I can’t think of a more perfect way to spend a Sunday than wrapped up in warm clothes in a room full of oak barrels full of wine and tasting my way through 12 different wines and all before the clock strikes midday!
I was very lucky to be invited along (thank-you Haley!) to this exclusive VIP Cellar Club Members Back Vintage Tasting at Upper Reach Winery in the Swan Valley. The tickets were $35 and well worth it in my opinion. Alongside the wines there were cheese and crackers to enjoy. The tasting was well set up with plenty of water to rinse the palate between flights and also plenty of spittoons, which I tend to find lacking at a lot of tastings I go to. Since I was driving I had to spit. In my post here you can find out why people spit at wine tastings, and it’s not only if you have to drive!
The owner’s of Upper Reach, Derek & Laura first bought the 10 hectare property in 1999 so they are still rather young with 15 years under their belt. However after attending the tasting today I can definitely say that this is one of the Swan Valley wineries that you should definitely be keeping an eye on, or your ‘palate on’ I should say.
The Back Vintage 2014 Tasting was led by Derek who is not only an owner but also the Winemaker. As well as their new Cellar Door Manager, Renee Christenson who was simply bubbling with wine knowledge and enthusiasm. There were only about 30 participants at the tasting so it was nice and intimate and it was great to have wee chats to Derek, Laura and Renee as they circulated around the two tables pouring the wines for everyone.
We ended up doing 4 flights over the 1.5 hour tasting and it was simply fascinating to taste how the wines have developed over the years when comparing them to the newer vintages. Some of the wines we tasted weren’t even for sale as they have a very limited number of bottles left, it was great to have the opportunity to try such exclusive wines however naturally those were the wines I fell completely mouth over glass with and sadly i couldn’t take any home with me!! Ahhh.. it’s a tough life!
So what did we taste?? I have outlined the 4 flights below and some quick notes on each wine.
- 2014 Verdelho, $20 per bottle: Crisp, clear lemon on the eye with lovely fresh aromas of flowers, dried herbs and some tropical fruits creeping in there. On the palate I was picking up slightly charred grapefruit on the BBQ, lime juice and passionfruit.
- 2008 Verdelho, $35 per bottle: A lot deeper yellow than the 2014. The nose was creamy, with a touch of kerosene and it had notes of honey on toast! On the palate it wasn’t as big as I expected from the nose. It was a lot more mellow and smooth with stone fruit flavours and a touch of oregano. It also had an interesting slightly oily mouthfeel.
- 2013 Reserve Chardonnay, $32 per bottle: Lightest in colour out of the 3 wines which is to be expected. On the nose I was picking up notes of peach, vanilla, elderflower and a touch of anise. On the palate it was rather like a lemon cheesecake with a grapefruit zing to it.
- 2009 Reserve Chardonnay, $45 per bottle: Slightly deeper yellow than the 2013 this one was more up my alley! On the nose it was toasty and full of butter and vanilla aromas. On the palate it had a lovely oomph with flavours of melon and stone fruit coming through and a nice looooooong finish.
- 2007 Reserve Chardonnay, not available for purchase: I was in wino heaven, absolutely loved this Chardy and I’m ever so disappointed it’s not for sale as it was my favourite wine overall. On the eye it was a super bright golden-yellow colour. It had a big nose full of aromas of butterscotch, butter, toast and interestingly enough i picked up incense sticks. On the palate it’s smooth as silk with an awesome lengthy finish and flavours of melon, vanilla, a touch of baking spice and I think I also picked up a touch of feijoa!
- 2009 Merlot, $50 per bottle: This one was a huge surprise. Not at all what I was expecting from a Swan Valley Merlot. This wine was dominating in a big way. On the eye it was a deep garnet-brown colour. I was picking up aromas of cooked stewed plums, mint leaves and it had a bit of a medicinal touch to it. In the mouth it was big and brawny, strong tannins and acidity and the fruit characteristics were still fresh and vibrant, so this one still has a few years left in it!
- 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, $30 per bottle: This was my favourite from this flight. It was a beautiful opaque deep purple-red colour on the eye. The nose was so interesting, I literally spent about 10 minutes just smelling it. I was picking up aromas of blackcurrant, spearmint leaves and almond icing that’s normally on Christmas cakes. In the mouth it was full-bodied with buckets full of flavour and it just slipped down the throat absolutely divinely!
- 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, not available for purchase: On the eye it was an opaque mauve colour. On the nose I noted down that it was like chewing gum, that minty coolness with a touch of liquorice and dark black berries. I was surprised that the palate was super juicy and fruity with mellow integrated tannins and acidity. Drinking perfectly now.
- 2010 Reserve Shiraz, $35 per bottle: an opaque deep magneta colour on the eye. It had a coolness on the nose with blackberry and pepper notes popping up. In the mouth it was like WHAM! Huge wine with a lovely warmth to it (high alcohol) which could probably replace your heater this winter. It definitely woke me up and added some colour to my cheeks.
- 2007 Reserve Shiraz, $50 per bottle: On the eye it was a deep red-brown colour. On the nose I got whiffs of band aids, blueberries and that new refrigerator smell. On the palate it was super fruity with lots of black pepper spice and those blueberries came through to give it a nice smooth taste. Lovely length finish and definitely my favourite from this flight.
- 2005 Reserve Shiraz, not available for purchase: This one was the most popular amongst the group and I have to admit it was pretty tasty. On the eye it was an opaque maroon colour. On the nose I picked up aromas of spearmint and wild forest blackcurrants and blackberries. On the palate it had a good sprinkling of black pepper, a fruity sweetness of blueberries and dark black plums alongside a bit of bitter dark chocolate which a touch of ginger spice. Lots of acidity and grippy tannins on this one!
- 2001 Reserve Shiraz, not available for purchase: I would say this one is peaking right now and on its way down hill. On the eye it was a dark red-brown with aromas of cooking and stewing fruit and just struck matches. On the palate I found it rather tart and perhaps a bit too developed for my liking.
After typing all that out, I can’t believe we managed to get through all this before 12pm! It was a fantastic tasting in a great setting and I would recommend this type of experience to anyone who enjoys the odd wine or two. Derek is a very down to earth guy who speaks about wine in a way that people of all levels of wine knowledge can understand and enjoy.
If you’re interesting in attending next years Back Vintage Tasting all you need to do is simply become a member by joining the Upper Reach Cellar Club, the membership is free however you sign up to order 3 cases of wine per year. Plus there are tons of benefits like 20% off at the cellar door and help with organising your own personal cellar! To find out more or to sign up for the Upper Reach Cellar Club click here.