How The Cigar Got Its Name

2.02pm , Midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Hiding out in the PR gals’ room until the hotel has mine ready, I thought I’d catch up on a very long day in Wisconsin yesterday. We drove interstate from Chicago, crossed the state line from Illinois into “America’s Dairyland” to visit retailers in and around Milwaukee – then went out to the sticks to Gennessee Depot  to do a wine dinner with The Union House Restaurant.

First stop was to see Rick at Ray’s Liquor, who has been a solid supporter of ours for a long time, and show him and the team our new Barossa Eden wines and the new Coonawarra Cabernet The Cigar. That name always starts a conversation, as there’s a much more established cigar culture in the US than at home, and I always enjoy telling the story that follows the question “Why is it called The Cigar?”

Here’s the thing. Coonawarra is about 5 hours drive south of the Barossa, and it is a really special spot to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a lot cooler than the Barossa and sits on a geological hot spot for Cabernet that has been tagged “the terra rossa cigar” in Australia forever. It’s a north-south lying skinny strip of limestone ridge covered with 2 – 3 feet of ferric red dirt. That’s where the “cigar” term comes from, but how did it get there? Back in the dinosaur times, as the water was receding off our continent to shape Australia’s coastline, this cigar-shaped limestone ridge was formed because this was where the beach was – for about 300 years. Now, the coastline is about 30 miles further out, but this limestone ridge covered with red dirt remains and has been planted out to mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.

The typical characteristics that you see from Cabernet grown on the terra rossa cigar are mint eucalypt, blackcurrant or creme de cassis, mushroomy earth with a long and reasonably lean palate over predominantly French oak. There you have it – that’s why we’ve called our wine Yalumba The Cigar Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ray’s is in a nice old school area, and the bar next door had an ancient Schlitz Beer neon sign, which immediately triggered all the memory lane Laverne & Shirley stuff for me – from when I used to watch the TV show way back in the dark ages, yep back in high school. For those of you who missed out – have a look! It was based in Milwaukee and best friends Laverne Di Fazio and Shirley Feeney were bottlecappers at the ficticious Shotz Brewery – just a great show that’s still worth watching this far down the track.

Further into Milwaukee and we caught up with Ben at the Waterford Wine Company on East Brady Street. Here, we thought we’d show the Single Site shirazes and how they illustrate the French concept of terroir working in our Barossa world, and we compared and contrasted the FDR (Fine Dry Red)1A Cabernet Shiraz blend wines from both the 1999 and 2004 vintages. We’ve kept the 1999 FDR1A wine under wraps and just released it this year to coincide with the winery’s birthday on November 17th – yes! Next month! Lovely stuff, this cabernet shiraz as it cools down, stretches out and settles into this licorice over tobacco with velvety fruit. It showed so well at lunch that we decided to add it in to our dinner that evening – as an extra treat to thank the Union House folks for their support. So it was “see you sometime next year, Ben” – we’ve decided to do an Australian masterclass that repeats the tasting we did today – but for customers of the Waterford Wine Company. Good event to put in the calendar. (And thanks for the tip – we went to Katie’s Diner for a late lunch, and it could have been the inspiration for the “Happy Days” TV show by itself)

Have to go – the front desk just told me that the room is ready. I have to hang the sharp threads up and polish the shoes – off later this evening to pour our wines at the Grand Tasting for the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience.

I’ll be back.

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