In my blind tastings of Australian wines, every time I take the bag off of another excellent bottle of Kilikanoon I wonder about that six-pointed star with the "K" prominently displayed at the top of the label. Considering they make wines called Testament and Covenant, I figured someone had to be Jewish. Maybe the wines were kosher?
|Kilikanoon Mort's Reserve Watervale Riesling, with the signature logo.|
I searched the winery's web site, but there was nothing about kosher wines or any indication of Jewish ownership. What was the hidden message?
When owner Keith Mitchell paid me a visit last week to give me a preview of some unreleased wines, my first question was, "What's with the Jewish star?"
"Oh, we get that all the time," he chuckled. "It's not a very interesting story. When we were designing the label, we were looking for some kind of a dingus to fill the space at the top. We tried all kinds of shapes, but I liked the six-pointed star. It looked different. One of my partners is Jewish, but I'm not."
The "K," of course, is for Kilikanoon.
Kosher or not, the wines have done exceptionally well with me. Mitchell grew up in Adelaide exposed to wine because his father, Mort, owned two vineyards in Clare, and sold Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grapes. After graduating with a winemaking degree in 1992, Keith earned his stripes in the cellars of d'Arenberg and BRL Hardy in Australia, plus stints in California, Oregon and South Africa. In 1997, he started making own wines from his father's vineyard. Over the years, Mitchell and his father have increased their holdings and long-term contracts in Clare and other regions and now own or control 1,250 acres.
"I'm not a fancy winemaker," Mitchell shrugs. "We grow the grapes and try to get them when they have all their flavor but haven't gone over the top." The alcohol levels on the Rieslings are about 12 to 12.5 percent and the Shiraz around 14.5 to 15, but they taste like a lot less because they're so well-integrated.
My favorite wines are the big but velvety and graceful Shiraz R, made from two old-vine estate vineyards near Greenock in Barossa Valley, and the Rieslings made from one of the original vineyards, Mort's Block, near Leasingham in Clare.
The 2008 Rieslings showed remarkably silky texture, with none of the raw edge that gives many Aussie Rieslings some of their excitement. The Mort's Block bottling has flavors that veer toward lime, apple and a talc overtone, while the Mort's Reserve shows more nectarine and peach. Both are generous, and should stand among the best Clare Rieslings when they are released early next year.
The 2006 R Shiraz, also coming early next year, seemed more muscular than the 2004 and 2005 I've recently reviewed favorably. It showed lots of cherry and mocha flavors. That wine goes for more than $100, but I would just as happily drink the Covenant Shiraz 2006, a Clare Valley-wide blend that sells for about $40 and shows a nice black olive edge to the blackberry fruit.
Terence Walsh — Chicago, IL — December 14, 2009 1:27am ET
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