I've previously discussed my favourite Adelaide wine retailer in this blog; The Ed at Mitcham, so it's only fair I now make mention of my other favourite Adelaide wine retailer; Melbourne Street Fine Wine Cellars at North Adelaide (pictured). Other than the typical good service, knowledgeable staff, wide range and fair pricing, what I love about Melbourne Street Fine Wine is the generous free tastings held every thursday and saturday, which happily cover the full length of Australia's wine regions and sometimes beyond. On this occasion, the tasting bench belonged to the Yarra Valley's Coldstream Hills.
The name Coldstream Hills always gets linked to its founder James Halliday, who, although no longer chief winemaker (that honour now belongs to the very capable Andrew Fleming), remains a consultant to the brand.
Alongside St Huberts and Yarra Ridge (which is certainly a brand in the process of 'rationalisation', check here), Coldstream Hills is one of three Yarra Valley brands presently owned by liquor giant Foster's, but rather unquestionably, Coldstream Hills gets the primary focus. It's probably a smart move that Foster's look after this brand (especially given their treatment of some of Australia's other iconic brands), because the catchphrase; 'Coldstream Hills: the winery founded by James Halliday and ruined by Foster's' is never going to be a good look for the liquor giant's public image. Let's hope Coldstream Hills continues to be a Yarra benchmark of affordability and reliability for some time to come.
As to be expected with the brand, the current Coldstream Hills wines all look in fairly good shape given the confines of their respective vintages, with the exception of a disappointing 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Even though the 2006 Reserve Pinot Noir and 2007 Reserve Chardonnay were unavailable for tasting (both sold out), both 2006 releases of Reserve Shiraz and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon were impressive, and well priced in comparison to other premium Yarra reds. I'm also liking what this winery is doing with their sparkling white.
Having spoken to the company representative, the verdict on the winery's 2009 reds has yet to be decided (due to smoke taint concerns) and won't be until the individual wines themselves have completed the maturation process, although the 2009 Chardonnay has already been released.
Coldstream Hills tasting notes posted below
Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2006 ($31.90) I really liked the 2004 of this (92pts) and the 2006 is quite a charming fizzer as well. Its tight, sparkling grapefruit and white bread nose precedes a tight, mineral and brisk palate with a savoury hint of yeasty, bready notes resonating through its long finish with an accompaniment of refreshing citric acids. Not as rich and character laden as the 2004 just yet, but good nonetheless. 90
Coldstream Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($25.90) Had a bottle of this a few months back which didn't totally enthrall me, and this tasting didn't either. Its nose reveals barrel ferment/cashew nut tones alongside simple grapefruit and lemon citrus, with a palate that's framed by crunchy acidity, but it seems slightly awkward and in need of more vitality. To its credit it's still going though, but maybe only just. 88
Coldstream Hills Chardonnay 2009 ($28.90) This label hasn't really impressed me since the beautiful 2005 (92pts), and the 2009 didn't do it for me either. On the nose there's strong butter/vanilla oak with pungent, creamy melons, peaches and nectarine, and although it seems all in place it does seem a bit forward. The palate however, is a touch flat and lacking true freshness, as its vibrancy of fruit doesn't carry all the way to the finish, which itself seems a tad rough and drying. 86
Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008 ($28.90) Fragrant, spicy plum fruit nose with nice touches of savoury cherry. The palate is quite sumptuous, fullish and juicy, whilst being pleasingly composed and savoury for the most part. It finishes with a nice, drying cut of prickly tannins meshed with spice. Best Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir since 2005 (93pts) for me. 91
Coldstream Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($28.90) Unconvincing, stewed rhubarb and currant nose. Palate is quite jammy (not a characteristic I like in cabernet), rather loose and lacking the conviction, elegance, tightness and firmness expected of a good Yarra Valley cabernet. Quite a let down. 86
Coldstream Hills Reserve Shiraz 2006 ($38.90) Showed a fair bit of 'bottle stink' on first whiff but with air and a jolly good swirl it settled to become a savoury, elegant and fine smelling Yarra shiraz with aromas of blackcurrants, dark plums, light white pepper and chocolate/vanilla/cedar oak. Its palate is medium-bodied yet beautifully silky and juicy, with a good influence of dry, powdery tannins punctuating the finish. 93
Coldstream Hills Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($55.90) Wonderful, deep nose scented with gumleaf, menthol, rich dark fruits and polished chocolate/vanilla/mocha oak with a hint of varnish. Its smooth palate is medium-full, sumptuous yet equally structured and tight. It's well balanced throughout, with a pleasing, lingering fruit sweetness defining the finish. A great Yarra cabernet without an astronomical price tag. 94