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Monday, March 31, 2003
Montara (5 December 2002)

Here is a piece I wrote early in December while in Australia. I lost it in Hilbert space for a while but it has just reappeared
Montara winery was still the same as I remembered it; set on a hillside with the vineyards running down to a lake. Were it not for the wine, it would make an excellent setting for a picnic but more of that later. Eileen Myers was my host in the delightful little tasting room with its elegant spittoon, designed by her husband, and its bar made up of redundant pupîtres. (Look this up if you’re puzzled. The context is ‘Champagne’, not education.)

I think the wines had improved since my last visit: Here are my notes on the tasting this time:

Riesling 2002. This wine was only bottled three weeks ago. Its beautiful, dry taste, not to be confused with the semi-sweet stuff one gets from Germany, was still modulated by a carefully judged amount of residual sugar. The high acidity would seem to indicate that this wine would repay keeping. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to wait

Chardonnay 2000.* This wine, too, had only been very recently bottled. It has a nose, initially massively floral, with traces of eucalyptus and French oak (entirely acceptable, not overdone) and an apricot flavour reminiscent slightly of a good Meursault.

Chardonnay 1998. The French oak in this wine was also at a restrained level. I remember this wine from last year - it has a memorable smoky bacon tang to it that makes it both memorable and enjoyable. It is interesting how different oaks produce different results. The Chardonnays tasted were stored in French oak (I forgot to ask how long) but the effect was slightly different. That used for the 2000 got my vote by the narrowest of margins.

Pinot noir 2000. This is a light pinot, both in colour and ‘weight’, unmistakable by its nose. It is fruity, well-balanced, with an initial slightly caramel taste, fading to vanilla with a gentle peppery aftertaste. It is already very drinkable.

Merlot 2001.* This wine had achieved a healthy 14% alcohol with great depth of flavour. It comes from a good vintage, both in terms of yield and quality. Eileen and her husband think that Merlot has alternate bumper years: almost biennial, one might say.

Shiraz 2000. Even more recently bottled (one week ago), this is a medium weight Shiraz. Its initial nose, reminding me slightly of freshly cut grass, giving way to vanilla as the wine breathes. The taste is balanced between the excellent fruit and a hint of soft, white pepper. (The pepperiness, never intrusive, was in line with my thoughts last year.)

Cabernet Sauvignon 2000. This is a fine wine. The contrast between the longevity expected of quality French wines of similar vintages and these fresh, new Aussies never ceases to amaze me. One would lay a good French Cabernet Sauvignon down for many years; this Montara effort shows none of the ‘dumbness’ one expects of young French wines. Instead, the wine is raring to go (it will last if you can control your impatience) and its fruity character, with a hint of dark chocolate in the aftertaste, and an even more subtle soupcon of mocha/coffee complete the picture.

Port 2001. A mixture of Shiraz and brandy, this 18% port was more peppery and less sweet than the 2000 I had tasted last year. Eileen suggested that I should try the new ‘vintage’ with ice, and think of it as an aperitif. I can recommend it.

I elected to purchase the bottles asterisked but the decisions were difficult. None of these wines would disappoint. Indeed, I came across a bottle of Montara Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 in East Anglia last summer and it was well up to scratch. Somehow, I do not think that my two chosen bottles will make it back to England... Ah well, there’s always next year and Adnams is the UK shipper in case I can’t wait.
(I was right - my chosen bottles went down very well at two of Essendon's excellent b.y.o. restaurants.) Montara has a well-designed and informative web site. It’s worth a look. Every year, they run a scarecrow competition. The pictures of previous years’ entries show the high standards achieved. If you are anywhere near Ararat in Victoria, you could have a lot of fun joining in or watching (you could bring a picnic). But be quick - entries have to be in by 12 April. The prizes consist of substantial quantities of Montara's excellent wine. Your entry should be 'an attention seeker, poised for action, with colors and textures galore and able to survive all weather at Montara for 3 weeks from Sat, 12th April...' Entries based on any of Josh's characteristics will, I know, be deplored...

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