Sault, Daylesford, VIC. Needs a touch more sweetness

Sault is one of the top five restaurants in the Daylesford area. Located slightly off campus along Ballan Rd, one is challenged to located the precise moment on the right turnoff while travelling at 100kmph under the cloaked darkness of night. Not that there is hidden treasure to be panned for, the romantically (read: hardly) lit signage marks the location of tonight’s dinner. Boasting views of its own lake, I can only image the brilliance of the view across the lavender fields in summer. Alas, it wasn’t a starry starry night, which would have only afforded a much prettier spectacle of Sault’s entrance.

Sault Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously

I like the ambience of the place, with its spacious couches for waiting guests, to the lighting of the bar which certainly captures your attention whilst leaving the other diners in peace. I’m not sure how many floor staff there are, and I certainly didn’t see a sommelier. However, for a late dinner sitting, it was a little strange to be asked to wait when the restaurant was only 3/4′s full. This isn’t a complaint, more of a curious note-to-self. There isn’t any fancy dazzleware on display at Sault. The semi-circular design of the building allows a central floral display which doubles as a convenient drinks station for the staff. The table layout is kept simple with clean white table paper, and no-fuss cutlery. I found the menu folder (current Autumn 2014 menu) quite annoying with the slightly translucent pages requiring a slight strain of the eyes to read the offerings. I would have definitely gone with a clear transparent menu folder here.

The wine list is reasonably stocked and organised, with a good selection of whites and reds available by the glass. There is support of the local wineries, as well as some notable international wine labels. However, for a restaurant drawing inspiration from Sault in France, I would have liked to see more French wines from Vaucluse, Ventoux, Avignon, or/and the greater Provence region.  I picked a Curly Flat White Pinot for the night, which sat at a robust 14% alc, with a restrained strawberry floral nose, but offered a generous mouthfeel and strawberry/currants flavours. The 2013 is a latest release, and it retails for $24. A white pinot isn’t an everyday bottle off the shelf. Given its broad palate coverage and moderate acidity, this was great with food, yet wasn’t too serious for the occasion.

Curly Flat White Pinot Noir 2013 Lancefield Macedon Ranges Sault Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously

The entrée list reads ten long, with marinated Camilo olives and fried salted almonds ($5.50), as well as San Simone and Manchego cheese. The wagyu beef croquettes were nice prepared with a light golden crunchy coat ($7.50 for 2), although the tender texture of the wagyu cut was engulfed by the creamy fill. Sault’s version of fish and chips ($16.50) was the most interesting entrée, using black coloured (beer-battered? probably not!?) barramundi chunks, dusted spuds looking like pebbles, with condiments of lime mayonnaise and pesto emulsion served in mussel shells. Visually captivating, unfortunately, there was no hint of the mussels or prawns as indicated on the menu.

Sault's fish and chips barramundi Sault Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously

The other starter of grilled octopus columned with confit potato marked by black garlic aioli ($17.50) was well prepared and tasty. The octopus was sufficiently tender and the aioli provided a good salty contrast to the creamier potato texture. One should note that there is only one vegetarian entrée option of a pumpkin and ginger custard which is rather disappointing to see. I would expect at least 2-3 solid vegetarian entrée options on a stellar menu.

Grilled octopus confit potato black garlic aoli Sault Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously

There are six mains on offer with one vegetarian option (Roasted vegetables tortellini with hazelnut Romesco and Manchego cheese sauce), all priced to ~$40. My oddpick of the venison had me transported back to 2008 when I had a similar sweet-savoury sauced steak in Amsterdam. The venison was cooked very nicely, and I have nothing hugely negative about this dish. But it was underwhelming. The meat didn’t stand out against the rest of the dish, it all seemed like one big salad bowl of stuff going on…

Venison celeriac puree beetroot blueberries Sault Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously

By comparison, the Hopkins River fillet had much more going on for it. It was perfectly done rare, well rested and seasoned. There was sufficient company for the meat with potato mash, grilled leek and sautéed vegetables (incidentally, no extra mustard was offered).

Hopkins River eye fillet Sault Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously

I had Sault’s version of the deconstructed blackforest cake, which was, well how can I put this.. a good attempt. I am being harsh but I have had such a dessert numerous times in Melbourne and abroad. The sponge was soft and fluffy but was crying out for a light sauce to lift it up to contrast in texture against the cocoa crumble. Maybe a berry-flavoured sauce in keeping with the theme of kirsch and cherries. The meringue mushroom was flat, it lacked the crunch, which given its size was a major let down. (Readers can look to Brooks’ Nic Poelaert for a highlight version). However, I do have it on good word that the chocolate fondant with banana and salted caramel sauce was really enjoyable.

Deconstructred blackforest cake Sault Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously

Overall, Sault is a good restaurant in the Daylesford that deserves patronage at least once. The comfortable and casual feel of the establishment that I got might be one rung below what the owners might be hoping to achieve, but it is sufficient to provide the diner a memorable evening. Quality of the food and preparation is spot on, with adequate wine offerings at reasonable prices. Perhaps a second bread option could be explored? It is in the finer details of service and dish assembly that there are several stumbles.

So what prevents me from making this a priority recommendation? Well there are several spots to the otherwise excellent business. Firstly, to have the wine poured around the table without first letting the person who ordered the wine inspect it… tsk tsk… Sorry, I’m a wine person and this is one of the most basic service utilities. Secondly, it would be good to establish whether the guests have dined there previously, and if not, a quick explanation of the menu would be greatly appreciated. Perhaps talk about the philosophy of the chef, and make a recommendation for a number of tapas for entrees. Thirdly, is it just me, or is the sight of $0.50 for most of the items on the menu just a little too annoying? It makes me want to do maths in my head to figure out how much the meal is going to cost, quite the distraction.

Sault Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously (2)

Sault will continue to be a choice destination for Daylesford visitors. Chef Santi leads a solid team with potential in the kitchen, and the owners have got a good thing going. I think it will be interesting to see how Sault progresses, if it continues to push itself to greater culinary levels. Sault also offers wedding packages, and in the warm summer sunshine, few locations could be more pretty than be amongst the bright purple lavender blooms.

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Bocconcini, Daylesford, VIC

Bocconcini is centrally located on Vincent St, and is a European-styled deli/cafe. It offers good coffee, small baked pastries, breakfast/brunch, as well as jams, sauces, cheese and hams for purchase. Not that Daylesford hasn’t got enough quaint going for it, let’s throw a touch of modern into the mix. You are unlikely to be within earshot of the strong English accents that inhabit this township, as the patronage appears to be facilitated by the younger sort.

Bocconcini Daylesford Vincent St Simple Palates Seriously

I really like the simple, clean layout of the establishment which is pseudo-divided into two halves. There are 5-6 tables as you enter, with view of the Deli counter and the coffee machine. If you’d like a little more sunlight and privacy, duck around the wall to where the shelves of jams and marinades are located for a couple more seats. The service is extremely friendly, everyone feels most welcomed, and this was maintained through the busy service period.

It was Easter Sunday, so of course I had to have eggs. And in keeping with the theme, something caught by a fisherman. Smoked salmon with poached eggs and spinach on a pesto-y smeared bagel was my choice.

Smoked salmon bagel with poached eggs and bacon Bocconcini Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously
Token side of bacon for that resumption of normality.

The English breakfast is very generous, just check that they’ve remembered to serve you baked beans! Perfectly scrambled eggs on 2 slice of toast (although I do like mine more heavily buttered), juicy pork sausages, tender slices of bacon and sure, we’ll even do the token fruit (2 halves of tomato).

English Breakfast Farmers breakfast Bocconcini Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously
The only thing lacking now is a pint of Newckie brown!

The salmon croquettes were very nicely done too, with a nice golden brown coating that was thin and crunchy to chomp into to access the lovely oiley salmon. Decently sized, about 2.5″, and to be topped off with 2 poached eggs very rather heavy.. 1 egg would have well sufficed, with perhaps a side serve of bean/barley mix.

Salmon Croquettes Bocconcini Daylesford Simple Palates Seriously

Bocconcini is a lovely spot in Daylesford for your relaxed weekend brunch. The service is warm, coffee is good, the meals are well-prepared, and you could even do a bit of deli shopping there. There are a couple of table along the walkway, but I reckon it’s getting too close to winter for that. It didn’t appear to be the most crowded place on the strip, but there was certainly plenty of traffic so get there early! Highly recommended.

Bocconcini on Urbanspoon

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Domaine Wachau Federspiel Terrassen Riesling 2012, Wachau, Niederosterreich, Austria

Domaine Wachau Federspiel Terrassen 2012 Riesling Austria Simple Palates Seriously

AUD$25 from PWS. This is a unique wine from the remaining coop in Wachau, which in recent year have made the commendable decision to stop producing bulk wines, and focus on the Domaine Wachau label. Do not mistake that move for equating Domaine Wachau as a low quality wine. Pale, straw yellow colour. Youthful bouquet of grapefruit, white peach, slightly grassy, vibrant and attractive. A dry-medium bodied wine, slightly oily in texture, high acidity, 12.5% alc. It has a layer composite of flavours, of grapefruit and soft peach. A clean, good-lengthed finish. Drink now – 2016. 89-90/100.

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Capbern Gasqueton 2010, St Estephe, Bordeaux, France

Capbern Gasqueton 2010 Saint Estephe Bordeaux France Simple Palates Seriously

$40 from Nick’s. The second wine of Calon Segur (the lovers’ wine), this is a 73/27 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Intense dark ruby-purple colour, dense aromas of blackberry, black plums, hint of Indian spice and dark chocolate. This is a dry, full-bodied wine, with whopping acidity, vibrant, with a moderate level of fine powdery tannins. Very nicely balanced with the robust mouthfeel matching the rich dark berry fruit flavours. Drink now – 2025. 89-90/100.

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Chilling out in Australian wine’s own Ice Age


Canadian IceWine vs. Australian, anyone?

And I’m also curious whether the artificial 4-5 day slow freezing process mimics (and to what degree) the natural freezing events in the vineyards?

Originally posted on :

1.BEFORE: Frozen Chardonnay grapes from Fraser Gallop Estate in between the chilling process and pressing.

Before: Frozen Chardonnay grapes from Fraser Gallop Estate in between the chilling process and pressing.

ICED wine styles are developing an enthusiastic following in Australia, with Iced Riesling, Cabernet and Chardonnay competing for the luxury dessert wine market. But with temperatures here unable to emulate the freezing conditions in the northern hemispheres where ice wines are traditionally made, Danielle Costley writes our winemakers are chilling out with alternatives.

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Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas 2010, Southern Rhone, France

Saint Cosme Gigondas 2010 Rhone Valley France Simple Palates Seriously

Saint Cosme has been riding a good streak from 2010 to 2012. They produce beautiful Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah blends, a very lovely Chateauneuf du Pape, and value-for-money Cotes du Rhones. However, if an inkling of uncertainty, go with their brilliant Gigondas! The 2010 Gigondas (60% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah) resides as an intense black ruby colour with a thin garnet rim. After 3 days, it is still exudes vibrant fresh aromas of blackcurrant, black raspberry, hint of pencil shavings. This is a dry, full-bodied wine, with high acidity, 14.5% alc, and young velvety tannins. Rich intense dark berry fruit and cassis, propped on a cushy robust frame of tannins. Delicious, and a long finish. Drink now – 2024. 93+/100.

See my previous write-up on Saint Cosme wines here:

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Let me eat cake! And may you be nice…

Let Them Eat Cake is a cake store along Cecil Street sitting diagonally opposite the South Melbourne market with an exterior looking like a cheap madeover factory block. Nothing challenges the senses like requiring you to gaze away from your natural line of sight to make sense of the store’s name, and leaves you wondering whether this is strictly a cake making class, a cake store, or a cafe. I noted no evidence of the first, inadequate evidence of the second and faint evidence of the third (the last being a largish sized table with no visible customers).

Let them eat cake South Melbourne Simple Palates Seriously1

A quick peek inside and one is naturally attracted to the brightly coloured inventions for sale, which at this time of the year, are the necessary Easter-message-carrying bunnies on display ranging for $14.50 – $18.50. Yup, that’s the price of this suburb. If you don’t like it, you can leave… but wait! Let’s see what else is on offer.

Let them eat cake South Melbourne Simple Palates Seriously4
Postage prices have gone up on these seasonal bunnies

The pastries looked delightful to be honest, and I did purchase a couple to put money into my mouth. I paid $16 for a 2″ square raspberry lamington, a baked cheese shortbread thingy, and a 1″ vanilla mini cuppy-thingy. And $17 for 2 bags of 5 gingerbread men. Those price tags are certainly on the brighter end of the spectrum. Was it worth it? Hmm.. To be honest, the raspberry lamington was very nice. The sponge was light and consistantly fluffy. It wasn’t too sweet, just sufficient enough to entice the tastebuds. The coconut wasn’t overly dense but just enough to provide a textural lift. The baked cheese shortbread was fantastic and will should be my go-to weakness. I loved the lighter weight of the shortbread, and the sweetish baked cheese flavours which would have been elevated with a scoop of yoghurt ice-cream. The vanilla cube-cup was interesting because it’s icing coat was a thin crackling layer. Again, the sweetness was edgy but not over the top and the use of sponge was near perfect.

Let them eat cake South Melbourne Simple Palates Seriously3
If cake was the main theme of this store, it’s kinda on the lower layer of priorities…

Let them eat cake South Melbourne Simple Palates Seriously2
Awesome looking cupcakes! Priced between $10.50 – $15. No, there’s no gold in them.

Let them eat cake South Melbourne Simple Palates Seriously5

So why am I experiencing dislike for the atmosphere of this establishment? It might have been the curt way the owner stopped my server in the middle of my order to get back to the prep table. It might also have been the cold service attitude. Or in general, this place simply lacked soul. Which is not to claim Chris is not passionate about his cakes. I think he has put in tremendous effort into this business, and his creations are sensually brilliant. But more effort connecting with customers is warranted. Unless there is already an adequate customer base to keep the books happy.

Final verdict, glad I tried it, but no reason to recommend.

Let Them Eat Cake on Urbanspoon

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The ever-changing tide of booze

So here’s a rather unexpected trend to tell of, total alcohol consumption has fallen for the 6th consecutive year. Well, perhaps not, with the growing awareness of the importance of exercise in our daily life, minimising the consumption of high fatty foods, that alcohol is a no-no for anyone wanting to watch their weight. Yet, there is that odd dichotomous existence of weight loss shows like The Biggest Loser, and cooking shows like Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules. All in the absence of the vital pieces of information – moderation and education.

<Insert picture of me tipping a bottle of beer and a bottle of wine down the sink>
<<Didn’t have that picture coz I washed my sink the night before>>

I find it interesting that figures are provided for drinkers above the age of 15.. as far as I know, the official legal minimum age for alcohol consumption is 18 for ALL Commonwealth states. Where did the data for 15 – 17 year olds come from, and what proportion of the data is made up of under-aged drinkers?

Not surprisingly, beer still trumps wine in terms of volume consumed, and the growing popularity of cider persists. Good Beer Week in Melbourne has grown year on year, as has the size of its crowds although I have somehow learnt to spot familiar faces. Btw, GBW is happening 17-25 May, so see you there!

Craig James, CommSec chief economist, cites anecdotal evidence that consumer habits are gearing towards quality over quantity. How is a news feed report resorting to non-factual opinions? I can counter with my anecdotal unquantified experience that desire for cheap wine in great volumes is none the more stronger given the pathetic growth in income of the younger generation. Especially university students. Just drop by the surround pubs of university campuses on Fridays and observe!

Here’s the Guardian’s reporting of these figures, in which they point out that despite beer being the king of our drinks, it has been experiencing a steady decline in volumetric consumption since the 60s.

And that can’t be good news for wine grape growers as the oversupply remains unaddressed. Consider this. Table grapes are $2.50 – $3.50/kg at the grocers. Wine grapes are being sold at $250 – $350/tonne (guesstimate). That equates to $0.25 / kg. How is that a good deal for the growers? Wine grape growers in the Clare Valley can’t the only ones still concerned certainly.

2014-04-04 20.01.37
And to think this is the expensive stuff!

(Note how Clare is spelt in the link here, amusing)

And it would be reasonable to infer that easing the process of alcohol purchase would promote increased sales volumes, such is the method of online retail stores. G&W blog has a nice post on this, with highlights of the 2014 Nielsen Australian Connected Consumers Report. I personally prefer to wander into a store to pick and choose my wine bottles, unless I’m buying for a function or event (probably at the last minute too!).

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Americas tasting UOMSWS

The University of Melbourne Student Wine Society had it’s day out in the sun a couple of weeks ago with a showing of quaffers from the Americas. To be honest, there is a decent range of South American wines to be found in Australia. Nick’s Wine Merchants does a good job bringing in bottles under $25 from Chile and Argentina. The Woolworths owned Vintage Cellars stocks up on quite a few too, and you can see that on display at their annual portfolio tastings. North American wines, on the other hand, are severely limited in the lower end of the price spectrum. Expect to pay at least $30 for a bottle, but for the more serious purveyors, check out the range available at Prince Wine Store.

UOMSWS Americas March 2014 Simple Palates Seriously
Glittering glass basking in the sunshine of South Lawn

Amalaya Torrontes Riesling 2013, Salta, Argentina
A good easy start for a tasting. Torrontes is a key Catalan white varietal typically producing fresh, light aromatic wines. It is aromatic, grapefruit and apple with sweet lifted florals typical of the Argentinian Torrontes. 15% Riesling adds structure and fruit weight. Perceived sweetness will be attractive to some. Clean, light finish, enjoy as an aperitif or a fig/rocket/walnut salad drizzled with wild honey. Or roast duck with noodles. Drink now. 87/100.

Caliterra Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Central Valley, Chile
AUD$10. A vibrant Sauv Blanc that is a step away from the vesty ripeness of typical NZ versions. Pale yellow colour with a green tinge. Rather herbaceous, grassy on the nose, with youthful pink grapefruit and gooseberry wafts. High acidity, sweeping clean the grassy gooseberry and citrus fruit flavours. A simplistic representative SB, lacking depth for further interest. Drink now. 86/100.

Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay 2012, California, USA
AUD$23. Fruit sourced from multiple vineyards across Santa Barbara County, Monterey County, Mendocino County and Sonoma County. Fermented and aged in old French and American oak barrels with monthly stirring of lees. Undoubtedly a fruit-driven wine, but the oak treatment imparts an old-school butteriness and creaminess to the wine. More tropical fruit on the nose, lemon curd and vanilla. Not my favoured style, but some might like it. Drink now. 86/100.

Erath Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
AUD$30. Medium ruby colour. Soft aromas of red cherry and spice. A good level of lively acidity, keeping the palate fresh. Light flavours of cherry and red currants, light tannins, bit of baking spice on the finish. 13.5% alc.  Drink now. 87/100.

Caliterra Tributo Boldo Block Carmenere 2010, Colchagua Valley, Chile
AUD$15. A winery co-founded in 1996 by Californian winemaking legend Robert Mondavi. A blend of 91% Carmenere, 3% Syrah, 6% Cabernet Franc. (Chilean laws mandate a minimum of 80% of a particular variety for sole labelling) Matured for 14 months in a combination of American and French oak barrels. Intense black ruby colour. Youthful aromas of blackcurrant and mulberry with a spicy edge. A dry, med+ bodied wine, high acidity, fine tannins. 14.5% alc. Good cored flavours of black cherry and blackcurrants, earthy notes on the finish. An easy drink. 87-88/100.

Arboleda Syrah 2011, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
AUD$20. Intense black ruby colour, lifted notes of black cherry and dark berry fruit, hint of earthy spice. Dry, med+ bodied wine, moderate tannins and high acidity. Dark berry fruit, cherry, sweet anise and a savoury finish. 14% alc. Drink now – 2020. 89/100.

Zuccardi Serie A Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina
AUD$15. Destemmed fruit used, 70% aged in oak. I don’t see the sense in that because the bold tannin structure is what I’d seek in a straight Malbec. The fruity characteristics come through cleanly with plums, red cherry and spice. Moderate level of dusty tannins. 14.5% alc. Simplistic wine, nothing like pure Malbec from Cahors. 82-84/100.

Bodegas Caro Amancaya Gran Reserva Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Mendoza, Argentina
AUD$17. The Argentinian version of Lafite Rothschild (look for the Chilean Los Vasco). A 70/30 Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon blend, matured for 12 months in 20% new French oak. Intense ruby colour, fresh aromas of plum and redcurrants, notes of vanilla and spice. Dry, med+ bodied wine, high acidity and a moderate level of soft, integrated tannins. A sweetly spiced wine, flavours of cherry, raspberry, and red plums. 15% alc. Good finish. Drink now – 2020. 91/100.

Valle Secreto Private Edition Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere 2010, Alto Cachapoal, Chile
AUD$20. A interesting blend incorporating Carmenere in the Shiraz-Cabernet blend which Australia is famous for. 18 months maturing in new French oak is evident on the more chunky tannins on the structure, but these should integrate with time. Attractive aromas of blackcurrant liquor, mulberry, licorice, anise and tobacco. Dry, med-bodied wine with jammy blackberry notes, blackcurrants, baking spice and anise/nutmeg. Long finish. Drink now – 2022. 89/100.

Los Vascos Grande Riserva 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile
AUD$17. Made by the Chilean outpost of Lafite Rothschild, so they should know a thing or two about Cabernet blends, surely? A 75/10/10/5 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah and Malbec. 20% new French oak for 12 months. Intense black ruby colour, dense herbaceous aromas of blackcurrants, mulberry and tobacco spice. 14% alc. Med+ bodied wine, high acidity, fine tannins offer a solid structure, rich fruit flavours of blackcurrants, spiced preserved berry fruit, cedary finish. Persistent finish. Though not quite a style of Cabernet that I like. Drink now – 2016. 88/100.

Murphy-Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel 2009, Sonoma County, CA, USA
AUD$28. 7% Petite Syrah. Actually this was a let down in terms of grunt I expected from a Californian Zin. Medium ruby colour, peppery nose with cherry and blackberry fruit. Drinkable on a sunny day despite 15.5% alc, fleshy mouthfeel, but lacks complexity for further interest. Drink now – 2017. 85/100.

Zuccardi Serie A Bornarda 2011, Mendoza, Argentina
AUD$15. The use of destemmed fruit translates to a pure fruity wine, and the tannin structure is all from the fruit skins. Moderate use of oak treatment, 30% of the wine matures in 1-3 year old barrels. Dark ruby colour, notes of plum and blackberries. Dry, full-bodied wine, high acidity and a moderate load of soft chewy tannins. 13.5% alc. Solid mid-palate of dark berry fruit, black plums. Good finish. Drink now. 88/100.

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Gaelic Cemetery Vineyard Celtic Farm Riesling 2013, Clare Valley, South Australia

Gaelic Cemetery Celtic Farm Riesling 2013 Clare Valley Simple Palates SeriouslyGaelic Cemetery Celtic Farm Riesling 2012b Clare Valley Simple Palates Seriously

$30 from PWS. Pale lemon with a slight green tinge. Youthful intense aromas of freshly cut grass, lemon fruit and lime rind. Touch of steely minerality. Rich flavours of lemon, with blackcurrant trailing on the finish. High acidity bring a clean finish, with a hint of leafy herbs. Drink now – 2017, or keep for 10. 91/100.

Gaelic Cemetery Vineyard is a new Clare Valley winery to me. In typical Clare Valley tradition, it makes several interpretations of Riesling. But it also has a $115 Shiraz to boot!  If it’s as solid as this Riesling, then I’m very much looking forward to trying it!

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