February 7th. Wine Dinner
Restaurant Serenade
Featuring Imports from Epicurean
A new force in "Oz"

Last evening, I attended a premium Australian wine tasting and dinner featuring a number of wines from the Epicurean portfolio. This tasting took place at Serenade Restaurant which is located in Chatham, New Jersey. A total of nine wines were poured over a three hour period. Lets see, we started with a Chardonnay and moved directly to the main course of reds. The cuisine was very good and the food and wine pairings worked out very favorably. My only complaint of the entire evening was with the stemware. Specifically, the glasses that we tasted from were in fact, substandard. Even with this deficiency, the quality of the wines shown through. I should add that I was impressed enough to personally order some 48 bottles from six different producers. This is especially significant because I simply don't have room  in my cellar or need any more wines. Finally, I have absolutely no financial interest in any of these wines. To my notes:  

1999 Penna Lane Cabernet Sauvignon-  Deep ruby color. Shows a lovely cabernet and oak scented nose. Medium fullish on the palate with fine extract and very good "core" fruit flavors. Slightly outclassed by some of the others but very good nonetheless. My first tasting note, score it 91/92.

1998 Penny's Hill "Specialized" Shiraz/Cabernet/Merlot- Medium to dark ruby color. Not as deeply pigmented as some of the other wines. Nose opens with fragrances of both red and black fruits, spice and moderate to full toast. Drying tannins dominate the attack. The Penny's Hill "Specialized" did not show the up-front fruit, intensity or richness of some of the other offerings, but still has a lot going for it. Would have benefited from additional breathing. My first tasting note, score it 92/93.

1997 James Irvine "Grand Merlot"- Let me first state that I was blown away by the "Grand Merlot". I understand that this wine is aged in French Oak for some three years and three months before release. It offers the extraction and intensity of "Petrus" at about one fifth the price! Out of the gate, the '97 James Irvine "Grand Merlot" was a hit from the opening whiff to the closing sip. The bouquet was singing with fragrances of deep black currants and ripe Blackberry scented fruit with just a hint of anise. The bouquet is so stunning, that I would purchase the wine on nose alone. In the mouth, the wine is enormous but at the same time elegant and impeccably balanced. This is no doubt due in large part to the nuances imparted by the French oak treatment. The wine also comes across as extremely rich and pure. It's stunning mouth feel and fifty second finish make the "Grand Merlot" one of my top two favorites of the evening. My first tasting note, score it "98"

1999 Berry Bridge Shiraz- Showing a very dark ruby, almost purple color. Nose opens with a  full throttle bouquet suggesting chocolate, raspberry, licorice and a good dollop of new oak. Palate mirrored the nose and is just bursting with succulent core fruit (almost overripe) flavors  suggesting licorice, tar, moderate to heavy toast and vanilla bean. Add to that a fat sweetness to it's taste that was, for the lack of a better term, a "real knockout"! The wine also finishes very well and should drink effortlessly over the next eight to ten years or so. One of the best wines from the 1999 vintage that I've tasted. My first tasting note, score it "94/95".

 1998 Paxton Shiraz- Produced from 30 year old vines and aged in French oak. Yields are some two tons per acre. Deep dark color of ink and oil. Exotic nose of bacon fat, soy, cocoa, smoke and blackberry like fruit fragrances explode from the glass. On palate impression, the wine literally coats the lining of the mouth with waves of super concentrated black currant flavors. The Paxton Shiraz is oozing with a hedonistic richness and a purity of fruit and flavor that is quite remarkable. Add to that superb balance and a stunning finish. Has all the components to make one an instant fan. Can be consumed today or 10 to 12 years from now. Sadly only 500 cases were produced. My first tasting note, score it "97+"

[sidebar] the following second tasting note was from two days later.
1998 Paxton Shiraz- Had the '98 Paxton Shiraz once again with dinner last evening. This time with better tasting glasses. My second bottle of '98 Paxton in as many days. The wine was indeed quite good. However, this example did not show the concentration, aromatic intensity or exceptional mouth feel of the first bottle sampled just last Wednesday. I can only assume that it was an off bottle. However, I plan to re-taste the entire lineup in peer review in a couple of weeks and report back. Stay tuned. I'll also attempt to find out if both bottles were in fact shipped together or separately. My second tasting note, score
                    it "93?".

1998 Limelight Syrah- Medium, fullish ruby color. Significantly less pigmented than lets say the Paxton was. Nose comes across as tightly wound and primary. What it did show were primary core fruit fragrances suggesting currants, dark cherry fruit and spice. In the mouth, drying tannins dominate the initial and mid palate. In addition to the tannins, the wine offers up a good dose of alcohol with a medium to fullish concentration Add to that a coarse, dry leather quality. Still a very fine wine which would have benefited from additional breathing. Finishes with a thirty second residual sensation. Sadly, production was limited to only 250 cases. My first tasting note, score it "94"

1998 Langmeil "The Freedom" Shiraz- Made from 150 year old vine stock with 50% new American oak with yields at one and one quarter ton per acre. Except for the fortified Shiraz, "The Freedom" Shiraz showed the deepest, darkest color. From the get go, the bouquet was singing with fragrances of toasty vanilla oak, deep plum and black currant like aromas. Add to that a good dose of  licorice and asphalt. On the palate, the wine shows massive concentration, grip and also conjures up huge reserves of highly extracted foreground fruit and flavor. The '98 Langmeil "Freedom" Shiraz  is also very intense and finishes with a stunning forty-second finish! It can be enjoyed today with a great deal of satisfaction, but  it ideally requires a year or two of bottle age. My first tasting note, score it "96+"

1998 Penny's Hill "Fortified" Shiraz-  While I'm certainly not a fan of fortified wines, this example rocked me! Jet black in color leading to a stunning bouquet of  blackberry compote, spice and tar. In the mouth, the level of candied sweetness and
                    luscious, creamy richness is breathtaking. Quite simply, the sensation must be experienced to be believed! Thick and delicious as well as remarkable and decadent! My first tasting note, score it "99"