Dinner with the Australians
I'd meant to blog about this dinner last week, when it occurred, but then I got a call on the secret "scramble" phone I keep under my desk and had to quickly jet to the former eastern block to do some wet work for a black ops mission I've been—oh, wait. That's my other life. Sorry.
In any case, I rendezvoused last Wednesday with a lively gang of Australian winemakers at Dressler, out in the nowherelands of Brooklyn (almost directly across the street from Peter Luger, actually). One thing to like about Aussie winemakers is they do things like start a wine tasting off with a round of gin-and-tonics, an approach to life best described as devil-may-care, I'd say. Nevertheless, I kept my wits about me enough to be duly impressed by the following wines, any of which are worth the investment in effort & cash required to check them out:
2005 Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling Clare Valley ($15) I've been a fan of Knappstein's wines since I visited the Clare Valley back in 2001, and foiled in that regard since they haven't been imported to the US until now. This is classic Clare Riesling—lime blossom aromas, tart, minerally, focused flavors, all lime and citrus with a talc-like finish. Sixty percent Watervale fruit, the rest on more slatey soils.
2007 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc ($15) Ben Glover, WH's appealingly unpretentious winemaker, remarked that '07 in NZ is a low pH year, with lots of green and herbal notes in the Sauvignons, which on the whole are pretty tight and tense—he added that for Pinot Noir "it should be a stunner." This had a nice pure gooseberry scent with a little tomato leaf, a bit of prickly texture when you first sip it, and grapefruit/grapefruit zest flavors.
2002 Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay (~$50) Price is approximate, since as far as I know this vintage is history, but what a lovely Chardonnay. The aroma was apple-apricot with a lot of leesy depth to it; on the palate, it was focused and refined, with more citrus notes than I would have guessed, and tremendous length. Not at all like most Aussie Chards, which often seem sort of pumped up and vapid to me. Curiously, Andrew Hardy, who's currently the winemaker at Petaluma, was the winemaker at Knappstein back in '01 when I visited. Plus ça change...
2005 Saint Hallett Blackwell Shiraz ($35) Potent Barossa Shiraz, with scents of coffee, smoke and oak, and then tense dark blackberry flavors underpinned by earthy notes. Calls for a big ol' steak, and I figured the hell with it and answered the call, since Dressler had an appealing sounding hanger steak/short rib combo on the menu.
2005 Petaluma Shiraz Adelaide Hills ($40) From vines planted in 1992, this was lovely stuff—berry scents lifted by a light peach pie note (it was co-fermented with 7% Viognier), then dense, rich blackberry-plum fruit, velvety tannins and a nice sustained juiciness. Sort of the Barry White approach to Shiraz, in a good way. This is the first release of this wine in America, apparently; 300-500 cases will be coming in.