Penfolds Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz 2018

Until Yellow Tail precipitated the boom in “critter wines” in 2000, it can be argued that Penfolds was just about synonymous with Australian wine in the U.S.  The label is ubiquitous here, in both grocery stores and fine wine shops. Prices range from about $12 per bottle for the Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet, to $850 for the legendary Grange, and everything in between.  (That $850 is doubly amazing, because just five or six years ago Grange was “only” about $200.) The selections are mostly reds plus a few whites and even a tawny Port.

Founders Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold immigrated to Australia from England in 1844, bringing their own French vine cuttings. Not long after, their fledgling vineyard was officially established as the Penfolds wine company at the 500-acre Magill Estate in Adelaide.

The Penfolds were believers in the medicinal benefits of wine, and they planned to concoct a wine tonic for the treatment of anemia.  Initially, they produced fortified wines in the style of Sherry and Port for Dr Penfold’s patients. The operation enjoyed early growth, and since Dr Penfold was focused on his medical practice, much of the running of the winery was delegated to Mary Penfold, including the cultivation of the vines and wine blending. On Christopher’s death in 1870, Mary assumed total responsibility for the winery. According to one historical account, by that time the business had “grown to over 60 acres with several different grape varieties including Grenache, Vverdelho, Mataro (aka Mourvedre), Frontignac and Pedro Ximenez,” and the estate was “producing both sweet and dry red and white table wines with a growing market in the eastern Australian colonies of Victoria and New South Wales.” Clarets and Rieslings were especially popular.

During her tenure, Mary engaged in experimentation, explored new methods of wine production, looked into ways of combating diseases like phylloxera, and engaged a cellar master by the name of Joseph Gillard.

Penfolds was producing a
third of all South Australia’s wine by the time Mary Penfold retired in 1884, when the company passed to her daughter Georgina and son-in-law Thomas Hyland.   By 1907, Penfolds had become South Australia’s largest winery (It is still big, but it no longer holds that position. That distinction now goes to Casella winery in Yenda, NSW of YellowTail fame. ) Eventually, the business was passed onto their two sons and two daughters. The company became public in 1962, and  the Penfold family retained a controlling interest until 1976.

In 1948, Max Schubert
became the company’s first Chief Winemaker. A loyal company man and true innovator, Schubert would propel Penfolds onto the global stage with his creation of Penfolds Grange.  (That’s a story for another time, if I can ever get my hands on a bottle.  Hey, Penfolds!  A little help here?)

In 1959, while Schubert was perfecting his Grange experiment in secret, Penfolds’ tradition of ‘bin wines’ began. The first, a Shiraz with grapes from the company’s own Barossa Valley vineyards, was simply named after the storage area of the cellars where it was aged.

In 1988, after three decades of Grange’s  success and growth into a wine world icon, Schubert was named Decanter magazine’s Man of the Year, and on the 50th anniversary of its creation, Penfolds Grange was given a heritage listing in South Australia.

In 1976, control of Penfolds was acquired by Tooth and Co., a brewer based in New South Wales, which in 1982 became part of the Adelaide Steamship Company Group. In 1990, SA Brewing purchased Adelaide Steamship’s wineries. Later, SA Brewing was divided into three separate entities: the wine assets were named Southcorp Wine.

Southcorp Wines became a part of the Foster’s Group in 2005. In 2011, Fosters was historically much more involved in beer than wine, and the wine operation faltered over those six years.  When Fosters decided it was time to divest its wine holdings, they were sold to Treasury Wine Estates, headquartered in Melbourne, and Penfolds current owner. The chief winemaker since 2002 has been Peter Gago.

Penfolds Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz 2018

In 1998, Penfolds imported a selection of vine cuttings from South Australia’s esteemed Kalimna and Magill Estate vineyards, and planted them in California’s Paso Robles AVA. The original name of what is now referred to the Camatta Hills vineyard was Creston “600” Ranch, reflected in this wine’s name, Bin 600.  It is one of four wines in Penfold’s inaugural California Collection.

For 20 years, Penfolds efforts in California remained experimental, and no wines were released.  However, in 2017, TWE bought up the US holdings of fellow giant Diageo. Suddenly, Gago had access to the prized vineyards of Chateau St JeanAcaciaBeringerBeaulieu VineyardStags’ Leap WinerySterling, and Etude. The new California Collection wines are a blend of the different AVAs from which these wineries draw their fruit.  Despite the location, Gago has made clear that the brand trumps everything. There’s California sun and California soil, “but everything in between is Penfolds,” he said.

This blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Shiraz includes some fruit from the original Camatta Hills plantings.  It is a dark opaque purple, with moderate aromas of dark stone fruit, vanilla, and a bit of floral undertones.  On the palate there is earth, cocoa, and grippy tannins.  The fruit was more recessive than I usually like, but this wine is well-balanced enough that I quite enjoyed it nonetheless. ABV is 14.5%

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Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Until Yellow Tail precipitated the boom in “critter wines” in 2000, it can be argued that Penfolds was just about synonymous with Australian wine in the U.S.  The label is ubiquitous here, in both grocery stores and fine wine shops. Prices range from about $12 per bottle for the Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet, to $850 for the legendary Grange, and everything in between.  (That $850 is doubly amazing, because just five or six years ago Grange was “only” about $200.) The selections are mostly reds plus a few whites and even a tawny Port.

Founders Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold immigrated to Australia from England in 1844, bringing their own French vine cuttings. Not long after, their fledgling vineyard was officially established as the Penfolds wine company at the 500-acre Magill Estate in Adelaide.

The Penfolds were believers in the medicinal benefits of wine, and they planned to concoct a wine tonic for the treatment of anemia.  Initially, they produced fortified wines in the style of sherry and port for Dr Penfold’s patients. The operation enjoyed early growth, and since Dr Penfold was focused on his medical practice, much of the running of the winery was delegated to Mary Penfold, including the cultivation of the vines and wine blending. On Christopher’s death in 1870, Mary assumed total responsibility for the winery. According to one historical account, by that time the business had “grown to over 60 acres with several different grape varieties including Grenache, Vverdelho, Mataro (aka Mourvedre), Frontignac and Pedro Ximenez,” and the estate was “producing both sweet and dry red and white table wines with a growing market in the eastern Australian colonies of Victoria and New South Wales.” Clarets and Rieslings were especially popular.

During her tenure, Mary engaged in experimentation, explored new methods of wine production, looked into ways of combating diseases like phylloxera, and engaged a cellar master by the name of Joseph Gillard.

Penfolds was producing a
third of all South Australia’s wine by the time Mary Penfold retired in 1884. The company passed to her daughter Georgina and son-in-law Thomas Hyland.   By 1907, Penfolds had become South Australia’s largest winery (It is still big, but it no longer holds that position.) Eventually, the business was passed onto their two sons and two daughters. The company became public in 1962, and  the Penfold family retained a controlling interest until 1976.

In 1948, Max Schubert
became the company’s first Chief Winemaker. A loyal company man and true innovator, Schubert would propel Penfolds onto the global stage with his creation of Penfolds Grange.  (That’s a story for another time, if I can ever get my hands on a bottle.  Hey, Penfolds!  A little help here?)

In 1959, while Schubert was perfecting his Grange experiment in secret, Penfolds’ tradition of ‘bin wines’ began. The first, a Shiraz with grapes from the company’s own Barossa Valley vineyards, was simply named after the storage area of the cellars where it was aged. And so Kalimna Bin 28 became the first official Penfolds Bin number wine.

In 1988, after four decades of Grange’s  success and growth into a wine world icon, Schubert was named Decanter magazine’s Man of the Year, and on the 50th anniversary of its creation, Penfolds Grange was given a heritage listing in South Australia.

In 1976, control of Penfolds was acquired by Tooth and Co., a brewer based in New South Wales, which in 1982 became part of the Adelaide Steamship Company Group. In 1990, SA Brewing purchased Adelaide Steamship’s wineries. Later, SA Brewing was divided into three separate entities: the wine assets were named Southcorp Wine.

Southcorp Wines became a part of the Foster’s Group in 2005. In 2011, Fosters was split into two separate companies; the wine side became Treasury Wine Estates, headquartered in Melbourne and Penfolds current owner. The chief winemaker since 2002 has been Peter Gago.

Vineyards

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelaide
Magill Estate
5.34 hectares / 13.2 acres
Shiraz (known as Syrah in other parts of the world

Barossa Valley
Kalimna
153 hectares / 380 acres planted
Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro (aka Mourvèdre), and Sangiovese
Koonunga Hill
93 hectares / 230 acres
Shiraz ,Cabernet Sauvignon
Waltons
130 hectares / 320 acres planted
Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro
Stonewell
33 hectares / 82 acres
Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon

Eden Valley
High Eden
66.42 hectares / 164.1 acres
Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc
Woodbury
69.56 hectares / 171.9 acres
McLaren Vale
141 hectares / 350 acres
Shiraz, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon
Coonawarra
50 hectares / 120 acres
Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Although somewhat deceptively named for a specific Barossa vineyard, this wine is sourced from various South Australian sites.  After fermentation, it was aged for 12 months in American oak.  An impenetrable dark purple in the glass, it has a nose of dark stone fruits, especially plums, and eucalyptus.  The palate is the same, plus cocoa and some bracing tannins.  The finish is long and very dry. ABV is 14.5%.

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Sosie Wines Syrah Vivio Vineyard Bennett Valley Sonoma 2016

Sosie Winery Syrah

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it’s a maxim Sosie Wines lives by. “Sosie” [so-zee] is French for twin or doppelganger, and as it says right on the bottle, “We are inspired by the wines of France. So we employ an Old World approach to wine growing that favors restraint over ripeness, finesse over flamboyance. Our aim is to craft wines that show a kinship with France’s benchmark regions. Wines that are their sosie.”

Sosie Wines also pays homage to the French tradition of location, or terroir, believing that the vineyard site is perhaps the most important component of a bottle of wine.

Sosie Wines co-owner Regina (no last name, apparently) was introduced to wine at an early age, one of the first being Chateauneuf du Pape. “I remember the shape of those bottles and the crossed-keys of the papal crest. It was a symbol you could trust, my mom used to say. I never forgot that, and as a young adult one of the first places I had to visit in France was Chateauneuf. To this day I still love those wines.”

On a quest to cement that fascination, in 2006 she and partner Scott took a trip to the Loire in western France, and then in 2008 they spent 10 days traveling the Côte de Nuits, walking the vineyards and tasting the wines. In 2016 they visited both northern and southern Rhone, working their way down from Côte-Rôtie to St. Joseph

Following their travels, Regina and Scott founded their winery on the belief that their wines should stand for something. That they would not just have a style, but a purpose. They wanted their products to be food-friendly, with lower alcohol levels, higher acidity, and made in small batches with minimal intervention and just a bit of oak.

The couple are hands-on vintners. They prowl the vineyards throughout the growing season and are at the sorting table when the fruit comes in. They taste the berries, check the sugars and acids, and call the pick. They supervise every aspect of their barrels – the cooper, the forest, and the toast level. But they can’t do it all, of course. They get plenty of help from winemaker Kieran Robinson. Kieran had worked previously at Domaine Pierre Gaillard in France (of course), and had the deep appreciation for French viticulture and winemaking they were looking for.

VIVIO VINEYARD

At just above 800 ft, this is one of the highest vineyards in Sonoma’s Bennett Valley. Sosie grows Syrah as well as Roussanne on the mineral-rich, volcanic soil here.  The area, near Petaluma Gap, has a strong marine influence, as cool air pours in from three separate directions and settles into the valley’s bowl, which in the summer months turns to heavy fog. Even so, the days can get quite hot, with temperature swings of 40° to 50° F from daytime highs to nighttime lows. This can mean the fruit is very late ripening due to the extended “hang time” on the vines..  The property is sustainably farmed.

Sosie Wines Syrah 2016

In addition to the Syrah, there is 7% Rousanne in the bottle. It was aged for 20 months in 50% new oak. The nose features aromas of berries, tart cherries, with a hint of plum and menthol. The restrained plum continues on the palate, with some cocoa and, frankly, booming tannins. No worries, though. Decant Sosie Wines Syrah for an hour or two before drinking, and those tannins settle down nicely.

Give this Syrah a try with roast duck with cherries, beef braised in red wine, or pork chops with mustard, cream, and tomato sauce.

Only five barrels (that’s 1500 bottles) of this wine were produced, so get a bottle while you can.

http://sosiewines.com

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Carmel Winery Private Collection

Carmel Winery Private Selection

The first mention of wine in the Bible appears in Genesis, chapter 9, verse 20, “And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard.” The story goes on to recount some unpleasantness after Noah overimbibes, but there is no reason to go into that here. The point is, wine is as old as history itself, with some of its earliest beginnings in the Middle East. Indeed, references to wine appear hundreds of times in Scripture, through both the Old and New Testaments.

Wine production flourished in the eastern Mediterranean until the rise of Islamic prohibitionists suppressed it in the 8th century. However, there has been a modern renaissance in Turkey, Cyprus, and Lebanon, as well as Israel, from which these Carmel Winery Private Collection wines come.

Sweet red kiddush wines, consumed on the Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest) and other Jewish holidays, were for years the standard output of the original cooperative wineries of Carmel at Rishon le Zion and Zichron Yaacov in the coastal regions of Samaria and Samson, a gift to Israel from French wine magnate Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of the famous Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux. They still control just under half of all grapes in the most traditional wine-growing areas.

Starting in the 1980s with the introduction of technology and expertise from California, Israeli wines began to move from primarily sacramental use to products intended to compete on the international stage.

Carmel Winery, one of the first and largest winemakers in Israel, was founded in 1882 by the aforementioned Baron Rothschild. It sits on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, about 14 miles south of Haifa. The Zichron Yaakov wine cellars were built in 1890, and are still active to this day. Carmel Winery works with 108 families of wine growers to nurture some 3,500 acres of vineyards in Israel from the Galilee and the Golan Heights in the North, to the Negev in the South. Carmel uses state-of-the-art technology to produce an array of wines from entry-level offerings to premium bottlings.

This new Private Collection series showcases the country’s most prized growing regions and Carmel Winery’s 137 years of winemaking expertise.

The 2018 Winemakers Blend is an easy-drinking mix of 50% Cabernet and 50% Merlot, made by Carmel’s Chief Winemaker Yiftach Peretz. It has fragrant aromas of blueberry and vanilla on the nose. The taste features suggestions of plums with hints of spices and cocoa abetted by soft tannins. The finish is relatively short.

The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps predictably, is much like the Winemakers Blend. It has rich aromas of blackberry and chocolate, with a similar flavor profile. The well-balanced tannins are more prominent, and the finish rather longer.

The 2018 Shiraz is deep purple in the glass, with a medium-bodied palate of dark stone fruit, a hint of green pepper, and good supporting tannins. It offers the longest finish of this trio.

All three of these Carmel Winery expressions are worthy of your consideration, but the Shiraz was the standout for me.

These wines are “kosher for Passover” and “mevushal.” Both certifications require handling and processes unique to these types of wine.

Kosher wine is grape wine produced according to Jewish dietary law (kashrut). To be considered kosher, Sabbath-observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including finings, must be kosher as well. Wine that is described as “kosher for Passover” must have been kept free from contact with chametz, such as grain, bread, and dough.

Mevushal is a subclass of kosher wine that can be handled by non-Jewish or non-observant waiters, and is consequently frequently used in kosher restaurants and by kosher caterers. To be classified as mevushal, kosher wine is cooked or boiled, after which it will keep the status of kosher wine even if subsequently touched by a non-Jew.

The process of fully boiling a wine can greatly alter the tannins and flavors. Therefore, much care is taken to satisfy the legal requirements while exposing the wine to as little heat as necessary.  Surprisingly, there is significant disagreement as to the precise temperature a wine must reach to be considered mevushal, ranging from 165°F (74°C) to 194°F (90°C). Heating at the minimum required temperature reduces some of the damage done to the wine, but still has a substantial effect on quality and aging potential.

Alternatively, flash pasteurization rapidly heats the wine to the desired temperature and immediately chills it back to room temperature. This process is said to have much less impact on flavor, at least compared to actual cooking or boiling.  I assume Carmel Winery uses the flash pasteurization method to achieve mevushal status, as none of these wines display any obvious damage from overheating.

Regardless of the heating method, to ensure the kosher status of the wine it must be overseen by a Jewish authority who supervises the kashrut status of the producer. Generally, this supervisor will physically tip the fruit into the crush and operate the equipment. Once the wine emerges from the process, it can be handled in the normal fashion.

http://carmelwines.co.il/en

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Two from Down Under

Linchpin McLaren Vale ShirazLinchpin McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004

This award-winning Shiraz hails from McLaren Vale on Australia’s southern coast. The complex soil types here combine with the St. Vincent’s Gulf breezes to make for ideal vineyard conditions.

Winemaker Matt Rechner believes the best way to make excellent wine is through simple processes and minimal handling for maximum flavor extraction. Here the grapes were harvested from low-yield vineyards, then spent 20 months in French and American oak. The concentrated fruit, supported by notes of chocolate and blackberry, certainly comes through in this relatively high-alcohol (15.2%) Shiraz. It has a lush, velvet-like mouth feel and well-balanced oak tannins.

Serve with lamb stew accented by eggplant, saffron, and raisins, or shepherd’s pie.

https://ekhidnawines.com.au/product/linchpin-shiraz-2016/

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Kim Crawford is perhaps New Zealand’s most famous wine maker. After 20 years as an independent, three years ago he sold out to an American holding company. However, he was allowed to pursue boutique bottlings, and we have one of those here.

This Sauvignon Blanc dodges the grassiness which so often mars this varietal when it originates in New Zealand. Instead there is a tart, refreshing, distinct grapefruit nose and taste. Completely dry, with a bit of flint on the finish. Delicious.

Pair this wine with lobster tacos, seafood paella, or parmesan-dijon chicken drumsticks.

https://www.kimcrawfordwines.com/us/products/sauvignon-blanc/

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Cockfighter’s Ghost Shiraz

Cockfighter’s Ghost Shiraz

I Come from a Land Down Under

In this post I sample two uncommon wines that only have one thing in common: they both come from Australia’s McLaren Vale.

Cockfighter’s Ghost Shiraz 2002

Some say that if the light of the moon is just right, the ghost of Cockfighter the horse can be seen galloping through the vineyards of Pooles Rock.

Perhaps. The wine named in his memory is anything but ephemeral, however. Cockfighter’s Ghost Shiraz first greets you with a powerful nose of earth and dark berry fruit. The berry and black plum flavors continue on the palate, supported by some spice, black pepper, and oak. The color is a dense, dark crimson.

After letting this shiraz ‘breathe’ for at least an hour to soften its edges, serve with rare roast beef and field mushrooms, spicy sausages with tomatoes and Italian beans, or oven-roasted rack of lamb.

https://cockfightersghost.com.au/product/single-vineyard-shiraz-2016/

Tapestry Chardonnay 2005

This chardonnay is an excellent value, with more character than its relatively low price would predict.

The wine spent nine months on-lees in new French oak, and features a very appealing balance of juicy stone fruit and a citrus acidity, supported by the spicy, toasty oak, with a moderately long finish. There was no malo-lactic fermentation. The color is pale straw with green tints.

Serve lightly chilled with coquille St. Jacques, fried calamari, or grilled whole red snapper.

[Unfortunately, Tapestry Wines is now reported closed.}

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