Off to the Valley of the Kings …

1.45pm, Saturday 14th May, Russell Street internet cafe, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
One thing I absolutely love about the travelling, folks, is having all the sports channels in your hotel room – especially when they’ve got one of those high definition flat screen TVs as well! I don’t have either of those at home. And I love baseball – one of the best things about travelling through the USA. So I’ve just finished watching the Cincinnatti Reds – at home – knock over the St Loius Cardinals – in extra innings! That’s made this a good day already, even if it is classic Melbourne grey, wet and windy outside.

First up an apology – I’m wrestling with technical difficulties right now, and having a bit of drama with sending the photos from the events through to the blog. bear with me – I can usually find someone around – generally 16 or 17 years of age as it often happens – who can show me how to get it all to happen! So until then, I’ll just have to try and do the best I can with words to get the idea across.

After a great start to our Rare & Fine campaign down in Warragul, we were out in Hawthorn yesterday at Barkers Wine Bar & Bistro – owned by very long-time supporter Damien Aherne of the absolutely cutting edge shirts. Yesterday in a striking blue almost floral number that would have made Richard the Hollywood gossip man from the Channel 9 morning show jealous – Damien organised a degustation-style lunch in the side dining room for 25. The foodwas sensational in every sense of the word – all the dishes developed by chef Ben Gisonda (ex Agrodolce). Folks, they even make their own rye bread ‘drop’ rolls in house – so when these came out still warm and freshly floured from the kitchen, we knew we were in for ‘special’ right from the word GO. I’m going to keep to the absolute standout combinations from the day, otherwise I’d be banging away on this keyboard all afternoon, and seeing as I actually have a special date later on I have to watch the time. I have a ticket to the Tutankamun exhibition, and must attend a 3D movie on Ancient Egypt first to set the scene – narrated by the honeyed mystical tones of Omar Sharif no less. I’m quite excited about the whole thing!

But for now – back to Barkers Wine Bar.

Ben sent out a trio of Hervey Bay scallops in shell with a ‘side salad’ of fresh fig chunks tossed in elderberry viniagrette and greens which was a total contrast textural thing that our 2008 FDW7[c] Adelaide Hills Chardonnay just wrapped itself around like a wisteria vine growing over the verandah.

And it did get better from there.

The next combination is – I think – one of THE BEST that I’ve seen for a couple of years. Yes – we all talk about ‘food matching’, and really, it’s more about just having things that don’t clash and everything’s good. But yesterday, Ben put together a plate of food that was totally engineered for the 2008 FDR1A Cabernet Shiraz – and I kid you not – I reckon I have now got a serious benchmark for how when it’s spot on – it’s hard to pick where the wine flavours, textures and aromas stop, and the foods start. Big call? Yes it is, but fortunately you can get a bottle of FDR1A from Damien and try it with Ben’s food to see what I’m talking about – or whether I’m dreaming!!

When the photo lands, it’s not going to do the dish justice. It’s Tagliarini (skinny ribbon fettucine more or less, homemade) with a Pine Mushroom Ragu & Shaved Black Garlic. The pasta dissolved in my mouth, and this is what I wrote on my menu about having a mouthful of FDR1A and then chasing it with a forkful of the pasta:

“The cabernet cassis slides into the slippery mushroom that slides into the lush mulberry fruit and doesn’t stop – like a Tim Tam biscuit of wine and food flavours held together by a mushroomy garlicky sauce”.

I liked it! And there wasn’t a speck left on anyone else’s plate either. Winner!

Not to mention the 2006 Signature Cabernet Shiraz and 2006 Octavius that came out next like big bad red stormcloud bookends for the Beef Fillet Potato Pie and Black Olive Wafers. The salty black olive-Parmesan worked nicely with both reds. I think the Signature is just a bit further forward at the moment than the Octavius. By this time, we were all what’s called “a done deal”!

It really is the best way to win hearts and palates folks – one day at a time and each day a different location. Everyone had those wine/ Yalumba / Barossa / clonal selection (thanks to Dave the orthapedic surgeon for making sure I could keep the conversation technical right to the end!) questions they’d always wanted to ask, and this is where you really get to make sure that folks get the best out of coming along to our events.

Cannot thank Damien and Ben enough for the effort that they put in. We’ve definitely got more folks on the Yalumba train now in Hawthorn! And they’ve got a drop dead lovely place to drink our wines at Barkers. And, not forgetting our new gal on the block for Yalumba, looking after us out in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne – Alice Cleghorn – this was her first Rare & Fine event and has now set the bar high for herself down the track. Oh – hang on – we’ll be doing an event next week at the Chester White Bistro – so with any luck, Alice will pull off a Rare & Fine double headed winner. I’m looking forward to that.

So I’ll say see ya later, and I’m off to dress up for my Land of the Pharaohs date with Omar Sharif.

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