Notes from Coonawarra

Coonawarra cabernet is like pizza.  Even when it is bad, it is still pretty good.

For some reason this phrase has stuck in my head having just returned from a trip to Coonawarra.  This trip was something of a revelation, in that, while I have been there before, it is the first time I have started to "get" Coonawarra for what it is - a unique terroir producing mostly high quality cabernets with a distinctive earth, chocolate, coffee aroma and taste.  To date, I've tended to judge its cabernet wines through a Bordeaux lens - if it tastes like Bordeaux, good; if it doesn't, not so good.  Happily, I have moved on and become more open minded, evolved perhaps.

Some quick observations: 
1. Why, oh why, is there a 110km/h road through the heart of a wine region.  In Victoria, that same road would probably be 50km/h, so perhaps a sensible speed limit is 80km/h.  The trucks were fierce.
2. It was a bit unclear to me what the current Penola bypass plans were.  Surely the only logical solution would be to go as far around the famous "terra rossa" soils as possible.
3. It's a comforting region to taste in, because largely all of the producers and labels are familiar.
4. The air is intoxicatingly clean and thick. 
5. I don't think I tasted a bad cabernet, the shiraz is pretty good too and some of the top end cabernets are extremely good.
6. The cabernet merlot blends never seemed to work quite as well as the cabernet "straight" wines, though I'm not sure why that should be the case.  
7. Over the years I've had some fantastic merlot wines from Coonawarra, but it seems not to be stunningly reliable.
8. A cycling path might be an idea to humanise access to the vineyards a little (ie the nice meandering off the road, painted lines, type of bike path), but see item#1 first.

Write ups of various wines tasted to follow over the next few weeks.  My tasting notes backlog is now getting so large it risks becoming sentient.
Wine Thoughts
November 2, 2010

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