Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet 1974 (review)

What a treat! Once in a while an unexpected wine is opened that says something about a region and a style. On this particular night, a friend of a friend invited me over near Boston for dinner and good wines. We had some good wines, including a Sancerre, a Burgundy (good but not classic), a Bordeaux (more on that later) and this wine.

A Bordeaux lover would realise upon tasting this, the incredible potential of Napa cab. It was still reddish-purple coloured with hints of brick, a bit of fruit, but mainly secondary characters on the nose and wonderful length on the palate. The classic developed tobacco and a bit of leather, but still some currant like fruits. This was made by a wine maker who was there only a few years.

The wine could live another 5 years at least.

It was not that expensive when it was released compared to other better known Napa producers.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2002 (review)

82 points

South Australia. 14%

This is (was) an old favourite, I consider it “little Grange” (ahead of Bin 389 which uses old grange barrels) because like Grange it is shiraz, and principally a Barossa shiraz. Typically very good value, though the wine making seems increasingly old fashioned.

I was told 2002 was the best Bin 28 in years, which is perfectly understandable given the quality of the vintage.

But the wine was a disappointment. Nice structure colour, perfect condition. But boring old-fashioned winemaking with obvious added acidity, ripe but straightforward fruit. It’s a pretty good wine, but there are so many better on the market.

Even if this is your sort of thing give it another 3 years before touching it.

Mr Riggs Shiraz 2003 (review)

91+ points

McLaren Vale, South Australia. 15%

Wow. Super intense smoky oak (French mainly) aromas herald an absolute giant of a wine. From the super hot 2003 vintage this is masterly wine making in a high alcohol style. I feared overt added acidity, but I can’t taste it. Drinkable – just… match with hearty food.

At less than one tenth the price of Penfold’s Grange this is a flagship for this new style of wines picked for optimum flavour ripeness – which in Australia can mean very big wines indeed.

In spite of the rave above I have very little idea how this wine will age. Personally I don’t trust the 2003 vintage but will be looking out for the 2004 version of this wine – I’m intruiged to see how such a wine will age.

Serafino Shiraz 2002 (review)

88+ points

McLaren Vale, South Australia. 14%

A modestly priced super rich intense and heavily oaked shiraz. Pretty much undrinkable at the moment (decant and give it a decent breathing), huge, but tight, and the oak is astringent. Pretty impressive though. Has plenty of potential.

Well priced at around $18.

Mount Ida Heathcote Shiraz 2001

87 points

Heathcote, Victoria, Australia 14%

Heathcote is one of Australia’s greatest shiraz regions. Small in production compared with great regions like Barossa and McLaren Vale, but excitingly different. It tends to produce huge wines but with tighter, finer, more tannic structure than these hot climate regions – I think part of the difference is colder night (in the same way that Clare riesling stands out), but also the soil matters.

This wine is a little more traditional than some. Slightly more mellow, slightly more like Great Western (another great Victorian region), more mild and straightforward. Probably has a long life ahead of it, but lacks character at the moment. Nice balance though.

Australian reds to buy now, but cellar if you want

On Friday Carl asked “what is a good Australian red to buy, one that will keep and improve over the next say 5-10 years ?”

Here are two recommendations:

Both are very substantial wines (15% alcohol), both shiraz, and $17 each (for cellarcard holders) at Melbourne St Wine Cellars.

Brown’s of Padthaway Ernest Shiraz 2002

Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2003

PS if you know of any other wines of similar price/quality ratios let us know.