Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Visiting the Black Sheep Winery of Hugh Hamilton in McClaren Vale, Australia

(Feb. 14, 2016) The entrance to Hugh Hamilton Winery is stunning, with a curved gray wall at the beginning and then a long driveway lined with tall green cypress trees.  Along the drive, there are four “sheep dips”, which are upside down speed bumps, each marked with a cute sign with a sheep.” At the far end of the driveway is a tall circular building set on a hilltop and surrounded by vineyards.  An imposing flight of steps leads to the building, and sitting in the center of the staircase is a statue of a sheep. The whole effect is both very impressive and creative.

Once you climb the steps and pat the sheep on the head for good luck, you enter the circular tasting room to see a wine bar and a beautiful 360 view of the vineyards displayed outside the circular glass windows. We were instantly greeted by two friendly hospitality reps and invited to taste some wine.

As we tasted, we were delighted to see a series of large Australian magpie birds fly in and station themselves on the top of posts in the vineyard. It was as if we were being greeted by a small army of black and white soldiers, who watched us through the windows as we enjoyed our wine.

One of the aspects I enjoy most about visiting Australian wineries is the fact that most do not charge a tasting fee. We were told that this practice is slowly changing, but in 2016 most are still complimentary. At Hugh Hamilton, this was also the case, and we were invited to taste a variety of wines. They were all well-made with unique attributes, but my favorites were: 
  • Sparkling – The Drama Queen: made in the Champenoise method with all 3 traditional grapes, this wine entices with a floral nose, rich creamy palate, fine mousse and crisp acid finish. Elegant.
  • Pinot Grigio – The Trickster: a medium-bodied white wine with notes of pear and spice, with a refreshing citrus finish.  Great on a hot day.
  • Red Blend (Shiraz Mataro Saperavi) - Black Ops:  deep, dark, and brooding with plum, spice, and anise.  A very rare blend with a touch of Saperavi (the signature grape of Georgia!)
  • Shiraz – Black Blood III: An elegant velvety shiraz with classic ripe berries and chocolate, but also some complex herbs and a very long finish. 
  • Shiraz – Pure Black:  This is their very high end shiraz, and it does not disappoint.  Made in a Grange-like style, it is very concentrated with complex dark berry, olive, and chocolate. Long, seamless,and very well-balanced.

 Our visit here was wonderful, highlighted by friendly service and great wines.  I also enjoyed the motto of this winery: “Black Sheep – every family has one.”

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