Saturday, July 15, 2006

Miami meets the Barossa Valley

It’s a dreary day in the Barossa Valley, the wine region just north of Adelaide best known for its Shiraz. I scarcely notice.

I’m seated at the farm table of Dennis and Christine Canute with their son Christian, who has been described as one of Barossa’s “young Turks’’ proving himself as one of its top winemakers. Today he turns 30.

We are tasting nine of the wines his family makes: six for the family label, Rusden, and two for Betts & Scholl, a collaboration between Aspen sommelier Richard Betts and Miami art collectors Debra and Dennis Scholl.

The wines are so staggeringly excellent that they have won raves from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator. Betts & Scholl … a Grenache … is served at Thomas Keller’s vaunted French Laundry in Napa, deservedly regarded as one of America’s best restaurants. Rusden is served by such stellar chefs at Alain Ducasse, Mark Miller of Coyote Café and Sydney’s Tetsuya and Neil Perry.

Canute’s family block of 40 acres is comprised of old-growth vines. These are tough times in the Australian wine industry, and big household names are pushing out many of the old-growth farmers that once sold them their yields. Betts & Scholl…now going into its third release … has helped to save four old-growth vineyards, Canute says.

“Grenache is very much in the background here,’’ he said. “To find someone as passionate about Grenache as Richard and Dennis is a real find.’’

Rusden’s own Black Guts Shiraz is a killer, but even more impressive is the Cabernet – a stepchild in the Barossa. We’ve just tasted Rusden's 2004 Cabernet, and I'm salivating. “You should taste the 2002. You’d fall of your chair.’’


30th birthday: Christian Canute.

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