Monday, January 17, 2005

RealTime Review: Penfolds Rawson's Retreat Shiraz Cabernet 2004 (Billy)

This Shiraz Cabernet blend hails from South Eastern Austrailia. The region, like Chile, South Africa, and New Zealand has been producing some high quality yet relatively inexpensive wines for several years now. The "Rawson's Retreat" is the introductory level of their wines according to their website. The bottle ran approximately $7.

I've not tasted this wine before.

Upon Opening: A nearly translucent red maroon greets me as I pour. It is inviting. Even before I sample the bouquet, cherries, raspberries and plumbs reach out to me from a distance (young Cabernet?). As I lift it to my nose sweet vanilla and lemmon cake greet me. There is an open-fire roasted skewered tomato that lurks just below the surface spiked with black pepper (that would be the Shiraz). It is intriguing to me.

As I taste, the wine flirts with a fruity character and texture that would be enjoyable, but it does not obtain. It has a slippery texture that moves much too quickly and is done with little noticible finish. However, I believe some air will mature this red quite nicely. I doubt that it will round out as much as I would like or as the bouquet suggests it could be.

My hunch is that this young wine will wind up being "nice" - like a movie script that really could be great - even Oscar great - but with Macaulay Culkin as leading man, it will just never (ever) get there.

Let's hope that some time and exposure does more for Rawson's Retreat Shiraz Cabernet than it has done for Mr. Culkin.

After Breathing: The intensity of the bouquet has rounded and softened nicely with the spice of the Shiraz coming noticeably to the fore with an appealing warmth. The raspberries are stonger and the vanilla less intense to create an overall very friendly nose.

As I taste again, I was right. The wine has blossomed albeit into a tiny, though beautiful, flower. The oak aging is pleasantly hinted at. It still retains a slipperyness that tries to be smooth but rushes it. This leaves me feeling wanting and a little bit used, like a virgin at prom who got his first french kiss before he knew what was coming. Still, after I realize what happened, it was exciting and I'll not hesitate to tell all my friends about it.

I wont say the wine is pleasantly round, but it does get close. What the wine leaves me wanting is easily fulfilled by something small to eat - nuts, cheese, a cracker or two. This makes this Penfolds Shiraz Cabernet a wonderful (and inexpensive) choice for casual meals or cocktail hour.

I'm going to buy another bottle.

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