Australia ~ Day 3 (the hottest, with 27 stickies)

Jens’ trip continues … the hottest day on the trip (and of the year according to the locals!):

We took off from the Butter Factory (Strathbogie Ranches) — without seeing any snakes, but one really big (~ 4” in diameter), gentle spider in Rob’s bedroom — for a 2-hour ride northeast to meet one of “the” winemakers in Australia: Rick Kinzbrunner of Giaconda.

Rick is the son of an Austrian immigrant & started the winery in 1985 with some wonderful Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Shiraz. James Halliday (the Australian Robert Parker) gave these wines “super-cult status” which, when we tasted them, we could only agree.

Old vine Shiraz grapes at the Giaconda estate.Rick, a down to earth farmer who really loves wine (his private collection is quite impressive!), showed us the winery & his new project (a cave under the winery for barrel storage & some of his private cellar). We were invited for lunch at his home after a beautiful tour through the vineyards. Lunch included fresh caught trout, charcuterie, an assembly of local chesses & fresh salad paired with some of his wines. An unforgettable moment.

Rick telling us about the local faire before we ate.

The region is in many ways a transition between the really, chilly, high altitude Alpine Valleys to the south & warm , flat Rutherglen to the north. It’s hilly more than mountainous & the temperature is cool without being too cold. The vines are mainly grown on granite gravel ridges & loamy, gravel, clay slopes. Here are some tasting notes:

Giaconda 2008 Chardonnay ~ Reductive character, gunflint minerality. Tastes like a very elegant Puligny-Montrachet. Very finessed, with superb texture & acidity. Wonderful flavors of pear, apples, hazelnuts & almonds with a wonderful citric backbone. Long, elegant finish.

Giaconda 2008 Pinot Noir ~ A blend from Yarra Valley & Beechworth. Smooth, soft, medium-bodied with fine cherry & raspberry fruit. Beautiful minerality, spice & herbal components. Long, smooth, spicy finish.

Giaconda 2005 Mantua Vineyard Pinot Noir ~ Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, hazelnut skin with cherries. Fantastic texture & acidity. Super interesting to say the least.

Giaconda 2005 Shiraz Worner Vinyard ~ Beautiful dark, plumy, blackberry fruit. Herbal & spicy, well-balanced & elegant. Superb structure & texture. Smooth finish with fine tannins.

Sadly, none of these wines make it to the US, so unless you make to Beechworth, you won’t have the great pleasure of tasting these wines.

Castagna vineyards ~ view from Julian’s back porch

After lunch we took off to see his neighboring winery, Castagna, a 20 minute drive down the road, to meet “the wine whisperer”, Julian Castagna, owner & winemaker (pictured below). In his eyes, communication with soil is everything. He farms strictly biodynamically since he started in 1998. We tasted a lot of wines with him, some very interesting:

Castagna 2008 Adam’s Rib White ~ A Chardonnay/Viognier blend, all estate grown. Clean, ripe, notes of peach & apricot. Citrus & lime on the mid-palate. Nice, fresh finish.

Castagna 2008 Secreto ~ Indeed a secret. Failed the blind tasting. But who would have guessed a Sangiovese/Syrah blend. Very intense nose of black fruit with herbal components. Big, full-bodied, complex. Lot’s of dark fruit & a very long finish.

Castagna 2008 Sangiovese ~ Big, dark red & black fruit upfront. Big, full-bodied, lots of dark fruit. Great acidity, structure & concentration. Superlong finish…

Keep in mind that this was the hottest day of the trip, and after tasting all these big reds, we headed out for Chambers Rosewood to taste 27 (!) different “Stickies”, the Australian term for dessert wine. The crew had only one dream: an icecold draft! Pit-stop necessary. A beer never tasted that good.

In Rutherglen (northeastern Victoria) we visited a very old, absolutely fascinating winery: Chambers Rosewood & its owners Bill Chambers (pictured below) & his son, Steven.

You need to be there to believe it. I felt I was in a very old antique store.

The winery was founded in 1858 after the gold rush & Steven Chambers (pictured right below), co-owner, is the sixth generation winemaker.

Chambers Rosewood specializes in dessert wines (ports as well as fortified Muscadelle & Tokay).  Below is a great photo of Rob & Dawn, exhausted, working their way through 27 stickies.  These were so excellent, though, with outstanding acidity, that some were even refreshing.

Chambers Rosewood NV Rutherglen ~ Burnt sugar, caramel on the nose. Flavors of brown sugar, caramel, toffee. Wonderful acidity & mouthfeel. Long, beautiful finish.

Chambers Rosewood NV Grand ~ Spicy, smoky, with brown sugar & caramel. Tight, lots of acidity. Deep, long, beautiful flavor profile. For the ages!

Chambers Rosewood NV Rare ~ Unbelievable: Fantastic, big nose, loaded with toffee, molasses & brown sugar. Super-smooth with fantastic acidity. Very long, persistent finish.

Chambers Rosewood NV Muscadelle ~ Sweet raisins upfront. Very smooth, silky, velvety texture. Fantastic fruit. Butterscotch, toffee, caramel. Long, smooth finish.

After the tasting, Steven gave us a tour of the vineyards. (100 year old Muscat pictured above; beautiful port grapes below).
It was almost evening, when finished with a tour of the winery:

What a delight! After Chambers, we were off to have dinner and meet with 10+ wineries attending.

Stay tuned for Day 4! 


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