Remembrance of a Sun-Burned Land

It wasn’t all that long ago that the waitstaff had the opportunity to travel to the Land Down Under. (We were forced to stay at our local pet “hotel” for the duration for which we still haven’t completely forgiven the humans.) Well, the humans at least had a good time and we were able to enjoy some wonderful stories when they returned. Imagine, an entire country filled with curiosities like fairy penguins and potoroos. We’ve watched that video of the rabbit-sized kangaroo relatives hopping around the Cleland Park an uncountable number of times and have yet to be bored.

Best of all, the humans were in Adelaide, well within easy driving distance to some of Australia’s best wine regions – Barossa, McClaren and Clare Valley. Extra suit cases were purchased to help bring all the assorted bottles of wine back home. There are some really delicious wines from this area and while many think first of shiraz when you mention Australia, this region offers a rich variety of grapes and styles.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find some of these great wines in the U.S. unless you’re talking about one of the major producers like Penfolds. So we were very happy when one of the waitstaff returned home the other night with a bottle of Pinot Noir from the Adelaide Hills from a new to us producer.

The Adelaide Hills separate the Barossa Valley and McClaren Vale and include Mount Lofty, the highest point in the region. While Barossa and McClaren tend towards the drier, warmer terroir normally associated with Australian wine-making, the Adelaide Hills are wet and cool. It’s perfect conditions for grapes like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

The bottle that we opened was from Shaw + Smith, two cousins who established their own vineyard in 1989 after spending years working for various vineyards not only in Australia but in Europe and California as well. Most of the Pinot Noir is planted in the Lenswood Vineyard which sits at about 1600 feet above sea level. Even in Australia that means cool and wet.

The Shaw + Smith Pinot Noir is a pale red when you pour it in the glass, an almost translucent liquid, and a surprise for those used to the heavier Australian reds. Ah, and that first sip. Again, if you’re expecting something dry, earthy and filled with tannins, you’re in for a tasty surprise. The dryness is there, and there are some tannins lurking underneath, but the upfront flavor is definitely cherry. Not that faux,  bad memory inducing cherry flavor that causes a shudder of revulsion in so many wine drinkers. This is happy, just found the most beautiful cherries at the farmers’ market kind of flavor. This wine is really a wonderful surprise – Pinot Noir is not a wine you normally think of as a being so fruit-forward, especially if your used to traditional French and California wines. But Shaw and Smith have found a way to capture that famous deep fruitiness of younger Pinot vines and build a wine that brings a delicious flavor to the table without sacrificing any of the depth that makes Pinot such a great pairing with so many different types of food. If you can find it in your local store, then definitely give this wine a try. Even if you’re not a fan of fruity wines, this one will have you considering the amazing versatility of the Pinot grape.

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