Splendor in the Glass

Arturo Ciompi's blog on wine

From the Cellar

Tag icon Published under Weekly Tastings

Clock icon May 5, 2013

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wynns-estate-michael-frontWynns Coonawara Estate was the first Australian wine I ever tasted. (It was the 1972 regular release Shiraz) My strongest memory of it is jamminess – like spreading marmalade on my tongue. But in the ensuing years, I have tasted more and more sophistication and layered goodness in all of their wines. None more so than their top of the line red, the “Michael” Limited Release Shiraz. Named for the owner’s youngest son, this wine hits on all cylinders. (It’s only made when vintage conditions are deemed worthy.) My wife and I recently visited with friends in Palo Alto, Calif. and, lo and behold, a 2004 was one of the treats generously shared with us. It reminded me that this gem is always a shockingly great wine.

  • 2004 “Michael” Limited Release Shiraz, Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Australia $75-100 srp*

Inky purple color with a rim beginning to lighten. Needed three hours uncorked to fully open up. Freshness is paramount on the soft, velvety “come into my lair” nose. Mulberry and blackberry elements meld with the American oak influence to create a chocolatey sensation. The silky mouth texture is simply gorgeous and the stick-to-your-tongue richness pleases greatly – yet it never feels heavy. Pepper and coffee notes join the crushed blackberry flavors in a beautiful, un-aggressive red. It’s like the most polite and sophisticated guest at your table–which it may be! Drink now-2024.

94/100 points

*The current release is 2009.


Petite Sirah (Durif)


California’s Petite Syrah (Sirah) success, often forgets that this bold, viscous red grape has been genetically traced back to the French grape named Durif. Australia’s Nugan Estate uses this original name while fashioning an extraordinary wine of character and power. Located in Riverina (New South Wales), this single-vineyard bottling is a steal at around $23. The biggest problem is finding it! Web search is your best bet. The 2009 vintage is the current release.


  • 2003 Nugan Estate Durif, Manuka Grove Vineyard $23 srp


Dark Crimson color. Brown sugar, molasses, plum and cocoa elements inhabit the rounded nose. Yet this is decidedly an elegant bouquet despite its richness. The mouth texture is almost claret-like in weight, yet with a generous, plummy, stick to your palate texture. Very supple flavors lead to a long, balanced finish. A Hangar steak would be heavenly with this. At 10 years of age, this wine was showing beautifully.

93/100 points


What can I say about Paul Draper whose image adorns the home page of this site? A hero of mine as a winemaker, man and visionary, his many wines include small production parcels that are hard to find commercially. So it is with his Petite Syrah from Spring Mountain. Usually only available through Ridge’s ATP Wine Club, this wine occasionally can be found at retail. The bottle we shared was a knockout at 11 years of age.

  • 2002 Ridge California Petite Syrah, Dynamite Hill $40 srp

Deeply rewarding saturated fruit on the nose. Smoke and spice elements oversee the very ripe blackberry, tar and licorice notes. (A touch of funkiness blows off after about 20 minutes open.) Persistent deep flavors blossom over the course of four hours. There are  chocolate and espresso notes woven into its rich fruit goodness. This wine fascinates in its full-blown rustic charm. It’s not as “pretty” as the Nugan, but it continues to unfold with overt, dramatic layers of complexity. A wine to contemplate as long as it holds out!

94/100 pointsth-1

Note: The vintage tasted was 2002.

Finally, a wine that first fascinated me when I looked over my friend’s list of his cellar contents: a 1999 Jacob’s Creek, Centenary Hill, Barossa Valley Shiraz. Most American’s know Jacob’s Creek wines as everyday fare, but would this 14 year old reserve bottling have the stuff to showcase the estate’s pride and joy. It’s the first wine we consumed together, and it showed its all–caught at it peak.  The 2009 vintage is readily available commercially.

  • 1999 Jacob’s Creek, Centenary Hill, Barossa Valley Shiraz $39 srp

The tell-tale nose of Barossa Valley Shiraz blended in American oak.–one of the most felicitous marriages in the world of wine. Exuberant bouquet of cedar-vanilla accompanying generous plum and cinnamon with a cashmere-like sensation. A wine to sniff again and again–its sexy warmth enfolds you. Flavors are medium-bodied and rounded with dark berry and milk chocolate notes, totally integrated tannins and serene aftertaste. Superb balance–the only negative is a lack of great complexity–but a lovely mouthful.

92/100 pointsth-1

My thanks to Daniel Pitt for his generosity in sharing these and other wonderful bottles of perfectly aged reds.

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