Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Artful Chard

If you've been reading this last series of posts, you've likely noticed that I've been pulling some of our bigger guns out of the cellar for these final bottles to close out The List before I hit the 2001st wine. Tonight's wine definitely fits the bill of a "big gun." We've only got one bottle and that's because I've only ever seen one bottle for sale in a shop - and that was in New York City. I don't know that anyone carries it in Vancouver - and, even if someone did, I'd be afraid to see what price it comes in at.

I think it's fair to say that the Vancouver market has never seen many Margaret River wines on a regular basis. The region has been one that I've always had a fondness for though - ever since I tried and quite liked a bottle while I was in Australia in 1996. I returned to Vancouver and could only find two or three bottles from the region in our city and, naturally, that was at one of the premium wine shops. I tried another of the district's wines. Enjoyed it. And, with the region being two for two, I've always had a positive outlook on the region's wines.

That being said, I've been holding on to tonight's bottle for an "occasion." I think hitting #1995 on The List qualifies.

1995.  2004 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay (Margaret River - Australia)

Leeuwin Estate is family owned and operated and, with its bevy of national and international accolades and awards, is one of the - if not the - pre-eminent wineries in the Margaret River region. Unlike some other Aussie wine regions - like the Barossa - winemaking in Margaret River didn't really get started until the 1970's. Indeed, it was only in 1969 that Leeuwin Estate was one of the five founding wineries in the Margaret River district located to the south of Perth in Western Australia. Leeuwin, however, didn't actually make any vintage wines for release until 1978. It's been all uphill from there.

Making three separate labels, Leeuwin's Art Series wines are their "most opulent and ageworthy" wines. The first vintage of Art Series Chardonnay was 1980 and it arrived on the scene with a declaration by Decanter magazine that it was the best Chardonnay in the world in 1982.

My introduction to Leeuwin's Art Series Chardonnay was at an Australian Wine Appreciation Society tasting in Vancouver that involved a blind tasting of fifteen or so Chardonnay's from around the world. Leeuwin's was, by far, the favourite wine of the evening - including my score card. However, as much as I kept an eye open for it, I could never find a bottle of the wine until that New York wine shop.

The region has continued to have a romanticized hold on me though and, when Boo and I made a trip back to Australia in 2012, we decided to travel out to Perth for a quick venture down to Margaret River with Merlot Boy and Margarita. We managed to fit in a dinner at Leeuwin and finally added a bottle of the Art Series Chard to The List - along with a couple other Leeuwin wines.

It's now time to add a second vintage to The List before this Odyssey peters out.

We had quite the scare opening this bottle though. The cork broke on me while I was pulling it out and I couldn't help but worry that, if the cork was faulty, the wine might be faulty as well. There was a heavy sigh of relief though after the first taste. The wine was still rich and velvety on the tongue. There was noticeable, although refined, oaking and some subtle hints of tropical fruit still shone through.

A rare treat but oh so enjoyable. There haven't been many wines on my journey that have as hallowed a history as the Art Series Chardonnay but isn't that exactly why we try to experience as many different wines and regions as we can. It makes those special occasions all that more special.

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