50 Days and 50 Nights

2.36pm, Noah’s On The Beach, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Scratchley's on the wharf

It’s an unseasonally hot May day in Newcastle today, and we’ve been running around town catching up with a lot of mates who have had Yalumba on their shelves for a good few years. The best part of it, though, is the opportunity to be up close and personal with a busy working harbour – seeing as Newcastle is currently the world’s biggest coal export port.

Just before I get to that, this job that I’m on right now will have me away from the Barossa for 50 nights, and we’ll be visiting 20 capital or provincial cities and towns, plus one island!

Blistered corn soup

Last night in Newcastle was night one of 50, and we started at Scratchley’s on the Wharf – one of the first restaurants to be brave and set up on the Newcastle harbour front years ago. Neil Slater has had us on the list from early days, and it’s always an easy decision on where to go for fish in this town – and why we did our trade dinner here after not having been to Newcastle with our new release reds for a couple of years. Chef Peter Hatton did a magic job of putting some hot food flavours next to ours in the glass. I chose the baby cup of Blistered Corn Soup with White Corn Ice that went with the FDW 7C Chardonnay as my dish picture for the blog. 

The whole theme of our reds release this year is The Great Australian Red – talking Cabernet Shiraz – and here’s where we truly saw the family resemblance on night one between the 2008 Scribbler (little brother to Signature) and the 2004 Reserve (barrel selection from a great year of Signature). Big red berry aromas all over the place and ten tons of undercarriage Shiraz in both wines – with The Reserve just that degree longer, darker, and with a touch more muscle.

And what great Newcastle addresses these wines are at!

Besides Neil’s place: at the Delany Hotel – had a lovely time answering all those wine questions from the two gorgeous young blokes Mark and Anthony who run the wine side of things; Customs House with the unbeatable verandah just up the road toward Nobby’s Point on the harbour as well – thanks gals; Noahs On the Beach – I picked up a heap of  Hunter Valley stories and Tyrrells history from Martin, an unexpected bonus; Tim the triple bottle shop bloke – lovely quiet approval from a lovely bloke!; and Ristorante Il Grifone – thanks Roberto.  And that’s just some of them!

The Newcastle view

During dinner, seeing as the dining room at Scratchley’s is literally on – no, over – the water, we had a moving backdrop on the harbour of three bulk cargo ships being hustled into their berths by three massive tugboats,  the ferry trundling back and forward across to Stockton, half a dozen trawlers heading out for the evening, and even the water Police launch! Just great.

Richard and Danielle

So, back to today – here’s Richard, who looks after the Newcastle trade for us, and Danielle, the restaurant manager at Scratchley’s, with the glass wall open, soaking up the morning sun! And here’s a tugboat too! Richard hands me over to another one of our blokes – Wiggo (who looks after the Central Coast for us)  today, and we’ll be working just down the road a bit tonight, with a consumer dinner at The Beaches Hotel, Merewether. But I’ll see Richard down the track – next Saturday – out in country NSW in Armidale.

I’ve got a couple of hours now to tackle those April credit card reconciliations, but it will be a job to keep my eyes on the books when you see the view I have of the surf rolling in just below my room here. The little blips on the horizon are bulk cargo carriers lined up to come into Newcastle to load up – there were 26 of them on the horizon this morning.

Night 1 : Newcastle : tick that box!

See ya when it’s Wednesday.

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