I was looking forward to this tasting for a couple of weeks... All of the wines featured were going to be from The Grateful Palate, a popular importer of Australian wines. (The website doesn't have any wine information, but you can see a comprehensive list of the Grateful Palate wines here.)
I got there a little early, and was going over the tasting sheet, checking off the ones I'd tried before. I was certainly going to try them again, but I saw some of my favorite Australian labels on there: Paringa, Marquis Philips, and Trevor Jones. A guy came up, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was there alone. I figured he wanted the other seat, which I was more than happy to give up. Instead, he shook my hand and said, "Hi, I'm Dan Philips." As in, the owner of The Grateful Palate. Super nice guy. We talked off and on throughout the tasting, and in particular I asked him about the Nuriootpa High School wines, which are produced by a sort of vocational education program. The students pick the grapes and make the wines, and all proceeds go back to the high school.
I've tasted about half of these wines before. Last year I got to sit down with Trevor Jones at a tasting and go through his entire product line, but I was happy to see those wines again.
Wine 1: 2004 Trevor Jones Boots White. Barossa Valley, Australia. A mix of Riesling and Muscat. Sweet nose with apple aromas and smoky notes on the tongue. Balanced acids and not as sweet as you first think. $13.
Wine 2: 2004 Marquis Philips Holly's Blend. Padthaway, Australia. You know, I forgot to ask for the preferred pronunciation of "Marquis" when referring to this wine. Americans tend to pronounce the first name "mar-KEE" and Australians I've met have called it "MAR-kwiss". I didn't particularly like this wine, it's got a heavy vegetal aroma that was offputting. Rough finish as well. A combination of Semillon and Verdelho. I liked this last year, so I'm willing to bet it was an off bottle. $10.
Wine 3: 2004 Paringa Chardonnay-Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc. South Australia. Grapefruit on the nose, but the creamy feel and taste of Chardonnay. Crisp acidic finish. Interesting little bargain. $10.
Wine 4: 2002 Trevor Jones Boots Grenache. Barossa Valley, Australia. I liked this one so much I took a bottle home and devoured most of it with dinner. It's got a creamy cherry aroma, almost like a cherry tart with whipped cream on it and lots of butter in the crust. Big fruit and soft tannins with a medium finish. Touch of chocolate flavor. Bigger than a Rhone-style wine but not as aggressive as some California Grenache I've had, even though it ranked in at 15% alcohol. $14.
Wine 5: 2004 McLean's Farm Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon. Barossa Valley, Australia. Some black cherry and pepper on the nose. Very dry, with mild tannins and a short finish. More alcohol becomes present on the tongue as you go along.
Wine 6: 2001 Alliance Shiraz. South Australia. Plum aromas, with a mild scent of a ruby Port. Delicious, with tannins that melt in your mouth. Quite nice for the price. $14.
Wine 7: 2001 Brothers in Arms Shiraz. Langhorne Creek, Australia. Alcoholic, hot aroma, but with plenty of classic Shiraz flavor. Short finish. I actually preferred the Alliance to this one. $36.
Wine 8: 2004 Marquis Philips S2 Cabernet Sauvignon. South Australia. Buttery aroma, deep and rich feel, very dark and intense color, yet velvety smooth on the tongue. Wow. $35.
Wine 9: Trevor Jones "Jonesy" Tawny Port. Barossa Valley, Australia. An amazing Port for the price. Molasses and raisins dominate the flavor, with some figs and chocolate in the background. Alcohol is subdued, and it's not too thick or sticky. $10.