“Critter Wines” – Negociants & Hill Smith Family

I remember talking with Peter Barry, a second-generation winemaker, at Jim Barry wines when he brought up the phrase “critter wines.” We’d had a great evening and had shared many bottles together, and the gloves were off.

Clare Valley (critter wines)

The Clare Valley, home to Jim Barry Wines. Photo courtesy Jim Barry Wines.

Peter’s complaintbeing a lover of the craft of wine and being a person who puts his soul into his workwas Australia had become known for wines featuring animals on the bottle. He made his point with great emphasis that night, and he was chagrined: Australia is not just a producer of bulk-made, poorly concocted critter wines. Rather (as I came to see and still believe), Australia makes some of the world’s highest-class and most innovative wines and features a geography rich with regional diversity.

When we think of the European wine or even wine from the U.S., we immediately think about regions and statesCalifornia, Oregon, Washington etc. In regards to Europe we think of France and we talk about the Rhone, Bordeaux, Champagnebut when we talk Australia all we say is “Australia.” However, Australia’s diverse landscape can support myriad grape varietals from many different traditionsit simply just isn’t a land dominated by one barren landscape (Outback, anyone?) and one kind of wine (think kangaroo on the bottle).

Negociants is this week’s featured company and is a distribution outfit which brings Aussie wines to the U.S. market and is partnered with the Hill Smith family, owners of Yalumba Wines, the oldest family-owned winery in Australia. The family can boast over 150 years of winemaking tradition.

As with Jim Barry’s operation, you don’t last as long as the Hill Smith family without being truly invested in community. They believe in the idea that all ships rise with the tide. They are on the forefront of growing new plant materialtrying new varietal clones in different regions—and they open their winery and lab up to winemakers in the Barossa region to test their wines.

Having been fortunate to travel to the Barossa and to Clare Valley I have seen firsthand the relationships and community of winemakers that make Barossa region what it is. This region’s wines are top flight with unique terroir that can only be found in Australia. As proof of the belief there in history and heritage, some of these vineyards’ vines are over 120 years old! Old gnarly vines that have seen droughts and years of plentiful water… These vines and these winemakers have a story to share with you, and they do not produce critter wines!

Yes, I am am passionate about wines from Australia, and I am even more passionate about the people that make the wines. They are some of the most fun, generous people I have met. They love what they do and inspire us to keep pushing to find wines that stand out from the crowd.

2015 Pewsey Vale Vineyard, Eden Valley Australia
Riesling :: $18 Sale $16

This is not your everyday riesling. Bluntly, this riesling rocks. It is bone dryyes not all rieslings are sweet—with a zippy minerality. Think limes, pineapple, herbs.

High in the hills surrounding the Barossa lies Pewsey Vale, Eden Valley’s pioneer vineyard. Pewsey Vale Vineyard is the hallowed home of Riesling in Australia, and the vines can be traced back to the 1800s and the original James Busby collection of cuttings first brought to the new continent. Today Pewsey Vale Vineyard is a single vineyard dedicated to the single varietyRiesling.

The Pewsey Vale Vineyard Riesling is a classic example of dry Eden Valley Riesling, and shows the flavors we see so consistently each year from this wonderful single vineyard. The palate shows great length and depth per the description above: again, limes, a hint of pineapple, white flowers and fresh rosemary. The wine finishes with a fresh natural acidity, which balances the flavor intensity, and a minerality that will reward medium to long-term cellaring.

NV Jansz Brut Rose, Tasmania Australia
Pinot Noir :: $26 Sale $24

The name Jansz pays homage to Tasmania’s namesake, the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman who first sighted the island in 1642. In fact, when it was established in 1975, the Jansz vineyard was originally named after Tasman’s ship, the Heemskerk.

In 1986, esteemed Champagne house Louis Roederer partnered with the owners of Heemskerk Wines to produce Tasmania’s first premium-vintage sparkling wine. They saw the similarities between the climate here and the famous wine region of their homeland.

In 1997, the Hill-Smith family purchased the vineyard and began the journey that has seen Jansz Tasmania become the most highly regarded sparkling wine house in Australia.

2013 Jim Barry Lodge Hill, Clare Valley Australia
Shiraz :: $21 Sale 18

The late Jim Barry was a pioneer of the Australian wine industry. Today the company is headed by Jim’s second son Peter. Jim Barry Wines produces their estate wines from family-owned vineyards in the Clare Valley and Coonawarra. The Amragh Shiraz, with The McRae Wood Shiraz, The Benbournie Cabernet Sauvignon and the Florita Riesling, are the super-premium wines of the portfolio.

2012 Yalumba Scribbler, Barossa Australia
Shiraz/Cabernet Blend :: $25 Sale $22

Yalumba was founded in 1849 by Samuel Smith, British migrant and English brewer, who brought his family to Angaston seeking a new life. After purchasing a 30-acre parcel of land just beyond the southeastern boundary of Angaston, Smith and his son began planting the first vines by moonlight. Samuel named his patch “Yalumba”—aboriginal for “all the land around.”

For more than 160 years Australia’s oldest family-owned winery has gone about the business of doing all the little things brilliantly. This philosophy has seen Yalumba grow in size, stature and success, embodying all that has made it a great Australian wine story.

Wines will be featured through Tuesday, November 1st.



Thought we were featuring beer for our Saturday tasting? Think again! Time to change things up. This Saturday we invite Estate Brands Distributing to the store, and they are excited to bring you a wide-ranging selection of vermouths. As ever, trust us. You are not going to believe these vermouths, and the range of this what-we-think-of-as-a-mixer will be more than surprising. As further enticement: we’ll offer a few cheese pairings and, for the squeamish, there will be some drink mixing taking place! Maybe something like vermouth isn’t just for making cocktails? We insist so.

We start sippin’ and tastin’ at 4pm. Hope you can make it!

Tag your pics #pickitupatpearl so we can CHEERS! 

1st Anniversary Tasting

It’s hard to believe we’ve been open one year already! To celebrate, we’re hosting a grand tasting at DU’s School of Hospitality. We will be opening 200+ wines along with a few of our favorite whiskeys. In addition to being able to try everything, we will be offering you special event-only pricing! This is going to be a great way to pick out a few favorites for your Thanksgiving dinner or stock up for the holidays 🙂

Event Details: 
Wednesday, November 9th, 5:00-8:30pm
DU University’s Joy Burns Center
2044 E. Evans Avenue, Denver
(light appetizers also provided)

Discover why 5280 Magazine Readers and Editors voted Pearl Wine Company Denver’s BEST BOTTLE SHOP. PWC takes pride in being Denver’s best wine shop–a craft liquor specialty store. Conveniently located on South Pearl Street in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood.