McLaren Vale Wines – Chapel Hill


Chapel Hill Barrel

Chapel Hill has come a long way since I first remember visiting the old Chapel in the late 1980’s.  The Chapel was built in 1865 and was a Christian Bible Church and a parish school and now the central part of the cellar door and art gallery complex portion of what is the whole of Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill Cellar Door

In this area of McLaren Vale, I suspect it is part of the Seaview subregion, there is a winery, cellar door, art gallery and what is called The Retreat.  The Retreat is a high class accommodation getaway that has function space for corporate functions, cooking classes, weddings etc.  It is famous for high profile cooking classes that all over look some of the Chapel Hill vineyards.

The Chapel

The cellar door not only provides the visitor with a large selection of wines but also seasonal produce produced at the retreat.  You can find such delights as Olive Oil, Dukkah, Verjuice and preserves.  Bring on some fresh crusty bread and I can feel a meal coming on!

Chapel Hill Art Gallery

The latest bottlings show a new direction for the labels from the 4 ranges of wines – The Foundation Series, Il Vescovo, McLaren Vale and Vicar.  The new labels look classy and puts them in good stead for the new few years.

Well I suppose I had better talk about the wines…….

2009 Il Vescovo Savagnin ($A22)

Sourced from the cooler climate Kangarilla vineyard and is my first taste of this emerging variety.  Straight away this was different as I got a restrained orange blossom aromas with nectarine and tropical fruit flavors backed with some good acid.  An interesting wine and I really want to taste more Savagnin to better understand this variety.

2009 Il Vescovo Pinot Grigio ($A22)

My experience with this variety has not been overly positive, but this wine made me think I should have a kinder mindset to Pinot Grigio.  There were hints of grass, lemongrasss and lychees on the nose and really interesting Guava flavor.  Jury still out but still deliberating.

2008 Verdelho ($A16)

A lighter style with a slight fruit salad aroma through to some melons on the palate.  There seemed to be a hint of residual sugar here in an attempt to lift the wine.  I suggest this wine would be one that a number of people either love or hate.  Does the 2008 vintage for a white wine mean this wine has not been a good seller.

2009 Unwooded Chardonnay ($A16)

Naked Chardy – I get quite concerned about this style.  In an attempt to reverse the trend of over oaked styles we have had to endure about 10 years of going the absolute opposite.  This is a good clean wine with a real nice citrus (acid) finish.  This wine is a good seller but for me bring on a balanced chardonnay that includes some oak character.

2008 McLaren Vale Chardonnay ($A25)

Straight away I could tell I was onto something here.  Barrel fermented soft wood characters mixed with some ripe fig aromas led to a spicy, creamy, yeasty melon mouthful.  I just enjoyed this wine and it was the standout white wine here.  Why would one go for so much of the average white wine in the country (alot of it labeled SB) when such a wine is offered.  The complex flavors here go well with complex foods such as a caramelized onion tart with roasted cherry tomatoes and seasoned sliced chicken breast.

2009 Il Vescovo Rose ($A22)

Made from Sangiovese fruit from their Kangarilla Vineyard (not in McLaren Vale and cooler climate).  The aromas were like smelling the red roses from my backyard (sorry I do not know the Rose variety) and flavors of sour cranberries and plenty of acid to cover the 2.1 g/L sugar.  For the Rose drinkers this wine has good structure and would be worth finding.  It would work with Chinese Fried Rice or a cheese platter on a Sunday while watching the footy.

2009 Il Vescovo Tempranillo ($A22)

This Adelaide Hills offering is a relatively soft blend of Mulberries and Cherries with not alot of tannins but has a savoury finish.  My first thoughts was this was a surprise as a number of Tempranillo wines I have been tasting are “stronger” wines and that this has a similar tannin structure of Merlot.  I am thinking a big bowl of pasta with a tomato based sauce and sitting around the table with the family to “share the spoils”.

2009 Il Vescovo Sangiovese ($A22)

Quite a difference with this wine after the last one – the aromas were almost meaty and transformed into a cherry tannin mix that wants to coat the tongue and teeth.  There are more wines of this variety popping up around McLaren Vale and I would say this wine is true to it’s variety and one to check out particularly to be enjoyed with food.

2008 GSM ($A18)

Aromas of violets, plum and some perfume from the Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre components to this wine are a good start.  The flavors show some up front sweetness (probably from the ripe fruit expected from this hot vintage) and flows through to some typical Mourvedre strength with a few tannin layers.  I enjoyed the Mourvedre tones to this wine but the fruit sweetness makes the wine a little disjointed.

2008 McLaren Vale Bush Vine Grenache ($A30)

Of course I was looking forward to this wine – it is my favorite McLaren Vale grape.  I was not disappointed from this offering from vines planted in 1926 and 1959.  All the red fruits combined with nutty and complex spice nuisances from the old wood barrels this wine has been aged in.  Oak plays a supporting role to such lovely fruit that anybody who comes to McLaren Vale should try this wine style.  Bring on the slow cooked lamb shanks and there is no way I would share this wine with you.

2009 McLaren Vale Mourvedre ($A30)

Here was where I was blessed – this wine was bottled but not available at the time of my visit.  Due to comments on their Facebook page I knew this wine was around – so I asked and Amelia (cellar door manager) organised a bottle for me to try.  I am so glad I was awarded this favor as the wine was a pleasure.  This variety either on it’s own or as a blender brings serious stuff.  There are wonderful floral and mulberry aromas and flavors with lovely complex spices and dry, dry tannins.  The tannins are so dry that it seems like they are drying your teeth.  The 15% alcohol was not noticeable either on the nose or palate, which also indicated there is complexity here.  The wine needs more time to settle down, but I can see it lasting many years in the bottle – if we let it.  I am thinking of a marinated kangaroo stir fry, with some gamey complexity, as a wine match.

2008 McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon ($A30)

An interesting mix of smoky blackberries and blackcurrents on the nose.  The flavors are mulberry based fruit with licorice complexity and drying tannins.  This wine probably suffers from being the next in the lineup after 2 such wonderful wine (for my palate).  This wine stands the McLaren Vale Cabernet test well, but it is not my favorite variety at the moment.  As I drank this I could see a big bowl of Hoisin Beef with Singapore Noodles complementing the wine and vice versa.

2008 Parsons Nose Shiraz ($A16)

An interesting play here – a lower price wine with an unusual name, in an attempt to bring in more sales.  A certain well known wine writer has given this wine a 92 point score, so it sparked my interest, even though the 2008 vintage was at best challenging.  Straight away I got the unusual scent of blueberries with some star anise and cinnamon.  There is a particular shiraz clone that give some blueberry character, so I guess this is it.  The flavors were dark plums and I was very happy there was no stewed fruit or over oaked character.  I do not rate this as a 92 point wine, however this is quite good everyday drinking, so I guess it has met the criteria.  Bring on plated of different BBQ’d sausages smothered in onions.

2008 McLaren Vale Shiraz ($A30)

Wow – a very interesting roasted almonds aroma combined with some of the blueberries I mentioned above, just draw me in.  The flavors are just what one expects from classic McLaren Vale Shiraz – almost sweet plum fruit combined with the cedar oak with tannins from both the oak and the grapes themselves.  What more can I say but pass on the plate overlapping rump steak and use the wine as the “vegies”.

Wines not tasted

Vicar Shiraz ($A60) & Devil Tawny Port ($A30)

The Vicar is only available for tasting on weekends and the Devil was just being bottled.  I have previously tried these wines (before I took notes) and they both are good wines with a following that means selling these wines at the cellar door is not difficult.

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About Lonely Grape

Passionate about wine - particularly McLaren Vale wines. Check out my blog on different winery reviews and my wine sales web site
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One Response to McLaren Vale Wines – Chapel Hill

  1. Neto says:

    Big fan of Chapel Hill wines, especially the Cab Sav. The 2008 was a bit disappointing (over-oaked to compensate for the poor vintage?), the 2009 was a return to form and looking forward to trying the 2010 which should be a cracker.

    The 2008 Shiraz is currently on sale for $16.67 per bottle in a dozen or more on their website. Great deal.

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