6.12am Sea Temple internet kiosk, Port Douglas, Far North Queensland
This, folks, is my first attempt at posting a remote (ie away from the winery) blog bit. So hang on to your technical hats, we’re breaking new ground here!
The sun is just about up, and it’s very still and sultry this morning. It smells of salt and rain on the way, even though the sky is clear as a bell. In fact, the only thing moving the air at all right now are the geckos running up the walls and the ceiling fans that are absolutely everywhere. They hang down from the high eaves that are typical of the old style ‘queenslander’ buildings that were designed to help people survive up here in the tropics since the fishing villages and cane fields were established up this way 150 years ago.
We started the new Rare & Fine wine release tour last night at Cafe Salsa, and for the next five weeks we’ll be doing all sorts of events to show these to Australia, finishing off at the end of May in Perth. So I’m going to try to bring you on tour with us. Cafe Salsa has been on Wharf Street in Port Douglas for eight years and is the genuine old ‘queenslander’ style timber building sitting three steps up from ground level on stumps – timber floor, high timber eaves, ceiling fans, no flyscreens, just big white timber shutters open all the time to catch whatever breeze they can. It’s surrounded by palm trees.
Head chef Goran Zonai did a great job at the stove last night and completely re-set my idea of Beef Wellington with his version, which was served with our 2005 Octavius Old Vine Shiraz. I’ve always avoided the dish as it’s often been soggy, gluggy pastry barely holding a big dollop of super rich pate to a tiny piece of beef – either not cooked at all or tough as old boots. Forget all that! I took a picture and will try to get that in here to show you. Failing that, we’re talking home-made puff pastry still flaky, then a layer of mushroom, onion, garlic and thyme that has been finely diced and reduced to almost a paste, then a seriously tender piece of beef. Two bundles of green beans tied off with procuito, some mashed potato, and a light sauce infused with truffle oil. Really nice!
The 2005 Octavius is a ‘forward’ vintage, so has the fruit moving right out front early with a bit of almost star anise that is that licorice thing you can get with old low-yielding shiraz from the Barossa floor – top combination, and it has set the pace for the rest of the tour.
Just a couple of side lines – up on the wall is a framed plate and menu signed by Bill Clinton, who was having lunch at Salsa on September 11, 2001, about half an hour before the whole Twin Towers tragedy in New York happened. Same time he was having lunch up here, I was with our New York rep trying to fix a flat tyre on the New Jersey turnpike, as we had just headed out of Manhattan that morning at around 7.15am from Washington Square. Strange stuff.
And by the way, Salsa have just released a cookbook and have the best postcards (the sand crab I’m hiding behind if the photo uplinks or whatever you call it when you plug the photo into the computer) and young PJ makes a great coffee at the bar!
So – off to a tropical fruit breakfast and down to Cairns this morning for a masterclass with the local trade.