Earlier today we had an opportunity to visit with the team of Robert Oatley during a visit to San Francisco. We tasted the latest wines in their portfolio that are available in the United States. Highlighted below are three of my favorites.
Robert Oatley, Great Southern, Wishart Vineyard, Porongorup, Riesling 2010 The nose is vibrantly fruity, with lots of freshly sliced lime and sweet floral notes. In the mouth the impression is also quite fruity, with a fetching creaminess. The acidity serves as a balanced accent – very nice.
180 cases, produced and bottled in Mudgee in New South Wales 12.2% $25 suggested US retail
Rober Oatley, Pemberton, Sauvignon Blanc 2010 The nose is quite profound, with lots of fresh grass and citrus. In the mouth, the acidity is rapier-like, crying out for Crotin de Chavignol – yes! There’s a touch of residual sugar, less than 4 grams per litre but you won’t taste it. It’s more for balance than any overt sense of sweetness and at such a low level, few would detect it.
Pemberton sees lots of rain in the winter, about 70 inches; then it is dry for the entire summer. Winemaker Chris Hancock adds that “we really like this region best for our Sauvignon, for its acidity.” Produced and bottled in Mudgee 12.2% $16 suggested US retail
Chris Hancock, while genteel and humble, sports an amazing resume in Australia; he has been one of the few to have made Grange at Penfolds.
His first vintage of that wine, which he made decades ago, could have got him fired. Even though Chris was newly at Penfolds, Max Schubert gave him a free hand. Chris chose to mature the wine he was making in French oak rather than American. Max was furious but when Chris’ first Grange took the Jimmy Watson Trophy, Australia’s most coveted award, anger subsided and Chris was on his way to fame.
He is turning 70 in a couple of months and applies a sense of wisdom and history to the wines he crafts today.
Robert Oatley, King Valley, Tempranillo 2009 This is a Tempranillo that embraces its red fruit nature – the fresh cherries are truly alight. The acidity that is a hallmark of this noble grape also makes its presence known, proving its food-friendly credentials. The body is light and the texture is supple – just perfect.
I tasted this with grilled sea bass over top of lentils and I have to say that the combination was awesome. I was in the mood for fish, though I knew we would be into the red wine flight of the tasting, yet the combo couldn’t have been better.
Hancock is a big advocate of making wines in a style that works with, rather than clobbers, delicate food. “Wines today need to be more food friendly,” he says emphatically, adding that “getting texture right is one of the most important things in winemaking.” You see that demonstrated in this Tempranillo, a wine which is often built in a highly-structured, sometimes very gripping way. With the texture right, however, this wine dances gracefully with a delicacy from the sea. Produced and bottled in Mudgee 14.3% $20 suggested US retail.
All of the wines from Oatley are bottled under screwcap closures. You can view the rest of the story at Robert Oatley