Friday, October 30, 2009

Melbourne Cup Carnival Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Tomorrow is the official start of the 2009 Melbourne Cup Carnival with the AJC Derby at Flemington. Tomorrow is also the start of my son Henry's sleep school - he still cannot sleep!! This will last for four days with Henry and me bunkered down in cosmopolitan Bundoora for four days. So seeing that this racing carnival is all about bubbles and fizz, here are four wines to spend your winning's - if there are any - on when you leave the track sober and head home to regale the days events.

Buxton Ridge 'Molly Jean' Upper Goulburn Valley Blanc de Noir NV - So nothing came home for you at the end of the day and you didn't think to put a 'place' bet on any of the seconds you got - doesn't matter! make sure you have about $50 left in the kitty so you can swing by Blackheart and Sparrows in Brunswick to pick up a couple of these; the 100% Pinot Noir in this wine gives it a great peach pink look to it with gorgeous savoury flavours flowing all the way through - lovely!

Croser Piccardilly Valley Sparkling 2006 - Nice work, you picked the winner in the jumps and got the office sweep and a voucher for $45 at Dan's. This will pick you up an easy Croser on the way home with change for a six pack of imported beer. Crisp, clean and to the point this one.

Krug NV, Reims Champagne - Getting the trifecta in any race is a big win, but when you have the winner in it that pays $101 and second paying $51, well you got a big payout. An NV will give you endless citrus and toast and nuts and deliciousness.Look for this at Vue de monde or Ezard for about $600.

Dom Perignon Œnoteque 1990, Epernay Champagne - So, you just got the running quadrella super whatchamacallit. A massive win like this justifies a massive Champagne and the Dom Perignon 1990 is all of that. This wine should be rich with real forest floor aromas and flavours of truffles yet still displaying the youthfullness of citrus and brioche. Expect to pay fork out at least $1,500 a bottle at Rockpool or Bistro Guilluame at Crown. Make sure you offer a glass to Bart Cummings if you see him, he probably trained the winner!

Boy, that was an expensive exercise! I do hope you have fun out there - good punting and wish Henry and me luck for our sleep school!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Paringa Estate 'PE' Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2008

A very clean and expressive wine. The Paringa Estate 'PE' Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2008 has all the hallmarks of a Lindsay McCall wine - fresh, spotless and a cracker to drink now. This Pinot is from two vineyards in Red Hill coming in over a four week period from the very difficult 2008 vintage.

Very Pinot Noir in colour with a pink hue a clear translucency. Dark cherry and rhubarb on the nose is quickly followed by clean and quick acid on the palate held together with spicy oak at the end. This is going to be so easy to drink this summer!

Drink with roasted beetroot and lamb salad
Drink till 2012
Screwcap 14%v/v $24 from Dan Murphy's Preston

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bindi Bottling 2009 - 2008 Quartz Chardonnay, Original Vineyard and Block 5 Pinot Noir

Having to get up at 6 am these days is a pretty hard slog considering my young son Henry is usually up at 1.00, 3.00 and 4.30 in the AM. Having to get up at 6am towards the end of a cold winter is also a little bit of a turn off. So as the alarm blinked 6.02 am, I slowly pulled myself out of bed and headed down to the kitchen and get my fill of coffee for the drive up to Bindi Wine Growers in the Macedon Ranges to help bottle the 2008 Quartz Chardonnay, Original Vineyard and Block 5 Pinot Noir.

Over breakfast with my daughter Imogen, I had to explain that I was not seeing ‘Bindi the Jungle Girl’ but my friend Michael Dhillon, the wine-maker and owner of Bindi Wines who has been having me up there for the last four years to tinker with him in the vineyard and winery.

It is around August each year that Bindi bottle their premium wines. Now this is not a slight on the other Bindi labels are not premium, just these bad-boys spend a little longer in barrels to eek that ‘something special’ out of them.

This year Michael contracted a new outfit, three guys with a great big shiny rig with all the flashy bits on it; don’t ask me what they were, they were just flashy OK. And instead of the eightish helpers, there were only five of us, plus Michael’s dad Bill and Wendy his wife.

The morning unfolded without as much as a broken bottle (to come just before the end) and the pallets were steadily filling up. I was swapping with another fellow, Jason, in stacking the pallets and slapping stickers on to boxes so as not to confuse any of the wines; so this is why I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Viticulture. Yet as we had completed another pallet followed quickly by another and another it was becoming starkly apparent that we were going to knock this off in super quick time.

Before we knew it there were about 250 dozen neatly stacked bottles of wine all snug in their boxes ready for pick up in the coming weeks. And looking at all of this wine heaped in the winery, a real sense of achievement was shared by all who helped out.

But alas, there was a touch of sadness in all this. One of the chores I looked forward to when I was up to Bindi were the days spent in the winery labelling and packaging the wines when it was either too hot or cold in the vineyard and giggling along to ‘Tenacious D’ singing about naughty stuff – it’s a Kodak moment OK. These days are gone with the wine sitting in quiet idle already.So looking at the pallets stacked up, there was only one thing left – lunch. This year Wendy whipped up a great big pot of meat balls in a tomatoee-olive sauce with some creamy scallop potatoes. This was washed down with a few of the day’s wines with some other vintages thrown in for comparison (and just because they were there, really). It is such a privilege when you can sit there sipping some of Australia’s best wine and listen to people like Stuart Anderson and Michael Dhillon give their impressions on what we are drinking, only to have them ask you what you think of it (I also learnt not to use the descriptor ‘meaty’ when analysing wine, cos there are lots of meat out there). I seriously did not want to head back down the highway.
And so the day came to an end and for my services I was sent off with a bottle each of Block 5 Pinot Noir and Quartz Chardonnay. That is why I finished my degree in Viticulture I guess!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grosset Clare Valley Polish Hill Riesling 2001

Every now and then you need to pull something out of the cellar that a) you haven’t seen for a long, long time and b) you deserve it. The Grosset Clare Valley Polish Hill Riesling 2001 is just that wine. Last year on a golf trip to Tasmania, I took along the 2002 version of this wine where it was received very nicely by the other hackers. Nine into a bottle of wine does not go well however. So the 2001, over a dinner of chicken and blue cheese risotto – a monty for a Susan - had a crowd of three, with one of these participants being a Big 4 (Imogen’s way of saying she is four and a half) and it was Imogen’s comments on the wine that really made me sit up and take notice, and I quote:

“…. looks green and a little spicy on my tongue and its funny.” Imogen Cohen, Big 4 wine critic.

Pouring the wine, it is very hard not to notice the very green hue in the glass with a further big light yellow coming through the rest of the glass. Citrus is still very much up front for this wine, with lime and soft lemon curd being dominant; the longer in the glass a more prickly, spicy pineapple feel comes through also. In the mouth the lime is once again the dominant factor, with acid still playing a major role after eight years in the bottle – very much an Aussie Riesling!

Wonderful balance, length and complexity; oh yeah, it is also funny!

Drink with chicken and blue cheese risotto
Drink till 2021
Screwcap 13%v/v $20 – 2001 staff price at Como Wine and Spirits, South Yarra

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Summer BBQ time! - CookbooksPart 1: Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook

Nature forms patterns. Some are orderly in space but disorderly in time, others orderly in time but disorderly in space.’ - James Gleick ‘Chaos’

A few years ago I bought this book for a little bit of light reading over summer. It turned out that it wasn’t, and isn’t, the type of ‘light reader’ you look for over summer. Though it was while reading this last night that I came across the above sentence that made this post seem all so necessary.

It is sort of getting warmer here in Melbourne, and with that the BBQ is going to get rather busy. There was a time in my life when a BBQ meant burnt sausages and greasy onions, but these days, with a little bit of culture under my belt, I am lending towards a more ‘anything goes approach’ – the Chaos Theory you might say, where chaos begins, classical science – or in this case classical BBQ – stops!

It is with this in mind that I have trolled through some of my more worn cookbooks, and Maeve’s DVDs of ‘Food Safari’, and put together a taste of what will be prepared for the 2009/2010 BBQ season here in Downtown Brunswick. Let the drooling begin!

Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook
A personal favourite of mine with many of the pages stained with sauces. I have chosen three very classic French dishes, with all of them needing the BBQ in one manner or another.

Salade Niçoise – this one will have two versions; no bonjovies for Erin and lots for me and Imogen.
· Salt for cooking and to taste
· 170 grams haricots verts or green beans
· four small red bliss potatoes, scrubbed
· One garlic clove, peeled and crushed
· Extra virgin olive oil
· About three tbsp red wine vinegar
· Black pepper
· Bibb lettuce
· One green bell pepper, cored and cut into thin slices
· Anchovy fillets, white preferred
· 100 grams Niçoise olives. Get these bad boys from a very good deli such as the French deli at the Queen Vic markets for all of you Melbournians
· Four ripe Roma tomatoes
· High quality canned tuna or seared fresh tunaFour hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut length wise in to quarters.

Moules Marinières – this was a favourite when I was living in London all those years ago.

· About 150 grams of quality butter
· Two shallots, sliced thin
· 500 mL white wine, cooking – not drinking, yet
· 3 kg mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded just before cooking
· Flat parsley, finely chopped
Melt the butter off in a big pot over a medium flame and add shallots to cook for a couple of minutes. Pour in wine and bring to the boil and season. Throw the mussels in and pop the lid on to cook for about 10 minutes or until all mussels have opened – never force a mussel open; very, very bad for your tummy! Shake the pot as you go and keep the lid nice and secure so you don’t get any of the very hot juices scorching your private bits (always cook with your clothes on). Toss in parsley, stir some more and serve in a massive bowl is you have one. Open a Grosset Springvale Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2009 with this one being a bit more flinty than the 2008.

Côte de Boeuf – this is the one from my Father’s Day post this year – super mucho fantastico!!!

· 1.5kg rib steaks, on the bone
· Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
· Olive oil, a couple of glugs

This is a big piece of meat, so it is going to be very cold when you pull it out of the fridge; get it out about 30-45 minutes before you put it on the BBQ so to bring it down to room temp.

I am not going to pontificate, but this is best cooked medium rare because it is so big. Only poke and slice until rested for about ten minutes or so. Eat with something like the Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2007 - masses of rich dark fruit combined with chewy tannins make this one a Susan.

I think it wise at this point to break this post in to instalments, otherwise I will be writing this, and you will be reading, until tomorrow. So off you go, clean the BBQ, get your gas cylinder re-filled and cook, cook, cook!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Vinea Marson Heathcote Nebbiolo 2007

Nebbiolo – you had me at Hello!! I make no bones about it, I love Nebbiolo, and the Vinea Marson Heathcote Nebbiolo 2007 is super gorgeous; dare I say, Nebbiolo is bringing wine sexy back – I know, too far.

Just before I finished up at The Point restaurant in Albert Park this year, Mario Marson, winemaker and proprietor of Vinea Marson came in and showed me his wine; the Syrah – super, the Sangiovese – long and savoury, the Rosé – light and fresh, but it was the Nebbiolo for me that was the easy standout. My notes from May were all gorgeous savoury appeal backed up with spine tingling acid; this one is not much more different.

The colour of this wine is typical Nebbiolo with noticeable translucency and a dirty orange tinge to it. After about an hour in a decanter, the wine still has that prickly furry feel to it, with crushed raspberry and dried herbs coming through. As I said before, this wine is built around the acid structure and tightly built tannin feel. This wine will no doubt reward after a few more years tucked away.

Just a great wine with real Nebbiolo appeal! Super stuff this one.

Drink till 2020
Drink with lamb and rosemary sausages from Jonathan’s in Smith Street Collingwood

Diam cork 14%v/v $48 from Gertrude Street Enoteca

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Brunswick Mo-Bro's Needs You - Movember 2009 is on now!

Well everybody, its here again - Movember - the time for all flavour savers to shine!

Yours truly is growing a moustache for Movember this year and am looking for recruits to join my team - Brunswick Mo-Bro's.

Movember is about raising much needed funds and awareness for men’s health – specifically prostate cancer and depression in men. Important when you learn that close to 3,000 men die of prostate cancer each year in Australia and one in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime - many of whom don’t seek help. The more people I can get onboard, the more awareness and money will be raised and so I am asking you to join my team and either grow a moustache as a Mo Bro, or sign on as a Mo Sista and help out with raising funds. To join my Movember team go to and follow steps. Once registered you’ll be sent all the information you need to get donations and get growing as part of my Movember team. 2009 is Movember’s sixth consecutive year. If you are interested in learning more about the work that is being carried out as a result of Movember funds, check out the details at

Hope to welcome you to my Movember team shortly.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Right of reply to Michael Shmith's 'A-Z of Restaurant Etiquette' published in 'The Age' October 13

Every Tuesday morning I slip on my uggies and head out to the front yard and gather my home delivered copy of ‘The Age’. After getting Imogen’s brekkie and sorting out Henry with a bottle and a clean nappy, I settle down with my coffee and ready myself for updates on what Andrew McConnell is up to – seems he must be on holidays.

Last week (October 13th), ‘The Epicure’s’ cover story was ‘The A-Z of Restaurant Etiquette’ by Michael Shmith, a former editor of the broad sheet in Travel and the arts and former director of communications for The Australian Ballet. In his story on Restaurant Etiquette, Michael writes on the multitude of sins that are carried out by wait staff and restaurants in a very generalist manner. After reading it for the first time I put it down to just another journo who has probably never worked a restaurant service in their life (just like this blogger has never had the pressure of writing to a deadline, uni stuff aside), but after reading over some of the misdemeanours for a second and third time, I was not sure whether Michael was trying to be either funny or make a genuine statement, for as Erin said, he failed in both attempts.

Finally, with pen in hand I trolled over the story again and made denotes next to ’letters’ where he had completely lost the plot. It seems to Michael, that it is the restaurant staff in general who lack certain skills you may say, in etiquette.

So, here is my ‘Right of Reply’ to Michael’s story in ‘Epicure’ on the ‘A-Z of Restaurant Etiquette’ with the assumption that you have read Michael's; here goes!

A Austerity it seems Michael is what all restaurants suffer from; owners need to pay bills my good man, and I think you certainly need to name names when it comes to a restaurant serving instant coffee. I am not sure I would classify the Diggers Rest truck stop Roadhouse as a restaurant Michael.
B Now the bill is always a tricky one I reckon, for I have from time to time offered diners a free drawing lesson if they have the time. I think the whole idea of writing on your palm with your imaginary pen is one of the areas that is totally lacking in etiquette. Unless it is approaching midnight and your carriage is going to turn back in to a pumpkin or the babysitter is going to sacrifice your children in some demonic ritual, then simply asking for the bill after a tea and coffee order has been taken should do. B is also for booking Michael, something I hope you have when you head out. This would probably ensure you not have to wait 45 minutes. The only other reason for this is that the people who are still at your table were themselves late for their booking – we will cover this in ‘T’ for tardiness. What about BYO I hear you ask – don’t, cos’ I won’t accept it unless you have phoned ahead!

C I have no argument with you here Michael. If you do want to avoid crowding though, I would recommend you do not make a booking at a restaurant between November 19 and December 25. There is no bigger put off when walking through the doors of a restaurant than seeing hoards of tables crammed together, with your cosy table for two stuck dead in the middle.
D As far as I am concerned, degustation’s should either be left for lunch or limited to about seven courses at night. Next time you have a dego Michael I am sure the waiter will not tell you what is on the plate or how it was cooked; we are only up to ‘D’ and it is quite apparent of your dislike for this profession.
E Entrance? Is that the best you can come up with! My A-Z would have ‘E’ on entree. Now entree as a main is OK, just as long as you also have an entree as an entree. Having a $15 meal as your meal is really a bit of a slap in the face of the restaurateur.
F Yes, God forbid the waiter show some decorum Michael. A good waiter is the one you see when you need them, yet the waiter you want is one with a personality of a shadow; a good waiter Michael is one that can read the moment and take their cue from their dinner guests.
G Lets talk about a very touchy subject – Gratuity. Back in the 1880’s around the taverns of Fleet Street London, four gentleman enjoying lunch left a little bit extra with the bill, a gesture that was used to insure promptness; and the tip was born.
H You really got up on the wrong side of the bed the day you wrote this didn’t you. I agree, it can get rowdy, but singing Happy Birthday is an age old tradition and the first restaurant to ban it will soon find a big arse padlocks on the front door. H is also for humour, for anyone working front of house (FOH) needs one when dealing with prickly customers. As I said earlier, I have in the past asked customers if they would like a drawing lesson when they have scribbled on their palm as a request for the bill and never have they taken offense.
I What are all of the restaurants out there in Chinatown going to do now that imitations are no longer Kosher. Who is the restaurant that first served Peking duck and Salt and Pepper squid, for now they surely have the right to be the only restaurant in town to serve these culinary marvels!
J Simply, you have got to be Joking!
K Once again, I think you should be naming names when it comes to this and the ‘1985’ cutting. These Kudo’s are sometimes the only method a restaurant has when it comes to pulling people in from off the street; it seems that there are only a handful of eateries here in Melbourne that can afford PR companies to get their names in print.
L This one I have had trouble with. Yes, sometimes menu’s do read a little wanky and restaurant names are sometimes taking a lend, but I think the Language should also be about the filth that can be heard by some tipsy and even sober customers. One memorable fellow could not contain is disappointment in the wine list I was managing with the ‘F’ bomb coming out on more than one occasion – ‘I am angry’ as he put it about my list eventually made me chuckle at the bloke, who eventually ordered a Cape Mentelle Shiraz from Margaret River. His anger centred on the fact that there was none of his favourite wines. I did my best to placate his quandary but it was all to no avail - he was angry, and his wife was embarrassed; she left a 50% gratuity. A winelist is nothing to lose your cool about, and as the manager of the restaurant I was working at said, ‘If he wants to get angry, get angry at the 50,000 children who die each day’.
M In my experience, you are either damned if you do have music or damned if you don’t. I gotta say though that St Germain ‘Tourist’ should be banned from every cafe, bar, pizzeria, Laundromat and everything in between God dammit! M is also for manners, something everyone, be it FOH, chef or customer have when they walk through the doors.
N Noise hey, I reckon 'N' should be for napkins, something Stephen Downes has always had an issue with. I recently had lunch with Erin at a once hatted restaurant in Melbourne and was shocked to discover paper napkins folded on the table. I have always said that the staff needs to be as good as the menu and the winelist, and the menu and the winelist at this restaurant were first class, yet the napkins? Come on!
O Oil falls into the same category as music I reckon; you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Nobody knows what is too much or not enough.
P 'P' is definitely for punctuality! Yes, the oversized phallic symbols passing as pepper grinders are certainly intrusive and best left back in the 1970’s or on Lygon Street Carlton. Now people, if you have a 7.00pm booking, showing up at 7.30 or 8pm is going to throw the whole service in to the shit, but I will cover this more thoroughly in ‘T’.
Q If you do not like queuing, either make a booking or forget about getting a table at Cumulus Inc or Mo Vida.
R I find it absolutely impossible to believe your remark that, and I quote, “More often than not, restaurant managements are coy about letting one know where to go.” Where the hell are you eating Michael, Bangladesh? Though my favourite comeback to diners when asked if we have toilets is ‘No, we use the trees across the street!’
S The only time you should be scared of Specials is on a Monday when the restaurant offers a ‘seafood special’ – this generally means that the seafood from Friday or maybe Saturday is only a service away from the bin; steer clear folks, I mean guys, I mean Sir and Madam!
T No argument with you here Michael, but I think the real issue is with Tardiness. The number One pet hate during a restaurant service is people showing up for a booking when they want. All good restaurants out there stagger their bookings so as to allow the kitchen and FOH to ably manage the service without any stuff ups. When a booking is late, and NO service in Melbourne is without a late booking, it creates undue pressure on both FOH and the kitchen to now manage a heavier work load in a designated time – when you rush you make mistakes, and it is the customer who directs blame at the restaurant, not the tardiness of other diner’s.
U I’m tipping that the next time you go out for diner Michael, you will probably get very unenthusiastic service. Did a waiter run over your puppy when you were 10 Michael? Your distaste of wait staff seems to be quite deep seated to me. Yet not only can there be unenthusiastic wait staff, there are also quite a few unenthusiastic diners. One that comes to mind very quickly is the daughter of a very well to do couple, regulars as well at the restaurant that I was working at. Every time that she joined them for dinner, it seemed to me that it was all just a big chore. When asked for a wine recommendation from the dad, she would but in with, ‘No, I have had so much Giaconda lately, and don’t try and recommend the Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay, I had it with lunch!’ Geez!
V I like my restaurants close to the ground. ‘V’ for me is vertigo; working recently at The Point restaurant in Albert Park was high enough let me tell ya!
W All hail the Waiter!
X The x-rated thing should also be directed at the customer. About seven years ago I had a brief stint in a restaurant that was aligned to a pub that attracted the ‘cashed up bogan’ brigade. Just before a busy Saturday night service, a couple of girls who had a booking for about 15 diners arrived with a box of paraphernalia that included rubber penises’, balloons shaped as penises’, penises’ with feet that jumped up and down.... you get the picture. To their disgust however, I quite categorically said that none of the contents of the box would be allowed on the table during service. Well, during the said service, on at least five times did security have to come in and escort revellers from this group out of the restaurant; it seemed that recreational drugs, fake penises’ and cheap BYO Sauvignon Blanc do not mix.
Y I wouldn’t have it any other way, nor would my four year old daughter Imogen who absolutely loves the fast and furious pace of Yum cha.
Z Zero-tolerance indeed. I hope next time when you head out without a booking that the Andrea Bocelli tune playing causes you to spill your cocktail with umbrella all over your nice clean white shirt while you wait next to a tree where a fellow dinner guest who is late is taking a leak while trying to decide what special to have with his cheap bottle of BYO Sauvignon Blanc.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cumulus 'Rolling' Central Ranges/Orange Shiraz 2007

Sometimes I am prone to fidgeting. This is generally due to too much something something happening in my head; this is obvious. Recently I heard of a something called ‘Mindfulness’, whereby I, or you, just think of what is now and the stuff that licks your twin-pole – icy pole that is. So there are two things right now that are licking my icy-pole, ‘The Decemberists’ The Crane Wife album, in particular ‘The Crane Wife 1&2’ track – just love anything with a bit of Hammond organ - and a little ripper from Orange NSW, the Cumulus 'Rolling' Central Ranges/Orange Shiraz 2007; the orange isn’t rolling cos’ that’s where the wine is from!

A fantastic wine coming from the Phillip Shaw stable, this is all good, good and good. In the glass the wine has a deep red crimson with a pinkish hue. The nose is all black pepper to start with, but with decanting you get a little whack of chocolate. In the mouth you get a great whack of, yes another ‘whack of’, black pepper with a heap of red fruit and red liquorice with a great balance of acid and savoury tannins. Super stuff this one.

Great balance, plenty of length with a wonderful cool climate appeal and....

It was a cold night and the snow lay low
I pulled my coat tight against the falling down
And the sun was all
And the sun was all down
And the sun was all
And the sun was all down

I am a poor man
I haven't wealth nor fame
I have my two hands and a house to my name
And the winter's so
And the winter's so long
And the winter's so
And the winter's so long
And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found

It was a white crane
It was a helpless thing
Upon a red stain
With an arrow through its wing
And it called and cried
And it called and cried so
And it called and cried
And it called and cried so
And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found
My crane wife, my crane wifeMy crane wife, my crane wife.......’

It’s a long song already!

Drink till 2012
Drink with BBQ Sichuan beef
Screwcap 13.5%v/v $16 Brunswick IGA

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Santa Marta Salusrti Tuscany Montecucco Sangiovese 2004 DOC and my Prickly Moses Beef and Potato Pie's

Vineyards of Santa Marta

There is not more important factor than the weather when it comes to producing great wine. The wine maker can be as famous as they want to be, but if they do not get a decent growing season, you can kiss goodbye all those glowing reviews they had been counting on. The final month is probably the most fraught with stress to the wine maker; when is the right time to pick? Can I leave the fruit out for just one more week? Will that rain band alter its course and miss my fruit?

Just one hot day at the end of the growing season can push the potential alcohol up in fruit by up to 2% which can effectively change the style of wine that was intended to be made. In Tuscany in 2003, the vintage after the hottest on record of 2002, growers were faced with this dilemma in late September with their Sangiovese. Ultra dry and hot weather hit the area in the last week of September and pretty much wiped out the fruit for that year to a lot of growers. So in 2004, growers were so vigilant in this period that they had picking crews on standby if the celsius got over 28°. With added bunch and shoot thinning in this season, 2004 eventuated as the most stressful for some years in Tuscany, but the stress paid off with many saying the 2004 vintage as the best since the great vintage of 1997.
One of the great wines to come out of this vintage is the Santa Marta Salusrti Montecucco Sangiovese 2004 DOC. Yet another gem purchased from Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick, this wine shows all the hallmarks of coming from a superior year, with just a touch of ripeness telling me that they got the fruit of just in time I’d say. This wine however was not an impulse purchase; I needed something that had great acid structure with fine and tart fruit layers in it for my stout chuck steak and potato pie.

Like most meals I prepare, plenty of time is needed as the chuck steak needs about three and half hours to braise with the spuds. So here is how you do it:
· 500 grams of good stewing beef
· Good oil
· 750mL of stout, Prickly Moses for this one
· Water
· Three Desiree potatoes, peeled and diced
· Two cloves of garlic, crushed
· Three shallots, cut fine
· Puff pastry, baked in oven

As I said, the meat needs to be braised for about three and a half hours, so brown the beef in a pot and add stout and water and bring to boil. The mix will head up quite a bit so keep an eye on it. Once it has boiled, bring to simmer and add the remaining ingredients and stir every 15 minutes. Once you have the braise, spoon in to bowls and cover with the pastry. Bake to a desired puffiness.

Imogen in Action.... literally

A good fun thing to do with the kids is to cut out the starting letter of their names in pastry and put it on top of the layer of pastry. This is an easy way to get your children to eat their meal because they have some sort of ownership in the making of it, that’s what happened with Imogen anyway.
Now the wine. Very Sangiovese in the glass, with a clear translucency about it with a ruby red/pinkish hue. The nose is all prickly fir and morello cherry with a little hint of prunes. Very savoury acid in the mouth that builds to red fruit right at the end. This wine also had about 30 minutes in the decanter before dinner.

Like I said, you get a good growing season you get good fruit and in the end good fruit equals good wine, and this Sangiovese is great and a definite Susan with my pie’s.

Drink till 2025
Drink with my stout beef pie
Quality cork 13.5%v/v $30 at Mediterranean Wholesalers, Brunswick

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mount Gisborne Montague Pinot Noir Rosé 2009

Bright and almost stark, the Mount Gisborne Montague Pinot Noir Rosé 2009 is definitely not one of the garden variety Rosé’s that are currently stacking the shelves around Melbourne, and the rest of Australia for that matter, right now.

Made in the ‘Saingee’ method using the run-off or bleed of the main Pinot Noir ferment, this wine saw no new oak in its ferment process, with very old oak simply being a vessel for this wine as David Ell noted while having a little natter in my kitchen a month ago. In the bottle and in the glass, this wine has a definite haze look about it – almost a blush look as Erin countered; this is a result of no fining or filtering of the primary product. The nose is very prickly with a definite crushed strawberry feel about it. If the nose was anything to go by, the expectation of strawberry on the palate would not be surprising, yet this wine grabs a bit more than was expected in the mouth with, yes, strawberry, but also a lovely savoury feel about it thanks to the old oak imparting some juice from several vintages holding Pinot Noir.

Definitely the best Rosé I have seen in a few years.

Drink till 2011
Drink with grilled BBQ pork chops
Screwcap 14%v/v
Contact Mount Gisborne Wines for stockists and $$

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Brave New World! Kharisma 'Isola dei Nuraghi' IGT Sardinia Vermentino 2007

A possible snapshot of future Australia written by guest blogger Aldous Huxley:

As the subtle hum of the biosphere’s dome rings in my ears, I step out in to the street where I am instantly coated with the perennial humid mist that is ever present in our lives. Heading down Chapel street I notice yet another ‘Oxybucks’ oxygen bar opening with dirt stained noses lining up for the morning ‘fresh’ hit. But it was another grand opening of a shop three doors down that got my attention. It was another MSA clinic – Marlborough Sauvignon Anonymous.
It had been 15 years since the planet exhausted its stocks of Marlborough Sauvignon, the drink that in the early years of the 21st century commanded 93% of wine consumption throughout the civilised world. In the years since the vine disappeared due to the rare disease, Catspissus necrosis, the 35 million Australians who were responsible for the majority of the demand were yet to get over the demise of the grape and had still not been able to stomach any other variety, with the Sauvignon stripping the nations palate completely.......

Thanks Aldous.

Sounds scary doesn’t it! Bu there is hope out there people. There is life after Sauvignon Blanc, and it comes in the guise of many dry white wine varieties such as Gros and Petit Manseng, Semillon, Arneis, Pinot Grigio and my fave at the moment, Vermentino.

Grown primarily on Corsica and Sardinia, Vermentino as small plantings in and around the Murray Darling region, with Bruce Chalmers of Chalmers Nursery being the driving force behind its growth. But if you want a choice you will probably have to go to speciality wine shops who deal in imported wine, and one of those is the Enoteca Sileno on Lygon Street Carlton, an Italian providor dealing in all things culinary and alcohol, and it is here where I picked up the wonderful Kharisma ‘Isola dei Nuraghi’ IGT Sardinian Vermentino 2007. Yes the name ‘Kharisma’ is bit kitsch, but there is absolutely nothing kitsch about the wine.

On this day I needed a crisp white to go with my Carbonara. Chardonnay would have done the trick, but I’m always drinking Chardonnay, and I thought something Italian with my pasta sauce. Vermentino has naturally high acids which are perfect in cutting through the thick unctuous sauce that is Carbonara. And my Carbonara rocks – and there is no cream in this one people! So here is my recipe for my Carbonara:

· Four egg yolks
· 200 grams of good bacon
· One onion
· Two cloves of garlic, crushed
· Cooking white wine
· Good olive oil
· Parmesan cheese and good spaghetti – Martelli
Simply separate yolks from whites and place in a bowl with a splash of water and a good glug of oil and cracked pepper, mix. Reduce diced onion and garlic in white wine, add bacon and reduce again. Cook off pasta al dente, toss all ingredients together and top with biting parmesan. Yummo!

Now the wine. The Vermentino has a surprising yellow gold colour to it with quite a rich nose of flowers, preserved lemon and salt. The mouth is fantastic with layers of citrus, soft herbs, banana and melon. Fantastic complexity with this one and a definite ‘Susan’. On a side note, I would definitely decant this wine; there is plenty of SO2 in it so the air is necessary to blow off the burnt match smell.

Drink till 2012
Drink with my Carbonara recipe
Quality cork 13%v/v $42 at Enoteca Sileno 920 Lygon Street Carlton North

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Châteauneuf-du-Pape and my friend Mario Guiot

Earlier this week I was going through some off my old vintage notes from the late 90’s in France. In a four year period I worked at Clos Hermitage, Tavel in the Southern Rhone and also at Jean-Marie Etienne in the Marne Valley in Champagne, and through all of these vintages I had one stable factor throughout – Mario Guiot. You see, both of these wineries were represented by Alchemist Consultants of London, a restaurant consultancy group I was working with, and Mario was effectively the Liaison in France for Alchemist

Mario was a big influence on me back then, and it was while we were in Tavel that Mario not only got me in to Institut Auvignon to study wine, but he was also my travel companion on most Sundays when we would head out on the road exploring the southern Rhone; Carpentras, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CDP), Lirac, Rasteau and Saint-Pantaléon-les-Vignes.

Before heading overseas, my wine knowledge was quite small you may say. If I was at a BBQ there might of been a box of our world famous, ‘man and woman in boat’ – better known as Coolabah, or a bottle perhaps of Jamieson’s Run or Penfolds Rawson’s Retreat, and if we were lucky, Bin 28 – good times!

It was here in the Rhone, and also in New York at Le Fauchon Bistro, where my wine education started. And it was probably the many visits out to Château La Nerthe in CDP. It was here that we befriended a very wise old gent, Lauren. He had lived within CDP his entire life, and had been living on the Château La Nerthe for the last 15 years. He was full of stories and was orphaned during WW2, as he kept telling us every time we saw him. He said he was not sure how old he was, but he said that he remembered having his first beer when Montpellier finished runners-up in the 1928 French Football championships.

It seemed everyone in CDP knew Lauren. Everywhere we walked through the Village, people would stop us and pour Lauren a glass of this or a glass of that. Mario and I also got a glass and more often than not another bottle was opened; Domaine Raymond Usseglio, Ch. De Vaudieu, La Nonciature, Laurus, Vieux Telegraphe and Ogier were just some of the wines I quickly jotted down in my little journal from our walks; sour cheery, morello, chocolate, cedar, blackberries and on and on. These are wines that can only come out of CDP and flavours that are masterfully extracted from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre.

Mario Guiot (left)

Now my French was very poor, but I could always understand the, ‘coner Australien’, or stupid Australian, for it was my fault apparently that Australia, to the French, made such crap wine. But these were not rude sniggers, because this was often followed with a wink and a smile and a comment that pretty much equated to how lucky I was to be in France to get my education – they were right.

You see, the French always thought our wines were far too ripe and alcoholic, a fact really that cannot be argued I reckon. It was during these afternoon sessions that I learnt that wine should not be expressed through its alcohol, but its mouth feel, and this just did not mean fruit also, but of minerality, acid, tannins and savoury factors; these are words I would have never of used to describe Australian wines of the 80’s and 90’s!

My last visit to CDP was in late 1999 where I again walked with Lauren and Mario and listened as best as I could to their great stories of wine, war, women and football. I am not sure if Lauren is still living at La Nerthe, or even living period, but I hope one day to take my kids back there and hopefully get some kind gents to open up something wonderful and again listen to old French men speak.

I am writing this today because I just got an email from an old friend in London to inform me that Mario passed away on Thursday from cancer. So thankyou Mario for introducing me to not only your culture, but also your beloved Châteaunuef-du-Pape. Mario was 45.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

100/100 for post 100 - Lamy Pillot Le Montrachet Grand Cru 2005

Finality is death. Perfection is finality. Nothing is perfect. There are lumps in it.’ James Stephens, Irish poet and writer – 1882-1950

Arrghh, poets, what more can you say about those troubled and tortured souls whose career choice will always haunt them. ‘There are lumps in it’ – yes there are, in the label that is. There are also lumps in Gisele Bundchan and people have said she is perfect! The Lamy Pillot Le Montrachet Grand Cru 2005 is perfect, lumps and all, and for my 100th post it is fitting that I write about a perfect wine, 100/100!

Montrachet is certainly the Holy Grail when it comes to Chardonnay. Consisting of just 7.68 hectares (18.9 acres), the Montrachet vineyard producers on average just 4,500 cases a year, which makes tastings like this very rare and very expensive. It is suggested that these wines in good years, and 2005 was good if a little warm at times, be cellared for about eight years before tackling. Well, if your maths is as good as mine I have failed in the game of patience.

The wine in the glass is a very straw yellow with a greening hue about it. The nose is just gorgeous with the oak marrying perfectly with citrus, apricot and liquorice – there is a power here that has you fair-dinkum salivating for what it is going to taste like, yet you find yourself unable to get your nose out of the glass; I did anyway! The mouth, oh wow! Incredibly complex with so much happening, yet there is absolutely no confusion of flavour with grapefruit, mascarpone cheese, liquorice powder and oak that seems to hold everything in its place. The acid also is quite restrained. On first opening the wine at about 5°C, the acid was very much poised at the front, yet it was by no means over powering the other characteristics in the mouth. After about an hour at room temp, the wine I reckon got to about 11°C, which some may say is the desired temp for a wine like this (me included), the acid was more of a presence in the mouth rather than a sensation, and it was this presence that held – and developed – all of the complex flavours that were in the mouth.

Perfect, Perfect, Perfect!

Drink till 2019
Drink with fillet of Turbot in flaky pastry
Quality cork 14%v/v $ 490

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oakridge 864 Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2006

In 2008 I did vintage at Oakridge in the Yarra Valley. Quite possibly the most physically and mentally challenging two months I have experienced. The thing with 2008 in the Valley was that a lot of the fruit, red and white, ripened pretty much at the same time. Add to this that Oakridge were also functioning as a ‘gun for hire’ due to the Phylloxera zone that had been set up; this meant the winery at Oakridge was processing not only its own fruit, but fruit for people such as Hardy’s, Casella and Yarraloch. All in all just over 900 tonne of fruit was processed in eight weeks; six day weeks, 16 hour days, Subaru Outback left hand panel totalled by two kangaroo’s and a serious bout of gastro (no fruit was harmed during this time) are some of the fond memories I have of that time.

But the most endearing is the wine I was able to purchase at the cellar door for half price! Quite a lot let me just say and the standout was definitely the Oakridge 864 Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2006.

The wine is still quite tight with a straw colour about it. The nose has a wicked hit of grapefruit and white flower, with the grapefruit really the big factor here. The wine really hits its stride in the mouth with more lip smacking citrus, with grapefruit and lemon tart the two prominent flavours; this is backed up with striking acid which gives this wine massive length which marries together the oak and fruit. Sexy stuff this one - mucho fantastico.

Incredible balance and length with all the hallmarks of a Premier Cru Burgundy.

Drink till 2014
Drink with Blue swimmer crab and Angel hair pasta
Screwcap 13.5%v/v $60 (sold out)

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Ned Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008

Very easy to drink and a deadest bargain is The Ned Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008! Peachy pink in appearance with similar on the nose; peach kernel and rose petals being very distinct. The palate is very Pinot Gris with a very slippery mouth feel up front with the acid being more pronounced rather than just a presence. The longer in the glass sherbet is also evident.

Lovely balance and complexity to this wine.

Drink till 2011
Drink with Thai chilli prawns
Screwcap 13.5%v/v $16

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Say it aint so George!

Before April this year I was neither here nor there when it came to bloggers and their lot. Bloggers on food and wine for me were effectively curious people with creative nous who considered sharing their thoughts on a bottle of this or a plate of that as a kind random act, because let’s face it, bloggers do not write with an acerbic pen.

This week the wunderkind George Calombaris in the HUN on Tuesday said “Bloggers have no idea about restaurants. They’ve got no idea how they run.” I certainly hope he has been taken out of context here! If not, then this is a very naive and generalist statement, George.

George continues with, “These are trained professionals. These critics know what they’re talking about.” These people you speak of George are trained journalists, like your co-host Matt Preston who before writing about food, covered TV show’s such as ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home and Away’ (‘Life Magazine’, The Sunday Age October 4, 2009); they are not trained chefs, sommeliers or front of house managers. In almost 15 years of working in the restaurant/wine industry I have been a part of critically acclaimed restaurants in New York, London and Melbourne, and can honestly say that I have far greater knowledge of the happenings of restaurant service. In these 15 years, George, I have also eaten at some of Australia’s most well known restaurants where I have found it almost impossible not to observe the operations of the service in terms of fluidity, waiter awareness and customer satisfaction; something I have done with experience, George.

When a critic eats out, more often than not they are recognised by the front of house who then alert the chef that the ‘make or break’ service is now upon them. With the order taken by either the front of house manager or the most competent waiter, the chef will then sweat over probably three or four plates of each dish that has been requested by said critic and their guests. This means that the rest of the paying guest’s meals are prepared by second or third year apprentices who are more used to plating salads and burning crème brulee’s.

Today, restaurants are likely to have a carefully constructed PR machine driving the restaurateurs’ ambitions of critically acclaimed success, hats and appearances on reality TV shows; it is not the best restaurant that gets the gongs, but the restaurant that knows how the greater machine works.

Being a local Brunswickistanian, I have visited George’s ‘Hellenic Republic’ on at least six occasions, and have even posted a glowing blog on their weekend mezze menu. This is where you think I am going to take the sour grapes road and have a go at the venue – not true. I will keep on going there and tell my friends to also go when they ask me if it is worth a visit, because George I am a paying customer who just happens to blog about food and wine because I can and have, dare I say, expertise in both fields; I also have a Bachelor of Viticulture/Wine Science which is also pretty good training I reckon George!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Philip Lobley Upper Goulburn Reserve Pinot Noir 2007

When you see the moniker ‘Reserve’ on any product, the first thought is that you have something pretty good. Bass Phillip uses it, Paringa Estate use it, Moss Wood used to use it and more recently Luke Lambert uses it – very well I must say. So when I sore the Phillip Lobley Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 for $37 at Rathdowne Cellars a month ago I thought, ‘beauty’. Even Eddy, the owner of Rathdowne said he was very impressed with it; sweet as a nut then!

Expectations can be dangerous, and in this case expectations were high but unfortunately were not met. In the glass the wine looked a quite dirty red that was very translucent. Macerated sweet strawberries and a bit of earth were all I got on the nose with the mouth offering up very little – maybe a bit young. However, the next day the wine did not yield much in the way of development with the palate quite dry and flat with a little astringency at the back.

No real balance or length; maybe this wine will be better in a few years perhaps.

Drink till 2013
Drink with cold leftovers – seriously!
Screwcap 12.8%v/v $37

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dalwhinnie Moonambel Pyrenees Chardonnay 2005

Just to let you know from the get go, I have always been a massive fan of Dalwhinnie, and this one is no exception. The Dalwhinnie Pyrenees Chardonnay 2005 is certainly a wine that is made in a style that Dalwhinnie have displayed for a long time; a seamless balance of oak, fruit and minerality.

This is not the current vintage for Chardonnay, but you would not guess it. If you had this at a blind tasting there is no way you would call this a 2005. It has so much youth about it up front, but as I said, the oak brings about a wonderful balance that that delivers layers of complexity. In the glass this wine has a yellowish straw appearance about it with citrus fruits like grapefruit smacking you in the olfactory. Quick acid up front with a prickly lick of minerality drive the wine with huge length that gives you fresh pear and liquorice powder right at the end. As I said before, this wine has incredibly balanced and integrated oak. Great stuff I say!

Wonderful balance, super length and fantastic complexity.

Drink till 2012
Drink with smoked eel and chicken pie
ProCork 13.5% $41

Duck Pie @ La Parisienne Patés, Carlton

This is the duck pie from La Parisienne Patés I was talking about that will go with the 2003 Sergio Bi-O Pinot Noir. Sooo Goood, and at $6, a fair-dinkum no-brainer!!!