Jim McMahon

It’s always good to try grape varieties one doesn’t normally drink, in this case the red grape, montepulciano, which hails from Umbria and is planted in central and southern Italy. It’s a late-ripening variety and is suited to warm to hot regions. This wine comes. The Calabria 2015 Montepulciano from Calabria Family Wines in the Riverina region of NSW is bright red/purple. The nose is developed, with expressive red fruits. The palate is soft and generous and the tannins are virtually non-existent. The wine is light with a soft, dry, acid finish. Try something new for a change and give this monte a go (rrp $15).

Another little number along the same lines is the Calabria 2014 Anglianico. This red grape variety also comes from the Med region and has its home in Greece but is a grape variety that has been adopted by the Italians, especially around the region of Campania (southern Italy). It’s a lighter style of red, soft and fruity with minimal tannins, soft acidity and fruit aplenty on the palate (rrp $15).

For the first time, I tried a pinot noir from the Cowra-based Windowrie winery. The Windowrie Family Reserve 2015 Pinot Noir comes, however, from grapes grown in the Central Highlands of Orange. Quite right too, as pinot noir can be a very temperamental grape variety, so unpredictable that I sometimes wonder why people take the chance in planting it in the first place. It likes a high altitude and a cold climate. There are more than 40 different clones in the pinot noir family DNA so getting the clonal selection right is very important to the winemaker.

This wine comes from the slopes of Mount Canobolas and was planted in 1999 with pinot noir clones 114, 115 and MV6. So here you have it, the first pinot noir from the O’Dea family. Deep purple in colour with bright pink hues around the rim, the nose and palate display dark cherry, red cherry and vanilla spice. The wine is firm and intense and the finish is long and voluptuous, with a firm acid/tannin/oak structure that will help the wine to mature beautifully over the next 10 years or more.

It is a magnificent wine with all the complexities, depth and structure expected with fruit, alcohol, oak and tannins all nicely balanced. This is what good pinot noirs are all about (rrp $35).

Broke-based Catherine Vale wines has recently released its 2014 Reserve Barbera. This is another red Italian grape variety hailing from Piedmont in the north. This winery has made its name and reputation on Italian varietals. Plums, spice and dark cherry flavours race across the palate. The oak/tannin treatment is minimal, allowing the fruit to shine (rrp $18). Also from the same stable comes the Catherine Vale 2016 Arneis. The nose is scented with almond and the palate offers some spicy citrus and almond notes. The finish is refreshingly dry and crisp (rrp $18).

Jip Rocks is the name of the wine and Morambro Creek is the name of the winery based in Langhorne Creek, South Australia. Jip Jip Rocks 2014 Shiraz is deep purple with a violet hue around the rim. The nose is overflowing with spicy shiraz fruit, which is flavoursome and intense. The palate is exceedingly fruit-driven with toasty vanillin notes. The wine has depth of flavour and complexity with a firm structure. This wine won a Double Gold at the San Francisco Wine Challenge, where I have judged for the past 10 years. To get a Double Gold means that the wine received a gold from all three judges on the panel, immediately elevating it to a Double Gold (rrp $21).

Finally, a riesling from Clare Valley, South Australia-based O’Leary Walker Wines. The Polish Hill River 2016 Riesling is green straw in colour with a pale rim, indicating youth. The nose offers limey, musk flavours with hints of grapefruit. The palate is showing firm acidity with citrus flavours at its core. The acidity and mineral overtones ensure that the wine will cellar well, should you decide to cellar it. It is drinking beautifully now and will enhance many Asian foods (rrp $25). Enjoy!

I judged wines recently in the beautiful little town of Paso Robles which lies halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, just north of Santa Barbara. Discovered by the Spanish in the mid-1850s, it is like many small towns up and down the Californian coast, charming and tranquil, with the Spanish influence more than evident.

Surprisingly, surrounding this town are more than 200 wineries producing many different styles, both red and white. These are mainly red Bordeaux blends and Rhone reds and whites such as syrah (shiraz to you and me), rousanne, marsanne and viognier. Zinfandel (red) is king throughout California.

The wine region in and around Paso Robles was established in 1983 and comprises 11 American Viticultural Regions over 614,000 acres.

If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, then look at Paso or the main town of St Louis Obispo. If you don’t want to travel from winery to winery to taste wines there are at least 10 represented in the main square of Paso, or visit the cellar doors direct (they call them ranches here). I recommend visiting the following cellar doors: Eberle, Halter J. Lohr, Niner, Victor Hugo and Aron Hill.

Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE