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McLaren Vale newcomer releases first vintage after 20 year journey
Brash Higgins Wine Co. has released its first vintage of site-specific wines: 2009 Brash Higgins “SHZ” Shiraz and 2009 Brash Higgins “CBSV” Cabernet Sauvignon from their Omensetter Vineyard in McLaren Vale.
The road bringing Brash Higgins Wine Co. creator and vinitor Brad Hickey to the rich terroir of his Omensetter Vineyard winds through 20 years of experience in food and wine, including a decade as head sommelier at New York City’s top Michelin-starred restaurants and a further 10 years of baking, brewing and travelling to the top wine regions of the world – before finally settling in 2007 for a new chapter in South Australia.
The name ‘Brash Higgins’ came about from a nickname swiftly bestowed by Aussie friends on the newly arrived New Yorker, 'Brash'. The addition of the sonorous surname 'Higgins' completed the alias he used to keep him off the authorities' radar long enough to prune the season and to fall in love with McLaren Vale, and, ultimately, with Nicole Thorpe of Thorpe Wines, now his partner. The odyssey became a special kind of love story.
The fruit for the Brash Higgins SHZ and CBSV is 100% sourced from Brad’s recently renamed Omensetter Vineyard in the heart of McLaren Vale, situated on seven hectares of red-brown clay over limestone with an eastern sloping aspect, offering grand views to the Willunga Escarpment and to the Gulf of St. Vincent. Four hectares are given over to shiraz (clones BVRC 12 and 32) and two to cabernet sauvignon (Reynella clone).
Sicilian red variety nero d’avola (clone Matura 1 grafted to own rootstock shiraz) makes up the final hectare of the vineyard. The first harvest of nero d’avola is maturing, in line with traditional practice, in five 200 litre clay amphoras (hand created by a local master potter) and is due for release in 2012. A small grenache/mataro co-ferment, from two new sites, is set for release next year, as well.
Brad has been producing wine since 2007, collaborating with winemaker Tim Geddes and viticulturist Peter Bolte for the past five harvests to develop the Brash Higgins label.
Brash Higgins 2009 ‘SHZ’ Shiraz
Only 305 cases of this wine were made from 100% shiraz grown at the Omensetter Vineyard. Vinted from hand selected fruit, the grapes were basket pressed and matured for two years in fine French hogsheads (70% new, 25% two year and 5% one year) before bottling.
“A luminous aubergine in colour, the nose of the Brash 09 SHZ has black plums, blood orange zest, lavender florals, nutmeg and white pepper, and a sweet earthy note that is typical from the red clays of the vineyard. The palate is generous, well-balanced and smooth, the tannins integrated, and the finish long with complex, interweaving berry and spice notes.” - Vinitor Brad Hickey, 01 May 2011.
Brash Higgins SHZ 2009 was chosen as part of McLaren Vale Scarce Earth, a project to celebrate single block shiraz from the region, wines which reflect a sense of place and express their true fruit character.
Brash Higgins 2009 ‘CBSV’ Cabernet Sauvignon
Like its SHZ sibling, 100% of the fruit for the 2009 CBSV was handpicked at the Omensetter Vineyard. After spending 14 days in open fermenters and being gently hand plunged, the grapes were basket pressed before undergoing malolactic fermentation. The juice was then laid down in French oak hogsheads for 23 months prior to bottling, producing a very limited parcel of 116 cases.
“The nose is floral, reminiscent of passing a star jasmine vine on a summer's night, with spicy notes of crushed caraway seeds, Earl Grey tea, freshly pressed linen and plump Seattle blackberries lurking underneath. On the palate the wine is smooth and rich with the sweet earthiness of roasted root vegetables, the acidity of cranberry and the dark lusciousness of cassis and black currants; all notes indicative of a warm, dry year. Still, the tannins are layered and finish dry, pulling the tongue in then releasing it with the slingshot effect of entering CBSV hyper-space.”
The Brash Higgins/ Brad Hickey Story
In his current life Brad Hickey is a vinitor, a term he pulled from antiquity to describe his dual role as both the vigneron and managing director for Brash Higgins Wine Co. He is man with a compelling history steeped in two decades of food, wine and travel.
In 1989, after completing an unusual double university degree in English Literature and Botany, Brad left his hometown of Chicago for Paris, France to make the world his wilderness. There he quickly learnt that soaking up the language, wine and fine French sauces doesn’t come cheap. He funded these pursuits and a burgeoning wanderlust by going straight to the source – working in restaurants and vineyards.
Upon his return to the US Brad moved to Portland, Oregon to tap into botanical interests developed abroad by designing landscapes, baking bread, and brewing beer. The lure of the great international city that is New York loomed large, and in 1996 he decided to make the fateful cross country drive eastward without a job and little money.
As an aspiring writer in New York City, he found a remedy to his writers block – composing wine lists. By the time Brad left New York City ten years later he held the title of the first American sommelier to work under French culinary genius Daniel Boulud, at Cafe Boulud, and had held the role of wine director and head sommelier at world renowned chef David Bouley’s two Michelin-starred restaurants.
In late 2006 Brad was invited by Chris Ringland to work vintage in South Australia so he broke with New York City’s fine dining scene and relocated to McLaren Vale in early 2007. Little did he know that he’d permanently move to the area to create his own piece of McLaren Vale history – and so, many years and miles from where the journey started, Brash Higgins the wine label was born.
Brash Higgins wines are available for sale online at www.BrashHiggins.com
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