Author mug By The Glass

Roberto Viernes

Kirralaa wines
a star value

Yes, a wealth of new wineries and wines are popping up in Hawaii's market. Many are soul-less wines manufactured by committee and molded into what the makers feel is fashionable, or at least acceptable, to the public palate. But on rare occasion, a new winery releases some palate-opening, impressive wines. The new Kirralaa (KEERA-lah) wines from Australia break the mold of all those cookie-cutter wines.

Kirralaa means "star" in Aboriginal Australian. These wines are new, but their roots are quite old, in more ways than one. The Kirralaa Winery is a joint project of Rosemount Estate and Robert Mondavi, both pioneer companies in their respective countries and leaders in the industry.

Their winemaking team reads like a winemaking Hall of Fame list, with Tim Mondavi, Philip Shaw and Ian Shepherd (combined wine-making experience of more than 60 years) spearheading the effort to make high-quality wines from the classic growing regions of Australia.

These wines also come from old vines, which increase the intensity of flavor and complexity in any wine. A large proportion of the vineyards from which Kirralaa wines are made come from parcels more than 50 years old. In order to create even better flavor concentration and character, grape yields have been kept to a very low 2 to 3 tons per acre. (Run-of-the-mill Australian producers yield around 8 tons per acre). I would expect to pay more than the retail price of $15.99 per bottle for wines of this quality and pedigree.

Kirralaa makes four varietals. The chardonnay is a blend of grapes from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and Adelaide in South Australia. The wine has a BIG aroma of tropical buttery fruit, pineapple, mango and sweet apricots. It drinks easily with a very round mouthfeel and a long aftertaste of vanillin. I would have this wine with roasted herbed chicken, baked pork chops with gravy and even baked white fish with a buttery sauce.

The merlot comes mostly from Coonawara, which is famous for "terra rossa," or red earth soils that comprise a shallow layer of red clay and loam over limestone subsoil. This combination is particularly excellent for growing merlot, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. Kirralaa merlot has a dollop of cabernet sauvignon to provide even more complexity. This wine has a very intriguing note of eucalyptus in the aroma profile, along with tons of plum and cassis. The wine has plenty of blackberry fruit and structure from American and French oak aging. Roasted stuffed pork loin or red wine-braised shortribs would be a perfect pair.

Cabernet lovers, you'll flip for Kirralaa's 100 percent cabernet sauvignon from McClaren Vale in South Australia. This wine is full, rich and intense, with aromas and flavors of blackberry jam, sweet spices and vanilla. What better pair can you have than a simple tri-tip steak seasoned with garlic salt, grilled to perfection on the hibachi?

Finally, what could be more Australian than shiraz? Kirralaa Bushvine Shiraz is shockingly good. It comes from parcels of vines that are up to 100 years old and has the intensity and ripeness of wines twice the price. It smells like blueberry and plum pie, absolutely delicious. For this wine I would do a beautiful leg of lamb or osso bucco, something rich enough to stand up to such a bold wine.

You should be able to find these wines at your local grocer. You won't have to search very hard to find this "star" of a value.

Roberto Viernes is wine educator for Southern Wine and Spirits.

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