At lunch with Peter Frazier, the winemaker at Yangarra, I tasted a variety of his red wines. He specializes in using mostly Southern Rhone grape varieties for both his blends and his varietal wines.
His other specialty is organic and bio-dynamic farming. He is more about respecting the land than following the phases of the moon, but he feels bio-dynamic is the best way to replenish and elevate the soils. He believes that wine is made in the vineyard. While I realize that sounds quite cliché, this approach comes through in his wine. He says “I’m not interested in numbers on a piece of laboratory paper. I’m interested in flavor.”
Just as in the southern Rhone Valley, they grow a wide range of grapes on the 243-acre Yangarra Estate. The majority is planted with Shiraz at 116 acres, Grenache at 66 acres and Chardonnay trailing at 17 acres. The rest of the grapes are Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache Blanc, Graciano, Viognier, Tempranillo, Roussane, Carignan and Cinsault in descending order. Only 11% of their grapes are white (Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussane).
Of the wines we tasted over lunch (lobster/avocado salad and then filet mignon with gorgonzola crust), my favorite was the first one: 2007 Old-Vine Grenache. Grenache is a thin-skinned grape that holds its natural acidity even when the alcohol goes up. It had lovely red fruit flavors, lighter body and cleansing acidity. It was the only wine that paired well with both the lobster and the meat. Forty of their 66 acres of Grenache are dedicated to this wine. They only get ½ ton per acre (a very low yield in Australia).
The 2009 Shiraz came up next. Shiraz is generally not my first choice in a red wine. This one, though, showed lovely balance and good flavors. It got on very well with the meat.
Another really lovely wine was the 2007 Cadenzia. This is a blend called GSM. It’s Grenache (49%), Syrah (36%) and Mourvèdre (14%). The Grenache gave it excellent acidity and perfume. From the Shiraz you could notice plumy flavors, as well as texture and body. Finally, the Mourvèdre gave the wine savory and herbaceous notes. This was my favorite pairing with the filet mignon.
Finally, in lieu of dessert we had the 2006 High Sands Grenache. In its first vintage, the wine is made from 65-year-old vines. It is a big, almost syrupy, dry red wine with 15% alcohol. It did not work for me, but for the lover a big, bold reds, it would be a hit.
I am especially interested in trying their Grenache Blanc, Roussane and Tempranillo when/if they are available in the US.
The Yangarra Shiraz 2008 (around $20) can be found at:
- Sherry Lehmann, 505 Park Avenue, NYC; 212.838.7500
- Schumer’s, 59 East 54th Street, NYC; 212.355.0940
- Manhattan Plaza Winery, 587 9th Avenue, NYC; 212.695.8170
The Old-Vine Grenache and the Cadenzia can be purchased at Stew Leonard’s Farmingdale(Long Island), 210 Airport Plaza Blvd, Farmingdale, NY 11735; 631.249.3583.
The Old-Vine Grenache is also available at Stew Leonard’s Carle Place (Long Island), 215 Glen Cove Road, Carle Place, NY 11514; 516.742.2588.
The High Sands Grenache is only available in restaurants right now.