interesting wines…my partner loved them as they weren’t big over the top wines – probably the perfect start to a wine tasting morning. There was nothing pretentious about these wines at all. I’d never heard of Kies, but they are a family operated outfit which produce around 2,500 cases of wine annually. Most wines have plenty of mid weight fruit coming through, but not in a heavy handed manner, they are all subtle, showing minimal oak and finishing with lots of chocolate.

Well-made wines, but at the same time, I know there’s so much more potential out there so early on in the Barossa, so essentially I was not sold on them. I say this as I would rate for similar money Greenock Creek and Gumpara to offer wines of better quality, and of better value. These wines would be a hand sell…but to be honest I like to sell what I like, and again I would revert to the above mentioned wines by default.

We moved onto Rockford after Kies, and if I’m to be honest, I have always loved the atmosphere at Rockford, but never the wines, though the 2010 Basket Press was reasonable if you paid the cellar door release price. I’m always taken by the beautiful old style stone buildings and walls which surround the wine cellar door and winery itself. It’s oh so charming with a rustic hint of a bygone era. Many of the top wine makers in the Barossa who are now making the best of the best wine from the Valley learnt their stuff whilst at Rockford – David Powell, Dan Standish, Chris Ringland etc. So I always pop in and see what Rockford is up to, and then head off to the alumni wineries afterwards and see Rockford’s philosophy pushed beyond its limits.
1) 2011 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz ($60.00 a bottle) was certainly a wine of its vintage, definitely not in the same league as the 2010 BP. I did find it was more rounded than I was expecting, showing bitter dark chocolate, toasted oak and subtle hints of Vanilla. Blackberries and Grenache-esque raspberry show up front, but then are overrun by damp herbaceous herbs and pepper – characteristics I was expecting being it’s from a wet and damp vintage. Not bad, but I wouldn’t have this in my personal collection if I’m to be honest. A vintage to overlook and wait for next year’s 2012 release.

After Rockford, it was time for a quick 500 meter drive up Krondorf Road to Charles Melton. Charles Melton is renowned for making excellent wine…at least their reserve range. There is nothing wrong with their entry level wines, but they are just that – the entry to the Reserve range, which to be honest is the only reason I was there. Within a few minutes of arriving I learnt the sad news; for lovers of Nine Popes, Voices of Angles and Grains of Paradise, the only way to now secure these wines is to visit either the cellar door or by joining the mailing list. One thing to mention about Charles Melton: if you ever do visit the cellar door, make sure to mention the bread they serve. It’s purchased from Apex Bakery, delivered ½ baked, and then cooked ready to serve at the cellar door. The bread is pretty much the best bread I’ve come across. If there’s none on the table just ask and they’ll bring out a freshly cooked loaf. Back to the wines…
1) 2012 Charles Melton Nine Popes ($65.00), a GSM blend, was very smart. It had plenty of musk on the nose, combined with notes of earth and spice. Swirling the wine (whilst eating way merrily at the new loaf of bread) brought out flavours of aniseed, liquorice and cinnamon. It had more body than the 2010, and didn’t show as much of that cola taste. In Essence it combined the best of both the 09 and 10 vintages.
2) 2012 Charles Melton Voice of Angles Shiraz ($65.00 – Eden Valley sourced fruit) was deeply coloured, with sweet but dark focused fruit aromatics, giving the wines a rich, almost velvety mouthfeel and displaying fine defined tannins.
3) 2012 Charles Melton Grains of Paradise ($65.00 – Barossa Sourced fruit) was in contrast a warm, rich wine with dark plum and prune aromas. The sweet cedar oak character is still evolving, along with dark rich fruitcake flavours. I found the palate rich, full and weighty with great length and a firm mouthfeel from the tannins and acids.
I left Charles Melton highly impressed with his collection of recently released 2012’s. In my opinion, well worth the effort to visit the cellar door to secure a few bottles, as I believe the $65 a bottle asking price is well worth it. Great wines and great value for money!

After Charles Melton, it was a quick drive back into Nuriootpa where I was staying to grab a spot of lunch, and then hit the bikes for the afternoon. First winery (and turned out to be the only winery) was Kaesler.

Kaesler are always a favourite winery of mine to visit. Their cellar door is an amazing space, and the staff are always friendly and highly knowledgeable on all the wines on tasting. They also have, to put it bluntly, a shit load of offerings to taste though (hence this becoming the last winery for the day) – potentially to many wines one might argue. How can a winemaking team make its best wine when it’s got so many balls in the air… a little like d’Arenberg if you were to ask me? Kaesler aren’t in as bland a position as d’Arenberg, but if they keep adding labels they could become the Barossa equivalent.

If after reading this article, you find yourself looking through my site for some of the wines from Kaesler, and you find yourself confused, I apologise in advance…as you will not find a single Kaesler wine listed. I think the wines, as great as they are, are simply too expensive. I understand their top wines are produced in tiny quantities, but the whole point of my trips to the Barossa are to find new and emerging wineries that offer fantastic value for money. In my opinion Kaesler fail to provide value for money. Here are my opinions on the best wines I tasted at Kaesler on the day.
1) 2012 Kaesler Alte Reben Shiraz ($150.00) is a pretty dark wine. It’s loaded with smells of blackberries, forest berries and a hint of slate on the nose. The palate shows profound depths of blackberry, plum, liquorice, bitter chocolate and spiced fruit, oak is there in the background, but the fruit is so big, it seems more an adornment rather than an upfront element. Best wine I tried from Kaesler
2) 2010 Kaesler Nashwauk Beacon Shiraz ($120.00 bottle – fruit sourced from McLaren Vale) is a stunning wine, abit one that’s quite limited with only 600 bottles being produced. The nose shows alluring aromas of star anise, chocolate and red fruits all seamlessly woven together. In the mouth bitter chocolate and dark fruits are at the forefront with a large punch of tannins making the wine seem so tightly wound up – in essence showing how immense the structure and vinosity of this wine truly is – and alluding to its potential to age for many years.
3) 2012 Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz ($220.00) shows on the nose fresh smells of raspberry, blueberry and strawberry picked straight from the bush, braced with rhubarb. The palate is focused and tannins are super smooth – something I was informed had to do with the acid balance in this year’s wines. I couldn’t agree more when it was stated as matter of fact – simply put this wine is in balance. The only sticking point that held it back from being my favourite wine was its price. In due course I believe this wines development will make it my favourite wine…but as always I tasted and drank today, so the wine is to be judged on its merits today.
4) 2012 Kaesler Bogan Shiraz ($50.00) is totally opaque in colour. The nose reveals scents of ripe Cherries, blackberries and liquorice with a touch of vanilla and pepper. The palate is of a full bodied wine. Rich, but in a subtle way, coming across as a more refined and elegant style. In the mouth flavours of Blackberries, liquorice, vanilla, meatiness and a dusting of pepper are all integrated. The structure is provided by the fine grained tannins – which leads to a long aftertaste of black-pepper liquorice and blackberries. A pleasant wine indeed!
5) 2010 Kaesler Alte Reben Mataro ($80.00) show on the nose blackberries, mulberries with additional hints of Orange and chocolate. In the mouth the tannin is quite grippy, showing up as chalky and raw. In the mouth, standing firm with the tannin are flavours of liquorice and plenty of delicious black fruits and some dark chocolate.

Day 2 in the next post will feature some of my favourite wineries, these include: Kalleske, Murray Street Vineyards, Greenock Creek, Gumpara and Gibson Wines.

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