Friday, September 24, 2010

A morning in the Yarra with Kevin Ecock (and Phil Sexton)

A couple of weeks back I was at a consumer tasting of Yarra valley wines organised by John McDonnell from Wine Australia with special guest Phil Sexton from Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps. Kevin Ecock reproduced my report of the evening tasting on his blog here, and also said some generous things about my blog.

In return, I'm reproducing his report on the trade/press tasting held the following morning. There weren't that many wines in common but it seems the wines I liked, he wasn't crazy about and the wines he liked I was lukewarm about! The only thing we both strongly agreed on was the 2004 Harry's Monster Giant Steps, which we both loved. Anyhoo, here is his report...

Yarra Valley with Phil Sexton - Regional Hero

Phil Sexton is a wine maker, brewer, pilot, cheese and coffee aficionado, storyteller and seemingly all round interesting and happy guy. Wines of Australia did well to bring him in to Dublin last week for a series of tastings in their Regional Hero programme. Readers of this blog know that Wines of Australia do things well and do 'well things' often. Last week I reproduced Willies Wine Blogs take on a Yarra Valley consumer event. Phil also presented a Morning in the Yarra to the trade and press in Fallon and Byrne. It was a substantial tasting and packed full of nuggets of info from Phil.

Phil Sexton sold a successful winery in the Margaret River in Western Australia and chose to begin again in the Yarra. I had always assumed (usually a a mistake) he meant that he'd looked around Australia. Not a bit of it. Seems he looked all the way from Oregon to New Zealand. A bag of cash really does give you freedom. His choice therefore was based on what the Yarra was uniquely capable of. He set up the Giant Steps winery slap bang in the middle of a small town called Healesville. I wrote up a bit about Giant Steps after I visited it earlier this year. It's a fantastic place and its a winery I'd love to work at - even if I had a choice of Oregon or New Zealand! Everyone seemed to be drawing positive energy from everyone else. That includes the baker, barista, waiting staff, wine makers and just about everyone really.....

The Yarra has a diverse range of ancient rocks and soils. It's a relatively cool area; serviced and is visited often by a Melbourne population eager to buy wine; it specialises in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sparkling wine and it looks absolutely fantastic.

Yarra in purple just East of Melbourne

Our tasting last week began with the 2004 Yarra Burn Blanc de Blanc. (Most of the wines at this tasting had been included to show how brilliant the Yarra is and are for the most part not available in Ireland. Indeed Phil sourced some of the rarer wines himself). Phil told us with a great deal of sadness that Constellation Wines had just announced it will shortly close Yarra Burn down. Unbelievable and further proof that the likes of Constellation shouldn't be allowed near wine. This is iconic sparkling wine of the highest quality. It is a skilled and living work of art.

2008 Donny GoodMac Chardonnay
: Very charming style with crisp lean edges to ripe citrus fruits. Fabulously long and peppered finish.

2008 Chardonnay Tarraford Vineyard, Giant Steps
: Complicated bouquet showing 'gunsmoke' (Phil), warmed nuts and a rich fruit sauce. Great intensity here. Love the wine until the finish - too sudden!

2008 Chardonnay Sexton Vineyard, Giant Steps
: Fruit dominant nose yields to complexity and intensity leads to extreme and well balanced acidity holding a rich and balanced citrus dominated fruit together expertly. Fabulous wine.

2008 De Bortoli Chardonnay
: Warm nose showing heat; soft and only marginally interesting. Leaves too much to the end, revisit.

2008 Yarra Burn Bastard Hill Chardonnay: Lean tight and rich.Super acidity, fantastic depth of quality. Extremely fine example of high quality cool climate chardonnay from Australia.

2008 Yarra Yering Chardonnay: I wrote a full page of notes on this wine and I expect most people won't like it at all! Bizarre. Loads of buttered effects on nose leads to soft and voluptuous style; very big fruit but also a very buttery finish. This wine shows texture and warmth and wine making like no other.

2008 Pinot Noir Gladysdale Vineyards, Giant Steps: Fine and light pour; intense young raspberry; enticing perfume showing oak and rose well; tannin a tad lighter than the fine acid; tantalising wine.

2008 Tarra Burn Bastard Hill Pinot Noir
: (only 200cs made) Rhubarb and beetroot; captivating warmth to the nose; soft and warming on palate; silky and smooth; loses its pure varietal character as it progresses to the finish.

2008 De Bortoli Riorret The Abbey: (Riorret is Terroir backwards...) Found this quite young and in need of time. Showing a bit rough and ready and dumb for my liking.

2008 Yering Station Pinot Noir: Big style with very ripe dark plums and some sweet liquorice; palate is rich, warm and inviting. This is a very obvious wine and would work well as a teaching aid to the Yarra.

2008 Harry's Monster, Giant Steps: (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Petit V and Cab Franc)Big fleshy and well peppered; tremendous palate with super big fruit; needs to be as tannin and acid come in quickly; mind you they both stay respectful and not aggressive!

2008 Punt Road 'MVN' Cabernet Sauvignon: V small nose with leaf and berries looking out; soft and intense wine; everything is super extracted; savoury strong varietal effect; has a brilliant future.

2008 Dry Red Wine No. 1 Yarra Yering: Expressive; obvious, precise and excellent fruit. Incredibly well defined. Clean as a whistle, very attractive; this is outstanding. Seamless blend (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Petit V and malbec) and very soft tannin hovering in the background. long, well structured and soft wine of immense charm and pedigree.

2008 Jamsheed Yarra Syrah ' Silvan Vineyard': Rich young purple ruby with enormous nose of rich dark and soft fruits balanced by pepper and spice. Game and earth lead to dark fruits and buckets of tannin and acid. Rich, big and long; exquisitely built, strong and muscular and excellent all round.

2006 Yering Station Shiraz Viognier: Full depth ruby; dirty and toasted; clay and dried brush wood; lifted palate with bright notes to the fruit; some beetroot and rhubarb leading to black olives and dried herbs; well structured but also a bit clumsy with the odd tannin stumbling about. Superb finish.

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