Monthly Archives: May 2009

My Favourite Recliner Chair Is Calling

12.05pm, Perth Airport, Western Australia
It’s finished! A five week trek with the Rare & Fines down the Eastern Seaboard, through rural NSW, round the bottom of the country through Victoria and across to the West. And we lived! And won hearts and palates – some where we’ve never ventured before. And sent some nice wines to some nice homes. And we’ve been asked back everywhere! And you can’t complain about that.

Cher (sort of) and Jane

Cher (sort of) and Jane

Yesterday we did our annual event with Perth’s Twist Club, a group of fine upstanding businessmen who have a passion for wine – amongst other things! They always manage to have a great set of wines put on for their monthly meeting, and I think it’s the only job that I do in the world where I get to have lunch with 50 engaging men – as the only gal! It’s a memorable day believe me, and I always save some special stories for the boys from my travels.

This episode in our relationship with the Twist Club was no exception, and with the folks at Gala restaurant in Applecross doing the food, I even told stories about one of the tremendous three-dimensional personalities of the wine industry, Peter Lehmann (who – just for the record – started his winemaking career as an assistant at Yalumba). Good times!

Then we come to the big gala finish to the tour, the folks from Devine Cellars – the Tamburri Family, Michael and Tony (long-time supporters of Yalumba in the West) – put on an extravaganza event at the Laguna Veneto Club. Besides all the feature Rare & Fine wines from the tour, we showed the “family relations”: Patchwork Shiraz, the little brother to Octavius; Scribbler, the little brother to Signature; Eden Valley Viognier, the little sister to Virgilius; and Vermentino, the lighter, aromatic cousin to Viognier.

And we had a birthday cake with 160 candles for the winery, even though the official 160 years ticks over on November 17th this year. Any opportunity for a cake, I say, is a good one!

Then came the entertainment. Cher flew in for the night from Las Vegas and strutted her stuff, and yes folks, the rumours are true! I did get up and do a – very tragic – duet of “Walking in Memphis” with Cher, but I feel that if you’re an Elvis fan, you just have to stand up sometimes and say so! I only wish I wasn’t such a rubbish singer, as I think someone got it on video, which is a scary thought. After Cher left to fly back to the US, Freddie Mercury made an appearance from the great beyond, and folks had a big time on the dance floor. 160th birthday bash farewell to Perth? Tick that box.

But none of these things happen by accident, and the folks at Perth branch should take a massive bow. For this past week, Yalumba was everywhere across Perth – tastings and dinners in the wine stores, masterclasses with the store managers, dinners on both sides of the river and out in the suburbs, and trade calls to folks who couldn’t make events. Lee “got that done” Pratty, Pia “Mini Lee in a good way”, Jonno “covers the ground”, Byron “the silent achiever”, Cindi “the restaurateurs’ friend”, and Batesy, who surprised us in the nicest way and has a hit on his hands – you all know who you are – thanks a huge amount for all the hard yards for Yalumba out there, and I’ll be thrilled to bits to see it all happen like deja vu all over again in 2010!

I’m home on the lunch-time flight to go back up to the Barossa, get some sleep, then gear up for Ireland, the UK, the USA and Canada. I can feel my favourite recliner chair calling my name right now!

See ya Perth!

North Freo to Mt Lawley – tastings r us!

9.34am, Pier Street, Perth, Western Australia
Had a rare sleep-in this morning – bit necessary really, seeing as today we’ve got the last two jobs of the tour, and we want to make sure we finish with a flourish, as well as we started back in Port Douglas five weeks ago. There’s a businessman’s lunch, then the grand finale tonight: 160 people for the 160 years we’ve been making wine – with a Cher tribute artist! I feel a duet of “Walking in Memphis” coming on!

But just before I get onto that, we’ve had another couple of wins the last two nights. Wednesday night we went down to Old Bridge cellars at North Fremantle. This is a lovely old warehouse not far from the docks – complete with mini orb ceilings – owned for the last 25 years by Gerry & Ros Smith, currently managed by Rowan. They do regular wine dinners for about 50 – 60 of their customers at a time, out in the back shed, with the food by this sensational young (ex Adelaide) chef Suze Foster.

*Check out last Thursday’s West Australian paper in the Fresh section, she writes the Dining In pages and has laid out the menu and recipes for a Moroccan Feast.

Tea Towels!

Tea Towels!

We worked through 9 wines and 6 small tastes to go with each. The match of the night, according to the folks: slow-cooked shoulder of lamb with pot roasted quince and semolina gnocchi with the 2006 The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet. It was the quince sweetness and the lush, upfront cabernet berries combo, as well as the fall-apart texture of the meat that won the day. Lovely folks – both sides of the counter from this operation, and I’ll be looking forward to doing it all again next year.Oh … and thanks for the present, you can never have too many lovely tea towels featuring West Australian wildflowers, tourist destinations and Fremantle historic sites!

Nick and me

Nick and me

Last night was our second visit to the Liquor Barons Mt Lawley store, which has a great back vintage and Autralian and European icon wine cellar below the shop, where they also run regular winemaker and tasting dinners for up to 22 people. They do a different format here, where we work through two brackets of wines with a homemade lasagna course in between. We had a lot of fun with Nick and the folks last night – adding on extra wines from the cellar as we went – to illustrate interesting wines or styles as we talked about them!

Star of the night was the Cabernet Shiraz treble: 2004 FDR1A + 2005 Signature + 2002 The Reserve.

The FDR 1A (Fine Dry Red) is a small parcel of lush and aromatic Eden Valley fruit that deserved to be separated out, and it is flying right now.

The 2005 Signature has consistently been forward all tour, with the Cabernet – even though only slightly more than half the blend at 53% – all over the nose with ripe raspberry and blackcurrant.

The 2002 The Reserve  is a true reserve in every sense of the word, seeing as it’s made up from barrels of Cabernet and Shiraz taken from the vineyards earmarked for Signature, but only taken in a strong Sinature vintage year, where you can pinch barrels without affecting the intensity and integrity of the blend. The 2002 Reserve is 75% Cabernet 25% Shiraz, same vineyards as the 2002 Signature , but in a different split, seeing as the 2002 Signature was 60% cab 40% shiraz. And the 2002 Reserve has just been released as a 7 year old wine – moving beautifully, with a huge amount left in its tank.

For the record, the 2002 Signature was named for Rhonda Sexton, long time salesperson superstar from the Melbourne branch of our distributor, and is drinking just fine!

So off to have lunch with the business blokes now, sing with the Cher tribute artist at the Devine Yalumba Birthday Party dinner tonight, and then my aeroplane ride home tomorrow!

Alive & Well in the Suburbs

11.13am, Aberdeen Street, Northbridge, Perth

The Scribbler

The Scribbler

I’ve just dived across into Northbridge to grab some lunch at Viet Hoa, a crazy busy Vietnamese cafe that does food that’s really good for you. On the agenda today is a serve of the “make them yourself cold rolls” out of minced BBQ pork, bean shoots, mint, roasted shallots, vermicelli noodles and cucumber. It’s my secret weapon to keep belting through the road work night after night.

Hale Road barra

Hale Road barra

And let me tell you about last night. Wine lovers are alive and well in the suburbs of Perth, folks! We had a top time out at the Hale Road Tavern in Forestfield with 50 people who I can guarantee are now card-carrying fans of Yalumba, after their introductory – but extremely successful – degustation dinner with our wines matched up with chef Shaun’s food. He outdid himself with the tastiest mini-steak of saltwater barramundi on roasted fennel with roasted tomato couli, which went out with our 2008 Eden Valley Viognier and 2007 Scribbler cab shiraz . Consensus of opinion: “Yep, red wine can definitely go with fish!”

It was a bit of a raucous affair toward the end of the evening, as it was the publican’s – Shaughnagh Boston – birthday yesterday, and we sang the mandatory Happy Birthday with the dessert course – stewed apple crepes with our Museum Muscat (average age 18 years).

This is old-fashioned, hands-on, family-owned independent pub stuff here. The room was made up of friends, folks from a local wine club, and staff – plus the family matriarch Val – and we couldn’t have asked for a better platform to launch our wines from out Forestfield way. The good news for all the folks who weren’t able to get a seat at last night’s dinner is that we’re going to do it all again same time next year, but open up the main dining room and have the degustation session as the only event on.

I’ll have to mark that date in my diary to bring something special along for the wine options game. Don’t miss it for quids!

Hale Road crew

Hale Road crew

PS Here’s the happy kitchen team with Shaun and me, and yes he does look like he would have a lucrative second career as a bodyguard!

Sashimi and Viognier in Perth

9.15am , Pier Street, Perth, Western Australia
A rare sleep-in this morning after a bit of a late one last night. You can generally assume that if no one wants to go home from a wine dinner on a school night – even when the glasses have been cleared away – that you’ve had a reasonably successful time of it.

The Silver Spoon

The Silver Spoon

I had no clue that there was a “Mason-Dixon” line in Perth, but it seems to be that the Swan River is the North-South dividing line, and “South of the River” is only just starting to take on a bit of credibility. Well, the Silver Spoon – Stephen Hollow’s new restaurant – is on the south side and doing great! Last night it was booked out with friends, family and happy diners working their way through the “Welcome to Winter” degustation with our Rare & Fine wines.

The Spoon used to be a traditional Italian restaurant complete with raffia-wrapped chianti bottles, red-and-white check tablecloths and its own pizza oven. Stephen’s kept the oven, but he has given the rest of the place a serious lick and polish, and it looks like a tiny piece of London’s Soho on the south side of the Swan – without the big ticket prices and with a lot more space.

Pair with Viognier

Pair with Viognier

The herb-rolled rare tuna, daikon, avocado and mango made a memorable “sashimi and viognier” combo with the 2008 Virgilius, and this was a novel way to introduce Viognier (read the story of Viognier) to most of the folks attending, who hadn’t seen it before.

We had a lot of fun with the wine options game, and we feel we’ve won a serious Yalumba heart with the Silver Spoon, as we both agreed last night that the “Welcome to Winter ” Yalumba dinner is going to be an annual event. So at the end of the day, I like it on the south side! Thanks a huge amount to Pia the human whirlwind rep for setting it all up. For another night, in another town, we were able to leave the global financial mayhem at the door.

PS If you want to check out the Silver Spoon, tell them we sent you, and besides the list of wood-fired pizzas, try some of the edgy things like Moreton Bay Bugs 3 ways (see Glossary); avocado and cherry tomato cocktail; cognac and orange bisque soup; sashimi and lemon oil; or the duck and mushroom tortellini. But don’t worry, they’ve got a pie as well: chicken, bacon, leek and mushroom!

Riesling, Trees and Food

2.55pm Digital Surfway internet, Perth, Western Australia
Made it safely into Perth this morning, and I have now covered about 10,500km on this trip! We’ve covered ground in more ways than one though, as we’ve taken these wines to the city and to the country.

I didn’t get to it this morning at the airport, but we got a nice little wrap for one of our wines in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald Sun as part of a “top 20 Cheap Eats” article, where Paddy Kendler basically said “quality wine doesn’t have to be sacrificed on a tight budget”.

The Riesling Tree

The Riesling Tree

The wine was the 2008 Y Series Riesling. This is the one with the “tree in the wind” on the front label. This graphic represents the Hill Smith family’s interest in the crossover between food and wine culture at Yalumba and is actually an olive tree. We’ve had Verdale olives planted up at Oxford Landing for at least 30 years, and over the last 10 years there have been two groves of Italian varieties – leccino, pendolino and corregiola – planted at Yalumba. Winery carpenter Rolf Egert is also the resident olive oil producer, and he is extremely busy from now on through August with the picking and pressing season. The food-wine crossover at Yalumba goes a lot further than just making olive oil though.

When the winery was founded in 1849 it was a mixed enterprise, with fruit orchards that led to a fruit canning, jam making and prune producing operation as well as the winemaking. Today, we have cooking schools in our commercial kitchen during the year, still run two commercial fruit orchards near the winery, support the Barossa Farmers Market with the winery’s old fortified warehouses behind the Vintners restaurant, run the Harvest Market at Yalumba each vintage festival to promote Barossa food producers and chefs, and run sommelier development programs – just for starters. So that’s some of the picture behind the “tree in the wind” on the front label of the Y Riesling.

Now sportsfans! I didn’t get to see the Saints play today in Melbourne as I was heading for Perth, but the boys have held off a tough Brisbane Lions to win by 16 points just a while ago. As Mr Midfield Lenny Hayes – who put in a blinder for his 200th game in the red white and black today, said, “They certainly made us earn it!” It’s the first time in the competition since 1897 that two teams have been at the top of the competion with 9 wins 0 losses. The Saints and Geelong – who meet in a few weeks time. Good O, bring it on.

Melbourne’s Society Scores

7.16am, Tullamarine airport, Melbourne, Victoria
A couple of things to catch up this morning. On Friday we did our last job in Melbourne with a corporate group for lunch at Society, Paul Dimattina’s restaurant up the top of Bourke Street in the city. It’s exactly what you’d expect of an Italian family restaurant – good food, great coffee,noisy tables and a lot of laughter downstairs, and quiet conversation corners upstairs. The boys plated up two of Society’s signature dishes for me, the spinach pasta tortellini filled with roast pumpkin and goats cheese with a burnt butter and sage sauce and the Paccheri alla Luciana (paccheri = large flat rigatoni pasta tubes) with squid, baby octopus, capers and black olives in tomato sugo.

Paul Dimattina

Paul Dimattina

By the way, Paul is a bit of a legend besides being one of Yalumba’s extended “family” in Melbourne. He played 131 AFL football games for the Western Bulldogs to 2003, wore number 28 and according to the experts “was a midfielder with plenty of pace and muscle, was passionate about his game, was upset when de didn’t do well, and was a team player”. Still passionate about his family, food and wine, he runs pretty much on long macchiatos, not surprising seeing as his grandfather started the Mocopan coffee company here in Australia. It’s great to have our wines go to nice homes, and Dimattina’s Society is definitely one of those.

Have to go – I’m on the first plane over to Perth this morning, so I’ll try and slide more news out later on tonight.

Doughnuts and Riesling

8.18am, Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

The Doughnut Bus

The Doughnut Bus

This morning a cold, wet mist has dropped on this end of the city, but I always try and get down to the old doughnut bus at the Queen Victoria Market at least once each time I get to Melbourne. They’ve been making hot jam-filled doughnuts here since 1950, and the queues are usually a mile long – because they’re good! And hey,whilst I was down here, I asked one of the fishmongers to hold up a King George Whiting so you could see what I was talking about yesterday (see previous blog entry below), and I promised to drop a bottle of the sauv blanc in tomorrow to say thanks. So there you go.

I got in late last night after a masterclass at Randall the Wine man’s Hawthorn store, where we had a vertical tasting of Octavius – 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005 – amongst other things, and ended up talking about individual vineyard riesling (Pewsey Vale and Heggies, both from Eden Valley) with some (more) riesling crazies! I’ll add to that later, as I have to dive out now and find Society, Paul Dimmatina’s restaurant up at the top of Bourke Street where I’ve got an event with some consumers at 11am.