Winemaker Chester Osborn, the wizard of d’Arenberg and priest of fine tannins, in South Australia travels with an amazing bag of tricks.
He opened the black sample case covered with duct tape at the B-21 dinner at Roy’s last month and out poured out more props than a jolly swagman could carry: a tree stump, a bloody arm in flannel sleeve, two feet bolted together, a small tiny garage, a chunk of road paving, a rubber lizard and a stuffed cat, crab, fairy and a fox.
When airport security asks a long haired bloke in a paisley shirt, red jeans and a big grin, the meaning of the menagerie, he says “I’m a winemaker”.
2008 d'Arenberg Stump Jump Riesling
But we know each item represents one of his wines. (Ministry of Silly Names-approved). Most have a true or even serious reason behind them, like the lucky lizards who managed to survive the first squeezing of Chardonnay grapes. Osborn’s partner Kath opened a portfolio of art commissioned from Australia’s top cartoonists.
The wines Osborn poured were the real magic, amazing flavors that rolled out endlessly like a clown car at the circus. We tried ten d’Arenberg’s, most of them beyond the famous Stump Jumps, Dead Arm and Footbolt, covering a diversity we didn’t expect. Who knew that Pinot Noir was once the regions red grape: the 2008 was clean brisk and bright. A 2007 Chard was apples and cream, perfect with the glazed spare rib on Roy’s opening sampler. Big hit for me was a Mourvedre, dubbed Twenty-Eight Road, symbolized by the bush tarmac, big dense and meaty, earthy, like blueberries bacon and dried herbs, made for the short ribs.
The stunner, and finale of the evening, was a bold Aussie take on Umbrian Sagrantino, with a touch of Cinsault, a super-Mediterraneran red, the most powerful wine of the show, as dark and rich as the intensely chocolate ganache. That’s the infamous Cenasilicaphobic Cat, named for the fear of empty glasses.
At an in-store tasting, Osborn and partner Kath led us through the current great vintages and the rest of the stable. The 2006 Dead Arm is one of the richest, ripest shiraz I’ve had, deserving of a few years in the cellar (95 RP, $49.99). The d’Arenberg principles of simple craftsmanship (no fertilizer, no pesticides, no irrigation, no fining, no filtering and yes to foot treading) work as well with Bordeaux varieties. The 2006 Coppermine Road Cab is intense, smooth and full of deep fruits and chocolate (93 RP, $59.99).
My inner cheapskate was thrilled by the Stump Jump Riesling ($9.99), which had was more apple pie than peach cobber, riesling crisp yet as round as a ripe chardonnay. This could be the perfect refrigerator white for me.
Osborn’s visit confirmed that this label is loaded with serious fun. Can’t wait for the clown car to come back.