Well the heatwave, rain and wind which so defined Adelaide's 2009 spring has finally passed, so what better time to knock off work at midday on a wednesday and take the boys for a drive up to the Eden/Barossa Valleys? Ah the joys of living in Adelaide! Just don't mention anything about that Adelaide Oval redevelopment....
I can't enforce how much better a place to visit the Barossa is midweek, as opposed to weekend. It's true, on weekends the bus groups are rife, and the wait for a single sample of wine can be quite arduous, so patience is required. However, midweek, chances are you'll rock up to a major winery and be the only group present, with the full attention of a cellar door hand at your pleasure.
Henschke is a fine example. Closed sundays and finishing up at 12pm on saturdays, Henschke can be a notriously packed place to visit on the weekend, especially given the small size of its tasting room (10-12 people in the entire room at most). Fortunately this was 4:20pm wednesday afternoon, no one but the three boys and our young, enthusiastic and incredibly accommodating host. It particularly pleased me when the 2006 Mount Edelstone and 2006 Cyril Henschke were available...
I always love talking to the young people of the Barossa - today - I learnt that Jansz and Moscato are the favourite drinks of Barossa youth!
The whole day was an absolute delight, a very casual, fun, almost tourist-like day for me and the boys, so no tasting notes were taken. All of the opinions stated below are based purely on memory.
To be honest the full scope of Henschke's range hasn't fully impressed me over the last few years. There are a few regular highlights; Louis Semillon, Julius Riesling, Henry's Seven, Keyneton Euphonium and Mount Edelstone, and on this particular day things remained much the same.
I thoroughly enjoyed their 2009 release of Innes Vineyard Pinot Gris this time round though, while the just released 2007 Keyneton Euphonium didn't excite me as much as usual. It's still early days for the Keyneton yet though, and you can be guaranteed I'll return to it again at some point in the not too distant future.
The Henschke chardonnays (both 2008 Adelaide Hills and 2008 Eden Valley) continue to underperform for my palate, especially when compared to the cheaper, better wines of nearby Yalumba. Their sauvignon blanc based wines aren't my favourites either.
I also continue to be relatively unimpressed by Henschke's Giles Pinot Noir (2008), Johann's Garden Rhone blend (2008), Abbot's Prayer Merlot/Cabernet (2007 Adelaide Hills) and Tapa Pass Barossa shiraz. These aren't bad wines really, they're just rather overpriced in my opinion. I've never bought any of these wines before and I certainly wasn't going to alter that trend based on this tasting.
Here are some of my opinions (memories) on some of Henschke's more interesting wines that day.
Henschke Louis Semillon 2008
Quite lemony, mineral and a touch of herbal undertones. Good drive, acidity and length. Very well shaped, juicy and structured semillon. Full review soon 92
Henschke Innes Pinot Gris 2009
Great vitality and lift to aromas for gris. Shows true pear/lemon character, with a typically restrained yet pure palate lifted by refreshing acids. I'm not normally a fan of Adelaide Hills gris but I quite liked this. A real 'summer' style. 90
Henschke Julius Riesling 2009
Certainly sits in the better half of 09 Eden Valley rieslings I've had. Quite limey/appley and pithey, certainly not overly ripe, stressed or pungent at all. I was very intrigued by its texture - incredibly smooth and concentrated for Eden riesling, almost viscous. Surprisingly complex for young Eden valley riesling too. Might be worth a deeper look....92
Henschke Henry's Seven 2008
Follows in the direction of recent Henry's Sevens, with a more savoury, spicy expression of its varietal make up (not sure about the order but Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre/Viognier?) Well balanced, elegant and even with a surprisingly firm structure. Good wine. 91
Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2007
Drops 'Estate' from its name because Henschke now include fruit from outside growers. Like the 2006, the 2007 also contains cabernet franc to its shiraz/cabernet/merlot base. Seems a bit ripe - plummy, meaty and dark fruited, but it is quite smooth and deep. Only released a fortnight ago so I'm a bit unsure about the score on this one right now. 89
Henschke Mount Edelstone 2006
Yep! Wow! Great wine (which isn't usually served at Henschke's cellar door) with a perfectly luscious melange of red/black berry fruit flavours and fine French oak. Supple, sensuous tannins, and very fresh considering the 06 season. Perfectly ripened and harmonious wine. A lot have seen this as the pick of the recent Mount Edelstone's but I still like the 04 better (97pts) and perhaps even the 02 (96pts). I see a trend - look out 08! All the same, even at $90, we walked out with 3 bottles (on a tight budget!). That's why wineries should pour their best wines at cellar door! Can't see myself cracking any within 10 years though....96
Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
(Also not a regular at Henschke's cellar door tastings) Unfortunately, disappointing. You know those wines that seem restrained to the point of requiring more character, weight, texture and structure? Well that's how I felt with the 06 Cyril Henschke. It's certainly very youthful, tight and meticulously balanced, so it might come around with some bottle age. Very hard for me to score but...91
To be expected Hill of Grace was unavailable, but who can afford to give away $550 wines every day? What was interesting though, was that the cellar door hand informed me Hill of Grace would soon be sealed under Vino-Lok(?!). Particularly interesting considering a Penfolds employee told me Grange would be sealed under cork at least as long as I'm alive....