Perth with a Twist and a Masterclass

8.56am, Tuesday 5th July, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, The Barossa
Back home to the ‘wind chill factor means it’s about 6 degrees C outside and I’m so glad I’m not out there pruning ‘ Barossa Valley. It’s very, very wet out there, people, so if we’re looking for good ‘next vintage’ omens, that’s certainly the start. If we keep with this solid soaking winter rain, and the vines get a big recovery drink, then that’s starting to set a nice foundation already for Vintage 2012.

Now before I get cracking on the followup from the Adelaide and Perth events, as well as the preparation for the next job – which will be a full week in New Zealand – I just want to write up our last day in Perth, because it was a popper! (That’s good.)

LAST DAY IN PERTH:

THE TWIST CLUB BUSINESSMEN’S LUNCH at The Bluewater Grill – one of my favourite jobs of the year. Not only do I get to have 40 or 50 of these lovely blokey pillars of Perth business to myself over lunch, but they just love red wine and genuinely can’t hear enough about what we’re doing at Yalumba – at home in the Barossa and in the domestic and international arenas. This is the seventh year in a row that we’ve done an event with The Twist Club, and this year I really had to be on top of my game, as we had David Atkinson, owner of Jane Brook Estate Wines in the Swan Valley along. No fluffy stuff this time, I really had to do solid fact and details! But not a problem, as the wines this year are strong and all very representative of their varities and region in the glass.

Even though it was a drizzly Friday lunchtime, which is a rarity for Perth, being on the Applecross waterside at The Bluewater Grill – in The Private Wine Room no less – was a top place to hide from the weather with an excellent view across the Swan River to the city. Oh, and then there’s the food at Bluewater … here we go:

Not just any seafood plate

With the 2008 Yalumba Virgilius Viognier, the kitchen – resident head chef is Brad Leahy – sent out a “Seafood Plate”. In the photo, left to right: slow cooked salmon, tuna with sherry onions, tiger prawn & Asian noodle salad, and oyster with lime. All these flavours and textures just work with the stonefruit, perfume and lemongrass over the top – and the heatless viscosity of the palate when it comes to this wine. It’s the only white wine of the day for The Twist Club, and it’s like a white wine for red fans anyway, with the length and complexity that’s involved with Virgilius – so it does fit well into their day!

And then it’s all about the reds folks.

Great beef and great cooking

The boys had a choice of ‘Roast Duck Breast and Confit Leg’ or ‘Peppered Fillet & Braised Beef Cheek with Whipped Potato, Shallots & Gremolata’. Sorry about the duck – I didn’t get a photo, but I did snap the beef, and yes it does have sticky onion and reduced cooking juices holding it all together. It smelled great and tasted even better. The beef over in the West is nothing short of fabulous, and on the day, you just had to wave the steak knife across the meat and it fell apart – for real! That’s great beef and great cooking folks, in the same place at the same time.

The wines served with the meat?

Cabernet Shiraz time of course – the 2008 Scribbler and the 2006 The Signature. As the Rare & Fine tour keeps rolling, The 2006 Signature just keeps opening slowly and is this layer cake of dark fruits and elegant oak that promises a great deal for down the track, but wraps itself well around the sticky onion, beef and whipped potato on the day! As for the 2008 the Scribbler – being the declassified barrels from the 2008 blending of The Signature for that vintage – it gives us a look into the crystal ball to see just how strong that wine will be when it’s released next year.

Then it was a change of foodie pace, and it was “Fig & Ginger Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream” with the Barossa Shiraz double of the 2008 Patchwork and 2006 The Octavius. No photo of the pudding because I got carried away – usually do when there’s butterscotch sauce involved in anything – and forgot! I was too busy demolishing the cakey fruit tower really, if the truth be told. But the combo worked, especially the sweet sauce and the old fashioned Xmas pudding characters of The Octavius – cloves, cinnamon, sweet pruney fruits and a long, long, no-aggression-at-all tannin and fruit palate.

All told, it was a lovely day out with the wine-interested business boys yet again, so I put on a treat for them, seeing as it was seven years that we’d been lunching together, and I spied a very special bottle sitting in their sweet wine fridge. Not sure how they ended up there, but seven bottles of the 2007 Heggies Vineyard (owned by the Hill Smith family) Botrytis Riesling 242 were in the Bluewater Grill cellar that day.

Now this is something seriously special folks, as Peter Gambetta – the Heggies winemaker – has said that he reckons the 242 Botrytis Riesling is a “once in a career ‘ wine.

That vintage, a mist cloud settled on a section of the Riesling vineyard when the fruit was super ripe, and prompted the most solid infection of Botrytis cinerea that Pete’s ever seen, so he made the decision to only harvest the Botrytised berries and have a crack at the classic ‘trockenbeerenauslese’ style of sweet wine.

What’s that?

It’s the German classification for a sweet white table wine where ONLY berries that are affected by the ‘noble rot’ of Botrytis cinerea are harvested and fermented out. Now this means that all the pickers go out into the vineyard with scissors and snip only botrytised berries into their picking baskets. Noble rot botrytised berries are those where the ‘good’ mould has sealed off the berry and inserted their tube roots through the skin, and drained off most of the water (fact – grape berries are 85% water) and so effectively concentrate the sugar and flavour in each berry. As you can imagine, this means a lot of sugar for some very hard working yeasts to ferment out – which they did – leaving a residual sugar content of 242 grams per litre of wine!

Hence the label Heggies Botrytis Riesling 242.

It really tells its own story right there. You could be forgiven for thinking that the wine would be like thick syrup. No! With 40 fellers at lunch, we had to use shot glasses, sherry glasses, and a few parfait glasses so that 3 x 375 ml bottles could give everyone a taste. And the wine is a light, luscious, honeyed orange marmalde shot of citrussy sweetness that is just unforgettable! Yes, the boys bought whatever was in the cellar, and will now be searching for anything else that might have made it to Perth retail or restaurant shelves. If you’re lucky enough to have a bottle stashed away – it’s in really good shape!

And then it was lots of hugs goodbye, lots of see ya next years, and we were off to get ready for the evening masterclass. But thanks very much to The Twist Club and Gareth for yet another great day, and I’ll be looking forward to continuing the tradition next year. Stay safe, and good luck in the world of big biz!

THE MASTERCLASS WITH VINTAGE CELLARS SHENTON PARK – was in the city centre at E’Cucina, and we had a huge turnout of 55 wine fans to work through a set of nine wines and matched canapes. The wine list was:

We were originally scheduled to use the private room, but because of numbers (good problem to have!), ended up in the back section of the restaurant, which was pretty noisy really. With the combination of a busy Friday night drinking and dining crowd, timber floors, big glass window walls, and a nonstop rainstorm outside – it was a bit of a difficult night for folks to stay focussed on the wines. But they did a great job, and the best way for me to illustrate the evening is with these photos:

The spirit of the evening

First up this is table 1 & table 2 – including the brake parts man and his very attractive Canadian friend and their gals, the Perth girls wine club with the Scottish boy, the Burra transplants to Perth, the vet and his ageless mate, and the local crowd! This catches the spirit of the evening, and we did brief thumbnail sketches of the wines to the group – which is why I lost my voice Saturday – and then answered a hundred questions around the tables. What a great result – thanks a huge amount to Paul for the ongoing staunch support, to Emma for setting it all up, and to the Dalkeith Store boys for escorting us to the Hula Bula club afterward. You know who you are, and we’ll be catching up again in a couple of weeks.

The Vintage Cellars crew discuss Shiraz

And second is the crew from VCs, shown here discussing the finer points of Barossa Shiraz. There are no photos of the canapes as I was flat out around the tables as the platters came out, and they must have been good, as they went really quickly.

So what nice Rare & Fine way to say goodbye to Perth … thanks for having us to visit, and we’ll see ya when the mud dries!

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