The Elderton Ashmead Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Barossa Valley
Compared to 2006 vintage, The Elderton Ashmead Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 was from a remarkably cool vintage, meaning really that some Barossa Valley producers had to battle to gain ripeness. Elderton won the battle, and this 2004 Cabernet shows balance between herbal notes and sweet blackberry fruit. The 2004 has plenty of cedary, vanilla-laden aromas burst from the glass but it is Even more balanced than the more oaky 2006 by crisp cassis flavors that turn chocolaty on the finish, where they also pick up a hint of tobacco. The 2004 is, in our views, slightly better than the 2006.
James Hallliday opines that the 2004 is “Multiple layers of fruit and French oak; blackcurrant, spice, dark chocolate and mocha; serious wine." Campbell Mattinson in Water Front says, "It’s the kind of wine that you can’t stop drinking – pour a glass and before you know it, you’ve poured yourself three. It’s smooth, chocolatey, black and slinky, the perfume of it and the flavour of it rushing at you like a longed-for reunion. Dark plums, dark berries, red earth and caramel, the lot mixed together into an easy-to-drink powerhouse." Awarding it 92 points, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar writes,"Deep ruby. Sweetly perfumed aromas of blackberry, candied plum, blueberry, vanilla and oak spices. Concentrated and lush, showing dense dark berry fruit and suave baking spice accents. The sweet dark berry flavors build and expand through the finish, which boasts excellent precision and depth and an echoing vanilla note. There's a good whack of oak here but it's in harmony with the wine's suave, velvety fruit tones." 91 points Wine Spectator reviews with a different angle and says that this as a bigger wine which ripens faster, write the 2004 is "Ripe and aromatic, this is a big wine, with fine tannins and definite oak character, but also plenty of black cherry, blackberry, tomato and bay leaf flavors shouldering past it and expanding through the long, expressive finish. Best from 2009 through 2016.” Awarded the 2004 with a mere 91 points, Robert Parker obviously likes the 2006 better and says, "There was no 2003 produced, but the backward, primary 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Ashmead is loaded with potential. Its inky/ruby/purple hue is followed by aromas of vanilla, barbecue smoke, roasted meats, creme de cassis, and new leather. This dense, rich, powerful effort requires 3-4 years of bottle age, and should last for 15-20 years." (10/06) 92 points Wine Enthusiast: "...plenty of cedary, vanilla-laden aromas burst from the glass. But they’re well balanced by crisp cassis flavors that turn chocolaty on the finish, where they also pick up a hint of tobacco. Delicious now, but it should drink well until at least 2014."
Regardless of the stylistic differences between the 2004 and the 2006, the Elderton Estate is not unfamiliar with premium Cabernets, having won more than 8 trophies for this varietal including the 1993 Jimmy Watson Trophy’ from the notes of the official website, is indeed an understandment. We believe for 2004, the JH95 and Water Front 95 cannot do full justice to the beauty of the wine. We thought the best support to this visionary Cabernet is to buy 6 bottles and try them out.
The Elderton Ashmead land has consistently produced small parcels of excellent quality fruit. These 2 blocks are believed to be housing the oldest plantings anywhere in the world, certainly older than most in the Napa Valley and Bordeaux.
In 1997 the family, we were told, sat down to discuss the viability of these 2 Cabernet block planted in 1944, as it was questionable at best. However, the saving grace was simply the pure brilliance of the fruit. It was, and is, always the standout Cabernet block on the property. The decision was therefore taken to reward the excellence of the single sites from the 1998 vintage, with a single vineyard release, named the 'Ashmead'( a kind of bee as far as we know). The concept was, and still is, to take all time and cost pressures out of winemaking. The Ashmead family wanted to show the world that Australia, the Barossa and certainly Elderton, can produce a world renowned and distinguished Cabernet Sauvignon.
Yields are always naturally low; always less than a tonne an acre, and more often as low as half a tonne per acre. Vine spacing is 1.5 m with row width 3m East to West Row direction points to higher time and cost investments which made better fruit possible; double trellising for more a riper Cabernet Sauvignon; alluvial terra rosa type limestone suggests lots of terroir characters. The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Ashmead is a single vineyard selection aged for 18 months in new French 300-liter barrels (aka hogsheads)-a mix of new French Oak Hogsheads from about 8 different coopers-for even more spectrumed tastes.