Monthly Archives: May 2010

Lost Phone Flurry

10.04am, Monday 31st May, Russell Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Not sure what qualifies as the dumbest thing you can do when you’re travelling for work, but I’ve come close with the latest. For the first time ever, I’ve lost the phone! Must have slipped out of my pocket onto the floor of the cab, but they couldn’t find it, so now it’s been a mad flurry of suspending the phone – global roaming and all! That was my worry, as I’m low tech and old school – so didn’t even have a lock on it. This will teach me! So now I’ll have to go get a new phone and temporary number till I get back to the winery. It looked like a move to the new whiz bang iPhone was on the cards anyway, so there’s a whole dose of new technology I’ll be aquiring when I get home. Lucky I am old school enough to have one of those  handwritten alphabetical phone directories that I cart around with me. That’s going to be invaluable now.

Over and out for now.

No Porky Pie, This Was a Great Match for Cab Shiraz

7.21 pm, Internet Cafe, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Big Battered Blue

The  quiet weekend – eye of the storm in this program, and no jobs! So it’s back to the catchup and domestic stuff. Done the washing, and the ironing is to come tonight whilst I’m watching the second-last episode of “Castle” for this season. I’ve also completed some running repairs on my trusty hard shell ‘can’t kill it’ Samsonite suitcase Big Blue. It had a minor injury during the Canadian leg of the last job, which completely gave way on the last flight from Armidale through Sydney to Melbourne. But looks like this combination of superglue and  duct tape should get me through the next month and home. Whether it makes the August trip to New Zealand or the September trip to the UK remains to be seen.

Maxim Jam Basket: still good

I’m staying in the heart of Melbourne – an excellent location, half way down Little Bourke Street in Chinatown. This is pretty handy when you want to duck into one of  the best shops  around – Maxim’s Cakes, “classic Hong Kong style cake shop.” Everything is good from the savoury buns to my personal favourite that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else – the pictured jam basket. It’s a sponge column split an inch up from the base with a skinny layer of cream, the whole thing coated in coconut and filled with excellent apricot flavoured jam. As good as it sounds! And yes I had one yesterday – just to make sure they’re still as good as I remembered.

Cecconi's Pork and Agrodolce

I nearly forgot the last job of last week – a lunch for a long-time Barossa Valley and Yalumba man Peter Marr and his clients. This time we set up in the back room at Cecconi’s Cantina in Flinders Lane. During most of this trip, we’ve seen variations on a beef  theme for  the big reds as a feature, but on Friday we got right away from that. Chef Michael Fox (from Adelaide originally and ex Vue du Monde) did pork as an interesting contrast. ‘Slow roasted pork rump with crispy belly, eggplant agrodolce, fried sage and frizze salad’ to be exact – check out the picture, and you can see the reds of the eggplant underneath.

I got to Cecconi’s early to open the wines and was able to have a chat with the chef. There’s an open kitchen in the centre of the restaurant, and the tray of eggplant happened to be sitting there. I had no idea what the ‘agrodolce’ treatment was. Turns out it’s an Italian version more or less of the sweet & sour idea. The eggplant slices are salted for an hour, then soaked with roasted cherry tomatoes, cabernet vinegar, coriander seed, honey and caramelised onion. Perfect for the pork! And it worked with the Cabernet Shiraz treble of the FDR 1A, The Signature and The Reserve.  There is no end to what we learn on tour, and that’s one of the great things about the job. Now we know exactly what ‘agrodolce’ is.

Talking about great things about the job …

***Hey Sportsfans, the Saints machine is on the way back! They slipped nicely through the gears against a gallant Adelaide Crows, but the result never seemed to be in doubt. My best players? Brendon Goddard – solid and kicks straight for goal and seems to be everywhere; and the made-of-rubber rebound defense man – young Zac Dawson. The spies tell us that Nick R is running out his hamstring injury, so as long as we hover about the top 6 – looking good for finals time in Saintstown. Let’s see how we go against the Richmond boys next Friday night to see if we can get two wins in a row. It’s always dangerous to be playing teams that aren’t travelling well, as you never know when they’re going to stand their ground and explode once for pride! See ya at Etihad again for that one – I’m going with the lads from work.

Time to tackle the ironing.

Stellar Pairings and None of the Attitude

8.53am, Friday, 28th May, Lonsdale Street, 24 hr internet cafe, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Another grey drizzly day in Melbourne, but I like it. Where I come from, you can never have too much rain. I’ve been a bit grey myself this week, coughing and spluttering through the occupational hazard of this job – the pretty regular upper respiratory tract/chest/sinus infection.  But we had a night off last night, and I have the weekend to myself for two days, so lots of sleep and my secret weapon for getting better – edamame beans – will be on the cards.

Oh – plus tomorrow morning’s Gunness world record ‘dressing up as a superhero’ event  from 9 – 11.30am at Federation Square, which is going to be part of the worldwide celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of DC Comics. They’re hoping for up to 3000 Supermen, Batmen, Catwomen, Wonderwomen etc to show up – so if you’re into body armour, capes, tights and spandex in general – Fed Square will be the place to be.

And ****Hey Sportsfans : I’m going to my first footy match of the year where my Saints boys will take on the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium tomorrow night. I’d best get an early night tonight then!

Now to our most recent job: yesterday’s trip ‘around the bay for a bob’ to the Morning Star Estate near Mt Eliza on the top of the Mornington Peninsula.

Pete, Leanne & Kelvin

We’re back to the water theme with this one, as the Morning Star is a 100-year-old mansion on 22 acres of sculptured gardens that sweep from the front verandah down to the sea. It sits on Port Phillip Bay directly across from the city of Melbourne – which I tried to catch in this pic of Pete, Leanne and Kelvin. That’s the bay on the horizon in the background. Pete and Leanne look after the trade in this part of the world, and Kelvin looks after them. (It’s a top team that distributes us here in Victoria, and I’ll try and get a pic of the boss man in the branch – Rohan – who has the world’s best collection of blue based business shirts, and is a nice boy with it!)

Back to the Morning Star, which once upon a time was a boy’s reformatory school run by Franciscan monks, and the room that we’re using for lunch today used to be the woodwork classroom. It’s now a restaurant and private hotel, and the chef – Tim Menger – has tried the wines and put together dishes specially matched up  as a one-off menu for today’s  lunch for 30 people from the ‘within 20 km of Mt Eliza ‘ trade.

This was a great pairing!

Just reading the menu we could see that he has really gone to town with flavours and textures, and I’m pleased to report that there wasn’t anything at all that ‘didn’t go’. Our picks of the day? Definitely the ‘triple taste plate’ of pork terrine veal & chicken with apricot chutney, rabbit rillette on honey brioche, and blackrock smoked salmon & scrambled eggs – with the 2008 Virgilius and FDW 7C. Now this the sort of thing that makes it easy to see why foodie programs and books are doing so well. When everything lines up between the chef and the winemaker – it’s a great thing – and it’s not surprising that folks choose food and wine as a favourite pastime when you can. Tim Menger is a star and this course alone is as good as anything I’ve seen anywhere in the world. I was nervous it would be a bit rich – NO! The terrine was not chunky or greasy, just lovely flavours lit up by the apricot chutney that slid right into the Virgilius Viognier’s own stonefruit flavours. As did the fall-apart fibres of the savoury rabbit rillete on the honey soaked toast. Not to mention the shreds of local Blackrock salmon – not too smoky – ‘scrambled’ into the warm egg still in its shell that was made for the apple and pear lift of the FDW 7C chardonnay. I wish both winemakers – Louisa Rose (Virgilius) and Teresa Heuzenroeder (FDW 7C) – were here to see their wines fly in such great company. I was impressed.

Tim gets it right again

Also, I’ve been watching great variations on the beef theme being done to complement the Great Australian Red Story Cab Shiraz blends, and Tim got it right again here. It’s the FDR 1A 2006 and 2004 The Reserve with a slow roasted 60 day grain fed Hopkins River beef fillet (with braised ox tail and a mustard sauce). Really simple flavours, and a steak you could peel apart with a fork. Enough said. If you’re in Melbourne – make the trip to the Morning Star – it’s worth it. Thanks Pete and Leanne – great choice to launch the new wines and tell our story. Thanks Tim – you should have your own show – “All the flavours with none of the attitude”, and thanks to everyone who came along and has us on their shelves: The Royal Hotel Mornington, The Langhi Hotel family owned, The Roti Man – you all know who you are.  Just goes to show that there’s lots of good things going on outside the metro area.

**Hopkins River beef is a family-run operation near Dunkeld in Western Victoria, and this is the first time I’ve struck their stuff. I’s great. They do grass and grain finished beef, and you can find it in selected butchers shops and  farmers markets around Melbourne and Regional Victoria.

So that’s us caught  up to the minute. Today we’re staying in the city, and working with an old mate of ours that runs a private wine club. We’ll be showing the same set of wines as yesterday, but with Mediterranean flavours this time. So I’ll see you when it’s the end of the week.

Strolling Through the Quadrangle with a Bagful of Wines

7.19pm, Thursday, 27th May, Russell Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
It’s been a busy couple of days, and we’ve covered some ground, so here we go at finally catching up to today.

Tuesday, 25th May: University House Fine & Rare Dinner – Melbourne
The University House is the home of The University Club at the University of Melbourne. Translated, that means this lovely old stone building just off the main quadrangle of the University of Melbourne is where current and past professors and students of this famous educational establishment have the opportunity to catch up, dine, and attend special events – hence our wine dinner.

Rhonda, Jane and John

The House has had our wines on the list for a long, long time, courtesy of the relationship built between their Wineman John and our gal Princess Signature – otherwise known as Rhonda! (Who just happens to be on the back of the 2002 Signature.) That’s us in the ‘before’ the event pic! We had 150 people turn out on a rainy old Tuesday night that proved to be great company for our big dry reds and elegant Bernard clone chardonnays – accompanied not just by specially matched dishes, but with the Caritas Chamber Singers, who all perform with the Victorian Opera or the Melbourne City Opera. Big night indeed!

Barossa cheese!

I’ve put in a pic of the cheeseplate because it’s all from the Barossa Valley Cheese Co – to be found in the main street of our hometown – Angaston. There’s the Baillie Brie, Washington Washrind, and La Petite Princess, all made by our friend Victoria.

We used something like 800 glasses on the night, and between the wine, song and old school food, it would be a fair thing to say that “a jolly good night was had by all”. We did a lucky draw, and the very popular winner was  the legendary Australian pianist Ronald Farren-Price, Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne School of Music. He has played as a recital and concerto soloist on some of the great stages of the world – New York’s Carnegie Hall, London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Sydney Opera House and the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow. Mr Farren-Price took home a double magnum of the 2006 Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet, and he assured me that it was destined for a very special dinner party for six in the near future. Lovely man, and a good karma finish to our first dinner at University House. Not to be our last either, seeing as it’s been made an annual event by popular demand!

So thanks  especially to Rhonda & Johnny,  it’s not every day that I get to feel  like walking through the movie “Goodbye Mr Chips”   with the quadrangle and everything – and I’ll be looking forward to next year’s event with my ears pinned back.

Wednesday, 26th May: Templestowe Cellars Tasting – Melbourne suburbs
Another job with our gal about Melbourne – Rhonda – only this time we had to pack a lunchbox for the big drive out to Templestowe in the eastern suburbs, to see our man with the wine store, Geoff Mickan. He’s a great Barossa supporter  and a good friend of the chief winemaker at Peter Lehmann Wines, Andrew Wigan. In fact we’re pretty good friends with ‘Wig’ ourselves. The relationship between Yalumba and Lehmann’s goes back a long way, as Peter Lehmann himself started his career as a winemaker at Yalumba before moving on to open his own place in Tanunda. 

This was our first invitation to show our wines out at Templestowe Cellars, so we didn’t muck about. We took a bagful of wines – not just the new Rare & Fine reds, but Vermentino, aged Riesling, and Tempranillo as well.

The progression of  Cabernet Shiraz  blends – the 2006 FDR 1A (subset of the 2006 Signature barrels, all from Eden Valley vineyards), 2005 Signature (combined Eden Valley and Barossa Valley floor vineyards) and the 2004 The Reserve (solid, deep, dark subset of the vineyards that went into the 2004 Signature, were left in oak six months longer, then bottled and aged for four years before being released four weeks ago) – were the last three wines of the night, and they really showed the strength and versatility of this classic combination.

Lots of questions on the night and a lot of fun – before we ended up next door at George’s pizza bar for dinner. We have to say “thanks for having us on the shelves, and for asking us to drop by” to Geoff and the boys. We’ll  definitely be back  next year with another bagful of wines for your people to have a look at, and I promise to have a couple of new stories as well.

Two of the Favourites in Canberra and Wagga

7.13am, Wednesday, 26th May, Russell Street , Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
OK, before I start on last night’s teriffic shindig I want to catch up two of my favourite jobs of the year in Canberra and Wagga Wagga.

Hanging' with the young crowd

Friday, 21st May: Riverine Club Dinner, Wagga Wagga, NSW
The club has our wines on their bar and dining list throughout the  year, and the annual Yalumba dinner is a chance to show them what’s new  and talk all things wine – from how we’re travelling in the international arena to how the 2010 vintage has shaped up.

This year we had a big group of the younger folk turn up, which is always good to see, and we had a lot of fun up in that back corner of the dining room. Our mates the local medical practitioners were out in force again, and on the night I found out some interesting things about anaesthesia from Dr Paul. Never a dull conversation moment at this job. Speaking of doctors, my favourite sawbones Magic Fingers couldn’t make it so the fun verbal sparring was missing – however, the retired surgeon Doc Pete stepped into the breach and  rolled out his keyboard at the end of the evening,  daring  me into a duet of “Blue Suede Shoes”. Rest assured I have no future whatsoever as a singer! What a top night yet again!

The Riverine rack

The new chef Jeremy (who could have stepped off the front cover of GQ magazine, gals!) turned out great food that made the wines look even better – I put in a pic of his lamb rack – hot! And yet again Steph did a magic job of transforming the rooms – bringing autumn inside – a great setting for The Great Australian Red Story that we told in the glasses on the night. So thanks yet again, Wagga – we’ll definitely see you same time next year.

Our men in Wagga: Lyndon & Dennis

PS Had to put in a pic of our men at The Riverine – Lyndon the current club president and Dennis the Cellarman. Thanks!

Thursday, 20th May: Canberra Wine & Food Club lunch, ACT
This is another one of the regular dates on our Rare & Fine wine release calendar, and this year the folks filled the dining room with 62 people and had a waiting list! This is what happens when you come up with a winning combination – the group effort in the kitchen putting the meal together.

Group effort = great day

Check out the picture of the team getting down to business in the kitchen, everyone pitching in to serve and clear and clean up, and a sunny, crispy brisk chilly day designed to drink red wines!

Jane made the arancini to go with the sparkling red D Black for starters. Albert and I conspired to keep the onion soup simple with a cheese topped crouton. Johnny put a solid beef bourguignon together, and I saw the spuds going into the oven topped with the fat (cut from the beef) sitting on top – no wonder they tasted so good with the Scribbler and Signature! And surprise surprise – the cheese board was Albert’s favourite – manchego. I like it too so no complaints here – plus it went so well with the Botrytis Viognier as a finish – and PS – with the stellar 2004 The Reserve

There were also baskets of glace apricots and Turkish dates and sweet things for the Botrytis – nice touch. No question at all here either – thanks a million again for being such a safe house for us, and we’ll definitely be back to do it all again next year!

PS Forgot to mention – loved having some of the members visit the winery through the year and glad that the individual Riesling vineyard comparison tasting went over so well! Let us know if you’re ever coming through the Barossa, as we’ve always got something interesting going on.

Spatchcock and Scribbler in Armidale

5.23pm, Tuesday, 25th May, Russell Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
More Catch up: Did I mention that the water theme is back here in Melbourne? Rain, rain and more rain these past couple of days. Even last night on our way back from the trade dinner, we ran into the bedraggled crowds of Socceroos supporters who had been drenched at the MCG watching the farewell game against the New Zealand ‘All Whites’ – a wobbly old 2-0 win before heading off to the World Cup in South Africa.

Saturday, 22nd May – Armidale, New England highlands, country New South Wales

Spatchcock and Scribbler

This was our second trip to Armidale, and we did our dinner at the Moore Park Inn again. Chris and Tony and the team delivered another memorable wine night – warm and toasty inside – chilly as anything out! The boys tried some new things in the kitchen and came up with an orange & thyme marinated spatchcock sitting on a bed of polenta with a sauce made with pan juices and the Patchwork Shiraz, topped with crisp pancetta! Definitely winter food that loved the reds.  Along for the evening were the folks from the Wicklow Hotel in ‘downtown’ Armidale – another of our solid supporters – and it looks like there’s going to be a ‘road trip’ of folks from this part of the world coming down to visit in the Barossa around about Easter next year. Oh, this just happens to be Barossa Vintage Festival time! Good O –  looks like it will be a full house at Harvest Market at Yalumba for two days straight after the Easter weekend, and I’ll be playing tour guide. Lovely. Thanks again Armidale for all your support, and I’ll see you when it’s Easter 2011.

Old School Reds in Melbourne

4.39pm, Tuesday 25th May, Russell Street, Melbourne CBD, Victoria, Australia
Now this is what happens when you do one night in one place several nights in a row – you drop off the air! So here’s where we catch up before we really get amongst it ‘down south’ here in Victoria.

Monday, 24th May: Melbourne, VIC
Did a dinner for some of the city trade at one of our longtime watering holes – O’Connell’s Centenary Hotel on Coventry Street in South Melbourne. If you haven’t been there, this corner pub in the sleepy part of the Port is the definition of ‘cosy’. Lots of dining rooms and bar corners, stacks of interesting trinkets on the shelves and walls, a great wine cellar, and one of the first pubs to care about doing really good food – shipping in a top chef  16 years ago – and never looking back.

O'Connell's pie: mmm, flaky

I ate early so I could talk the wines up across the dinner, and I was treated to O’Connell’s Beef & Guinness pie. They took this off the list for a while, and there was nearly a riot! It’s a bit of a shame you can’t reach into the photo and see how flaky and melt in your mouth the pastry is – let alone how good the filling was – whole button mushrooms and all! An absolute twin set with The Scribbler.

Most of our guests chose the Gippsland grain fed porterhouse with the ‘little brother, big brother quad set’ of reds that we featured – the 2008 Patchwork & 2005 Octavius shirazes, and the 2008 Scribbler & 2005 Signature Cab Shirazes – and it was a top exercise, because folks don’t usually get to see those comparisons – especially with food.  What was a good result was the discussion about ‘old school’  style Australian dry reds, and where Signature fits into it all. A good night in a great pub – O’Connells’ – check out the old lit up globe for Canadian Airlines up on top of the bar – a classic!