McLaren Vale’s incredibly unique terroir — granite-derivative sandy soils, which are perfect for age-worthy Grenache and Syrah.
The diaries start from Day One: Feb. 2, 1891, the day Herbert and Frederick Kay took possession of the McLaren Vale property they’d bought a few months earlier. They tell of the backbreaking labor required of these tough Australian pioneers to plant 90 acres of vines in the mostly flat land between the Mt. Lofty Ranges and the Gulf St. Vincent.
The vineyards those Kay brothers worked so hard to plant 126 years ago remain in family hands; Kay Brothers is South Australia’s oldest family-run winery. In fact, throughout the “New World” — that is, outside of Old Europe and the Middle East — few wineries can claim such a lengthy heritage of family stewardship. California has Zinfandel vineyards dating back to the 1860s, but almost none of the families who planted them continue to produce wine from those vines. Kay Brothers’ vines are older than many even in the heart of the Old World, as in the Northern Rhône, where Phylloxera decimated vineyards at the turn of the 20th century. The diaries carefully preserved at Kay Brothers record every day of winegrowing since 1891.
Kay Brothers hasn’t rested on its laurels; the family keeps earning new ones. James Halliday, Australia’s top wine critic, has recognized them as a 5-star winery (his highest accolade). Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate routinely scores Kay Brothers wines above its 90-point “Outstanding” threshold, with many of their wines reaching into the mid-90s and up.
The Shiraz from “Block 6,” which was planted in 1892, is Kay Brothers’ top wine and sells for more than $90. Beginning in the early 1990s, they began taking cuttings from the very best vines in Block 6, as the oldest vines — vines whose “gnarled character” amazed even the well-traveled Robert Parker — were beginning to succumb to disease and age, and began a major replanting effort. Today’s 2013 Kay Brothers Hillside Shiraz is from some of those earliest cuttings.
These Shiraz vines are rooted in McLaren Vale’s incredibly unique terroir — granite-derivative sandy soils, which are perfect for age-worthy Grenache and Syrah. Here in South Australia, just south of Adelaide, the intense heat of summer sunshine is moderated by cooling breezes that funnel in from the Gulf St. Vincent. Once harvested, the Block 6 Shiraz cuttings are basket-pressed and aged in a combination of American and Balkan oak for 18 months of patient maturation.
All of this yields a densely purple-black, opaque wine, with a light ruby rim. Plump, concentrated black plum and boysenberry leap out the glass, accompanied by bittersweet baking chocolate, campfire smoke, pepper, and crushed lavender. Explosively massive and mouth-coating on the palate, with huge gobs of brandied Bing cherry compote and blueberry fruit leather, enjoined with Creme de Violette. Yet the wine has an insistent savory side: soy, cracked pepper, dried porcini, and smoked meats. A long finish is driven by alcohol, which manifests as a pleasant warm glow, rather than anything harsh or burning. Pure velvet tannins and soft, approachable acid.
Seven vintages of the Hillside have garnered 92-96 points from The Wine Advocate since 1997; James Halliday has awarded 92- to 95-point scores for five vintages since 2005. Today’s offer, the 2013 Kay Brothers “Hillside Shiraz,” is a culmination of more than 12 decades of Kay Brothers winemaking history — a testament to the family’s constant desire to improve every aspect of their wines.
94 points from The Wine Advocate, 95 from Halliday. Elsewhere: $60. Today from WineAccess, just $48/bottle — the best price in America! A scant 30 cases of this opulent, powerhouse Shiraz, shipping directly from Kay Brothers cellars in South Australia. Wait too long, and this offer will be history.
Excellent Shiraz. Ripe tannins integrates so well with deep dark fruit all on a strong, well struck tired backbone. From McLaren Vale!!!
Very nice. Waited eight days!!
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