Monthly Archives: April 2009

Into the Tropics

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!

Cafe Salsa

Cafe Salsa

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.

Beef W done right

Beef W done right

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.

Signed by Bill Clinton

Signed by Bill Clinton

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.

Yalumba Month

Jane Ferarri introduces Yalumba Month in the USA from the cooperage in Angaston.

Enjoy the video, and we’ll keep our eyes out for more rain here in Angaston because Hughie hasn’t quite sent down three years worth of rain in the past three days.

“Vineyard of the Empire”

6.12am,  cold & dark Yalumba, still wet Angaston, Barossa Valley
Still raining, and it has been all night. This is very much like the traditional “breaking rains” when I was a kid. They started in the second week of April and signalled the change from Autumn to Winter. With any luck these rains will hold and give the subsoil a real soaking.

I just wanted to tidy up the week with what we’re still up to in the vintage department, before I head off to work in Adelaide for the day. So, officially we took the last lot of fruit off the vines from the Barossa yesterday morning, just sneaking in before the rain. With one day’s notice, a hand-picking team of 25 people were thrown together and took  12 and a half tons of Muscat from Mick Koch’s block – out behind Angaston on the Moculta road – which will end up in the Museum Muscat after a long and graceful ageing period in small and large oak. 

David Zimmerman

David Zimmerman

Actually, good opportunity to introduce Dr Zim, our fortified winemaker – David Zimmerman – who also used to make a lot of the dry reds for Yalumba in the 1970s. Dr Zim has to wait for the absolute end of season, as he works with the really ripe stuff off the vines that gives us the glorious fortified gear that built our early reputation as a fledgling wine industry up to 180 years ago.

Not many people realise that the Barossa – during 1890 to 1915 – was referred to as “the vineyard of the Empire”, and our main reason for being was to make fortified wine, most of which was exported to the British Empire. The Barossa was covered with fortified grape varieties, and table wine was the minority volume produced – with this really only turning around in the 1960s. An interesting story for another time – or when I catch up with folks later this year as I take the Yalumba story on the road – across Australia and abroad! 

May will see me start up in Port Douglas, Queensland, and end up over in Perth, with Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane, Toowoomba, Sydney, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Armidale and Melbourne in between. July will see me in Ireland and England, then through to the US and Canada during August, September and October – more on that down the track.

So back to vintage! Peter Gambetta has cleaned up in Coonawarra, crushing the last block of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Menzies vineyard last Tuesday. Yesterday he finished off at Wrattonbully with a parcel of fruit from a trial that we’re running to evaluate a new “higher flavour and lower alcohol”  spooky clone of Merlot. I’ll get into that next week when I can get Pete away from the ferments for 10 minutes. So, everything’s off except the Botrytis Viognier.

And speaking of off – I’m away to Adelaide! Have a good weekend, wherever you are!

It’s Raining!

1.26pm,  Yalumba,  dripping wet Angaston,  Barossa  Valley
Big news of the day is it’s raining! Not spitting. Not drizzling. The wind has dropped, and the water is coming steadily straight down from the sky. This is probably not a big deal for folks who live in London, or where there’s been recent flooding like Queensland or the American Midwest. But seeing as this is only the eighth day this year that we’ve registered rain here (and two of those didn’t count as it wasn’t even enough to settle the dust), this makes it a memorable moment! Traditionally, the Barossa has this Mediterranean climate, so we expect a hot dry summer – which we absolutely got – and now we’re hoping this is the start of the complementary cold wet winter. Everything in the garden – including the veggies, the vines, and the fruit trees – desperately needs a good drink, so as the old saying goes, “Send it down, Hughie!” (see Glossary)

Natalie Fryar

Natalie Fryar

Now to winemaking matters. As I said yesterday, the all-day classification tastings are under way, with whites and sparkling base happening this week. In four weeks, it will be the reds under review. Yesterday our sparkling winemaker, Nat Fryar, came up from Tasmania with all the Jansz base wine samples, and even though the winemake will be tiny, she’s really happy with the outstanding quality of both the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that she does have to work with.

Also under discussion yesterday was the Rosé. You’ll be pleased to know that Andy La Nauze and Sam “Captain Colourscheme” Wigan have delivered. The fuschia tones of the Sangiovese Rosé have held on, and the wine’s a cracker. I’ve just been to see Judy “the enigma who knows all” Argent (she tracks all the details of whatever happens to any parcel of fruit and wine during each vintage – good person to know), and she tells me that the blending instruction for the Rosé has gone through. It will be bottled in May, so it will be fresh out of the blocks for the start of our Spring season – if not before.

Today, all the Chardonnay and Viognier made from 2009 is under discussion – except for one parcel of Viognier still hanging on down in Wrattonbully. Peter Gambetta’s last lot of fruit has just started to infect with Botrytis Cinerea and will be helped no end by today’s rain. Estimated time to come off for that fruit will be mid to late May, all things being equal and the noble rot holding on to shrivel the fruit and concentrate the flavour.

Reds Coming Along Fine

11.35am  Yalumba,  Barossa Valley
This morning it’s obvious that the weather clock is ticking, and even though the day is as clear as a bell, the leaves on the vines are starting to change into their autumn colours. We’ve officially picked everything from the Barossa, and the week of  “classification” tastings started yesterday. This is where the whole winemaking-viticultural team works through tasting every parcel of wine fermented separately this vintage – by variety.

Yesterday it was a whole day of Rieslings and Sauvignon Blancs. The good news from chief winemaker Louisa Rose is that everything came up well, with Eden Valley looking really good, the Rieslings being “pristine”. That’s a great start, with Pinot Gris and all the sparkling wine base under the microscope today.

Kevin Glastonbury

Kevin Glastonbury

As far as our local reds are travelling, Kev Glastonbury has got most of his reds off skins, with everything “powering through malolactic fermentation on its own”. That’s a really good sign as far as the condition and stability of the wines go. If the nuts and bolts work, then everything built on that base is better. Specifically, two ferments of Barossa floor Mataro have just gone dry and look really solid – destined for the Hand Picked MGS. The two Single Site Grenache blocks are still on skins, and three ferments of Grenache destined for Bush Vine have just come off four weeks on skins.

Most of the Shiraz and Cabernet earmarked for Octavius and Signature are safely tucked up  in barrel already, and the early opinion from Kev is that the Eden Valley Shiraz came through the heat unscathed to be outstanding – with Grenache and Mataro from the Valley floor being as good a season as anyone’s seen. Yes it’s early days, but all good news.

From the Parade to Wine with Lethal Leigh Matthews

9.24am, Yalumba
Well, the news whipped around the winery this morning, and it’s all good! We ended up winning the Winery section of the  Float Parade, so put to bed the 2009 Barossa Vintage Festival in fine form. Can’t complain about anything really. The weather co-operated all week, the events across the Valley were great, and there were crowds of happy campers at everything. Good job done, now it’s just two years until the next one!

Oh, I should make a note here for those of you following the fortunes of St Kilda – my AFL football team – this season. Something strange is going on, as we’ve had 4 rounds, we’ve won 4 games, and we’re on top of the competition! This is the first time in 136 years that we’ve seen this, so we’re all a bit dazed, but thoroughly thrilled. It can’t possibly last, but I’m loving it while it does.

The Saints boys are back in town (Adelaide is the big smoke for us!)  this Friday night to play Port Power, and we’ll be sitting with the faithful in the cheersquad, so watch this space.

It’s going to be a totally football day actually, as I’m doing a wine lunch at the Glenelg Football Club (a great supporter of Yalumba’s) that day – with Hawthorn playing- and Collingwood and Brisbane coaching-legend “Lethal” Leigh Matthews – plus our Vermentino and Organic McLaren Vale Shiraz (the first major event outings for both wines). Last year, I did one with Adelaide Crows legend Mark Ricciuto and 300 Glenelg members, and we had a huge amount of fun with that – so with any luck Friday will go the same way.

Everybody Loves a Parade!

 

Teresa H

Teresa H

10.16am, Vintage Festival Parade marshalling area, Nuriootpa
Well folks, we’re float number 38 in the Vintage Festival Parade, and the whole thing is due to move off at around 10.45am from Nuriootpa to Tanunda. We’ve slid down into the marshalling area to check out the competition for this year’s Best Winery Float – and it is going to be on! Elderton have come out of the clouds with an excellent Pirates of the Cabernet float, complete with vehicle-mounted galleon sails. Led by the Darth-Vader-body-armoured Stuart Blackwell, St Hallett have put together a Star Wars themed May the Shiraz Force Be With You float.

Taylor, Tanya, Helen

Taylor, Tanya, Helen

Now we’ve moved on to where over 100 of our people – from all parts of the winery, with their families, and 8 dogs – are milling about a giant birthday cake on a trailer. We have a number of candles, bottles of shiraz and pieces of birthday cake that are walking about in a cloud of party hats and balloons, and this is our float – 160 years Young!

Broady

Broady

Check out these photos to give you a bit of an idea of what the whole thing looks like: Teresa H (winemaker) the candle, Tanya (e-marketing) her daughter Taylor, and Helen (laboratory) the candles, Broady (cellar manager) is a piece of cake – bit scary about the 4 legs! And the whole crew, with Leon (chief accountant) the cake on the far right.

The Crew

The Crew

Confidence is high, but it’s all with the judges, and we won’t know until tonight who the winner is. I’m back to the winery to do a tasting with 10 young surgeons that sat with us at a Cheong Liew dinner at the Adelaide Hilton Grange Room late last year, so I’ll catch up with the crew later on in Tanunda to see how we went.