29 April 2010

Kay Brothers 2004 Amery Vineyards Hillside Shiraz

I was planning to write up a white wine this week. But, in light of rugby events in the Sunshine State over the past couple of weeks, it seemed more appropriate that I go patriotically Red.

We went out recently for a cheeky tight-ass Tuesday meal at a good local restaurant with a friendly BYO policy and a scratch spot on the Entertainment Book card.

So, what wine to take? I had some time on my hands, so after rummaging around downstairs for a while, I then went upstairs and selected something suitable from my wine fridge.

I chose a bottle of 2004 Kay Brothers Amery Hillside Shiraz that I'd been given recently and we presented it proudly as we arrived for dinner.

The waitress wore a bored expression and a pair of those thick Groucho Marx comedy glasses that are favoured by trendites and those "in advertising". She also wore a tie; not as part of a uniform, but apparently of her own volition.

I have a rule. In fact, I have quite a few. But the important one to note here is, in the same way that I distrust men who wear bow-ties with anything other than a dinner suit, I also have severe misgivings about females sporting neckties. If you are not forced to don the silk noose by your employer, why ever would you feel compelled to do so voluntarily? I guess the answer to that question lies in the same box of wannabe eccentricity as the Groucho glasses.

Anyway. My instinct was proven correct the moment she opened her cruel little mouth. "Oh, you've bought your own?, she muttered condescendingly as she attempted unsuccessfully to calculate the impact this might have on her tip.

No, actually. We've brought our own.

"That's what I said", she countered.

No, it wasn't darling. But, nice try. (And before you try to correct me in turn, please see above. I didn't buy it. It was a gift.)

Her mouth pursed as tightly as a pensioner's pucker as she took our orders and left to open the wine. I suspect she also used the opportunity to encourage the cook to add a little something to help thicken my soup of the day.

The wine though was simply cracking. The bottle, like our waitress, is labelled with a retro-chic livery. Unlike our waitress, the Hillside manages to pull it off since the Amery vineyard is genuinely one of the oldest in the country. The unsmiling mugs of Fred and Herb Kay stare out from the label. Freddy sports a moustache that was undoubtedly the inspiration for Messrs Lillee, Boon and Hughes.

In the glass, it’s the colour of a rusty nail, and the hefty alcohol sends a combative haze of smoky, sweetness wafting north. The legs are as long and sticky as a summer night in the tropics.

As it hits the nostril, there are notes of warm figs fresh from the tree, musty boxes of old love letters, and an unsmoked pack of Camel soft-tops.

On the tongue, it’s a a frugivore’s dream of intensely tart raspberry goodness, with a toasty mouth-filling finish.

It is seriously delicious, and a pleasantly elegant change of pace from many of the other “smack in the face” bottles of shiraz that are on the market. That in itself is quite an accomplishment given that it packs a solid 15% alcohol rating.

At $35-$40, it’s a bit of special occasion wine, so why not treat your old girl to one this Mother’s Day.

Back to the restaurant, and the end of the meal was just as exciting as the beginning. I called for the bill, and slipped my Entertainment card in with the Visa. That earned an immediate reprimand and another futile attempt at mental arithmetic.

“You’re supposed to have told me earlier”, she spat bitchily.

“Easy for you to say with the benefit of hind legs”, I wish I’d said.

I can’t wait to go back.

Rating: 8.75
Drink with: a red wine moustache
Price: $35-$40

Image from www.kaybrothersamerywines.com

15 April 2010

Rosemount Diamond Label Shiraz

I travelled to Perth this week for work. It's a long flight and my difficulty, since I'm not wealthy or important enough to fly business class, is that I really don't fit into the economy seats particularly well. I have what a girl once described as ludicrously long legs. She was jealous.

It's a serious problem though because I always manage to be seated behind the ignorant jerk who insists on reclining his seat all the way back. On this occasion, even before the wheels had left the tarmac, I had a beady, beardy head in my lap. And not in a good way.

To make things worse, the national obesity champion was parked in the seat next to me. He was so morbidly corpulent that he required a seatbelt extender and would certainly have qualified for a Green Card. When he wasn't greedily eyeing off my Pringles, he liked to sleep sideways, pouring himself into what was left of the airspace above my seat.

Anyway, the wine. The only red option was a Rosemount homebrand shiraz, and I ordered a quaint miniature bottle as soon as the hostie noticed me waving from beneath my neighbours. You can appreciate why alcohol was necessary, notwithstanding the paucity of choice. I’d have ordered beer, but I didn’t have the space to accommodate the bloating.

The first bottle was decidedly average, although I can't say I was expecting much better. It was as dark as an angry Nigerian, but smelt of nothing much at all. It tasted like weak, tart blackberry cordial. But it did help to dull the pain from my crush injuries just a little.

The second bottle was much better - still a pretty lightweight Shiraz, but the tongue-zapping tartness was dissipating with every inebriating sip. The third bottle was as smooth and sweet as flat Coke. I should have probably just ordered one of those to start with.

But at least the rapid boozing gave me an excuse to climb over Jabba the Hutt and visit the little boys' room regularly. You encounter some weird people hanging around airplane toilets. I'm not sure what the bloke before me was doing in there, but from the noises emanating through the plastic door, I suspect he was making a solo attempt to join the mile high club.

Whatever he was up to, he certainly got his money's worth. The Virgin hostie (although I’m pretty sure she wasn’t) noticed my look of panic and quickly stepped in to disinfect the latrine.

That ordeal over, I returned to my fourth bottle of the mini Rosemounts. It was suddenly superb - the quality and taste apparently enjoying an inversely proportional relationship with my sobriety.

But seriously, this really is pretty generic wine. Sure, it’s cheap, but it’s also wildly unimaginative and deeply uninspiring.
I certainly wouldn't buy it unless I was cruising 30,000 feet above the nearest bottle shop.

Then again, as the great Don Walker once wrote: Once I smoked a Danneman cigar. I drove a foreign car. But, baby, that was years ago. I left it all behind for my...Rosemount Diamond Label Shiraz.

I didn’t notice what year it was. I suspect it doesn’t really matter.

Rating: 6.5

Drink with: a 3-day growth

Price: $10-$15 (or $6.50 for a miniature bottle on Virgin)