Monday, November 22, 2010

Report from ... Yellow Tail Reserve Launch - November 3, 2010

The man who helped put the name [yellow tail] on the lips of every single wine drinker in the free world, John Casella, came to Toronto today to launch his family's new line of reserve wines from this iconic Australian wine producer.  [yellow tail] is not iconic in the way Penfolds Grange is iconic - it is iconic in the way McDonald's is iconic ... everybody, whether you drink wine or not, has heard or come in contact with [yellow tail].
John Casella (left) - Zoltan Szabo (right)

The first thing I found interesting was this Italian looking gentleman with an Australian accent, it's a strange aural and visual sensation - especially after coming from two Italian functions, where they look Italian and speak in broken English with an Italian accent:  November 1 and November 2.  Introduced to the room by  all-star sommelier Zoltan Szabo, John Casella brought us up to speed on his family history:

1965 - Father bought the farm
1969 - decided to start making his own wine
1990 - dad turns 70 and its decision time: close or grow
1993 - invested money into the winery for growth
1994 - 2000 tons crushed
1995 - 3500 tons crushed
1996 - invested in on-site bottling line
2000 - everything changed ... up until now they have been selling all their wine, but now there is an over supply of Australian wine.  They hire a marketing company called `Just Add Wine`, they develop the packaging and you (as the name insinuates) just add the wine to the bottle.  The Casella's end up buying three designs ... the rest, as they say, is history.  They were hoping to sell between 20,000 - 30,000 cases.  They in fact sold 1 million cases in the course of 13 months.
Currently - [yellow tail] produces 11.5 million cases of wine a year of which 80% gets sold in the U.S.

John attributes their success to `delivering quality beyond its expectation` and `giving consumers a taste they want for a lower price`, which was the winery's reasoning behind using oak chips in the making of their wine.

This new Reserve line has a 200,000 case production and uses real oak barrels, a mix of French and American for about 8 months.  The barrels are between 1 and 2 years old.

Today`s tasting was a pseudo-blind affair:  1) we knew the [yellow tail] Reserve was on the table and 2) we knew the varieties we were tasting (4 Shiraz and 4 Cabernet Sauvignon).

I`ll save you from the gory details of who [yellow tail] decided to put themselves up against, but the bottom line went something like this:

In the Shiraz line-up I scored the [yellow tail] Reserve a 3-stars out of a possible 5 and ranked it 3rd, out of 4.  This wine needed work - the nose was inviting enough, but the palate was thin, like red berry flavoured water.  The same can not be said for the [yellow tail] 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  I scored this wine a 4+ stars (out of 5) and ranked it first (out of 4); this was a lovely wine with white pepper and black raspberry aromas, with a palate that doubled the pleasant sensation found on the nose.  Sweet juicy fruit, black raspberry, chocolate, blueberry and a real palate pleasing lengthy finish - this was impressive and thoroughly enjoyable.  Dramatically different from the lacklustre Shiraz.

The tasting was followed by lunch, which took place in the back room of Buca restaurant, located on King Street in downtown Toronto.  The first course was paired with the new Reserve Chardonnay from [yellow tail] and was a poor match - the wine actually went better with the bread than it did with the pasta course it was served with ... who does one blame, the chef or the winery?  Unfortunately the chef gets the thumbs down here - though the pasta was delicious the wine should have been paired with something more appropriate.  Second course:  Beef Short Rib braised in tomato sauce, was exquisite and managed to upgrade the taste of the Shiraz (just a little) but it matched beautifully with the Cab, which lifted the level of the beef.
Beef short rib in tomato sauce

A big thanks to John Casella, who showed an especially big set of stones for allowing his wines to be showcased in this manner.

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