On Saturday, Oct. 25, the rag-tang band known as the Cellar Rats gathered at Slip 12, Dock A, in the shadows of the HMS Queen Mary’s trio of stacks in Long Beach. Present, accounted for, and ready to roll were Kirk and Ines Nyby, Jack Patterson and Nikki Tennant, Jim & Beth Hilbing, Dave Welch and Christine Votava, and your faithful scribe. We turned our vinous attentions Down Under, mostly to Australia with a few white Kiwi interlopers – not that there’s anything wrong with that! NV SEAVIEW SOUTH EAST AUSTRALIA SPARKLING WINE “BRUT” – Not much to report on this one, as few of us tasted it. The lion’s share went to Nikki who, in her own words, drank it all and was happy as a clam. Having recently explored the realm of clams up to my knees, I wonder if this is saying much. Cold, wet, and bubbly, one could do much worse. NV ENRICO MERCURI AUSTRALIAN SPARKLING WINE – No information on origin or grapes used here, maybe someone in Oz can chime in? This was interesting on the nose, and on the palate for a few seconds. It almost reminded me of an Asti spumante, but there were no familiar muscat notes on the nose. It was almost table grapey in its flavor profile. A bit cloying to be a truly attractive food wine, but it was ok with some of the nibbles we had. Our Kiwi trio steps in… 2002 GIESEN MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC – Bright aromas of lime and gooseberry (according to Ines – I have never tasted a gooseberry), not as herbaceous as the other two. 2003 NEUDORF NELSON SAUVIGNON BLANC – My favorite of the three on the night, this showed honeydew melon and bell pepper, and left the crispest finish. This was really a winner with Beth’s baked chile rellenos con queso fresco. 2002 CLOUDY BAY MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC – Nothing to see here, folks, move along. Just another pleasurable bottle that was light on the tell-tale cat’s pee note. NZed was now laying down the gauntlet to their Antipodean cousins. They responded with… 1996 MITCHELTON VICTORIA CHARDONNAY – Deep golden in the glass, it gave rise to worries about excessive oxidation. No worries, mate. Mouthwatering butterscotch and ripe banana on the nose and palate, and great supporting acids to round out the mouthfeel. This was the food/wine paring champion of the night when tried together with the grilled prawns and mango-black pepper dipping sauce. A resounding success! Advance, Australia! And from the jaws of victory, we snatch ignominious defeat. 2002 ROCKFORD BAROSSA VALLEY ALICANTE BOUSCHET ROSÉ – This was the dog of the night, flaccid and completely lacking in any interesting edge or angle. It had a banal off-dryness that might make it a popular party quaff for those not too demanding of their pinks, but we all poured it out and left a half-full bottle for the fishes. The worst part? I brought it. Fortunately, the reds swung the tide back in our favor. 2000 DEVIL’S LAIR MARGARET RIVER CABERNET SAUVIGNON – I was very happy that this was the first of a duo of WA wines we had on hand for the day, as I believe that the region offers a safe refuge from point-laden oozemonsters. Judiciously toasted oak frames dark berry and tanned leather notes, and the finish is decently long. Three of Rosemount’s top-tier wines, compared and contrasted. 1998 ROSEMOUNT MCCLAREN VALE “GSM” RED WINE – Oddly enough (or maybe not), this drank more fully developed than the Balmoral, two years older. Replete with ripe cherry fruit and a turpentine-like funk likely due to the mourvèdre, this was a hit with Ines’ chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce. Ines’ second-day impressions were that the acids were going somewhat volatile, but that it still made for an enjoyable wine. 1996 ROSEMOUNT MCCLAREN VALE “BALMORAL” SYRAH – This was the nice, slightly mousy girl you grew up next door to – give her some time, and she blossoms into a confident, sassy woman of substance. Initially, very closed, betraying a little brett and tarry aromatics. Mind you, we could still tell it was a very well-made wine. Ines’ later report confirms the truth, gorgeous dark fruit coming to the fore to match the bacon and clove secondary notes. A true vin de garde in the Australian paradigm. Ines wishes she had more; I wish I had some! 2001 ROSEMOUNT MUDGEE “HILL OF GOLD” CABERNET SAUVIGNON – I tasted this late, and only briefly, but enough to appreciate a full-bodied, generously-oaked cab with noticeable eucalyptus and mint on the midpalate, finishing with a touch of chocolate. I liked it, but on balance I preferred the Rhônish wines above. An unexpected QPR winner was one of the consensus wines of the night. 2002 FLINDERS BAY MARGARET RIVER SHIRAZ – I brought this wine, complacent nearly to a fault that this would be a laid-back, medium-bodied syrah demonstrating the difference a cooler climate makes. The wine had other ideas. Very extracted, with loud but inviting fruit, and nice dollop of toasty oak. Note to Jenise: this was Dave’s wine of the night, so that speaks volumes, but it was universally praised for different aspects. For me, the ample acidity kept it fresh on the palate, preserving a winning package retailing below US$20. Two wines highlighting the underappreciated (in these parts) enclave of Langhorne Creek. 2002 BROTHERS IN ARMS LANGHORNE CREEK “NO. 6” RED WINE – This is a 50/50 cab/shiraz blend, medium-bodied with a mild touch on the oak. While a nice drop, I didn’t find anything extraordinarily compelling beyond the basic red-fruit profile. I can’t imagine a wine shutting down this soon, so maybe there’s just no more “there” there. 2002 BLEASDALE LANGHORNE CREEK “FRANK POTTS” RED WINE – This was serious infanticide, but a pleasurable one at that, and an endorsement of further experience with this wine. A substantial wine of 78% cabernet, 13% malbec & 9% petit verdot, it shows plenty of deep plum and cherry fruit, mint and eucalyptus, and rides a structure of stiff tannins. This is another vin de garde, and finding out just how long it may go might require me to purchase a few more bottles. In its youthful size, though, it still never showed out of balance. We sipped & munched until we were the only remaining activity on A Dock, and probably for several docks around, then went our separate ways into the night. I could almost swear I heard the sing-songy strains of Waltzing Matilda in my head.