I never really got the Australian Shiraz craze; giant purple fruit bombs that stained your teeth and burned your mouth with their 15% to 16% alcohol. We're talking a "G'day" punch in the mouth. Where's the texture, the nuances, the refinement? I've never had Penfolds Grange, Hill of Grace, Hobbs or any of the others from the $100 plus club from OZ; perhaps that's where one can find an exquisite wine from Down Under. I bought a couple of bottles of the Thorne-Clark Shotfire Ridge Shiraz 2003 for about $20 a bottle and, contrary to the stellar WS review and 93 point rating I found the wine to taste like liquid grape jam with a heavy helping of black pepper. It settled down by the third day on my kitchen counter but who needs to wrestle elegance out of a raging bull of a wine? I should have know from the name that I'd be picked buckshot out of my teeth after every sip.
I did make a foray into the Aussie world at random when I was sitting minding my own business at a 2001 Christie's Beverly Hills auction. A flurry of activity on some previously lots created one of those weird auction lulls when it seems that no one is paying attention. A case of Henry's Drive 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Padthaway came up and no one bid on it. Being a helium hand, my paddle shot up at the opening bid which was less than the low range in the catalogue. No one else bid so it was "SOLD" to paddle #284, aka me, for about $24 a bottle. Honestly, I had no idea what I purchased and thought that I was buying a Shiraz instead of a Cab. As Homer would say, "DOH!" A couple of key strokes later I read the story of this South Australian winemaking region, the mail carrying stage coaches, etc. etc. Sparky and Sarah Marquis, later of Marquis Phillips and the well publicized fallout with Dan Phillips, accusations of theft/mismanagement/embezzlement abounding, made this wine back in 1999 and they did a fine job of it.
Tasting Notes: Dark red/violet in the glass, black plums and currants on the nose, some classic cab notes of liquorice, cloves and leather. Good acidity and balance. No need to hold this one any longer as it's peaked. In a blind tasting I would have guessed a northern Rhone rather than a South Australian cab. Curiously no alcohol content was listed on the label, I wonder how that slipped through the cracks.
Rating: Very good, quaffable.