Live Speed Tasting in the Hunter Valley

Holy hell – it’s time for the speed tasting at the Wine Media Conference here in heavenly Hunter Valley, Australia. Each winery has 5 minutes – or 300 seconds – to present their wine, and I’m tasting and talking and writing and here it is – as live as it gets!


  1. Tintilla Estate: 2017 Sangiovese Robert Lusby, owner and son James the winemaker. Winery is 25 years old. Started from scratch – planted seedlings. Wine is beautiful; AUD $35. Juicy and bright, bursting with cherries and raspberries. Hell’s bell’s, I had to waste 3 minutes getting online, so missed a lot.
  2. Taylor’s Wines – 50 year-old family owned in Clare Valley, two hours north of Adelaide. Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2018.  They have temperature sensors on each bottle that registers the temp of the bottle – COOL! The wine is freaking delicious. The Taylor family still runs it; winemaker is Adam Eggins (used to make Champagne at Roederer). Biggest wine producer in all of Clare Valley – they produce 12 varieties. Mostly Riesling Shiraz, Cab and Chard but also Pinot Noir. They purchase a little fruit, but most is estate. Less phenolics, more fruit – me likey. $18 U.S.  Heads-up: the brand in the U.S. is called Wakefield Wines b/c of trademark issues.
  3. Scarborough “The Obsessive” Shiraz 2015. Jeremy Scarborough from Scarborough Wine. His sister, Sally, does sales and marketing (and she is wearing an awesome yellow pashmina scarf.)  Their father (Ian Scarborough) started the whole shebang in the mid 1980s. The bottle has the “pick date” on each label – which is kind of cool. 250 cases of this wine produced. Pepper and chewy black fruit, with silky tannins. I wish this guy had a plate of sausages for us. $60 AUD (tasting room only). 

  4. Mount Pleasant Rose Hill Shiraz 2018. The vineyard is one we drove by yesterday! McWilliams family has owned it since the mid 1940s – they are one of the First Families of Australian Wines. They have many other properties in other parts of Australia. The wine is signature Shiraz – all black and blue fruit and surging spice and anise. $50 AUD. Do not confuse it with Mount Pleasant winery in the U.S.
  5. Leogate Estate Wines – Brokenback Vineyard 2017 Shiraz. It’s a somewhat new brand –11 years old. Took over Brokenback Vineyard in Pokolbin in 2008. Vineyard planted in 1970s. by Len Evans – major player in Hunter Valley wines.  Chocolatey clay soils good for the reds. Whole lotta James Halliday awards, which I still don’t really understand, but a big deal, according to those who know. The wine is FREAKING DELICIOUS! Black fruit jumps out of the glass, with black cherries and mocha and leather and other good stuff singing in the background. I am getting hungry. $40 AUD.
  6. Ivanhoe Wines 2018 Shiraz Pressings – What the hell is “pressings?”  Here’s what it is: after the free-run juice is pressed, they take the grapes, and press it and that’s this wine. “Big Gutsy Reds” is Ivanhoe’s motto and they are not kidding. 15.2% ABV – yee haw! Made from 60-year old unirrigated vines, because … “Big Gutsy Reds.” Crap – I thought #5 was my fave, but damn – this wine is beautiful. And “Big and Gutsy,” of course. Lewis Drayton’s father, Stephen, started the winery and Lewis is killing it on the fivce-minute preso! $45 AUD. 

  7.  Glandore Estate “Cellarhands” Tempranillo 2017 Nick the winemaker is here, explaining how they started making Tempranillo in 2004, before it was popular. Today, Tempranillo is way more common, even mainstream. The wine is fresh and bright with black fruit, thick and chewy with muscle-y tannins – like Tempranillo is, you know — and smoky and oh, no — again – freaking delicious. He’s talking about frying chorizo, dammit, and I want some. And I guess you get none of this wine, because they make it only for wine club members – which is kind of cool. Except you get none. And I get some. 🙂 $90 a bottle.
  8. First Creek Winemakers Reserve 2017 Shiraz Mr. Silkman (father of Lizzie who started Silkman Wines, who spoke to us this morning) is here. This is their top Shiraz – four acres, producing seven tons of fruit – teeny tiny hillside vineyard. Dang it, I wish someone would bring a crap wine I could compare against, but again – this is a WINNER. Big and impressive and imperial in statue, with black fruit, spice, black licorice. They pick it in February and bottle it in January to retain the rooty footy fruit freshness and stop it from getting too oaky.  (Ugh, my teeth are starting to hurt.) $60 AUD.
  9. De Iuliis 2018 Shiraz Touriga — Mike the winemaker says you pronounce it like this: “de-yoo-lee-us.” 70% Shiraz; 30% Touriga Nacional. Something new! They were the first vineyard to plant Touriga in 2008 – it performs great in the Hunter Valley heat. The Touriga brings big personality to this wine — cherry lifesaver, orange blossoms – what? – then, of course, the fruit shows up – black and red, with some signature spice, and it is GOOD! Mike likes it with lamb ribs and so would I!
  10. Audrey Wilkinson 2017 “The Lake” Shiraz (and Audrey was a man, FYI, like Kim Crawford is a man). The aromatics are bigger than life – jumping right out of the glass. This is their tippy-top Shiraz. Audrey’s father started the vineyard in 1866 – holy hell, that’s a long time ago. Audrey worked it from age 15 into his 80s (so much for retirement). It’s fresh and sassy – and Celine Bossart says “popcorn kernel,” and I’m like, “yasssss, girl!” There’s a salinity, a brightness and somehow, the tannins seem a little tamed and I like that (or I’ve grown immune, and my mouth is numb.) $120 AUD.

Time’s up! This has been the fastest post of my life. I hope it’s been a fun, fast read!

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