Chicago Tasting Monday: Australia to Bordeaux

This week started off with a bang.  Yesterday I was enjoying wine with football victories by the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints- Who Dat?  Then Monday I was off to two wine tastings: Landmark Australia at Trump Tower and Bordeaux at The Drake.  Now, despite all the controversy, I have to admit that not only is Trump Tower in an awesome location, but is a gorgeous structure and has beautiful views of the city.  The perfect spot for a wine tasting, where I was joyed to find 25 glasses of wine in front of me- six Chardonnays, six Cabernet Sauvignons and ten blind wines (those sneaky Aussies!). 

The wines were a great illustration of what Australia can do when they're not trying to conform to the American popular palate- big, fat, juicy, high alcohol, heavy oak.  The Chardonnays had bright acidity, minerality, balance (highest ABV was 13%) and youth.  Some of the highlights included Vasse Felix Heytesbury, Bindi Winegrowers Quartz and Leeuwin Art Series, which is one of the best Chardonnays in the world.  The Cabernet Sauvignons had extra varietal blending with Shiraz, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc lending extra spice, softness and floral notes to the earth, pencil lead and youthful tannins.  My favorites were Penfolds Bin 707, Yalumba "The Signature" and Henschke "Cyril Henschke".  Then came the ten blind tastings, which I was fortunately able to pick six correct, even with my rusty senses due to new dad hibernation!  Overall it was a very good tasting followed by a decent buffet with crabcakes, chicken florentine and mixed greens.  We were also treated to a few extra wines like Kangarilla Road Shiraz and Mitolo Jester Shiraz- excellent.

Next, after a brief stop to get some espresso, I was off to The Drake to indulge in a Bordeaux tasting.  The ballroom was packed with Bordelaise wines and winemakers, along with just about everyone involved in the wine trade: distributors, importers, restauranteurs, chefs, sommeliers, etc.  They also had wines from just about every part of the region: Cabernet Sauvignon based blends from the Left Bank, Merlot and Cabernet Franc based reds from the Right Bank, Sauvignon Blanc based whites from Graves and Pessac-Léognan, and sweet Barsac and Sauternes.  The 2007 vintage was being featured, which I consider a good vintage, in most cases, to drink early.  The tannins are not too tight and the fruit is coming through.  I liked Chateau Figeac, Chateau Pape Clement Blanc and Rouge, Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.  These wines exhibited great balance and structure, along with some aging potential from acidity, tannins and fruit flavor still waiting to break from the heavy earth notes.

I want to thank Landmark Australia, The Trump, Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux and The Drake for hosting myself and the Chicago wine community.  Looking forward to more tastings in the future!

South Australia 2009 Vintage Update

logo11This just in.  I received an update on the South Australia 2009 vintage from Janet (Sparky Marquis mum!), the General Manager of Mollydooker Winery in McLaren Vale.

The growing seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are almost exact opposite to Northern Hemisphere.  South of the equator, they more than likely have harvested most of their grapes for the year by now.  Therefore, wine vintages from South Africa, South America, Australia, and New Zealand will be available before those of North America or Europe.

South Australia experienced a rough '08 vintage due to a prolonged heatwave.  All signs pointed toward much of the same in '09- Janet even joked that global warming may force them to move to Antarctica!  Even though February started out hot, an Indian Summer moved in, letting the grapes stay on the vine to ripen.  The viticulture team in the field has claimed this vintage to be "awesome". 

After the grapes were harvested and brought to the winery, Janet was blown away by the ripe and jammy goodness of the fruit.  She claims it to be "rich, thick, silky, voluptuous, and yet vibrant and fresh" and "reminded me of my mum's blackcurrant jam".  More fruit needs to be harvested in the south, though Janet told me with the addition of "the beautiful, lifted, perfumed, fragrant Padthaway fruit" along with the McLaren Vale harvest "2009 is starting to look very special indeed".  Sounds like the makings of some fabulous wines. 

Thank you Janet, Sarah, Sparky, and Mollydooker Winery.