Clandestine Wines Red Wine Releases

Henri Murger was a French author and poet around the early to mid-1800’s. I would expect his name is not necessarily ringing any bells for you right now but, if I mention that the opera La Bohème is based on his book, “Scenes of Bohemian Life” that may cause an “oh okay” or possibly an “of course” from you. Prior to when he was ‘famous’, he was a member of a group who called themselves “The Water Drinkers” simply because they couldn’t afford to buy wine. Ironically, that brings me to what I was drawn to mostly about him, which was his quote, “The first duty of wine is to be red. Don’t talk to me of your white wines.” When I lined these three red wines up to try, I thought of Mr. Murger and how he would probably be more than happy to drink all three of them.

Source: Samples thanks kindly to Clandestine Vineyards and Savvy Comms

2022 Pinot Noir

This is certainly going to get your red wine juices flowing.  It is a little better than light weight providing excellent varietal flavours of red cherries and ripe strawberries.  Add to that a slight herbal note, a bit of cherry spice and a pretty good, elegant finish and you have a very good wine at a damn good price! Good stuff this.

Region: Adelaide Hills, SA     Price: $30

2021 Shiraz

Moving up a notch from the Pinot Noir, here we have a Shiraz that certainly walks the walk.  Offering up generous flavours of black cherry, plums and some spiciness all coming together very nicely for such a young wine.  It sits on the top-side of medium bodied but has a richness and a fruitful smoothness that gives the impression of being better than that.  I liked this a lot!

Region: Mount Barker, WA     Price: $35

2021 Malbec

This looked so strong and impressive in the glass thanks to the terrific colour. Great start! It has a blue fruit perfume to it that I couldn’t help but take in more than once. Great middle! Rich and bold on the palate, blackberries and plums come to the fore with a delightful savoury appeal too as it finishes elegant and long. Great ending! Makes you want to head back to the start, doesn’t it? I certainly did. Two thumbs up.

Region: Margaret River, WA     Price: $35

Posted in Other Reds, Pinot Noir, Shiraz | Leave a comment

2017 Levantine Hill Melissa’s Paddock Syrah

Close to 300 years ago, Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”  When I write something, whether it is worth reading or not is up to the reader.  However, when it comes to writing about wine, I try to cover both parts of this quote by Mr Franklin.  Tasting wine is something worth writing about, and I also try and make what I write worth reading.

When it comes to this wine, there is plenty to write about, however that would mean there would be plenty for you to read, so I will do my best to keep it reasonably short.

It is easy for me to write this because you can’t see it but, it is such a very pretty colour in the glass, so attractive to the eye for me.  Very expressive on the nose, clearly showing its youthfulness with fresh dark cherry, pepper and spice.  The palate is the epitome of the balance between power and elegance.  It’s full-bodied yet is so enjoyably silky smooth.  Lovely blue fruits, a nice plum fruit influence, a spice character (that I can’t put my finger on), and a lick of liquorice, all adding to the savouriness of this wine, with an incredibly long finish. 

Benjamin Franklin is also quoted as saying, “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”  I think Levantine Hill wines are constant proof they want to see us happy!

Levantine Hill Website

Region: Yarra Valley, Victoria     Price: $200     Source: Sample thanks kindly to Levantine Hill

Posted in Shiraz | Leave a comment

2022 Colmar Estate Riesling Releases

I have always wondered what dogs liked about having their head out of the car window and the wind blowing into their face at speed, with their ears flapping about as the vehicle motors along.  Turns out, their head is full of sensory receptors and, as the air rushes over their head, those receptors are massively stimulated and lasts for as long as they can keep their head out of the window.  Not something I have ever considered doing. 

However, I could not help but imagine what it would be like as you are driving along a coastal road with the fresh sea air in your face, or through snow covered mountains where the air is so invigoratingly cool on your face you cannot help but want more of it.  A bit like when tasting fresh, young, and vibrant Riesling that triggers off three main pleasure receptors; sight, smell and taste. Tasting these Rieslings did exactly that, which meant I had three times the sensory stimulation.

Region: Orange Region, NSW     Source: Samples thanks kindly to Colmar Estate and Define Wine

2022 Estate Riesling ($35)

A lovely introduction to the Rieslings of Colmar Estate. It is invitingly fresh and perfumed on the nose. The palate has zip and verve thanks to the citrus fruit hit of acidity tending toward a lemon influence.  With just a smidge of sweetness, it sails very close to the label of ‘bone dry’ while providing a refreshingly long finish.  Very enjoyable to say the least.

2022 Block 5 Riesling ($45)

This Block 5 takes up where the previous Riesling left off perfectly but the flavour feel on the palate has gone up a notch with this one.  Citrusy characters aplenty (more limey than lemony for me), a hint of residual sugar providing a lovely balanced mouthfeel while finishing long and moreishly fresh.  This has ‘classic’ written all over it.  Lots to enjoy too.

2022 Reserve Riesling ($55)

Goodness me!  Presence, power, poise and persistence.  Sums this Riesling up perfectly, I think.  What a lovely, lovely wine.  Taking nothing away from the previous two Colmar Estate Rieslings, this sits deservedly at the top of the tree.  Intensity, freshness, elegance, refinement and great length.  An abundance of positive adjectives could be added, but I think I’ve made my views of this wine clear. 

Posted in Riesling | Leave a comment

Nightfall Wines 2019 ‘The Noble Beasts’

There are many photos posted regularly on social media of sunrises and sunsets. I have to admit, some are just beautiful.  Recently, when I was working an afternoon shift, I drove along an Esplanade here where I live and the moon was up and about on a clear, almost cloudless night.  The light from the moon was like a blanket across the water.  There was a gentle breeze as well and this caused the water to ripple just enough to make the moonlight seem to sparkle and glisten giving new meaning to the words “sea of stars.” 

When you experience something like this, there is certainly something to be said for Nightfall which seems to have been captured in these Noble Beasts.  A glistening array of Coonawarra wine stars in the Australian sea of red wine varieties.


Region: Coonawarra, SA     Price: $360 for the set     Source: Thanks kindly to Sam Brand and Nightfall Wines

2019 ‘The Leo’ Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ll tell you what.  Coonawarra does Cabernet Sauvignon bloody well.  Stating the obvious, I know, but I just had to say it after being lucky enough to try the Draco, and now this one from Nightfall Wines.  This is delightful in every way.  Terrific fruit, a beguiling intensity, lovely balance and poise, captivating and charming, silky smooth with elegance in spades.  I could go on and on just like it does on the finish.  A very well made wine that is great to drink and even ponder over.

2019 ‘Aquila’ Cabernet Franc

I was pleased, very curious and a tad excited to see this variety bottled as a stand-alone variety, and I must say, this is quite an impressive wine.  It presents beautifully in the glass, and so perfumed and pretty on the nose.  Rich, lush and delicious dark fruits, delicate herbal notes, nicely played oak and really good length finishing soft and graceful.  I very much enjoyed this wine and, just my opinion of course, it has set the bar high for Cabernet Franc in this country.

2019 ‘Lupus’ Merlot

Merlot from a cool climate region is always going to raise some questions but I think that is due to wines from years past.  This is a medium bodied wine providing really good varietal plum fruit characters, a tickle of spice and herbs, a nice touch of oak is in there too and finishes with some fine tannins on a pretty good length.  This probably takes the bronze medal out of these three wines, but it was a close call and definitely not a reflection on the quality of this wine.  Far from it.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Other Reds | Leave a comment

2018 Levantine Hill Blanc de Blanc

On a recent podcast, I heard it said, “Wine for me is everything in one convenient glass.  It’s history, it’s conviviality, it’s chemistry, it’s art, it’s science, it’s ceremony, it’s spirituality…” 

Now, for me, I’d go as far as to say, wine for me is everything in one convenient BOTTLE especially when it comes to sparkling wine.  There seems to be an extra sense of celebration when the cork makes that ‘pop’ sound, glasses are presented and filled with the fluid of frivolity, then ‘clinked’ together by happy souls in a toast to someone, something, or anything for that matter. 

When I opened, poured, tasted and drank this Blanc de Blanc, I couldn’t help but notice just how fresh, bubbly, generous and full of character it is.  The wine itself boldly offers up a terrific palate presence and weight, with lemony and grapefruity like citrusy notes providing structure for it to live a little longer.  Add to that a lovely mouthfeel, a deft touch of sweetness and good, good length and you soon find yourself at the bottom of the glass with a mile wide smile on your face. Cheers!

Levantine Hill Website

Region: Yarra Valley, Vic     Price: $80     Source: Sample thanks kindly to Levantine Hill

Posted in Sparkling Wine | Leave a comment

2018 Grey Sands Pinot Gris

I have to admit to being a little, no, a lot, excited about getting to try this wine.  It is an all-time favourite in our home and I am lucky enough to get to try it each year which, ultimately, leads to me buying some.  Oh well.  What do they say?  Life’s too short to drink bad wine, and, on this occasion, we are drinking very good wine.

This is everything I’ve come to expect from Grey Sands Pinot Gris and, maybe on this occasion, a little bit more.  The aromatic introduction is both rich and generous to the olfactory senses which leads into the usual lovely texture, coating the palate, that I’ve come to know and love. There is, as always, the intensity and depth of flavour yet, on top of that, there is a youthfulness like character to it that I can’t seem to put my finger on, but it sits ever presently on the long and fulsome finish. Another delightful release.

Grey Sands Website

Region: Glengarry, Tasmania     Price: $55     Source: Generous gift

Posted in Other Whites | Leave a comment

2022 Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc

I was listening to a podcast recently where Adam Wadewitz was interviewed.  Right from the time he started his wine journey to landing at Shaw + Smith, it sounds like everything was a seamless, natural progression for him. When he talks about working at Shaw + Smith, he speaks of his team with such reverence.  What a hell of a humble human being! I have been fortunate enough to ‘work’ for Adam as a steward at wine shows in Tasmania. I can say he is an affable, congenial and approachable type and I never felt like ‘just a steward’. He made it a team environment where we all contributed to the best outcome for the show.

For me to request Sauvignon Blanc is, let’s say, rare, especially if there are other wines on offer.  However, I knew Adam had a hand in making this wine and knew it always sets the bar high when it comes to Australian Sav Blanc so, I was not hesitant at all to order a glass of this one and it did not disappoint.

Lemons, herbs and passionfruit on the nose get things started. On the palate the freshness is evident as it exudes tropical fruit-ness with citrusy characters coming through giving it balance and verve. There’s plenty of flavour on offer with this wine and it’s easy to see why it’s popular everywhere, every year with (just about) everyone. Nicely done again team Shaw + Smith and its captain, Adam. Cheers!—Smith-Sauvignon-Blanc

Region: Adelaide Hills, SA Price: $25 Source: Interstate flight

Posted in Other Whites | Leave a comment

Clandestine Wines 2023 “Break Free” Red Wine Releases

I was listening to a podcast recently (of which I can’t remember the subject) that mentioned the 1960’s was all about conformity.  There were certain ‘norms’ that were followed and if you strayed from those ‘standards’ you were deemed a rebel and people would turn their noses up at you.  Now, to me, that sounds particularly boring.  I like a bit of history and I really enjoy looking at old photographs and the 1960’s is a decade that has always interested me.  I can remember seeing photographs from the late 1960’s of people dubbed as ‘hippies’ because of the way they dressed and behaved.  They were certainly not conforming with the ‘norm’ during this decade, and it formed part of a desire for equality and freedom of expressing oneself.

It made me wonder, when did it become ‘hip’ to make wine differently to the ‘norm’?  When ‘no fining or filtration’ became almost common place on a wine label along with terms such as ‘wild ferment’ and ‘carbonic maceration’ allowing wines to ‘express themselves.’  It may well be that these winemaking processes have been about for a while but undertaken in a clandestine way.  I don’t think it matters anyway because these Break Free wines show this winemaking approach at its very best.

Region: Western Australia     Price: $30 each     Source: Thanks kindly to Clandestine Vineyards and Savvy Comms

2022 Break Free ‘Little Wing’ Shiraz Noir

Fresh, juicy, fruity and oh such a beauty! This Shiraz/Pinot Noir blend has plenty going for it.  The nose is a red berry barrage, of the delightful kind, which has you thinking that it would be exactly what it’s going to taste like.  And it is, but the flavours are taken up a notch while remaining a delicious, ‘fun’ style of red wine.  There’s darker fruit influence, there’s a touch of herbs, a smidge of spiciness and a whole bunch of pleasurable drinking in one bottle.

2021 Break Free Enfant De Lune Shiraz

Aromatically attractive, blackcurrants and plums shine on the nose.  A nice and juicy fruitful palate of black berries and currants, some plummy goodness, a hint of that cool climate like pepper character, finishing smooth and moreish, carrying the 14.5% alcohol easily.  This is another very good wine in the Break Free range and an excellent partner to the previous wine.  If I had to pick one over the other, I don’t reckon I could!  They both deserve a place on your wine rack, in your wine cellar or on your wine list. 

Posted in Red Blends, Shiraz | Leave a comment

Levantine Hill – A Complete Dining Experience

My wife and I very much enjoy celebrating milestones in our life together.  When it comes to celebrating anniversaries, we always celebrate them with something we both enjoy and, dare I say, it usually involves travel, food and wine…all together!

This year we celebrated 25 years of married bliss (my wife may think differently due to my wine ‘hobby’) and the planning of the way we intended celebrating this milestone commenced around October 2022.  Lunch at Levantine Hill was our choice, first and foremost.

The experience starts pretty much as soon as you sit down.  The cellar door and restaurant team clearly know what they are doing and do it so very well.  The menu options are clearly explained prompting involuntary smiles, wide eyes and eyebrow lifts.

To start, a plate appeared with Beluga caviar (pictured left) in the centre and decorated with an array of perfectly quenelled condiments, each of which paired deliciously with a topping of caviar, so much so that the saltiness of the caviar was barely noticeable.  The delightful Levantine Hill Estate Sparkling Rosé was the ideal wine match.

Because of the more than adequate serving of our first course, my wife and I opted for two main courses to share rather than the 5 or 6 degustation course options. A perfectly cooked Yarra Valley Gin pork belly with smoked date, Ras el hanout piccalilli ($49) and, the juicy and tender 120gm Sher Wagyu (9+ score) sirloin with local exotic mushrooms, burnt onion, pine needle, horseradish and bone marrow bordelaise ($99).

The pork belly (pictured right) and 2019 Estate Chardonnay were a match made in heaven while the 2017 Optume Cabernet, paired with the Sher Wagyu, is something everyone needs to experience.

We selected two of the desserts to finish off our lunch.  An amazing hazelnut semifreddo (pictured below) with baklava crisp, white chocolate, local strawberries and rosewater syrup ($25), and a delectable bittersweet chocolate tart with estate citrus gelato, blueberry honey and cocoa nib dukka ($26).

Now, this doesn’t sound like much food for two people but, it is.  The servings are perfectly proportioned and brought out at such intervals allowing plenty of ‘breathing space’ to prepare for each course.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the people who made our experience such a memorable one.  The hospitality team is so welcoming you don’t feel like just another diner. They are engaging without being intrusive, and are genuinely interested, and go all out to make the visit to the restaurant about you.

If the restaurant is not on your bucket list, your must-visit list, your to-do list, not-to-be-missed list or even your shopping list, put it on there immediately!

Virgina Woolf is quoted as saying, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Let’s just say, thanks to dining well at Levantine Hill, the rest came naturally.

Disclaimer: My wife and I dined with the compliments of Levantine Hill.

Posted in Dining Experience | Leave a comment

2022 Clandestine Wines Pinot Grigio

I am never one to say “no” to Pinot Grigio. What so many knockers don’t realise is, there are quality ones out there just needing to be tried. There are always going to be Pinot Grigios that don’t float your boat, but nowadays, those sent out into the market are, on the whole, going to have what you are most likely looking for.  Plenty of flavour, refreshing, relaxing and easy to drink.  This one has each one of those characters in spades, and at a pretty good price too!

Varietally aromatic with pear characters on the nose and a slight herbal note.  Juicy pear characters continue in abundance on the palate where it shows good texture and a richness or depth-like feel to it while maintaining its Grigio persona.  There’s some citrus fruit influence providing a lovely touch of acidity giving it liveliness on the nice, long finish.  This is really good!

Region: Swan Valley, SA     Price: $25     Source: Thanks kindly to Clandestine Vineyards and Savvy Comms

Posted in Other Whites | Leave a comment