Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stuart Anderson

Mount Macedon. To me, the best place in Australia to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is also the place where the great Stuart Anderson decided to call it a day. You see Stuart Anderson started making wine in Bendigo with his label ‘Balgownie Estate’ on a 75 hectare site at Maiden Gully in 1967 with plantings of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay coming a bit later.

The resulting Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon became an instant hit with legend status putting cool climate viticulture in the minds, and glasses of everyday Aussies. Like the Cabernet, Balgownie's earthy and complex Hermitage (Shiraz in Australia since 1990) was at least a decade ahead of its time. Furthermore, Balgownie's Chardonnay and Pinot Noir exceeded the most optimistic expectations. In 1985 he received an impossible-to-refuse offer from Mildara Blass to purchase the property I reckon they just backed a Holden ute up to his door and threw him the keys – the keys to a ute with a boot for of cash, but that would just be speculation wouldn’t it.

It is his time in the Macedon Ranges that has led me to meet Stuart, where he has been helping out the likes of Alex Epis from Epis Wines, Michael and Bill Dhillon from Bindi and David Ell at Mount Gisborne Wines.

Anderson's approach in wine making is evident in the minimalist style seen in Burgundy, with the wine ultimately gaining its characteristic in the vineyard which see's them all benefiting from the terroir of the cool climate; no over-ripe fruit with few getting over 13% alcohol. This will lead to a wine which will not give away too much in their youth except for natural acidity and the promise of a long stay in the bottle.

There is no reason for writing about Stuart Anderson, but he is a massive reason why Mount Macedon wines are where they are today.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bindi Composition Pinot Noir 2006

Have I told you how much I love this wine. As I have stated in an ealier a post, the one true thing I love about this job is seeing a heap of wines. Then every so often a customer will ask me aboout Bindi, because when diners ask for my suggestion, if I say Bindi all the time, I would sell out in a week, so I try not to push it so much.
Tonight an American couple asked me about the Bindi Composition ansd I couldn't lie. I told them of my affinity with the label and vineyard and that the wine is, well, the wine is yum; they had two bottles!!
So about the wine; the colour is a little like a cherry ripe colour - pinkish-reddish-brickish. The nose is all spice, cinnamon and Turkish delight. In the mouth the spice hits straight away followed by firm acid, definately a food wine. After this there is a long clean musk hit that is ever so soft. Just beautiful.

Drink till 2017
Eat with slow braised rabbit or beef carpaccio

Kennedy Point Syrah 2004 Waiheke Island, New Zealand

New Zealand doesn’t just make Savvy Blanc people. They make a hell of a lot (in Kiwi years) of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and a little bit of Chardy. Now we know this, but it is a surprise to a lot of people, including some ‘angry people’ out there – you know who you are – that the Kiwi’s make really good Syrah, or Shiraz as we know – that really big red wine from Barossa hey bro.
Now being serious, I really do love the Syrah coming out of NZ. It’s the type of Shiraz, Syrah, which I would sit down to with a meal. Syrah is primarily grown in the north island, and saying that, north of Hawkes Bay up to Auckland.
Kennedy Point is located on Waiheke Island, about a 30 minute ferry ride from Auckland. With about 6 hectares of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, Neil Kunimura and his team are producing some real classy wines. Like any good grape grower and/or winemaker, these guys are taking advantage of some great terroir, or in other words growing the right fruit in the right area. The vineyards are located on the south side of the island, where they are sheltered from the battering winds from the north shore.
This wine has great, deep colour – ox blood if you will. At 13.5% alcohol, I am tipping this wine spent at least 20 days on skins to get colour like this. The nose is quite green, with eucalypt coming in quite soft, but nothing else. It all takes shape in the mouth with blueberries being predominate, and sour morello cherries at the back holding the acid in check – and boy is there acid. It gets quite grainy at the back end also, so this wine may need to be decanted off of sediment in later years.

This is a great little wine that still has plenty of kick. Drink till 2015.
Eat with game, something like a partridge, pheasant pie.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dr. Max Lake - Wine Icon

And so the legends pass....

Last Friday saw the passing of one of Australias wine legends, Dr. Max Lake. Max started up Hunter Valleys most recognised labels Lake’s Folly way back in 1963, and was the creator of ‘The Aussie Blend’; Cabernets, Shiraz, Merlot, and other Bordeaux blends.
I was fortunate to meet max while I was working at Como Wines. Max loved nothing more than sharing his views about two of the loves of his life – food and wine, and the pleasure that these two flavours derive.
In Max’s ‘Food and Wine Flavour’, he opens with ‘Life is dull and grey without the pleasures of the shared table.’ How true this is.
Here’s cheers to you Max!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tarrington Cuvee Emilie Pinot Noir 2004

I first came across this wine at a friend’s wedding (Chris Tarrington –not related to the label) back in 2002. You see Chris isn’t short of a dollar, so for the reception, we had Tarrington Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. My relationship with the wine lasted, Chris’s marriage sadly did not.
Tarrington Vineyard is located in Tarrington in western Victoria of all places, just east of Hamilton. First planted in 1993 with small amounts of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this winery has consistently produced wine that in very good vintages is easily passed as Burgundy. The vineyard is close planted with up to 8170 vines per hectare, spacings of effectively 1m x 1.2m. This is important to the quality of the finished product, but that can wait for another blog.
The approach in winemaking is very old school, with the Chardonnay seeing no oak and staying on lees for the entire nine months of maturity.
So, to this wine.
The colour is quite deep, very deep for a Pinot Noir. The nose is very spicey with cinnamon really coming on strong. In the mouth, like the nose, is full of spice with game and bacon fat opening up the longer in the glass; only good Pinot can do this. By the end of the wine, the hue was fading quite a bit, telling me that the wine is in its the home stretch.
All in all, sexy stuff this one.
Eat with rare to medium rare beef, and yes, duck.
Drink till 2012

The wonderful world of the Degustation

degust - to taste or savour carefully or appreciatively.

The Degustation (aka dego); the most pure and beautiful way to eat and drink wonderful food and wine. I’ve said it all. There’s is no real point in writing any more in this blog really, but that would be remiss of me wouldn’t it now?
The true form of the ‘dego’ was introduced to me when I was a sommelier at ‘Vue du monde’ four years ago. Here I would contend with up to eight tables over a service and match wine with their minimum five course dego. Now one table or two sounds pretty easy but when you have seven or eight of the mongrels at the same time, it doesn’t seem so wonderful. But it’s not what I have to go through, it is what the diner, YOU, gets out of it.
As the definition says - to taste or savour - this is what it is all about. The whole idea about getting the right food and wine match is pure sensory bliss – fair dinkum it is!!
You see, degos are designed to take the worry out of deciding what to order. Let’s face it, how many times have you sat there pondering what to have, only to be half way through your meal and wishing you ordered the duck and not the lamb. Same goes for wine – some wine lists out there are like compendiums. My partner Erin used to be a ‘wine list widow’ when we would go out. These days it’s straight to the Burgundy or Barolo page, and if that’s too hard, it’s a bottle of Bindi.
So the plates come out one at a time and the appropriate wine served. Appropriate, you ask? Now food and wine matching for me is all about balance between the flavours on the plate and the glass – simple. But there is a lot more to it than that. A lot of diners expect to have lighter wines early then slowly ascending in body and texture, and obviously going from white to red. Au contraire I say to you!! As I stated before, it is all about balance.
One of the current dishes I am matching is a dish that has abalone and oyster with a duck consommé. This dish offers two real distinct flavour profiles and when you have flavours that are not true, as in predictable to one style of wine, the only option is to offer two styles of wine for the one dish; Champagne with the abalone and oyster and Madeira ‘Bual’ with the consommé. It works – simple. It works!!! The balance between these two flavour profiles on the plate and in the glass is stunning and succinct – they are wonderful I tell you.
The definition above states, ‘to taste or savour carefully or appreciatively.’ With this in mind, when you go for the dego option you must also go for the wine dego option. Now I know a lot of you love your Marlborough Savvy and Barossa Shitaz .... I mean Shiraz ... but these wines are not always the best partner for degos. Though I stated before that the dego does not have to start with the lighter style of wine, traditionally a dego does start with delicate, light flavours and slowly builds up to the final savoury course with rich, textured flavours. In most cases the same should go with the wine.
Now I am not saying that you have an entire glass of wine with each course, rather you should have just enough to complement the flavour on the plate. I also believe you should have no more than about 90mL of wine with each course – degos have been known to go up to 19 courses, so be careful.
If you do decide to go with the bottle option I would suggest choosing two – a white and a red. For a white perhaps a Chardonnay, new or old world, that has not got a lot of oak and not been through 100% MLF (malo-lactic fermentation – the secondary fermentation to dull some of the acid in wine) or a Pinot Gris, something with a bit of mouth feel and not too thin. For a red I would go for a Pinot Noir, once again new or old world, or a cool climate Shiraz, something from, say, Geelong, NZ or the Canberra district.
So next time you go out and there is a dego available, give it a go. Spend some quality time with your partner, rather than with the menu and wine list.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999

Now there are a lot of wine critics/reviewers out there, and I guess by doing this blog and having my say on the stuff, I am sought of one as well. The one thing I do not want to be is judgemental and picky.
Now there is a certain reviewer out there who shares the same surname as a 'lubbly jubbly' celebrity chef. There are quite a few reviews from this fellow (yes, he is a man) that focus on the faults or weaknesses of the wine; thats just the wrong angle I reckon and that isn't kosher (no pork products were harmed during the writing of this blog).
I managed to scour the net and came across his review for the Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999 and was quite taken-a-back with his language, '... weedy and stalky, this wine leaves a rather hollow, unpleasant feeling', and, '... expectations were high but disappointment was ultimately felt.'
Unpleasant, Disappointment. These are words that I would use if I were in an elevator and someone had an emergency bowel movement, this is unpleasant; and I would be disappointed if my daughter came home and said school holidays have come early dad - I've got a week's suspension.
Too much lateral thought goes in to what you see, smell and taste in the glass.
Me, I love this wine. Since 2005 I have been helping out up at Bindi. Most of this was between 2005 - 2007 while I was finishing my Viticulture degree; mostly during term breaks and days when I would just blag class. I was able to learn so much about the wine process through Michael Dhillon, who really just emphasised to me that 99% of the work happens out in the vineyard; which leaves 1% cleaning out tanks and barrels, packaging wine and giggling along to 'Tenacious D' - it's a Kodak moment.
So on to the wine. The colour is going a bit, with a little brick red coming through, but more like faded rose. The nose is just sexy; a bit of rose then a smack of toffee. In the mouth this wine flows between game then toffee then musk then just pure delight. When you think its done, a little touch of acid comes along to remind you that its still got a little bit left in the tank - ripper stuff this one.
So, I have decided that I will not rate Bindi wines because of my involvement and affinity to the stuff, but will just say that the 14/20 this wine scored is a bit way off - maybe he just doesn't get what this wine is all about.

Drink now till 2012.

Eat with slow roasted pork!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Worthy of a Celebration

We all celebrate in our own little ways. In 1999 an old friend, Conner, jumped off the King Edward VIII Pier in Douglas on The Isle of Man screaming, ‘Free at last’; he had just got his divorce through. Again in 1999, Tihab, a mad Manchester United fan celebrated the treble by shouting the punters at ‘The Cow’ in Westbourne Grove, London, Guinness and oysters for a half an hour – he later said it cost him about £600, and in hindsight shouldn’t of bought everyone oysters that would later have many of us hugging the porcelain in our respective bathrooms.
Yes, we all love a celebration. So my mode of celebrating you may be asking - Champagne; real Champagne, not sparkling wine. This is not to say I do not like sparkling wine, on the contrary – Australia producers some great fizz like Bay of Fires Arras and Bindi from the Macedon Ranges. But I digress; this is about Champagne.
Ever since the friar Dom Perignon discovered bubbles in the wine at the Hautvilliers abbey and shouted to his brothers, ‘... come quick my brothers, there are stars in the wine’, Champagne has been the most sought after wine coming out of France.
Since the eighteenth century, with the exception of Napoleon Bonaparte who was a mad Bordeaux fan, every head of state for France, be it Emperor or President, has celebrated their coming to power with Champagne. The most famous being Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte where he celebrated becoming the first President of the Republic of France in 1848 with a four day Champagne fest which included an impressive 400 bottles of the then fledgling winery, Krug.
I couldn’t imagine drinking anything else to mark a celebration. When Erin gave birth to Imogen in 2005, we celebrated with Dom Perignon 1990 in the hospital. This was a great wine that displayed lovely biscuity leesy notes on the nose with a gorgeous citrus explosion in the mouth. You see, this is what I got out of the wine; Erin was still a bit knackered from the whole birthing experience. This child we did it right; we waited till we got home, shipped child number 1 off to the grandparents, settled in and breathed in the quiet; that’s when we opened the Krug 1998.
This was a great moment. I love opening up great wines and this was one of them. The colour was straw yellow. On the nose there was a real freshness of toast, roasted nuts and a great hit of bready yeasty characteristics coming through. In the mouth there was gorgeous lemon, almost like a preserved/dried lemon feel – it was long with gentle acid washing the middle palate and finally more of that preserved/dried lemon taste.
Just an amazing wine really. Drink with tuna sashimi or freshly shucked oysters.
Drink till 2028+

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cooking with the kids is more than just green eggs and ham

I have always loved rolling my sleeves up in the kitchen and slaving over the stove cooking all manner of feasts; be it côte de boeuf or fairy bread, and it is the latter style of meal that gives me the greatest pleasure because my four year old daughter gets to help out.
Ever since Imogen was about two and a half she has stood by me on her little step and watched me cry while cutting onions to her current role of turning the handle on the pasta roller. As she has got older, her responsibilities have been growing, from peeling garlic, spreading the sauce on the pizza bases, picking rosemary leaves and grating parmesan for pasta dishes. From such little steps, she has developed her confidence so much that she will now warn me that the bacon I am reducing in a pan will soon be dry and start burning.
In the kitchen I have some whiz bang gadgets such as some new Bismark knives (recent birthday pressie), Le Crouset pans and a new twisty thing that dices the onions without the tears. To keep Imogen keen my wife, over time, has bought her a couple of aprons (children do grow, you know), oven mitts, rolling pins, whisks and mixing bowls. Her most prized possession however is from this week where she received a new oil bottle; the half bottle of Chateau Margaux 1995 infused with garlic. This is an upgrade from her previous bottle that was a classic Coke 250mL – oh how they grow up before our eyes.
So really, it’s about participation. My daughter gets as close to the action as she wants and, most importantly, as I want. Yet it is Imogen who knows when to help and when not to help. She knows when something may be too hot, be it the steam from the boiling pot of water or the taste of the chilli seed. She has a keen understanding of what’s happening because she is allowed, and encouraged, to help me.
So here are some little things you can get your little one to help with:
· Peel the garlic; remove the nub so they can get it away easy, or if you are not in a hurry leave it on so they can really get a feel of it.
· Whisk eggs; this is handy when doing a carbonara, omelette or a cake.
· Kneading dough; for pizza, bread or pasta.
· Pasta making; rolling pasta and gnocchi mix.
· Mix salad; a good way for them to taste different types of leaves and other bits and pieces.
· Washing dishes; fat chance you think. If you do them, so will they.
So have fun, and keep the chilli away from their little fingers, because they will inevitably end up in their eyes and that’s no fun, and yes, I am speaking from experience.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Batard-Montrachet, Chateau Margaux and the BYO debate

The one thing I love about my job is the array of wines I get to look at and, of course, taste. Over the years I have seen some absolute crackers, with the 1959 Dom Perignon still being the highlight.
Most of these gems I must admit are from people who bring them as BYO, which was the case of the Dom Perignon. Now BYO is a touchy subject in Melbourne; to allow or not to allow? I say BYO is cool only if the wine in question is good enough to get a gig in the restaurants wine list. When diner's bring in their Eaglehawk Merlot which they just purchased 10 minutes before entering the restaurant for $10, I gently let them down and explain to them that I have worked very hard to get the wine list where it is and that their wine wouldn't even get a gig as the base for a red wine reduction - geez I'm harsh.
Yesterday one of my favourite customers gave me a call at about 10.20am and asked if he could bring in a couple of BYO bottles. Now this customer in question will usually order a half bottle of white Burgundy and a half bottle of Bordeaux with his meal - generally a 4 course dego.
This particular day, he was dining with a friend, so the wines of choice were a Batard-Montrachet Blain Gagnard 2000 white Burgundy (chardonnay) and a half bottle of Chateau Margaux 1995 (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cab franc, petit verdot). Did I accept - you bet I did. Now this guest trusts me implicitly to open and test his wines, so it was the Batard I had a look at first and it was gorgeous. To look at it, the colour had developed quite a lot to a cheese-cake yellow. On the nose, masses of custard coming through, which is what you should expect from this wine after 8 years in bottle, and a bit a honey dew melon. In the mouth the acid was still very relevant with grapefruit still hanging around - just for the hell of it it seemed. The wine just kept giving in the mouth, very long with licorice powder dancing around (geez that sounds a bit of a wank doesn't it) and then custard again; what a wine!!!
Next was the Margaux. I don't know what to write now. The mongrel was corked!! I was gutted. The owner of the wine however was shattered, absolutely shattered. He had just spent $1200 on this wine and it was screwed, and there was no chance of getting your money back because it was bought at auction - no refunds.
I guess a consolation of this was that he purchased a bottle of Bollinger NV Champagne to drown his sorrows.
One thing I haven't yet mentioned is that this guest doesn't see it necessary to drink the whole bottle of wine, so he gave me the instructions to decant half for himself and his guest and said that I could keep the wine for myself - I love this bloke. I then managed to draw the remaining half of the Batard for a few hours, tasting it at different temperatures and just really loving every mouth full; I have said this was a stunning wine right?
Now the dishes that went out with this wine were not what I would generally recommend, but I was limited with the menu at present. The meals I would have would be on the line of a crayfish bisque or a blitzed crab sauce tossed through angel hair pasta; flavours that are rich and gelatinous.

Batard-Montrachet; what a wine
drink till 2012

Chateau Margaux
drink till 2025
no rating on account of wine being knackered

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This is what a Sommelier is!!!

I have been doing this job for quite a while, probably since the late 90's, and in between I started up my own cocktail/wine bar and got myself a Bachelor of Viticultural Sciences just for the hell of it.

The principal role of a sommelier is wine purchasing, storage and list management. This, however, revolves around what type of philosophy or style the restaurant is trying to achieve with their food. This is where the sommelier works alongside the chef to develop a list that is suitable for what is leaving the kitchen pass.

Once this is known, the sommelier is responsible for overall delivery of wine service and training for the other restaurant staff (those, of course, who are not experts in everything). The sommelier is in direct contact with restaurant guests and is there to make suggestions or help them through what can sometimes be wine lists that resemble the Yellow Pages, and ultimately work within parameters of budget and personal taste.

Now sometimes the sommelier will take your wine away and taste it themselves. Don't worry, they are not going to pour themselves a glass. We do this to check for any wine spoilage that may be present such as cork taint, oxidation or brettanomyces infection. A good sommelier knows what these spoilages smell like and more often than not, the sommelier will simply pour the wine back into the bottle or decanter, unless it is something shit-hot and they will have a wee sip for themselves (I can just imagine you all sitting up in your chairs thinking, 'hang on there') - wine is yum.

During the Ancien Regime, the King's household had several sommeliers whose primary role was to receive the wine bought by the sommiers (from French meaning betes de somme, 'beasts of burden'). During the reign of Louis XIV, the sommelier was the official in charge of the transport of baggage when the court moved; don't worry, if you come to my restaurant I will not hide your bags - scouts honour.

So when you next go out for dinner and the sommelier comes over with the wine list for a chat, don't be scared to engage in conversation; we are not all wine wankers. We really just want you to have the best bottle or glass of wine with your meal, and not just Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc all the time, cos the stuff is not good for you - we all know what happened to the Marlborough man now don't we!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Surprise at the Bledisloe - Punt Road Chardonnay 2006, Yarra Valley

During the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival last month, The Point restaurant hosted the Bledisloe of wine - pitting Oz v NZ. It was a close tussle with the Australians triumphing in the end.
During the course of the night,Sparkling, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz were observed, with the Punt Road Chardonnay being the big hit of the night. The real surprise was all of the NZ winemakers claiming this chardonnay as their own. As if the Kiwis could make something this refined.
Firstly, our little bird cousins are still stuck in the era of buttery, oaky, flabby chardonnays. Here in Oz we have learnt from the mistakes of the 90's and embraced the Burgundy feel of citrus, acid and the holy grail - licorice powder; well I reckon that's the holy grail anyway.
To look at this wine you will see even yellow with straw fading slow. On the nose there is grapefruit screaming up the olfactory, with a little sherbert at the end. In the mouth there is grapefruit again, massive grapefruit. And as I said, licorice powder comes through the longer this wine sits in the glass; and the glass is important - a wine like this needs the appropriate vessel, with this appropriate vessel being a Montrachet glass, similar to a red Burgundy.
Great wine this, with plenty of juice in the tank.
Have with seafood - crayfish a given and yabbies.
now till 2012

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tete a Tete CDR 1998 Coonawarra Shiraz

Please do not think I am a Lush, but I am in a bit of a rhythmn so here goes.

I opened this wine in 2005 for the first time (still have 2 bottles left) and the colour was blood red; massive blood.

The nose was really developed; leathery and cedar coming through strong and proud. By jove it smelt good.

In the mouth it was gorgeous!! There was acid coming in strong and then... then praline, smooth praline. And just when you think it's done, ripe cherry comes pouring in.

So bloody nice

Drink with slow cooked game such as goat.

now (2009) till 2011


Stefano Lubiana 'Primavera' 2008 Pinot Noir

I have always liked this wine, and this island for that matter.

Coming from the south-side of Tassie; Granton just outside of Hobart, 2008 was a little warmer than pretty much the previous 10 vintages down there so 14% alcohol is not really surprising.

Deep colour tells me that the wine spent an extended time on skins. On the nose there is the sweet scent of 'strawberries and cream' that makes this wine appealing and really easy to drink with strawbs and cream coming through with simple firm tannins.

It's great now, period.

Drink with seared tuna and beetroot salad

now to 2011

The 1st Wine

So it is the last bottle of my (our) Jacobs Creek Steingarten 2006 Riesling from the Barossa - probably the only variety from the Barossa that will get a favourable review here.

At 12.5% alcohol, this wine was always going to age well - but we'll never know.

Straw hue from the first bottle opened has developed in to a yellow/golden tinge. Nose is prickly acid with a bit of pineapple coming through. The longer in the glass, the real Barossa Riesling comes out with trademark kero inching in.

This wine really reveals itself with food. Tonight we had chilli prawns and scallops braised in shredded curried coconut. The balance between these two was spot-on with the spice being tempered by the growing prickly acid.

it's all about balance.....
Drink with Asian food with a bit of spice

now till 2016