Every wine has a story. I think one of the things that fascinate me the most as I learn more about wine, is the story behind the wine. Take for example, pictured above is famed winemaker Wolf Blass. Probably every wine drinker has tried a Wolf Blass wine out of Australia. But did you know Mr. Blass is not from Australia, he’s from Germany. Wolf Blass arrived in Australia in 1961 with a diploma in wine-making. He started working at a vineyard and in 1966 established one of the most recognizable names in wine – Wolf Blass Wines. One of my favorites is the Grey Label Shiraz. A beauty of a wine and one of my favorites with a grilled steak.
This past week I have had the privilege of discovering the story behind two other, not so well-known yet, wine-makers.
Jeff Byrne was born and raised right here in Halifax Nova Scotia. At the age of 25, he went to Australia for a surfing expedition, where he met and fell in love with a local girl. He returned to Canada but followed his heart and moved to Queensland in 1999. That girl, now his wife, Bridgette and Jeff moved to the renowned Hunter Valley wine region in 2000.
Jeff started working in vineyards, first as a cellar hand, then to assistant winemaker. In 2007, Jeff graduated from Charles Sturt University with a Wine Science degree. He then went to work at the Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard in 2008. where he started making wine and receiving some very prestigious awards.
Yesterday I got to try both his Chardonnay and the Shiraz.
The Chardonnay was crisp and fresh with gorgeous peach and melon. I found the fruit to be in the forefront of the wine and just the right amount of acidity.
The Shiraz, which sadly is sold out at the NSLC, is another great steak wine. When I tried this one yesterday, I had planned on grilling a steak, and I said to my friend Rayell at the NSLC, I found my steak wine. Blackberries and a distinct hint of mulberry and spices make for a gorgeous medium to full-bodied wine that will be a welcome friend at any BBQ this season.
This week I met another knowledgeable person at the NSLC, Ron at the Port of Wines store downtown Halifax. Now here’s a man who knows the stories behind all the wines and between him and Rayell were the inspiration for this week’s blog.
Calera Wines is the vision of Josh Jensen. (pictured above). He made his own path when he decided to start making wine. Even though people told him he was crazy, he forged through. Taking his cue from Burgundy, he set out to find the perfect place to grow grapes and now Calera makes one of the most fantastic Pinot Noir’s I have ever tasted. Mr. Jensen wanted to grow Pinot Noir in limestone rich soil, and he did it spectacularly. Even Robert Parker said “Calera is one of the most compelling Pinot Noir specialists of not only the New World, but of Planet Earth.”
This is the bottle I have in my wine rack, the 2011 Pinot Noir. First of all, it doesn’t taste young. It tastes like a fine aged wine. Imagine how good it is going to taste in a couple of years. It smells divine, sweet red berries and a hint of mint. In the mouth its full bodied with raspberry and strawberry flavors, and you get to taste that spice.
Thanks to Rayell at the Larry Uteck NSLC (go see her about Chardonnay) and to Ron at the Port of Wines (go see him for stories) for sharing their knowledge with me.
Till next week, Cheers.