With the release of James Halliday’s 2014 Wine Companion, Castelli Estate was awarded 5 red stars as a winery. 5 red stars means “best of the best” in a region. Which region? The Great Southern region of WA.
Consider these facts. Less than 5% of Australian wineries are included in this category. Castelli have been making wines for a mere 7 vintages. To gaining 5 red stars in such a short time is a huge achievement in my books. They must be doing a lot of things right down Denmark way.
When the phone call came through to join the Castelli team celebrations over wine and dinner at the Butterworth, how could I say no? I just had to meet the team behind these wines. In my experience, when a brand is going gangbusters, the team behind it are an interesting and passionate bunch.
“Empirica” by Castelli
I arrived nice and early to meet up with Castelli sales & marketing director, James Majer as he had some new wines to show me. Just bottled were a new small batch range called “Empirica” by Castelli from the 2013 vintage.
~ Gewurztraminer from Mount Barker that impressed with its great balance of acid and hints of residual sugar.
~ A Pemberton Fumé Blanc which had notes of pears, ginger and spice with good length.
~ I also enjoyed their Pinot Gris from Pemberton that was partly barrel fermented .
The Empirica range will be aimed at the on premise market. So look out for them in restaurants, cafes and wine bars. I enjoyed all three and recommend them.
Soon the guests started arriving and I managed to have a very good chat with chief winemaker, Michael Garland. Many wine making techniques, barrel ferments, etc where explained by Michael and I have to admit that most of that information was simply too complex for me and went over my head. What struck me was that Michael is very passionate about his job and is clearly keeping a good eye on things in the winery. Not too long into our conversation, the Castelli brothers arrived and I was introduced to them. It was clear to me that both Luca and Adam Castelli have a great deal respect for what Michael is doing with the wine and referred to him as the alchemist. Always a good sign for the wine when the owners are supportive of the winemaker. Whilst chatting, we all enjoyed a glass of Castelli’s Checkmate NV Methode Traditionelle. Refreshing indeed.
The start of dinner was soon announced and we took our places.
Riesling Bracket – served with tartare of swordfish belly, meyer lemon yogurt. This dish really worked well with the two Rieslings. Lemon notes in the yogurt really tamed the ’07 Riesling and made it sing. Excellent job.
2007 Castelli Estate Riesling
Toasty and honeyed. Kaffir lime leaf. Powerful, immense wine that worked very well with the food. Mineral notes and good acid. Ageing well
2012 Castelli Estate Riesling
Lovely acid & lime. Quiet wine. Very pure. Jasmine tea, lemongrass and young ginger. Clean finish. Excellent wine.
Chardonnay Bracket – served with Prawn Mousseline, cuttlefish & prawn salad, ruby grapefruit, buerre noisette dressing. Delicious dish and very well presented with the grapefruit marrying very well to the Chardonnays. Another very good food / wine combination.
2012 Castelli Estate Chardonnay
Cumquats. Grapefruit acidity. Lush, creamy mouthfeel. Mouthcoating, long aftertaste
2012 Castelli Estate “il Liris” Chardonnay
Wow! Power plus. Excellent, juicy fruit and mouthwatering acidity. Frangipani, excellent minerality. Texture. Toasty, struck match nose makes you think “a worked chardonnay”. But mouthfeel happily surprises. Bang! Get on board
Red Bracket – served with Cornfed chicken w braised venison, slow cooked red cabbage, bitter chocolate sauce. Chicken, venison and chocolate sauce? Yep. Worked a treat. Very tasty dish and again well matched to the wines.
2011 Castelli Estate Cabernet.
Great follow up to the 2010 I tried a few days before this event. Shimmering blackcurrants and blueberries. Grippy tannins. Excellent mouthfeel. A very pure cabernet. Will be buying some of this for the cellar.
2010 Castelli Estate “il Cavaliere’ Red.
Castelli Estate’s flagship wine. A predominant blend of Cabernet and Shiraz. Very structured. Black olives, herbaceous. Menthol lift. Some tomato & tobacco leaf. Cinnamon and cloves. Grippy, dusty tannins. Serious, broody wine that needs time and food to show its best. Very promising young wine.
Dessert of Saffron jelly, caramelized white chocolate, blood orange chiboust, basil was served with the 2010 Castelli Estate Botrytis Riesling. Let’s just say I wasn’t a fan of the dessert. To me it was a big bowl of sweet, flavoured custard like substance and had to leave most of it. Enjoyed the Saffron jelly, though.
The Botrytis Riesling was sweet, lush and full of pineapple goodness. Good cleansing acid keeps this from getting too sweet.
In just about every wine shop I have walked into since the start of this year, floor staff have been recommending Castelli wine. I find it interesting that most friends and “non wine” people I talk to still have not heard about Castelli. Based on the wines I have tried so far, I suspect that this is all about to change very soon. If you haven’t tried one of these wines, I encourage you to do so and be pleasantly surprised.
Big thanks to the Castelli team for inviting me along to your celebrations. I was honoured to be part of your celebrations and thoroughly enjoyed chatting to all of you. Congratulations on your 5 Red stars and I can’t wait to see where the winery is headed over the next 7 years.