Jacob's Creek Heritage Wines
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Jacob's Creek Heritage Wines

Jacob's Creek, one of the best-known Australian wine brands in the US (if not the world), is large and diverse enough to offer a number of wine ranges to the consumer. I have simple tastes. I always prefer the best. The Jacob's Creek Heritage wine series holds up the Jacob's Creek top end. These are all interesting, limited production, artisanal wines.

The Jacob's Creek 2005 Reeves Point Chardonnay, $33, has excellent visual clarity. The color is bright lemon with green edges. This wine is fermented in a judicious combination of new, slightly-used, and well-used oak before being given a full ten-month lees aging. Rather than resulting in a product that is out of the box, this careful winemaking brings a Chardonnay with classic characteristics. The wine is toasty and buttery to be sure, but neither of these aspects steps out of line. The reason for this is some resilient acidity, which in itself is not so extreme as to steal the show. The weave of these elements is a fine balance that lets some quality fruit speak. On the nose, I enjoyed peach, apricot, ripe lemon and white floral notes. The palate retains the fruit, particularly the citrus, although the star here is that oak, a sweet toasty vanilla above all. The finish is a patient marriage of toast and fresh citrus. The appellation is South Australia.

The Jacob's Creek 2006 Steingarten Barossa Riesling, $28, is a direct product of night harvesting, careful grape selection, and straightforward cold fermentation in stainless steel. Riesling isn't the kind of varietal that takes well to a lot of manipulation. The result is fresh and straightforward. Visual clarity is tops, the color a bright pale straw with greenish tinges and a deeper golden center. A slight mineral note greets the nose first, but this is soon overtaken by ripe lemon and lime, the weave of a mixed flower garden, and the nose-tickle of freshly grated spice (I want to say cardamom, but just a touch). In the mouth, the acidity is what you would expect from a South Australian Riesling; it never dies, and yet it is Riesling acidity with burnished edges. Lemon, lime and some mineral notes provide the theme for both the center and the finish of this wine.

The Jacob's Creek 2004 St. Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, $33, is Jacob's Creek's top Cabernet, from what is doubtless Australia's leading Cabernet corner, the terra rossa (red earth) of Coonawarra. A cooler region that the rest of South Australia, Coonawarra often provides climatic challenges for grapegrowers, but 2004 proved to be a lucky year in this respect. St. Hugo begins with Cabernet grapes from select parcels, each separately vinified. Once blended, these batches spend 18-20 months in a combination of new and one-year-old French oak. The greatest compliment I can give to a Cabernet is to state that “this is Cabernet,” and not one of the many forms of “Cabernet Light” that appear to be rolling off the wine assembly line on a worldwide basis. A deep ruby, the wine brings that immediate Cabernet cassis note to the nose, with dark chocolate, a touch of roasted coffee, and cigar box. The palate is similar but with touches of both mint and vanilla. Acidity finds its proper level. Tannins are fine-grained and yet unapologetic. The mid-palate and finish fit seamlessly into the dramatic development of the wine. As I wrote, this is Cabernet, and that is a compliment. Cellar worthy.

The Jacob's Creek 2005 Centenary Hill Barossa Valley Shiraz, $37, is the kind of full-bodied, spicy Shiraz one expects from the Barossa Valley. The process of creation here is a careful one. After initial fermentation, separate batches (from separate vineyard parcels) are allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation in large hogsheads of new American oak, they are racked, then aged in the same oak for 21 months. The winemaker selects only the best of these batches for the blend, which bottle ages for an additional 18 months. The result is a deep ruby with scarlet edges, and a nose of blackberry, black plum, black pepper, violet, nutmeg, clove, and dark toast. The wine fills the mouth with dark fruit, all of it ripe and much of it showing a firm acidic tang at just the right points. The tannins are well-woven into this. The wine also has a good herbal and spicy layer, complex in nature, that lasts through to the multi-layered and rather long finish. The ultimate note is a reminder that this wine has seen a bit of wood, and sweet oak it is. As I have obviously already opened my bottle, I will miss the experience of cellaring this wine, but my imagination is doing just that as I enter these words, and the process is bringing rewards. If you cannot muster the patience to leave this wine alone for a few years, at least give it some air for a few hours before you feast on it. I gave it two hours, and I time these events precisely. (Those final five minutes are torture, of course.)

Verdict: Success

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Australian wine seems to work best in the framework of well-defined combinations of grape variety and specific growing region.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

Jacob's Creek Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

Coonawarra terra rossa soil over limestone base.

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