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Dan Berger Spends a Day With OBC

A Decade of Change

Dan Berger’s Vintage Experience
June 4, 2015
by Dan Berger

Old Bridge Cellars
One of the first efforts to market quality Australian wines in the United States occurred in the early 1980s when a small line of wines was imported. The wines showed promise. Though different from California wines, quality was only moderate.

Two years later we began to see better Aussie wines, among them the great Grange Hermitage of Penfolds, a wine first made in the early 1950s by the great wine maker Max Schubert.

Twenty-five years ago, quite early in the game, a small, adventuresome importer, Old Bridge Cellars (OBC), boldly brought in many Aussie wines that I had only heard about. They were brands that Australians regarded highly.

The risk: almost no Americans had ever heard of them, and prices were not all low enough to sell as bargains. OBC was bringing in some Aussie favorites, many of which were concept wines that had stories attached, and Old Bridge Cellars often that story was untold.

Many retailers liked the wines, but few of them had the patience to tell buyers. And restaurant wine servers often were too busy to explain them. What eventually got the ball rolling was the great promotion of the wines. The more many brands gained name recognition (some through winning medals at U.S. wine competitions) the more the public started recognizing the names and then seeking out the stories.

Recently OBC has made a few California wines and has added some French and Chilean wines to its lines. Our Tasting Notes (Page 3) are but a tiny sampling of the OBC portfolio. All of the wines are exemplary and made in a more restrained style, some of which may be misunderstood by those who prefer a more in-your-face style of wine…

Wine of the Week :        

Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013
Cool-climate Pinot Noir rarely shows off its distinctiveness the way this one does. The aroma has a green tea leaf character and the red fruit is more elegant and graceful than it is powerful. The mid- palate is terrific with Burgundian elements, and the finish is simply a joy when served with lighter red meat dishes. A great wine from vintner Phil Sexton, who also makes the excellent-value Innocent Bystander wines.

Greywacke Pinot Noir 2013
Very young and vibrantly fruity, this exciting wine offers deep cranberry and rhubarb aromas and has a smoky note from barrel aging, and so much complexity that it will age handsomely for at least a decade. From former Cloudy Bay wine maker Kevin Judd.

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2012
The wine that changed the face of Australian Chardonnay and got others to emulate the style. This wine has a citrus and cream aroma with obvious oak, but it all works within the context of great white Burgundy. Note the vintage; the wine is still years away.

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2012
Those who love Chardonnay with its stirred lees will adore this dramatic wine. Ultra-complex with a kind of Didier Dagueneau texture and finish. Not to be missed. 

Brokenwood Oakey Creek Semillon 2008
If you like crisp wines and whites that will age a decade, this wine is it! The Hunter Valley wrote the book on this historic style and this may be the best Semillon maker of all. The wine, now 7+ years old, is still an infant and needs at least five more years; even more time would be better.

Cullen Ephraim Clarke Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012
This Western Australia gem has a delicate grass/ hay aroma that’s matched to a crisp and flavorful mid-palate with hints of clove (probably from oak aging). Best in 3-5 more years.

Chapter 24 Fire + Flood The Fire Pinot Noir 2012
A new OBC wine that is more about fruit, fairly rich with plum, blue-berry and earth notes.

Chapter 24 Fire + Flood The Flood Pinot Noir 2012
More red cherry fruit with spice and cranberry. An electric kind of flavor and a wine with a great future.

Jane Eyre Gevrey-Chambertin 2012
Wild spice notes with deep and dramatic flavors of earth and racy dark berries. Still an infant, needs a decade or more.

Maison L’Envoyé The Attaché Pinot Noir 2012
Red fruit and a load of complexity mark this stylish and faintly oaky wine. Good value.

Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Riesling 2013
This young wine already has a trace of the TDC/petrol character you often get in older wines. Stylish and basically dry. It has a tiny trace of sugar, so it isn’t austere. As with many Aussie Rieslings, it has a great future.

Download the PDF here

Read Dan’s full article here