Lake George, on the outskirts of Canberra on the Old Federal Highway, is the setting for Lerida Estate, established in 1999 by Jim Lumbers and Anne Caine. Their Lerida Estate 2012 Chardonnay is what good chardonnays are about, impressive from the first sip. Light straw in colour, the nose gives way to mandarin, cucumber and grapefruit, with subtle French oak adding structure and vanilla notes. The palate offers apricot, grapefruit and citrus flavours with finely tuned oak downplaying its part. The finish is dry and crisp with a lasting impression of quality plus (rrp $24).
A wine of elegance is the Margaret River-based Forester Estate 2011 Shiraz which I tasted recently. Its palate is firm and dry with a soft round mouth-feel and layer upon layer of red and black fruit. Nicely-integrated French oak adds structure and backbone to the wine as well as vanilla and cashew flavours. The finish has acid/tannin/oak elements in balance (rrp $24).
Queens Pinch 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is typical of what Mudgee does best with its reds. The fruit on the nose virtually jumps out of the glass — wild berries, plum and stewed rhubarb. The palate is a follow-on from the nose and is very intense. The oak is nicely interwoven and the tannins are firm with a voluptuous mouth-feel and fruit aplenty on a dry, flavoursome finish (rrp $18).
For those of you who live around Mudgee, Bathurst and in particular Orange, the name Manners would be very familiar to you; father Michael is a famed restaurateur while son James is an established winemaker who has teamed up with Nick Bacon, owner of Union Bank Wine Bar in Orange. The two of them have now formed a wine company called the Well Mannered Wines Co.
One of the wines from this duo is the purple and violet-hued Manners 2013 Tempranillo. Its savoury nose is evident as are the spicy dark cherries, which really make an impression. The palate is a mix of plum, dark cherries and wild strawberry flavours with nutty vanilla overtones. The oak and tannin flavours are nicely interwoven with a slight herbal touch on the finish. This is a full-bodied wine style, not usual from Mudgee (rrp $28).
The O’Leary Walker story is one of remarkable success, taking two of the best names in the business (David O’Leary and Nick Walker) with more than 30 years between them. Both winemakers worked for large conglomerates before deciding to go it alone and establish the brand O’Leary Walker Wines in 2001.
I spent seven days (about 18 hours a day) working with them during the 2001 vintage. What an eye-opener it was, never mind the hard yakka. The O’Leary Walker Clare Valley 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine style at which the Clare Valley excels. It is deep purple, with a nose of plum and blackcurrant and green capsicum overtones. These flavours are intense on the palate along with a dose of cedar and chocolate. The wine has depth and structure with the French vanillin oak nicely balanced by subtle tannins with firm acidity on a long, dry, fruit-driven finish (rrp $22).
Arneis (pronounced ahr-naze) is a white wine hailing from Piedmont in Italy. Upper Hunter Valley winery, Catherine Vale, which has staked its claim on Italian grape varieties, produces the Catherine Vale 2013 Arneis. Green straw in colour, it has hints of almond and spice on the nose. The palate is crisp and refreshing with ripe pear, green apple and almond flavours on the palate. The almond flavours are gentle and refined, while the white pear and green apple flavours dominate. Light and crisp, this is an enjoyable summer wine with a plate of antipasto (rrp $20).
Its stablemate, the Catherine Vale 2013 Reserve Semillon has a nose that is a little austere on first impression, but put your hand over the glass and swirl, then insert your nose into the glass and the wine explodes with flavours of citrus, lantana and white apricots. These flavours follow onto the palate and are intense. The acidity breaks in to exert itself and lets you know that this wine has some way to go before it will fully develop and mature into a Hunter semillon of note (rrp $18).
Canberra District winery Shaw Vineyard Estate in one of a small number of premier family-owned vineyards. Their Winemakers Selection 2012 Cabernet Merlot is a beauty. The nose oozes dark mulberry and redcurrant in abundance with minimal oak, and so does the soft, yet intense palate. A voluptuous dry, fruit-driven finish (rrp $16).
A Boy with Fruit No. 1 from Eloquesta Wines is a blend of Mudgee-grown black grapes such as shiraz, petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon with a dash of white viognier to add to the perfume spectrum.
It is inky black/purple with a lively pink hue around the rim and the nose is intensely perfumed with a myriad of red/dark berry. The palate has depth and complexity with French oak adding weight, body and flavour although it’s the fruit that sets the wine apart. The wine leaves a firm impression; what I call a sit-up and take note style of wine. Winemaker and owner Stuart Olsen should be very proud of what he has produced. It’s a ripper (rrp $28).
Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE.