Monday, August 31, 2009

Season of Stout - Grand Ridge 'Hatlifter' Stout Gippsland

It still cold and rainy here in Brunswick, so it is time for another stout.

Grand Ridge ‘Hatlifter’ Stout from Mirboo North, that’s right, Mirboo North – so fun to say isn’t it, in Gippsland is one of the easiest Stouts to drink I would have to say.

Grand Ridge has been around since the late 80’s when Aussie Rules was played by men, ‘greed was good’ and so to was Bryan Adams. Re-branded after a failed brewery vacated the premises, Grand Ridge has consistently been winning awards on the global stage essentially since the first frothy came off the brewery floor.

One of the great attractions to this brewery in Mirboo North is the bar that hovers above the brewery floor. In a visit to Gippsland last year with my family we happened across the brewery (a scheduled stop actually) for some lunch and a beer or two. Well, Erin had to drive back to the holiday house cos’ at $4 a bottle for Grand Ridge at the bar, this scribe was virtually obliged to taste the entire range – except for the ‘Supershine’ which is about 13% a/v.

Although this blog is on the ‘Hatlifter’, I still think the stout was the best had on the day. Leaving Grand Ridge with us that day was a mixed case of stout, Black and Tan, Yarra Valley Gold and the Brewers Pilsener (six of each).

Anyhoo, the ‘Hatlifter’ stout. In the glass it is a brownie/black colour with a creamy coffee head. On the nose there is chocolate mousse and liquorice. In the mouth it is very smooth, very un-stout like I reckon, more ‘Newcastle Brown’ than stoutish, but stout never-the-less. But right at the end after a while in the glass, the chocolate from the nose comes and pays a visit. Super stuff this one!

Drink with BBQ Buffalo chicken wings

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Desert Island Wines on a rainy Brunswick Saturday morning....

At about 6.40am this morning, I was abruptly pulled away from my game of beach cricket with Sanath Jayasuria and Ian Healy; I do not know why these two cricketers were there, but I do know that Jayasuria is a bad sport, and for about $150 an hour someone will be able to explain the meaning of this dream. For now though, I will have to just let this one go through to the keeper you might say.

And it is now while I sitting in the kitchen looking out the back window and listening to the hum of the heater that my mind wanders back to the game of beach cricket. Not just content with the outcome of said game, I try to imagine what refreshments were available in the blurry distance, and it is here my mind again wanders further down the beach and tries to envisage what would comprise my desert island wine cellar.

Now like all good desert island wish lists, this one has a limit. I stopped it at four wines; aperitif, white, red and dessert. But four may not do the trick with the island menu changing with the seasons, so island management have allowed two of each.

So to kick it off we have two aperitifs:

Ruinart Rosé NV, Reims Champagne. Rosé is my favourite style of Champagne. There is so much to like about this wine with its big flavour, simultaneously showing restraint and elegance. The longer in the glass this wine offers subtle roundness with a lick of spice at the end. Enjoy this with oysters freshly shucked in a chilli and ginger dressing (all produce available on the island of course).
Romate Don José Oloroso, Jerez Spain. A sherry that can be either consumed sitting on the beach waiting to be rescued or with the fish stew that is bubbling away in your Swiss Family Robinson tree house. Lovely warmth and alcohol with a gamey end and the famous Oloroso mid palate disappearing trick.

I was a bit torn with my decision here. Yes I do love Chardonnay, but surely there is something else out there in white world that is befitting my island cellar. There wasn’t, so it is two Chardonnay’s, one new world, one old world.

Domaine Ramonet Montrachet, Burgundy France. You may be wondering, ‘why not the DRC Tim?’, and this is a good question, but the DRC to me is too tight and takes far too long to open up. Yes I know there isn’t much to do on the island, but the fresh whiting that is sizzling on the hot plate needs that citrus and liquorice powder straight away.
Giaconda Chardonnay, Beechworth Victoria. Australia’s King of Chardonnay – simple. To be enjoyed with braised Rockling in the cooler months when the Celsius gets down to as low as 28!!

The reds for me were a no brainer; one Pinot Noir and one Barolo.

Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir, Macedon Ranges Victoria. It was inconceivable of me not to have any Bindi in the beach cellar, and Block 5 I think is the obvious choice. This wine consistently brings finesse and perfume to the glass with longevity one of its strong suits. Drink with pheasant or duck from the north side of the island (hey, it’s my island dream OK).
Vietti Rocche Barolo, Piemontese Italy. This wine is going to take a while to open up, so it is lucky I have plenty of Block 5. An exquisite wine with achingly gorgeous violet and tar held up with intense acid and savoury appeal. Have with the wild boar hunted from the islands interior.

To complete the cellar I have chose one fortified sherry and one Botrytis.

McWilliams Botrytis Semillon, Riverina NSW. A wine that has graced this blog already. A gorgeous wine to sip in front of the fire on the beach while enjoying orange and coconut crumble.
Romate Pedro Ximenez Sacrista Sherry, Jerez Spain. If it all gets too much being on your own and you just want to have a good cry, have a sip of this belter and you will quickly realise this is far too good to share. Super stuff!!

So there you have it. It is now raining harder in my backyard and Henry is in need of a nappy change. I think it only fitting that I put ‘Weezer’ on my iPod and listen to ‘Island in the Sun’

‘on an island in the sun, we’ll be playing and having fun,
and it makes me feel so fine I can’t control my brain...’

Cue end credits.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Even Keel Canberra District Shiraz Viognier 2006

Sighhhh. That feels better.

With number one child about 70 km away with the grandees, number two child gradually getting used to falling asleep not in my arms, but in his cot, a glass of wine on the go and other stuff leisurely falling in to place I can sit down in our cluttered study and not be disturbed while writing this blog. Just listen to the peace.

Anyhoo, on with the wine. Now after such a rousing introduction it would be remiss off me to write about something that is just plain nice. So here is the Even Keel Canberra District Shiraz Viognier 2006. A belter it is!!

Based down in the Mornington Peninsula, Samuel Coverdale has got 4 hectares under vine on Red Hill, but it is not only from here where he gets his fruit. With a large net, Simon sources his fruit from all over the east coast; Orange, Clare Valley, Tumbarumba and of course the Canberra District.

The wine is a very dense red/purplish colour with a sort of crimsonish hue. The nose is a lovely marriage of savoury chocolate and apricot, with neither of them dominating the olfactory. In the mouth this wine has many identities with lovely grainy fine tannins up front and a great whack of acid which tells us that this wine will develop very nicely indeed. Once the acid blows off a bit, the apricot comes back in the guise of apricot crumble, very rich and very long – sexy stuff this one!!

Wonderful balance, huge length and a real complex hit of spices and perfume, this wine will please time and again for a few years to come. Mucho fantastico!!

Again, sexy stuff this one!!

Drink till 2018
Drink with Joue de bœuf
Screwcap $29

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Leo Buring Clare Valley Riesling 2007 and Lemon Tart from Babka Bakery, Brunswick Street Fitzroy

Quite possibly Australia’s most consistent wine – period! Year in and year out, Leo Buring Riesling can be counted on to produce young and vibrant wine, or with careful cellaring, a gorgeous glass of stewed pineapple and kero. Every wine list that I have run has had Leo Buring on the Riesling page, and I have no doubt that the next one will have it also.

So, on to the wine. Leo Buring Clare Valley Riesling 2007.

Viticulturaly speaking, 2007 was pretty ordinary in the Clare with little rain after flowering coupled with extreme heat in December and January. Riesling tends to favour conditions that are more on the cooler side, with plenty of rain when it is needed; in 2007 this did not occur. Yet this wine, through skilled wine making, offers all that is great about Riesling.

The colour still has a straw look about it, but you can already see a little bit of yellowy gold coming through. On the nose there is wax with a little bit of pineapple, un-ripe pineapple, also. In the mouth there is a wee bit of spritz with prickly acid being the primary feel. There is a little hole in the mid-palate, with more pineapple towards the end. After an hour the wine really gets going with stewed pineapple coming out quite big. It is here that I would recommend decanting wines such as Riesling and Pinot Gris so as to get through the initial acid whack and enhances the aromatics to come through, and I would use a cornetto decanter for this job.

The tart in question from Babka bakery in Fitzroy was really a side note for this wine. It was only the next day that Erin bought this home for me, and within three seconds of the tart being shoved in my gob, I realised that there was about a glass left of the Leo Buring. I left the rest of the tart and decanted the remainder of the wine and went back to it an hour or so later. Pure delight!! This worked because of the contrast of acid that the tart and wine both gave out; lemony puckery acid from the tart and prickly warm acid from the Riesling. Balance can be achieved through contrast. Acid with the acid and richness with the pastry and stewed pineapple.

Great balance, great length with the right amount of complexity for a young Riesling. And yes, mucho fantastico.

Drink till 2019
Drink with lemon tart from Babka in Fitzroy
Screwcap $19

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Frogmore Creek Tasmanian Pinot Noir 2006

There is nothing wrong with referring to ‘The Simpsons’ for some inspiration, so here it goes,
‘..... more asbestos, more asbestos, more asbestos...’

These are the rantings of the eternal 10 year old Bart Simpson during a debate with class poindexter Martin Prince. As much as I love the little fella, the last thing we need is more asbestos. What we do need however, is more flavour, more complexity and just plain more yum. This is precisely what the Frogmore Creek Tasmanian 2006 Pinot Noir needs.

The colour is quite translucent with no real depth to it at all. There is a bit of soft spice with oak coming through the longer in the glass. Sweet strawberry up front with very little to offer other than acid. The next day the wine was pretty much gone with no real depth at all.

One thing that struck me was this wine came in at 14% a/v, which is bloody high considering it is from the some of the southernmost vineyards in Tassie and that 2006 was quite a tame year weather wise. yet the thing with Frogmore Creek Pinot Noir, is that over the years the winemakers have been achieving quite high alcohol, with the Reserve Pinot Noir 2005 coming in at a whopping 14.8% a/v - thats large!

No real balance with this one, but hey, don’t have a cow or anything. This wine I reckon will be better in a couple of years after it loses the massive acid.

Drink with pork chops and beetroot salad
Drink till 2013
Screwcap $23

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fish Bone Fish + Chips and Chateau du Cléray-Sauvion 2007 Muscadet Sèrve et Maine

When I was a kid, Friday nights in the warmer months (most of them cos’ I grew up in Fremantle) meant extended games of cricket at the park, or if we were lucky, extended stays at the beach. These were days when kids could freely do their stuff without a nervous parent watching their every move. For me though, the real clincher was when mum would pull up in her beaten up Renault, change from her nurses outfit and walk out to the veranda and call my name to come in – the park and beach were both within hollering distance. My goodbyes done to Elias and Gabe, I would meet my mum, and sometimes my older sisters, at the Renault where we would head off in to town for F+C – Fish and Chips!!

In those days, Fremantle was over-run by that wild gang of hippies, ‘The Orange People’. It was also a place where local families could walk down South Terrace or The Esplanade without being run down by a tourist tram or three wheeler scooters. And it was also a time where the buskers would let you pass on by without threat of harm if you did not empty your pocket of coins in to the guitar case.

But Freo on Friday for me was all about Fish and Chips. And the two destinations were either The Freo Markets or Ciccerellos in Fisherman’s Harbour. Today the F+C at the Markets is now some craft stall and Ciccerellos is now a vast fast food styli outfit, but still producing the F+C that I remember – heaps of salt and heaps of vinegar!

Fast forward 30 years to last night where it was my turn to take the kids to get F+C. It has been quite some time since I have seen the butchers paper wrapping, with these days your order coming in a sought of rectangle box in a bag. And it is Fish Bone on Lygon Street Brunswick where my kids get their F+C in abox and an introduction to excess salt and vinegar.

Now there are not many F+C outlets in this area, with a few of them still using oil from when Ricky Martin was living ‘da vida loca’ or something like that. You know when someone is doing the right thing though when at 6pm on a Friday there are about 25 people waiting for their lot. I am not sure what cottonseed oil does in the frying process, apart from frying of course, but I gotta say that Fish Bone, for the last four years or so, easily has it over some of the more hoy-fa-loyting fryers south of the Yarra. And you know it is good when your four year old eats everything, including the fish.

On the crowds, it would definitely be smart to phone your order through, this way it gives you plenty of time to wonder up the road to ‘Blackheart and Sparrows’ and get yourself some refreshments. Now when I was a kid, the staple beverage with F+C was a Coke ice-cream spider – a scoop of vanilla ice-cream with Coke poured over the top; way cool I tell ya.

So with my palate evolving a little bit, the question is what type of wine will soak up all that salt and vinegar. Beer is always good with F+C, but for this exercise we are drinking wine. There has been a lot of discussion on the appropriate wine match to F+C on the web I have noticed, with some gerbil in the UK recommending Malbec. I think we will just leave that one alone. To me F+C need something that is light and fresh with a little bit of residual salt about it. This leaves you Semillon, Savvy B (last resort people), and what we had, Muscadet; in particular the Chateau du Cléray-Sauvion 2007 Muscadet Sèrve et Maine from Vallet in the Loire Valley.

Made ‘sur lie’, or on lees, and under the ‘Haute Culture’ label, the name of the maison, the Chateau du Cléray-Sauvion 2007 Muscadet Sèrve et Maine is exactly what you should drink with F+C. The colour is quite light – bone straw, which is what you would expect from a young Muscadet. The nose is quite complex with subtle oyster shell and grapefruit – the real salty citrus scent you look for I guess. The mouth is quite soft, with tingly acid opening up to more citrus in the way of grapefruit and lemon to soak up the salt and vinegar as needed.

With so many wines to choose from, Muscadet and F+C is definitely a ‘Susan’ match i.e. ‘this goes with that at Susan’ styli. And if you can get some oysters from your F+C, do it; Muscadet and oysters is a ‘Susan’ no-brainer also.

Fish Bone gets Two Birks
Drink till 2014

Friday, August 21, 2009

Noon Winery McLaren Vale Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

They say ‘big is better’ and ‘nothing is bigger than Texas’ and then there is this one from the late US president Gerald Ford, ‘if the government is big enough to give you what you want, then it is big enough to take it away as well’. These all may be true, but the one thing I know that is big is the Noon McLaren Vale Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002. BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG!!!

You got that. Good!

Quite possibly the biggest alcohol I have ever seen for a table wine, this bad boy weighs in at a hefty 16.1% a/v. I could have easily have introduced this wine like some heavy weight prize fighting boxer about to step in to the ring, but that would just be too theatrical for cyberspace I reckon.

This wine has been sitting in my cellar for about 5 years now, so with a curious mind and thirsty gob, Erin and I got stuck in to this one like any other bottle of plonk – casually. What we got was a lesson about being cautious. Yes I know, too theatrical.

After sitting in the decanter for about 30 minutes, the wine had this appearance of being almost black, something I saw while at Charles Sturt Uni in Wagga; it was a class on pH (the measure of acidity or alkalinity of a solution) in red wine with lower pH of 3.2 – 3.8 being normal red wine colour, to the extreme of pH 6.1 being total black. Now the thing with pH is that the lower it is the more acid you will have and less alcohol with the opposite for those wines with high pH. Anyway, it is a fair bet that this wine had a high pH, not 8, but definitely somewhere around 3.9 - 4.0.

On the nose there is heavy eucalypt similar to that of ‘Martha Gardner’s’ wool wash. After this there is just a real big hit of ethanol, which is no surprise really. In the mouth liquorice in the way of sweet all sorts is overwhelming and seems to just go on for quite a while without much else happening.

This is a wine for all those wine drinkers who love that big smack of oak and alcohol, and with a couple bottles left in the cellar, it seems that this one will have to wait a little longer before it see’s the light of day, or the bottom of my glass.

To quote Bobo from ‘Pizza’, ‘It’s big and it’s cheesy’.

There is balance, there is length, but the wine just lacks complexity and elegance.

Drink till 2020
Drink with leg of lamb and mint sauce

Thursday, August 20, 2009

M. Chapoutier ‘Deschants’ 1997 Saint-Joseph Marsanne

You know how sometimes you get in a rut and things just seem to go along grey. Right now there isn’t really that much happening over here in Brunswick - some street work happening outside and two people bickering about who knows what in an accent I cannot seem to pick. Apart from the skies opening up and Henry spending another night crying and wanting to play, nothing much is really happening.

I needed a buzz other than coffee. So as I was sneaking past Henry’s room so as not to wake him up, and still wearing my pj’s, the thought of posting something other than, 'this is nice, this goes with that' got me going, so off I went to my recent wine archives and pulled out this gem - to write about, not drink; it is only nine in the am right now.

So here goes. M. Chapoutier ‘Deschants’ 1997 Saint-Joseph from the Northern Rhone. This is a wine I paid about $10 for back in 2003 at The Wine Societies Xmas sale where they were flogging wine that people either did not want or did not know. Ten bucks is damn cheap so I took all three that were available.

Now the ‘Deschants’ is 100% Marsanne grown biodynamically in the Rhone, and a variety that is lost in the ocean of Savvy B and Chardonnay that is on the market today. It is also a variety that can be drunk young or cellared for 20+ years. Yet it is also a variety that demands a good growing season, with natural acidity being its hallmark to a great wine.

On a side note, M. Chapoutier has since 1996 transcribed Braille on to all of their labels. Far from being a gimmick, the symbol draws on the history of the Hermitage vineyard. Maurice Monier de la Sizeranne is the owner of the plot of the Hermitage, ‘la Sizeranne’, is also the inventor of the first version of abbreviated Braille.

So the wine.

Like I said, I got all three for $30 – a steal I thought. The first one was oxidised to the be-jesus, not a good start. The second was soaked in cork-taint and at this point I was thinking I had got jibbed. So the third bottle was neatly tucked away in my cellar until last week when I was doing a bit of inventory and happened to come across the forgotten third bottle.

Now it is fair to say that I was quite pessimistic about this one, with its two siblings failing to show the goods. There was promise on looking at the bottle, with no ullage noticeable. In the glass the wine had the appearance of Botrytis orange, and at only 12.7% a/v, I thought the horse, and the wine, had definitely bolted. But alas, this one was the gem! This nose is possibly one of the best I have come across for any wine, with very noticeable honeycomb coming through in the form of the crunchie bar chocolate. In the mouth was very viscous, with wax and more honey bobbing up. The real pleasure of this wine was that Erin did not like it. More, or actually all, for me – mucho fantastico!!

Great balance, wonderful length and real complexity. Just a shame that it was my last one.

Drink now
Drink with braised Rockling with a leek and butter sauce

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Simonnet-Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Pinot Noir NV

As aperitifs go, the Simonnet-Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Pinot Noir NV is definitely a no brainer; it is light(12% a/v) and fresh and enjoyable and too easy to drink.

Cremant de Bourgogne is a generic term for all sparkling wines coming out of Burgundy and has been known as this since 1973, where all sparkling wines before this were referred to as Bourgogne Mousseux.

This wine is 100% Pinot Noir, but does not really give that impression. To look at it you would think it was a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend or even a blanc de blanc, with the colour being bone straw. The nose again is very leesy which also indicates that the wine may have some Chardonnay in it. But it is in the mouth that the Pinot Noir takes centre stage with a clean fresh mouth feel helped along by a very fine bead. Hints of strawberry and rhubarb are noticeable after about 5 minutes in the glass.

As I said, a really nice and enjoyable aperitif.

Drink now
Drink with canapés

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Turners Crossing Bendigo Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Legendary Richmond tough man Jack Dyer once described a player for North Melbourne, Robert Klomp I think, as a good average player. To me this tells me he wasn't flashy or did not ooze of class; he was just a good footballer who did a good job - simple.
Turners Crossing Bendigo Cabernet Sauvignon is the Robert Klomp of wines - it is a nice Cabernet without having the amazing wow factor. It delivered what I was hoping it would deliver. The colour was deep red with the nose giving off a combination of mocha and fresh eucalypt. There was not much on the front palate, with soft grainy tannins giving way to a bit of chocolate at the end.
The one thing that did rattle me a bit was it was fairly large - 14.5% a/v. Tasting it the next day was a day to late unfortunately with the wine giving off quite an astringent taste. But on the night it did its job well.

Drink till 2012
Drink with lamb chops

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Season of Stout - Sinha Stout Sri Lanka

This is a fair dinkum stout!!

In the never-ending quest to find out what the best alcoholic beverage the human form can have when they are sick, I wish to formally nominate Sinha stout from Sri Lanka as the beverage to guide us through chills and sniffles.

While in sunny Perth a month ago, I was lured to Beaufort Street in search of some cold and flu tablets, so I thought while I was in the neighbourhood, I would drop in to Baron's and get a something something for my miserable self.

The something something was obviously the Sinha, and at $8 a pop and weighing in at an impressive 8% a/v, I was rationed to just 3 of the buggers.

As I said, this is a fair dinkum stout people. The colour is pitch black with a coffee ice-cream head. The nose and palate both have in common bitter chocolate, toffee and mocha liqueur. This thing is effing massive, but ohh so gorgeous.

I would like to add though, that I did not take the cold and flu tablets while drinking this beaut - I am not as stupid as I look now!

Drink with lamb vindaloo

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lazzat Kadah Pakistani & Indian Tandoori Restaurant - 61 Sydney Road Coburg

It's Friday night and I've had a lamb Tagines braising away for the last three hours. Henry is down and it is time to serve up for the two girls and me. Now braising meat for three hours you would expect it to melt in the mouth - this is as chewy as the proverbial old boot. The good news is that Imogen still wants to eat the couscous with some yoghurt; the bad news is that Erin and I are hungry.

Now since we have two children at home, Erin and myself cannot pop out to one of those fabulous media darling restaurants; you know the ones where they re-configure the molecular structure of compost and make it taste like foie gras!

Instead we are left with our bulldog clip of take-out menu's - and seeing we are trying to eat a little bit more healthier, pizza is out. Thai is mentioned, but we have to go and pick-up. What about a curry? It's Friday night and it's cold and we have a clean-skin - curry it is.

And what a curry it was!!

Lazzat Kadah translates from Urdu to 'house of taste'. No arguments here. There is a great selection of the 'crowd-pleaser' dishes such as vindaloos (my fave) to the more traditional types such as karela keema - bitter melon cooked with mince, herbs and spices.

Like I said, the vindaloo is my favourite, so it was a monty to be ordered. Now I like my curry hot, but the thing is we Australians do not have the same heat threshold as the creators of this dish, so it is always ordered, 'Australian hot'. Geez it was hot (very fortunate that we had an extra tub of yoghurt let me tell ya!). A milder chicken Makhani (which originates from Glasgow I am told) was also ordered along with the best Palak Paneer, spinach cooked with ricotta, herbs and spices, I have ever had along with the obligatory naan and roti. Thank God for tough lamb hey!

Now a lot of people don't pay much attention to their naan, but I do. A good naan has to be strong enough to hold a scoop of food in it without turning in to moist wheat before it hits you gob. This naan was spot on, holding its form long enough while I watched a performance from, 'So you think you can dance'; thrilling stuff it was.

I guess it is a good thing that restaurants like Lazzat Kadah do not get the same exposure as those media darling restaurants who redesign flavour, otherwise we would have had to wait until lunch time today for our order. The flavour here is real with no gimmicks whatsoever.

Now Brunswick over the last few years has really been getting it's act together when it comes to restaurants, and I think Coburg is going to follow suit very quickly. And like I say, Brunswick is the Gateway to Coburg.

Lazzat Kadeh gets a Gold Birk.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Domäne Wachau Terrassen Federspiel 2007 Grüner Veltliner

'Although I am Australian, I find myself more in sympathy with the Austrian version!' David Chalmers.

Does that make sense? Didn't think so. Anyway, while we are on the subject of Austria, let's talk about Gruner Veltliner.
Gruner Veltliner is the most widely propagated grape in Austria accounting for over 33% of the country's total vineyard area. Today the best areas in Austria for this variety are the three adjoining areas along the Danube - the Wachau, Kremstal and Kampta. And it is the Kampta area that is home to Domane Wachau's Terrassen Federspiel 2007 Gruner Veltliner.

'The Flavour of wine is like delicate poetry.' Louis Pasteur.
If this is true, then this Gruner is more like, 'There once was a man from Nantucket...'
This Gruner Veltliner is typical of a young aromatic wine; straw to look at with very little hue. On the nose is a bit of white pear with the hint of white flowers. Right up front in the mouth is an unexpected spritz which is followed by an almost astringent mouth feel - not much there really. Let's hope its bottle variation hey!

However, the better wines from low yielding vineyards can be amazingly complex, full of exotic tropical fruits, white pepper and even lentils, fair dinkum I tell ya!

Drink till 2010 or 2018 if its a good one
Drink with grilled Rockling

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Imogen.... and T'Gallant 'Imogen' Mornington Peninsula Pinot Gris 2008

My little girl Imogen has her first day at Prep tomorrow. It is only orientation and it is only for an hour, but geez she is growing up. So this one is for her.

The T’Gallant ‘Imogen’ Mornington Peninsula Pinot Gris 2008 is a lovely drink now with either food or just as a lazy Saturday arvo quaffer. The colour is a typical pinkish grey with a yellowish hue. The nose has a good whoft of wax and pear already with a big hit of acid coming through with the 14.5% a/v. The mouth has an instant hit of glycerol coating all corners (that’s if mouths had corners of course) with more honey and wax, and the warm alcohol feel; remember, it is 14.5% a.v., and that’s high for Pinot Gris, be it Australian or Alsacean.

Even balance, semi length and nice complexity. A nice wine it is.

So, my little girl is off to prep tomorrow – by gingoes! When do you think they will take Henry?

Drink till 2011
Drink with my Chilli Chickpea soup; Imogen’s BES (best ever soup)
16/20. But because it is an ‘Imogen’ 19.9/20 – mucho fantastico

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Domaine Gérard Chavy 1er Cru Les Champs-Gains 2002 Puligny-Montrachet

And I am so very tired. I am so tired. Is everybody else tired?? Who would have thought kids would be so much work hey!

No-one was to know this but we all know Puligny-Montrachet is sexy as! In particular Domaine Gérard Chavy 1er Cru Les Champs-Gains 2002. Who was to know that this Chardonnay was to be golden yellow with a straw hue. Who was to know that this wine was waxy on the nose and quite developed with a rich, floral beat about it. The thing is though, in the end this wine was everything it should have been in the mouth – fat up front with great oak marriage, long in the acid hit with that ever so lovely hit of liquorice at the end.

Beautiful balance, length and complexity with about as much weight as you would want from white Burgundy. Though 2002 was better for reds, it is Chardonnay that is showing more with age I think.

Drink till 2014

Drink with rabbit pie


Competition Time!! ... and Some Young Punks 'The Squid's Fist' Barossa Valley/McLaren Vale 2008 Sangiovese Shiraz

How would you fancy a glass of ‘Raging Aardvarks’ Chardonnay, or ‘Exploding Toxic Haemorrhoids’ Sauvignon Blanc? Fortunately you won’t have to because these wines are just figments of my imagination. Yet even though these wine names are a bit strange, it is becoming more and more popular these days to brand your wine with a funky moniker just to get the punters attention owing to the fact that there are more wines on shelves than NRL player misdemeanours.

I did a search last nite on the W’s and came across some whacky names; ‘Fat Bastard’ Chardonnay, ‘Marilyn Merlot’, ‘ChardonnAlien’, ‘Goats do Roam’ and ‘Goats Roti’. Most are plays on words with the rest just being plain weird. But this is where it is all heading with a lot of these labels being produced and run by that most imaginative of generations, ‘Gen Y’.

So I have come up with the idea of holding a competition to all comers to come up with the wackiest printable wine name, be it label or company. And what gave me this idea; ‘Some Young Punks’ from South Australia.

Friends Colin McBryde, Jennie Gardner and Nic Bourke first produced their range with the 2005 ‘Passion had Red Lips’ and ‘Naked on Rollerskates’ range to make ‘rockin’ wine with an edgy wow factor. The concept of the pulp fiction artwork may be a bit tongue in cheek, but it is the wine behind the gloss that really socks it to ya!

My favourite of theirs is ‘The Squid's Fist’ 2008 Barossa Valley/McLaren Vale Sangiovese/Shiraz. The colour has a deep red garnet with a slight purple hue. The nose has mocha, with an almost stoutish feel to it. It is all ripe juicy fruit in the mouth with cherries, raspberries and plums all working together with fine tannins and soft acid.

It is a wacky wine, but it is also a great wine with even balance, good length and not to Barossa big even with the 14.4% a/v. Good stuff this one!

So get cracking. Come up with your best name for plonk. Prize to be announced soon, so stay tuned!!

Drink till 2012
Drink with a burger with the lot

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Season of Soup - Chilli Chickpea soup with De Iuliis Hunter Valley Aged Semillon 2002

I was down at ‘Blackhearts and Sparrows’ in Brunswick last week in need of a wine that would match up to my chickpea and onion soup. The wine needed to have plenty of mouth-feel and weight to go up against a very viscous and nutty soup.

I could have gone the easy option with an Alsacean Riesling or Australian Pinot Gris, but instead went for something that I hoped would be both a great drink and an inspired choice for the soup; should have gone the safe bet. But first the soup.

My chilli chickpea and onion soup sounds simple and it is. This soup can be prepared in quick time which is good for the corporate high flyers out there who also have to juggle a couple of kids. A real straightforward flavour about this one – chickpeas gives that lovely nutty flavour with the chilli adding that extra factor to the palate

· 2 x 400g cans of chickpea’s or 500g cold soaked chickpea’s
· 4 x onions, chopped
· ½ red chilli
· 2 x cloves of garlic
· 1 litre of water
· Salt and pepper to taste
· Good olive oil
· Crusty bread
· Swimming goggles – for chopping the onions

Heat oil in saucepan on low heat and glaze the chilli for about five minutes and discard. Sauté onions and garlic until soft. One big mistake us humans make with cooking is having the pan or pot too hot. All you need is a low flame which means the heat in the pan/pot is going to be more consistent.

Once onions are done, add the water and chickpeas, set to boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Once there is a real chickpea smell coming from the pot, blitz and serve with bread.

It’s probably a good idea to let the soup cool for about 15 minutes, otherwise you risk burning your tongue like this amateur chef did.

The Wine:
As I said before, I was looking for something with a bit of weight and structure, so on paper the De Iuliis Hunter Valley 2002 Aged Semillon looked the goods. Me shooting 6 under in the final round of the US Masters looks good on paper also; seems like I’ve found a good use for paper then.

The wine has quite a pale look to it, so the aging has got a long way to go I reckon. The nose is very fresh with a little bit of wax there and citrus at the end. In the mouth there is more citrus – lemon, honey, toast and a little bit of spice, but it was just a little, not the lot that I thought there would be.

You know what, it’s a nice wine, but not with my chickpea and onion soup. Go with a Pinot Gris I reckon.

Drink till 2014

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Melbourne's real 'Little Italy' - Mediterranean Wholesalers - 482 Sydney Road Brunswick

There is no mistaking the sounds and smells of Italy. When I first visited Italy in 1998, I spent the best part of three months working in Bardolino, a wine town on the eastern shores of Lake Gardi in the Veneto. When you live or work in Italy, there is a certain respect that needs to be heeded to the locals and local customs. In Bardolino, and I am sure in many other towns of Italy, it was that whatever was put in front of you was to be eaten or drunk – no questions. That spring I put on 5 kg’s while performing manual labour.

Every morning there was the unmistakable smell of coffee; the aroma was that robust that it would dead-set wake you up. Breakfast was generally a small affair (it was for me anyway) with everyone in the vineyard gearing themselves up for morning tea, or the Italian version of morning tea anyway. More coffee, cheese, ham – lots and lots of ham, salami and masses of bread. Lunch was generally grilled fish and dinner was huge.

Each evening the vineyard crew would sit down to what can only be described as a feast; pasta to start with, plates of olives, artichokes, sardines, anchovies, eggplant and a copious amount of other delicacies. Then there came more fish, braised lamb, plenty of veggies and then plenty of more other stuff – every night I tell ya! To finish off we would have a digestive; grappa, amore, strega – whatever and usually home-made.

Like I said, an extra 5 Kg’s.

10 years on and I am living in Brunswick (which we know) with my family and have sadly not been back to Italy since 1999. This brings us to Mediterranean Wholesalers on Sydney Road.

From the outside it’s just another Sydney Road facade, but as soon as you walk thru the doors the smells instantly transport you back to Italy. Everything, and I mean everything you want that is Italian and yum is here. EVERYTHING!!!

Coffee, pasta, cheese, salami, hams, lentils, anchovies, prosciutto, grappa, Barolo, Bardolino, canoli’s, bread, cake, sardines, tinned tomatoes, amore, beer, strega and even retsina. You know what, there’s even more.

Mediterranean Wholesalers is like Bunning’s – you go in there for some basil seeds and come out with three trailer loads of stuff that you don’t need, but hey, seemed like a good idea at the time.

Located at 482 Sydney Road, Mediterranean Wholesalers seems like it has been there forever. It is essentially split in too two areas – dry goods and deli area on the right and alcohol, coffee and bread on the left. The centre isle is essentially pasta heaven; any sort of pasta you can think of is here. The deli is down the back, but you already know this when you walk in from the scent of cheese and meat smallgoods. On the left there is a great assortment of wine, stuff that you will only find here, liqueurs, digestives and imported beers. And the beer is genuine, like the Stella Artois – this one is brewed in Belgium, not Sydney, and only $14 a six-pack – gold!

Also on the left is one coffee machine with one patrone behind the grips. You will not find any chai or soy or vanilla syrup. This guy makes coffee; cafe latte in the morning and espresso and macchiato in the afternoon. And if you get your daughter to ask nice, he will make a little hot chocolate for her.

Mediterranean Wholesalers is Italy in Melbourne. Lygon Street Carlton thinks it is Melbourne’s answer to Italy, but is so far off the mark when it comes to authenticity and quality. Mediterranean Wholesalers has the smell, or the stink - a really sweet stink, sound and soul of the Italy that I experienced 10 odd years ago (yeah yeah, I know it sounds corny).

By now you know I have a Birk rating for eateries. Now Mediterranean Wholesalers is not what you would call an eatery, but it has everything, so it is going to get a Birk – a gold one.

Buy your pasta there, buy your wine there and buy your cheese there. Just get there.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

'42° South' Chardonnay Pinot Noir Tasmanian Sparkling Wine

As aperitifs go, '42° South' Chardonnay Pinot Noir Sparkling by Frogmore Creek in Tasmania certainly does the trick. You see, I think any, and all by Jove, social gatherings should kick off with a sparkling wine. I guess that is just the prude in me.

The wine is bone straw with a slight pink hue about it and a fine bead. Toasty brioche and a faint hit of grapefruit. In the mouth there is a quick hit of granny smith apple and then the dullness of lead pencil, which is good. After a while as the wine comes down to room temp, semi ripe strawberry comes through. The acid held its length the whole way through the bottle – about 45 minutes.

Even balance, even length, simple complexity and subtle weight in the mouth - a nice wine I say.

Drink now
Drink with ceviche scallops or natural oysters.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Punch 'Close Planted' Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2006

Don’t you love August? The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing and there’s a BBQ within spitting distance. Stupid southern Hemisphere!

Yes it is winter. The season that brings influenza, this year in the shape of a pig, Ugg boots and the wanting and yearning of something warm and familiar. Come on down Punch ‘Close Planted’ Pinot Noir 2006.

Ever since I had this wine about a year ago I have dead-set been in love – what a wine I tell ya!! Born from the Lance Family vineyards in St. Andrews of the Yarra Valley, Punch is the off-spring of the old Diamond Valley ‘White Label’ Pinot Noir. The Diamond Valley label has since been sold to the Rathbone empire that holds Yering Station, Parker of Coonawarra and Mount Langhi. The Lance family still own the vineyards and sell some of the fruit and hold the rest for themselves. In February this year this almost was lost with the devastation of the Victorian bushfires. Even though the Lance family lost the winery and some vines, like everyone else affected in Valley, they will, and are, persevering.

But back to the wine. But be warned, I have had this wine quite a few times so the rating might be a bit biased, bit like reading a Jane Faulkner restaurant review actually.

Fair dinkum sexy stuff this one. The colour is a bit brownish red with a slight translucency. The nose is all spice up front; cinnamon and cassia bark. After a while there is game and bacon and sex and acid and so much yum. In the mouth there is more to come; more spice more game more, more and more. Then the tannin comes with some sort of Oloroso flow – that’s an Enya moment isn’t it – with an herbal feel about it finished with musk. By gingoes, what a wine hey! Mucho fantastico!!

So there you have it, a sort of cyber orgasm you might say.

Drink with goat ragu
Drink till 2020

I would like to sign off by saying that many people lost a great deal on February 7 this year. So even though there have been numerous benefits for which we have all given to, make sure that when the 2009 vintage release of Yarra Valley wine hits the stores, go out and get some, support the people that make us read and write blogs about them.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sutton Grange Bendigo Viognier 2008

Did you know that up until 1968, the only plantings of Viognier in the world were in the Northern Rhone, and there was only 14 hectares! Thankfully today Viognier is planted at over 180 hectares in the Northern Rhone, as well as here in Australia, NZ, California and South Africa.

Viognier is generally associated with high alcohol volumes, and with this it develops its maximum flavour profile of fruit pastilles, apricot, honey, orange blossom, orange peel and peach aroma. It also has quite a unique mouth feel, being almost like soap – slippery.

However, Viognier is most famous for its co-fermentation with Syrah in the Cote Rotie of northern Rhone and around the world. Traditionally, the co-fermentation is about 95% Syrah/Shiraz with the rest being Viognier. Here in Australia we have experimented with up to 12% (I will not name the producer of this garsley drop cos they knew they stuffed it up with the following vintage resorting to 4% co-fermentation). Australia’s most famous example of this would be Clonakilla from the Canberra District.

But today, this blog is about Viognier on its own, and more in particular, the Sutton Grange 2008 Bendigo Viognier.

One of my favourite wine producers at the moment, Sutton Grange is doing everything right up in Bendigo right now. Gilles Lapalus is a third generation Burgundy wine maker who is plying his trade primarily with Rhone varieties – Syrah and Viognier.

So the wine. The colour is a pale yellow-grey with an almost clear hue to it. The nose has a really good Viognier whack of apricot, but not like the Condrieu Viognier where they can be stewy, this one is more on the sweet side; this is also backed up by the lowish a/v – 13.5%. The palate has a surprise up front with quinine, or a tonic water taste, being the primary hit. The longer in the glass the wine gives off a more classic style of Viognier with orange rind and apricot kernel (that’s if you have ever sucked on an apricot kernel) and a slippery almost soapy mouth feel.

Good balance, medium length – if a bit short perhaps, nice complexity and really good Viognier weight.

Drink with pork chops
Drink till 2011

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Oakridge '864' Yarra Valley Shiraz 2003

Giddy up I say. It’s the horse’s birthday today and this blog has absolutely nothing to do with our equine friends.

What this entry is about is the wonderful winemaking skills of Oakridge’s David Bicknall. Since 2002 he has been plying his trade at Oakridge, which he now a paid up stakeholder in. In 2008 I worked the vintage there (some of us used another word to describe the vintage but it is a bit blue for this forum) where we crushed just under 100 tonne of fruit in 8 weeks, turning the winery over four times. Now if you really want to shed some kg’s, work a vintage; I dropped 11 kilo’s in 8 weeks!!

Anyhoo, Oakridge and in particular David, are putting out some serious cool climate wine. The premium range 864, address on Maroondah Hwy, is probably the truest form of Yarra Valley premium wine; Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Merlot. These wines year in and year out display what Yarra Valley wine can are – elegant, heaps of finesse, structure and massive cellar potential.

This entry is on the Oakridge 864 Shiraz from 2003. The colour is showing a little bit of translucency, but it is not the pale red pinkie style that Pinot Noir gives, more the reddy chocolate sort. The nose is very Rhone like with Cornas coming to mind – herby bay leaves feel about it. The longer in the glass a bit of liquorice comes in the form of the black savoury kind. The mouth follows the nose with a Cornas sting, great acid length that holds up more savoury touches of olive tapenade with a touch of red liquorice at the back – very long.

Great balance, plenty of length and incredible complexity that is not overwhelmed by weight – only 13.5% a/v; no JABS here.

Drink till 2018
Drink with herb crusted lamb

Oh yeah, for the punters out there; Caulfield, race 3 number 4 ‘With Apologies’ – giddy up.