Friday, December 27, 2013

Wine - James' Best of Lists

The Best of Two Thousand and Thirteen

While I don't really dabble in wine appreciation or take formal tasting notes I do get a chance to taste wine both socially and professionally. My list is biased towards local fare (and yes, I know some of  the producers well through Vale Cru). I am a fan-boy and I am biased, if I like the people involved I am more inclined to like the wine. In my defense I know the ins and outs of how how things are made. When it is good; I call it. My only criteria is that all are currently available to buy, so no museum or rarities here.

These are my top five wines of the year. Enjoy!
#5 Ministry of Clouds Chardonnay
Made by Julian and Bernice, fun people. Gourmands. I am  I first had this  wine at a meeting. It’s great and rare to drink a Chardonnay that sets the imagination going and takes your mind off the tasks at hand. It combines beautiful fleshy fatty acids and yeast stirring plumpness.

This wine is agriculturally interesting as the vineyards used are 'old', by Chardonnay and Tasmanian standards, 33 and 28 years respectively. 

Julian tells us;
"The wine is 2/3 Huon Valley fruit, and 1/3 from the Tamar Valley. Panorama Vineyard in the Huon Valley is situated south west of Hobart, in a very cold marginal grape growing area, but with high avg sunshine hours. Panorama was the first commercial planting of wine grapes in the Huon Valley (It is 38 years old. c 1975).

Tamar Fruit was from Marion Estate owned by the Semmens family, which is is a very bony, ironstone laid site. Vineyard is 33 years old, tiny yields, and was handpicked as well."
#4 Battle of Bosworth Puritan 2013 Shiraz. pic Philip White - Drinkster.

A Joven style of Shiraz by Boz and LHS has no added preservatives and sees no oak. I am not sure why we don't make more wine like this in McLaren Vale. Reading Whitey's Drinkster review he mentions that David Wynn did something similar back in '85. 

I had this while visiting their cellar door and brought it for immediate consumption.

Jeremy Pringle from Wine Will Eat Itself gave it an honest 91 points. I concur with his assessment it is not going to blow your mind as a wine, not 100/100, but making Shiraz as a lighter style does suit our weather a little better than an oaky 'Mega-Bomb capital S-hiraz'. It makes sense. It is what we should drink. 

Jeremy says,
"Brimful of juicy mulberries and raspberries, red licorice, spice, milk chocolate and life. A touch meaty. Vital acidity and fine smudgy tannin. So very juicy. So much fun. Slug it back and salute it while you do."
#3 By Jingo Adelaide Hills/McLaren Vale Nero Rosso 2010
I have met John Gilbert a few times and he is up to something. Certainly has a lot going on. Hat's off to him for this one.  A unique (?) combo of Grenache, Montepulciano and Zinfandel from McLaren Vale (Grenache) and the Adelaide Hills (Zin). 

It has made my list because it ticks the following boxes. It is memorable (check out the label and that is before you taste it). It combines the two regions I live and work in. It is alternative yet traditional. It matches well with food. 

Philip White on Drinkster continues the story thinking of his belly no doubt;
"It’s friggin delicious.  It smells like piquant summer dust as much as compote of red grapes, blueberries, black currants, goji, maraschino cherry and a crême de framboise, with a mega-cool miso umami. And it tastes just sicko in its comfort and unction, its chubby generosity, its fine tight acid-tannin taper, and its wicked over-the-shoulder wink as it saunters darkly off down your little red lane, daring you send down another.  If there’s still a restaurant in Chinatown which serves chopped duck on the bone, take this here damn wondrous thing  there with the most beautiful person you know. They’ll go all runny in the middle the moment they see the label.  Let them drink it, and they’ll be gone forever."
#2 Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2012

Ashton Hills reserve is the daddy of all Pinot Noir in Australia. A quick web search shows that this isn't the only 'top wine of the year' list it has made.

My inlaws live in Carey Gully, east of Adelaide CBD in the Adelaide Hills, a stones throw from the Ashton Hills vineyard which is equidistant to the North from Uriadla. They are gloriously community minded being a part of the CFS and the Men's Shed campaign for the region, likewise is Stephen George, who also happens to be one skilful winemaker. That is as close as my personal connection gets, but it does occasionally mean I get peeks at the Ashton Hills wines I wouldn't normally get.

Can you imagine turning up to a BBQ or a town meeting and having this on the table? Mr George is a blessed one who shares his wine, ditto Chester Osborne of d'Arenberg and the Noon family, who always bring great wine to community events. Share and share alike. That is one of the perks of living in a country town.

I am not the best wordsmith when it comes to flavour descriptors, this wine makes me want to get better at it. How to describe its tastes, its pleasures?

"What makes this 2012 so very good is the extra degree of lightness and fragrance - it's a prettier wine than the 2010, with less alcohol heat and no jam, the profile considerably less 'dry red' and more feminine. That femininity makes this an irresistible drink too,giving a juiciness that almost marks it as a simple wine, until you realise that the cherry fruit pinosity and fine tannins linger and linger and linger. There's perhaps a little alcohol warmth, but not really enough to derail anything, the finish dry and structured but never heavy.

Dear God it's a beautiful wine."
#1 Ulithorne Paternus 2010 Cab/Shiraz
Made by Rose Kentish with the obvious support of her husband Sam. The wine is a single vineyard blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz with Cabernet the dominant partner.

I have snuck tastings of this several times in the last year. Each time I am always taken by the lively smell of crushed flowers reminiscent of walking through the vineyard itself. Another wine with lifted flowers, Cullen Margaret River Diana Cabernet, gives me the same thrill. These wines are sisters (ignore that Paternus is a masculine fatherly name).

The chemists say the smell of flowers comes from aromatic chemicals... α-ionone... which scientifically explains why I can smell violets and capeweed... but I like to shut my eyes and remember walking in the Ulithorne Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon in the Onkaparinga Hills and think that some how the smell of the vineyard has survived the picking process and ended up in the bottle.

Why is this number #1 I ask myself?
The 2010 Paternus has picked up good scores from Wine Front, Tyson S, Wine Companion, so good pallets rate it.
It's appeal to me is the chance to recognise a wine that is on the verge of becoming widely recognised.
I haven't asked what the next vintages are like, given the 2008 won the McLaren Vale Bushing Queen and the wine in vineyard driven, it has form. Future vintages  have potential. I am putting this wine 'numero uno' because it is fast becoming a modern icon. I think it has the best chance of a legacy of anything I have tasted this year.
If Rose and Sam can string together enough years of Paternus together, keep the grapes, make the wine, keep the business going, reinvest, survive, stay in the game, stay vital amongst the weight of BAS returns and pressures of  small business, then the Paternus must take its place alongside the best wines we make. Not easy but becoming the best never is. Honest.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Music - James' Best of List

The Best of Two Thousand and Thirteen

#5 Courtney Barnett- The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. Photo by Lisa Sorgini
Last year, singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett was a 24-year-old waitress living in Melbourne and self-releasing a couple of EPs out of her bedroom. In 2013, those recordings were combined for her international debut - 'The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas'.

Lead single 'Avant Gardener' tells the story of an anaphylactic panic-attack in the midst of a heatwave, with lyrics like “The paramedic thinks I’m clever cos I play guitar, I think she’s clever cos she stops people dying.”

Courtney has a sound that comes from NYC Folk 1960's but has the lyrical wit of that cool girl in your country high school. You are  not sure of  half of what she is  talking about but you know you should and there is no mistaking her Aussie sense of humour.

#4 Daft Punk - Random Access Memories.  Photo. Billboard.
They haven't showed their faces since the 1990's. They don't like interviews, or PR, or marketing.While they’ve striven to protect their mystique, to the point where we know more about their robot helmets than the people behind them, it doesn't matter. Retro is in. Daft Punk are data mining a rich vein of bits.

Released in May 'Random Access Memories' has been a huge success for everyone associated with it - Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams, Giorgio Morodor whom Daft Punk homage. It has sold well, downloaded  well and been well danced too.'Get Lucky' is an unstoppable song. It is already topping varied song of the year polls from 891 ABC to an inevitable Triple J Hottest 100 nod (surely I am right here?). My favourite is their collaboration with Julian Casablancas on 'Instant Crush'.

a fantastical vision of American popular culture between 1975 and 1985." Being of a generation raised on the Moroder camp classics 'Together in Electric Dreams' by the Human League (Johnny Five is Alive!) and 'The NeverEnding Story' it sounds like Willunga Primary School in the last week of term '88. We were a little bit behind the times, or were we ahead?

#3 Haim - Days Are Gone

Rock's coolest sisters - the Haim girls - began as a family covers band playing weddings, parties anything and ended up with... A REALLY GOOD ROCK AND ROLL RECORD .'Days Are Gone' is pop power rock (not as jokey as The Donna's c. 2001 or an update of Verruca Salt), radio friendly, catchy and  have a touch of the Bolan T-Rex. Good thing! 

On Triple J high rotation 'If I Could Change Your Mind'   and 'The Wire'.

#2 Arctic Monkeys - AM

What Daft Punk is to 1977 Disco then the monkey are to 1977 Sabbath. A little bit Sheffield Steel and a little bit War Pigs.  Frontman Alex Turner described 'AM' as the band's "most original [album] yet," merging hip-hop drum beats with 70's heavy rock. He has said that the song 'Arabella' expresses the two styles of the album most effectively in one track. Released in September the album was a UK #1 (the Monkey's 5th straight). 

If you want a quick listen put 'Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?' into a  playlist. Interestingly this album topped Triple J's 2013 Listeners Poll which I wouldn't have thought possible for a rock band onto their 5th release who were big in 2006.  Ol' school.

#1 Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Arcade Fire aren't a cool band. They have been accused of being too moody and smart for their own good (Bowie was too). Accused of unjustified delusions of grandeur (ditto Bowie) and you need Google on hand to understand what messages they are trying to get across. [Google search: Orpheus and Eurydice Results: Orpheus is either a romantic or a coward, depending on whom you ask (Wikipedia). Eurydice is either a victim or a harlot, depending on whom you ask (Wikipedia).]

Yes, is it as high art as modern music can get, and it is more for your head than your feet and arms, but 10/10 from me. 'If you shoot you better hit your mark' 'Joan Of Arc'

The band posted to Youtube an 85-minute video which cued up the entirety of the double-album to visuals from Marcel Camus' 1959 film Black Orpheus a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, set during the time of the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. The video of 'Afterlife' gives a taste. 

What would make your list?