Rocking Rockford (2)

Rockford Wines are famous for their Basket Press Shiraz and for an amazing sparkling Shiraz, a true local speciality. But there is much more to their range that that. Visiting the cellar door is an opportunity to taste a good range of less well-known but equally interesting wines.   Even, because of enormous demand, you have to plan your visit when there is still wine to taste. We were very fortunate:

Vine Vale Riesling 2015 – Barossa fruit with a restrained citrus peel nose but with remarkable depth on the palate. Barrel-aged in old oak for a broader, fuller wine. 

Eden Valley Riesling 2013 – mid lemon in colour, developed petrol nose, lifted lemon fruit on palate, bold acidity. A late release to accentuate the quick developing character of Eden Valley Riesling.  

Semillon 2012, 12.5% – aged for a year in a large neutral cask, then bottled and given a couple of years to develop.  Fine citrus and a touch of honey on the nose; crisp textured palate; excellent developed lemon fruit with a marked mineral note. Again very developed for a three-year old.  

White Frontignac 2015, 9% – the grape known elsewhere as Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains is called Frontignac here and elsewhere.  Lovely Muscat fruit, simple and sweet (20g/l residual sugar).  

Alicante Bouschet, 2015, 9.8% – no skin contact but a rosé from the red-coloured flesh of teinturier grape, Alicante Bouschet, made a slighter sweeter than just off-dry style with 15g/l residual sugar. Bright cheery fruit with an estery lift. This modest offering, price and quality wise, has been a huge success and funded many of the aged reds for which Rockford is famous.  

Frugal Farmer, 2014, 12.4% – being a blend of Grenache, Mataro and the skins of the Alicante Bouschet: waste not, want not! Pale ruby in colour, cherry and cherry stone nose, intense even taut palate with good length with savoury spice. The Grenache is picked early when the early ripening Alicante is ready; the Mataro is picked later when it is ripe and a blend made later.  Rockford see this wine as a stepping stone to the bigger reds and a reflection of their continuing conviction that everybody should be able to buy a bottle of a good, even very good wine and not be excluded by the cost: $22 (= £11) at the cellar door.  

Moppa Springs 2011, 14.4% – 52% Grenache, 33% Mataro, 15% Shiraz from a warm pocket of the Barossa, if here in a cooler year.  18 months in old French oak.  Very marked, lifted red berry fruit, a Rockford wine which has gone under the radar.  

Rod & Spur 2013, 14.2% – the name is an acknowledgement of the growers on whom much of Rockford’s success is based. This a is classic Barossa Shiraz/Cabernet blend, loving called ‘our claret’.  Great fruit intensity in a blackcurrant and blackberry range, this tastes like Cabernet Sauvignon but with soft tannins and with more opulent fruit from the Shiraz.  All estate fruit.  Good value at $34.50.

Rifle Range, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, 14.4% – dense earthy nose, fresh blackcurrant fruit, earthy and minty on palate, quite a full mid-palate and a tight tannic structure.  Aged in mostly old French oak.  

Basket Press Shiraz, 2012, 14.2% – made from only the best dry-grown Shiraz, aged for two years in a mix of mostly old French and some American oak barrels made by local A.P. John, highly regarded artisan barrel maker.  Superb spicy and ripe black fruit, mouth-filling satin texture, fine grained tannins, magnificent depth: the fuss is rightly about Basket Press Shiraz.  

Black Shiraz, disgorged August 2015, 13.5% – sparkling wine made from a base wine from a 31 year old Solera with an average age of eight years, aged for three years in old oak first, then bottle-fermented with 6-9 months on the lees and some residual sugar. Streams of not only bubbles but red to black fruit plus leather and forest floor, somehow manages a finish which is both sweet and savoury, some grippy tannins.  My brain is confused by vinous complexity and depth on the mid-palate and bubbles!  

2007 Shiraz VP, 18.5% – VP stands of course for the no longer allowed ‘vintage port’, here fortified not with neutral spirit but wood-aged brandy: that Shiraz fruit can stand up to a lot!  Profound red berry to blackberry fruit, soft tannins, very fine.  

P.S. Marion Tawny, 20.5% – average age is 18 years but with some older wine up to 50 years old. The name is homage to one of Rockford-owner Robert Callaghan’s other passions, steam paddle boats on the Murray river.  In fact Rockford organise luxury gastronomic cruises on this very vessel.  Fabulous depth of fine and bold aged fruit and a warm 20.5% alcohol.  

With thanks to Ben and Holly for an unforgettable visit.  And to David Thomas who in his Caviste years introduced his customers to the Barossa Valley and Rockford in particular.  

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