Wine review — Clonakilla, Tim Adams, Crossroads, Wilson and Rob Dolan

Clonakilla Ceoltoiri 2011 $36
Clonakilla Vineyard, Murrumbateman, NSW
It’s a blend of grenache, mourvedre and shiraz. But don’t shut your eyes and think of the Barossa, GSM’s Australian home base. This is Canberra material from a particularly cold, wet vintage that, in theory, should have written off mourvedre – a late-ripening variety that many would say just couldn’t work in Canberra, even in a warm year. So much for theory. And cheers for John Kirk’s skill in the vineyard and son, Tim’s, in the winery. Reflecting the season, Ceoltoiri (Irish for “musicians”), offers an harmonious, fine, medium bodied expression of this classic Rhone Valley blend. Tim Kirk calls it his Chateauneuf-du-Pape. However, few wines bearing that much-abused name show the fruit purity and high-toned spicy and peppery notes of Ceoltoiri; nor the lusciously textured mid palate. It has the prettiness and delicacy of Clonakilla’s other 2011 reds, but “some real grunt in the [mourvedre] tannins”, says Kirk. It’s due for release in the first week of May.

Tim Adams Cabernet Malbec 2008 $22.80–$29
Fairfield, Jenners, Sheoak and Maynard vineyards
Clare Valley, South Australia

Tim Adams learned winemaking under Mick Knappstein, creator of Leasingham Bin 56 Clare Valley Cabernet Malbec, a very exciting wine of its era. Adams reintroduces the excitement with this lovely blend. Like his other reds, it shows the finessing of his winemaking approach over the last few decades – capturing ripe, varietally expressive fruit and ripe tannins and supporting the wine with oak maturation, without the oak intruding on the fruit flavour. It’s a lovely, juicy mouthful of a wine, built on the blackcurrant-like flavour of cabernet, with the faintest hint of leafiness and assertive but soft tannins.

Crossroads Winemakers Selection Syrah 2010 $40
Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Even back in 1984, during my first wine tour of New Zealand, the best reds I encountered came from what some makers called the Ngatarawa triangle – an area of gravel soils along the old Ngaruroro riverbed in Hawkes Bay. In 2001, vignerons designated 800 hectares of this riverbed as the Gimblett Gravels – source of many beautiful, fine-boned syrahs. Crossroads demonstrates the beauty of the style with its vivid crimson colour, heady, berry-and-spice perfume and intense, supple, medium-bodied palate. It’s a pinot lovers’ shiraz of a very high order. It’s distributed in Canberra and NSW by Young and Rashleigh (

Clonakilla Shiraz 2012 $28–$30
Hilltops, NSW
Heavy rain towards the end of February 2012 destroyed large volumes of ripe, or near ripe grapes in Canberra and surrounding districts. Clonakilla lost much of its Canberra fruit in the event. But, says Tim Kirk, they harvested most of their fruit from the Hilltops region (around Young, NSW), the day before the 200mm deluge arrived. The result is a delightfully rich red combining ripe, dark-cherry flavours with the spice and touch of black pepper we see from cooler areas. The wine’s medium bodied and shows the Clonakilla signature of great harmony and silky, juicy mid palate, though not with the length or intensity of the top wines. It’s due for release in the first week of May.

Wilson DJW Riesling 2012 $23.95
Wilson DJW vineyard, Polish Hill River, Clare Valley, South Australia
This comes from a 2.2-hectare vineyard planted by Daniel Wilson in 1997 on a fertile section of his father’s vineyard. The fertile site produced large vines, large bunches and bigger flavours than other parts of the vineyard, prompting the decision to bottle it separately. In 2012 the citrus and tropical fruit aroma gush from the glass and flood the palate deliciously. While big and juicy it retains a fine structure, zingy acidity and a modest alcohol content of 12.5 per cent. I enjoyed this on its release last August and even more at Easter over dinner at Starfish Deli, Batemans Bay.

Rob Dolan True Colours Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2012 $22
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Former Port Adelaide Ruckman, Rob “Sticks” Dolan, turned to footy to winemaking. He worked for Yarra Ridge, St Huberts and Bailey’s and was later helped build the Sticks and Punt Road in the Yarra Valley. For his new venture Dolan says he sources fruit “from growers who have stuck by me for almost 20 years”. The new range is excellent, delivering rich but elegant wines at a fair price. I liked the pinot noir and this fragrant cabernet blend in particular. Cabernet leafiness provides a refreshing seasoning to the ripe, vibrant berry flavour and fine, persistent tannins give a satisfying red-wine finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 24 April 2013 in The Canberra Times and