Wine review — Paxton, Rockford, Turkey Flat, Penfolds and Holm Oak

Paxton Quandong Farm Shiraz 2011 $30
Paxton’s Quandong farm vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia
David Paxton changed from almond growing and processing to grape growing in the early eighties. He established his own vineyard in McLaren Vale and later consulted to vineyards around Australia, including at Plantagenet, Western Australia, Coldstream and Hoddles Creek in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, and on Kangaroo Island. After attending a 2004 biodynamic workshop at Beechworth, Paxton began converting his own McLaren Vale vineyards, starting with Quandong Farm. The vineyard, source of this lovely red is now certified biodynamic. I tasted the wine at cellar door with David on 24 July. It appeals for its lively, generous fruit, taut structure, hints of stalk from the whole bunches included in the ferment, and lingering, savoury finish. It combines intensity with elegance.

Rockford Rod and Spur Shiraz Cabernet 2010 $32
Barossa Valley, South Australia
The Barossa accommodates winemaking of every scale, from the vast tank farm cum city of Jacob’s Creek, at Roland Flat, to small-scale, hands-on producers like Rockford, at Krondorf. Rockford’s elegant reds capture the ripe, earthy flavours and soft tannins of this warm region. The wines age well and invariable give great drinking satisfaction. On a recent cold weekend in the Barossa, Rod and Spur, tasted by the fireplace in the stone cellar door, appealed very strongly. Though a near 50:50 blend of cabernet and shiraz, cabernet character dominated the exuberant aroma. But on the buoyant, generous, sweet-berry palate the two varieties became inseparable –until the cabernet tannins tightened up and dried out the finish.

Turkey Flat Mourvedre 2010 $32
Turkey Flat vineyard, Barossa Valley, South Australia
I reviewed this wine about a year ago and tasted it again in late July at cellar door with Turkey Flat owner, Christie Schulz. The conversation turned to the tongue-twisting varietal name. When visitors struggle with “mourvedre”, Schulz turns discomfort to a smile with, “move over dear”. It seems English customers prefer “mourvedre”, while in the Barossa it’s more widely known as “mataro” (though one producer opts for the Spanish “monastrell”). Schulz says the vines produce very small, thick-skinned berries. These make a unique red, in this instance with blackberry-like fruit, with a dusting of spice and loads of fine, grippy tannins from those thick skins.

Turkey Flat Butchers Block Red 2012 $19
Turkey Flat vineyard, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Butchers Block combines the three classic Barossa red varieties, shiraz (45 per cent), grenache (30 per cent) and mourvedre (25 per cent). Mark Bulman’s light hand in the winery unleashed the ripe and gentle beauty of these varieties in an excellent Barossa vintage. The high-toned aroma reveals the vitality of the fruit – the musk-like grenache being particularly seductive. The palate’s all fleshy, juicy, vibrant fruit flavour cut through with fine, gentle tannins.

Penfolds Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 $50
Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Peter Gago made Penfolds’ first Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir in 1997. Since then it’s evolved considerably in style from sturdy Penfolds red to a fine, deeply layered, top-shelf pinot. It’s made in the original open fermenters at Magill Estate – the same ones Max Schubert used for Grange. In this case they’re cradle to a substantial pinot – highly aromatic and varietal, intensely flavoured, fleshy, vibrant, silky textured with an exotic undertone of “stalkiness”, derived from whole grape bunches included in the ferment. Tasted at cellar door, Magill, 28 July. Available direct from Penfolds.

Holm Oak Vineyards Ilex Pinot Noir 2012 $22
Holm Oak vineyard, Tamar Valley, Tasmania
Rebecca Duffy recently released three very good pinot noirs, Holm Oak Ilex 2012 $22, Holm Oak Vineyard 2012 $32 and Holm Oak The Wizard 2010. There’s a family resemblance, but the quality lifts more or less in proportion to the prices and the styles vary. The entry level Ilex offers a true pinot experience focusing on fruity fragrance and bright raspberry-strawberry-like flavours, though with adequate tannin structure. The $32 offers more concentration and quite lush, slippery texture. And The Wizard steps up again, delivering more intense fruit flavour, firmer tannins, savouriness and the beginnings of secondary, age-derived flavours.

Copyright  Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 21 August 2013 in the Canberra Times and