The gorge-ous(!?) view from the Samuel's Gorge cellar door.
Samuel's Gorge is a relatively new (est. 2003), small-sized boutique winery based at the northern end of McLaren Vale. Their wines, which have gathered a sturdy reputation over a short period, usually speak for themselves, but on this day winemaker Justin McNamee invited family, friends and loyal mail order customers to his cellar door for what was a special occasion ably hosted by himself and his close friends.
The special occasion, which included a picnic lunch and fine finger foods, was to celebrate the release of the winery's first two white wines; a riesling and a gewurztraminer, both from Tasmania's Tamar Valley. A lot of people promote the concept of wineries sticking within regional confines, something I normally believe, but if it's high quality riesling and gewurztraminer you want to make, and your winery happens to be located in McLaren Vale, then why not look to Tasmania for your fruit?
Unsurprisingly to anyone familiar with Justin's wines the two Tasmanian whites are brilliant, completely speaking for themselves (as with all his wines). They fully justify the extensive and well travelled fruit sourcing. I remarked that Samuel's Gorge now has the best pair of white wines in McLaren Vale, the irony being they had to go to Tasmania to make them!
By adding these two superlative white wines Samuel's Gorge has severely bolstered a range which already included three of McLaren Vale's best and most underrated reds. Bravo! I now have another two reasons to go there!
I must also make special mention of Justin McNamee himself. It was a delight to finally meet the man; a kind, gracious and down to earth winemaker who is as wonderful to communicate with as it is to drink his wines. Although he had roughly 100 invited guests present at this special release, he did a fantastic job of getting around to, meeting and talking with everyone (as well as pouring some very generous samples!). I congratulated Justin on organising a very fine day, especially the generosity he showed by pouring numerous, free samples of all his wines which were flowing steadily all day. Many wineries invite people to their cellar doors for special events, then pour glasses of their cheapest wines and charge $7 a pop, not Samuel's Gorge! Justin told me the wine industry had been kind to him for a long time and this was his chance to pay it back; "share some booze!" he said. A fine sentiment if ever there was one, and one I've lived by for some time myself...
The look of Samuel's Gorge's bottles, with a lovely mosaic constituting various, smaller pictures which combine to create a picture of 'Samuel's Gorge', is one of my favourite modern wine labels. The modern look usually isn't for me, but the Samuel's Gorge wines are particularly clever and appealling. I'll be posting photos of some in the future as I review their wines.
Wonderfully labelled, with beautifully made, minimal intervention winemaking and a charming winemaker/head man with some outstanding wine principles and philosophies; Samuel's Gorge is a winery whose name deserves to grow with prestige and notoriety in future years in every respect.
Samuel's Gorge Relbia Riesling 2009 ($25)
Tamar Valley, TAS. Very clean, gentle nose, which is lightly floral in aroma with musky scents of grapefruit and lavender overlying that wonderfully crystal clear, Tasmanian riesling fruit profile. The palate shows power through concentration and texture as opposed to acidity, it contains mineral accented pure fruit flavour, with good length and a taut, savoury finish marked by brisk acids. A winner which was well worth Justin's efforts. (full review soon) 94
Samuel's Gorge Tamar Gewurztraminer 2008 ($25)
Tamar Valley, TAS. Strong lychee nose with hints of rose petal and lime zest. Showing notes of apple, pear and lychee, the clean palate shows beautiful restraint of it varietal character, which is neither too pungent nor sweet. With just a touch of traminer oiliness, it's superbly controlled, fresh and delicious with a dry and mineral finish. Some might remark that this lacks varietal punch, but this particularly clean, bell-clear traminer is right up my alley. (full review soon) 93
Samuel's Gorge Grenache 2007 ($35)
McLaren Vale. Floral, ruby red fruit nose with notes of liqueur cherry and dusty chocolate oak. It's surprisingly elegant, medium-bodied, smooth and soft yet vibrant. It sits beautifully within the parameters of region, vintage and variety. A great follow up to the superb 2006 wine. Keep your eyes out for good quality 07 McLaren Vale grenache, given this wine, it could surprise. (full review soon) 92
Samuel's Gorge Shiraz 2007 ($35)
McLaren Vale. Ripe, jammy nose of raspberry, plums, liqueur cherry and currants with hints of meatiness and sweet chocolate oak. It's concentrated and flows well. A texture driven McLaren Vale shiraz which does show a touch of ultra ripe fruit in its finish. The 2006 (94pts) was also available on the day, which I do prefer. Winemaker Justin McNamee said he preferred the 07 as he finds it more tannic from the drought year, but I found the 06 a much more complete, balanced and evenly ripe wine with a more natural tannin extract. 89
Samuel's Gorge Tempranillo 2008 ($35)
McLaren Vale. This is easily one of the better Australian tempranillo I've had, equally so the second time round! Deep, dark plum fruit and cherry nose with wild scents of choc anise and tar. Its palate is deeply laden with dark fruit and cherry flavour, plus smatterings of bitter chocolate/cedar oak, licorice and firm, grippy tannins. A very balanced, complete tempranillo with good weight, depth and texture. 92