While it is not a hard and fast rule, usually when I highlight a winery and its wines, I have visited the property or at least met with the winemaker at some point. That does not apply today. Not only have I not met the mother-daughter duo of Kim and Margo Longbottom, nor have I ever visited the winery which makes wines from both the McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills AVAs in South Australia. In fact, I have never been to Australia.
This does mark the third vintage of wines that I have tried from the Vintage Longbottom, so I do feel a bit of familiarity with the brand. Their story is pretty compelling: Kim and husband Mark, natives of New Zealand, planted their first vines in the early 1990s, releasing their first wines in 1998, the same year that their daughter Margo was born. A decade later, Mark tragically died, but Kim carried on, continuing to develop their dream. Now, Margo has joined her mom to be an integral part of the family business moving forward.
At some point, I am hopeful to meet the dynamic pair, but for now, I am perfectly content to keep trying their stellar wines.
2021 Henry’s Drive Sauvignon Blanc H, Adelaide Hills, Australia: Retail $25. Under screw cap. I have stated countless times that Sauvignon Blanc is not my favorite variety, in fact far from it, but I tend to drink a ton of it. The variety typically has great fruit and acidity, often has quite a bit of minerality, and relatively low alcohol. This Aussie version possesses all those characteristics and the added grassy element often associated with the Adelaide Hills (but far from the more aggressive New Zealand style) and the characteristic tree and tropical fruit. Quite tart and refreshing, this classic SB from the Longbottom family really delivers. Excellent. 91 Points.
2020 Henry’s Drive Syrah H, Adelaide Hills, Australia: Retail $25. Under screw cap. 100% Syrah. I have read that the Longbottoms, makers of Henry’s Drive wines, use “Syrah” (instead of “Shiraz”) in their “H” line to indicate that the wines are made in a more reserved, Old World style (instead of the overly-ripe Australian style). Well, this wine is certainly fruity, but I can see how it is more in line with what the average American consumer might be expecting from the variety. Red and black brambly fruit along with a healthy dose of spice are present on both the nose and the palate with zingy acidity and an above-average finish. This is quite nice and for around $20? Excellent. 91 Points.
2020 Henry’s Drive Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre, McLaren Vale, Australia: Retail $50. Under screw cap. 60% Shiraz, 23% Grenache, 17% Mourvèdre. Ah, the GSM blend, perhaps the most popular three-grape blending combination in the world, is found on every wine-producing continent. So there must be something to it. Well, there is certainly something to this wine with dark and peppery fruit, a touch of basil, and even some strawberry Twizzlers. The palate is balanced and nuanced but also bold and hefty. This wine would certainly welcome a Texas-sized ribeye, but it would also be perfectly content with an afternoon football game. Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2020 Henry’s Drive Shiraz/Cabernet: Retail $50. 55% Shiraz, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon. Under screw cap. Wonderful ruby color in the glass with much more of a red berry fruit profile than the other wines from Longbottom line that I have tried today. Wild cherry is at the forefront (OK, it might be black cherry), with a decided Christmas-spice vibe going on as well. The palate is subtle initially (again, at least in this lineup), but the fruit and spice come rushing in on the mid-palate, followed by a near intense tartness. While the blend is not all that common in the U.S., based on this wine, it probably should be. Excellent. 91 Points.
2020 Henry’s Drive Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia: Retail $50. 100% Shiraz. Under screw cap. Rather dark in the glass with lovely red and black fruit aromas (black cherry, raspberry, cassis, plum), paired with some spice and just the slightest hint of basil and mint. Yum. The palate is simply delicious: the fruit runs the roost as the acidity tries (and succeeds) to keep up. It is not a one-trick pony, however, as there is plenty of the spice that one would expect from a Shiraz on the mid-palate. I have tasted through the Henry’s Drive wines from Longbottom for a few vintages now and I have to say that this is the most impressive lot thus far. Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 Henry’s Drive Shiraz Magnus, McLaren Vale, Australia: Retail $80. Big. Ass. Bottle. Under screw cap. 100% Shiraz. Quite dark in the glass, almost inky, with equally dark fruit aromas: blackberry, cassis, plum. Add in considerable spice with black pepper, cardamom, and oregano; there is quite a lot going on even before the first sip. Impressive right from that first taste as there is a ton of fruit, but it is in no way overblown. It is a powerful wine, though, with plenty of weight (I am not talking about the ridiculously heavy bottle here), and a particularly intense mélange of fruit and spice on the mid-palate. Whoa. I can count on one hand the number of Australian Shiraz wines that have impressed me more than this one. Outstanding. 94 Points.