I'm having a wine tasting with at least 20 other people but I'm in a room alone. It's a digital tasting, where a select few watch on computer screens as winemakers Ehren Jordan and Bernard Hickin talk us through the new Two Lands line from Australia.
Perhaps I need to start again. The aptly named Two Lands brings together Jordan, an American who currently works with his own amazing Failla Wines, based in Napa but mostly working with Sonoma grapes, and Hickin, the chief winemaker at Jacob's Creek, Australia's largest wine brand. The four-wine portfolio they've developed, at 7,000-10,000 cases each, is made for the U.S. market only and priced to move at a retail price of $13.99. And it will move, as each one of these wines is not just tasty but interesting, too. It's what one might expect when adding the talent of maverick Jordan (best known for guiding Turley Wine Cellars to zinfandel dominance) to the might, money, and access of Jacob's Creek.
We start with the 2014 pinot grigio. That varietal has become a sort of joke, known as the wine for people who don't really want to drink wine. However, at the digital tasting, there was this exchange: "The consensus of my group is yum." Jordan replied, "Good. I strive for yum." At 12.8% alcohol it's a mild yum, but it has enough pear and citrus flavors and even better, a richness. Jordan says, "I'm fascinated by texture, how wine moves across the palate." This pinot grigio moves easily, and makes for a fine aperitif. The far-flung digital tasters especially enjoyed it with some Port Salut cheese.
Hickin stressed how the Two Lands 2014 Chardonnay signaled something different for Australia. "We used to produce very oaky, high alcohol chardonnay," Hickin asserted, "but Two Lands is a much more natural approach with fruit from colder regions and a better balance of fruit and oak." Indeed, the wine has a plush mouthfeel to start, but leaves you with its acid grip to finish, asking for you to drink it with dinner (they suggest a smoked chicken with a hazelnut and quinoa salad). This wine also led to a chat about native yeasts and stuck fermentation worries, as if to prove wine geeks can geek out virtually, across continents. Be forewarned.
It might be a hint of something that we next tasted the cabernet sauvignon before the shiraz. Keeping up the low alcohol theme, the cab "weighs in" at a mere 13.9%, but the goal was to make something approachable and food friendly, or as Jordan put it, "A cabernet that tastes like a cabernet. We got away from the varietal in the U.S. and a lot of people just make big red wines." (I maybe should have written that "Big Red Wines.") In addition to the usual deep red fruit, there's a cassis characteristic and, what else from Australia, but some minty eucalyptus.
Finally we got to the the shiraz, which Jordan pronounced as if he'd been Down Under long enough to go native. This varietal, as Hickin pointed out, is the Aussie signature grape, and the Two Lands doesn't disappoint -- Jordan hailed it as "fleshy and mouth-filling."
It's clear Ehren Jordan is jonesing to work on this collaboration, for he claimed, "The experimentation on the Jacob's Creek side is amazing, their spirit of curiosity." And while there aren't current plans to expand beyond these four wines, Jordan said he might like to play with Riesling or his old fave, and another Aussie stalwart, zinfandel.
That's delicious-sounding in both real and virtual worlds.