Monthly Archives: April 2012

How we went at the races!

6.54am, Monday 30th April, Gate 24, Adelaide Airport, South Australia

Morning folks, another pre dawn start as we continue the 2012 Rare & Fine wine roadshow, and I had a dream run down from the Barossa, got all the green traffic lights, and I’m propped here ready to jump on a plane to Sydney, then straight onto the train and on down to the coastal steel town hotspot Wollongong – a fortress for us with big supporters like Simon Hurford, the Kollaras Brothers and GQ cover man if he ever wanted to be…..Mitch Bate.

But first….from the last blog entry on Saturday, I thought you might like to know how Niwot – that son of the good looking stallion Galileo that we saw in Ireland last year – went in the Sydney Cup. Here you go….I had a good feeling because he’s the spitting image of his dad and I’m hopeless with good lookers!….I had a little bit each way on him, and he was first over the line


So on this run, we might see him start in the Melbourne cup – I’ll keep an eye on him and let you know.

As for Black Caviar, she easily won her 20th start – and may be back in Adelaide in a couple of weeks to run in the Goodwood Handicap. Can she keep doing this and go 21 wins from 21 starts? We’ll keep an eye on that one as well.

But for now, I’m off to the gate with my earplugs and Episode 1 of Series 1 of Downton Abbey. I’m going to work my way through series 1, series 2 and the Christmas special in preparation for Series 3 – which is currently being filmed as we speak in England’s Oxfordshire countryside. I must go out and buy a suitable frock and gloves, as I suspect the wedding of Lady Mary and the unbelievably attractive Matthew is on the cards!! We do hope he wears his dress uniform in that episode!!

See ya when it’s Wollongong…….we’ll be on this one….


Big day at The Gallops!

2.12pm, Saturday 28th April, Murray Street, Angaston, Barossa Valley, SA

Afternoon, folks, sorry we’ve been off the air for a few days – no excuse other than the constant stream of visitors to Yalumba from all corners of the globe.

But today is a big day for Australian horse racing fans – it’s Autumn Racing Carnival time in Sydney and that means a top time at Royal Randwick, and in our little corner of the world, all eyes will be on Race 7 at the Morphettville track down ‘in town’ in Adelaide where wonder mare Black Caviar will be racing for 20 wins from 20 starts.

If you follow ‘the gallops’, then you might know there’s a similar story under way in the United Kingdom with the fabulous colt Frankel. In October last year he won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at the legendary Ascot track – his ninth win from nine starts. Now this freakishly good horse has a very good looking father – the grand old sire called Galileo. And how do I know he’s such a good looking piece of work? Because last year when we were on our way back to Dublin from doing events at Ballymaloe House Cooking School near Cork, we were lucky enough to be shown around Coolmore – one of THE great thoroughbred breeding establishments anywhere in the world. And that’s where Galileo still lives and works. That’s if you can call getting 50 or 60 mares pregnant each year … ‘work’. Now here’s your man Galileo:


As I said – check that profile. He just strolled out of his box, propped, stretched his neck out and posed! The equine George Clooney. Now we can’t back Frankel today, but Galileo has another son running today – in the next race in Sydney – Race 6 The Sydney Cup. Check out horse number 3 Niwot – that’s “to win” backwards! In the spirit of good looking sires that I’ve met, and their sons … I’m going to have a bit of a flutter on Niwot and I’ll let you know how he goes.

As for Black Caviar – Adelaide folks have really dived in behind and this will be a very big time down at the Morphettville track this afternoon. A sell out situation – 30,000 general admission tickets – went earlier this week, and the stands and marquees will be full, with the mare’s salmon-and-black racing colours all over the show! So at 3.53pm local SA time, they’ll jump, and with any luck Black Caviar will be 20 wins from 20 starts a few minutes later. We just wouldn’t want you to miss out on some of the interesting things happening down our way.

Back in the Barossa – it’s Breakfast Rave time!

10.21am, Sunday 22nd April, Stelzer Road, Tanunda, The Barossa, South Australia

It’s a bit windy out there this morning folks, but the keen as mustard Breakfast Rave people were out there in Langmeil’s vineyards before dawn getting set up for today’s event. Hopefully this will give you a bit of an idea about how it all works:

You get the address from the Breakfast Rave Facebook page, or by word of mouth around the Barossa. Then you follow the signs – I reckon we’ve found the right place:


Yep, we’re definitely the at the right place:




Once you’ve found the Rave, the best way to go is order your coffee first, and decide which cooked brekky is for you:




Then it’s essential to check out the baked treats, because trust me…..they’re just magic and go quick! I went with the vegan treacle cookies


By 8am, the crowd’s already starting to gather, so Johnny starts on the guitar……..



And then you start your day in a really healthy way – I went with the poached egg and beans…..


But there’s more …..I had no idea about the organic cacao, and how nice is the way they do things at the Rave….the old ‘honesty box’ method..



And after you’ve caught up with everyone, you can stop by the ‘take a plant home with you’ table – today it was all about kale, coriander and broccoli for your garden




If you’re anywhere near the Barossa – keep an eye on The Breakfast Rave Facebook page, and don’t miss the next one. The Rave folks have a lot of fun finding these locations, and they never disappoint!!

Thanks very much Perth…..see ya soon!

10.34am, Saturday 21st April, Gate 9, Perth Airport, Western Australia

Morning all, we’ve come up from Mandurah this morning, and Pratty has just dropped me at the Perth airport to dash home and get all glammed up for the big wedding later today – our super salesgal Pia from the Perth branch is marrying her Mediterranean Mainman – congratulations!!!

And I’m back across the Nullarboar to Adelaide and back up to the Barossa for a week. But we’ve had a top run here in Perth – won a lot of new hearts and palates, and put another layer of goodtimes on the ones that we’ve had for a while. Solid stuff, and it will all be capped off nicely by the Yalumba Museum Tasting that Brian Walsh our in house winemaster will be hosting at the Parmelia Hilton Perth on Monday night – as part of the A+Australian Wine Program.

Here at the airport it’s peak hour – 32 flights a day they tell me in and out of Perth, all part of the mining Fly In Fly Out (FIFO – it’s a proper word and its own huge commercial world over here now ) boomtimes over here in the West.


And the Perth skyline has filled right up since I was here last year – on the far right is the just finished BHP building – the sign is yet to be attached to the massive meccano set stands up on top – and to the extreme right of the picture, that’s the WACA. The Western Australian Cricket ground – home pitch of the legendary Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee.


So thanks a huge amount Perth, and we’ll see you soon!

PS. I will also be putting up individual stories on our events with Your Shout Liquor at Da Bruno’s Restaurant, the Silver Spoon Restaurant Dinner, the Twist Club Businessman’s Luncheon, and our first visit to Mandurah – last night’s dinner at ‘The Cut’ Golf Club.

Pop up breakfast cafe – Sunday 22 April @ Langmeil ‘Freedom’ vineyard

7.04am, Wednesday 18th April, Canning Highway, Perth, Western Australia

Morning, folks, just wanted to let you know that the pop up Barossa brekky rave is back on this Sunday 22nd April. Where? At Langmeil Winery’s ‘Freedom’ vineyard – which you’ll find in Tanunda, follow the path off the big bend at the bottom of Para Road through Langmeil’s front gate, or in the back gate off the dirt Stelzer Road past the big shed to the vineyard.

What’s on the menu? Cooked breakfast $10, coffee from Barossa Roasters $4, Scullery Made teas and fresh juices $5 & baked treats $3

***everything will be organic, sustainable and fair trade – all served up using compostible cups and plates made from recycled materials. Oh … and dogs are welcome.

For all the details, check out The Breakfast Rave Facebook page


Speedos, Surf Clubs and Slow Cooked Lamb!

7.38am, Tuesday 17th April, McDonalds McCafe – love the free wi fi compared to $24 a day in the motel!, Canning Highway, South Perth, WA, Australia

Morning, folks – a lovely cool breezy morning here in Perth as the start to what is obviously going to be a lovely clear warm day.

Now sometimes in my travels I have managed to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to see something very special! Alas, it will not be this morning! Where should I have been? Cottesloe Beach, near the North Cott Surf Club! Why? Because at 6am this morning, most of the delightful blokes that were at our Yalumba Rare & Fine dinner last night – location Kim’s Food Bar on the sharp Napoleon Street alleyway in the suburb of Cottesloe, just a hop, step and a skip across the railway line to the beach itself – would have been part of the “early morning get your Speedos wet in the surf” brigade. And I for one would have liked to be there to see that, especially as they emerged one by one from the waves, like Daniel Craig in that last memorable James Bond movie moment! In particular, there was one pair of blue and white striped speedos that would have caught my complete attention – no names – you know who you are!

We had a magic autumn evening to work with last night, which totally suited the open air single room cafe that is Kim’s Food Bar. It’s the latest food house from Kim Gamble, who is well known in this part of Perth for several legendary beachside restaurants – The Blue Duck and Barchetta with their own bakery and pasticceria attached – both of them built in and around old North Cottesloe Surf Club change rooms. Yep, that’s where the surf club crossover comes in … which invariably involves Speedos! Kim is a member of the club, and that’s why a lot of the local folks at our Rare & Fine dinner last night are tangled up with the club and why I know where they would have been this morning! I did get an invite, but honestly … I look rubbish in Speedos!

So to our event.

Kim’s seats about 35 people, and they do ‘simple Italian style food, using local producers’. Their credo ‘simpatico rispetto pasione’ is over the front door, and the crew – front of house Matt and Anna, with Ben and Steele at the stoves – absolutely nail it. They matched their rustic food flavors in complete ‘sympathy’ with the set of wines we gave them beforehand – no three dimensional food sculptures trying to use every condiment known to man – and handmade ingredients like naturally 36 hour raised pizza dough and homemade salsiccia (that’s Italian sausage, folks) that just tasted great.


This is The dining room – check out the lovely old green enamel tin lampshades over the bar – salvaged from the Albert Park tennis club.


The evening opened with our 2011 Eden Valley Viognier – all apricot, lemongrass and slippery – and the boys sent out skinny wedges of thin-crust pizza topped with braised onions and fleshy anchovy fillets – straight out of their own wood fired oven at the end of the bar in front of the open kitchen – perfect Italian style version of sweet and salt. Oh, and then they chased that with some char grilled prawns.





Then we ran three red wine doubles – starting with the Cabernet Sauvignon contrast from our Coonawarra vineyard. You’ll find this on the genuine ‘terra rossa on top of the cigar shaped limestone reef” that defines this particular wine growing region. We are just north of the Penola township, southern end of the Coonawarra.


The two wines – lush and forward, red berry-dominated 2010 The Cigar – Cabernet with a dash of Merlot – and the serious 2008 The Menzies 100% Cabernet – long, silky, French oak tannin-spined palate topped off with traditional cassis, mint eucalypt and earthy aromatics … Ben and Steele chose homemade Italian-style spicy salsiccia sausage – skewered to a sprig of fresh rosemary, on a bed of sliced and grilled pepperoni.



On we went to keeping the old school Australian blend of Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz alive with the 2009 The Scribbler – younger vineyards, rearing to go out of the blocks, fresh fruit drive of 2/3 Cabernet 1/3 Shiraz, mostly from the Barossa floor so a touch ripe and rich in there – and the stately gentleman charmer of the Cab Shiraz world, the 2008 The Signature. This wall of elegant star anise, coffee mocha, cracked pepper layer cake is built for the long journey and – in keeping with Yalumba tradition – is named for someone that’s made an outstanding contribution to that world – this vintage being the Judy Argent, great character and long-term fixture in the Angaston winemaking team.

And for this, the boys brined some local lamb rump and slow roasted it – so that you could push it apart with a gentle nudge of the fork – and sent it out on a bed of single grain (they got it absolutely right! ) risotto. Yum!


Getting a bit artistic folks – that’s the lamb with the new tall shoulder bottle, new label 2010 Patchwork Shiraz – which was served the other side of the lamb dish – and was jumping out of the glass itself.

****Early Warning Folks! 2010 will be something special as a vintage for red wines of serious merit from The Barossa!

The Patchwork was doubled with the deep, dark plum and choc cherry-laced 2006 The Octavius Old Vine Barossa Shiraz, and was a doubled barreled big red finish to the new Rare & Fine lineup.

There was a light vanilla bean pannacotta to end the evening, designed to go with our 2011 FSW8B, our Wrattonbully ‘Fine Sweet White’ botrytis Viognier. And yes … the pannacotta did ‘quiver’ when it was turned out onto the plate, and merged beautifully with the honey, nougat and apricot of the Viognier. A lovely spot of food and wine crossover finish to our big night out in Cottesloe at Kim’s Food Bar. And what a way to start our week’s events over here in The West!

Thanks to Brian for setting the whole thing up, to Kim, Ben, Steele, Matt and Anna for opening up their house just for us on a Monday night, and for all the local Cottesloe folks for coming out on a school night to see what we’ve been up to for the past 163 years at Yalumba!

With any luck we’ll see you at least this time next year … and I promise that next time I’ll hold the towels whilst you brave the early morning surf! Ciao for now!

Good Morning Perth, Western Australia!

7.58am, Monday 16th April, Canning Highway, South Perth, Western Australia

Good Morning all – we’re in Perth for the next week – gateway to the Australian mining megabucks industry and home to one of my favourite hidey holes in the world…….the genuine Tiki style cocktail house – the ‘Hula Bula Bar’. The same folks that own the Hula Bar have opened another outpost of Americana over in – De Ville’s – and we will try and get there at least once to sample and rate their Southern American style slow cooked pulled pork sandwich with sweet BBQ sauce.

But for now – clear skies – it’s going to be a beautiful day, and we start in 45 minutes with a complete Rare & Fine top wines of the Yalumba house lineup for our Perth sales folks. I have a treat for them too, so it will be a good karma, chocolate laced start to our 2012 Rare and Fine wine run around the whole country. Wish us luck!


That’s the city skyline from the South Perth side of the Swan River.

OK Perth, we’re on our way

12.44pm, Sunday 15th April, Gate 23 Adelaide Airport, South Australia

Hi Folks, I’m nursing stitches in my jaw today as I sit here…….yes, very early……..waiting for the aeroplane going through to Perth later this afternoon. Whenever I get back from a big trip, I get patched up straight away so that by the time I go away again – all is as good as it can be with this worn out old unit. That’s me folks! But if you’re considering an implant situation to sort out a nasty dental situation, let me tell you about the pain! And the weird sensation of a torsion wrench being used to screw a piece of titanium solidly into your skull. And the operation conditions where you’re on your back in the chair for an hour stuck full of massive amounts of local anesthetic, and with your whole body covered with a sheet that has just the smallest hole where your mouth gets lined up. Think the Elephant Man type fashions and you’ll be right on the money! You can always go under general anesthetic, but that costs substantially more, so I went with the local.

So unfortunately I won’t be ploughing through and steak with the fab Rare & Fine reds that we’re about to start showcasing on this year’s program, which starts tomorrow evening at the North Cott Surf Club in Cottesloe – one of Perth’s magnificent Oceanside suburbs. But I will be there, just not smiling quite as wide as usual. It’s still looks a bit slice and diced where my smile sits, and I don’t want to pull the stitches, so I’ll just have to be careful. I am getting them out the week I get back, just before Anzac Day, so should be pretty much back to normal for the second leg of Rare & Fine events in NSW and the ACT.


The ‘before’ smile – from our Rare & Fine dinner in Edinburgh last year, and we did do beef, many different cuts with The Signature and The Scribbler


I’ll put up the ‘after’ smile from somewhere in our Sydney program

Coonawarra Roadtrip

5.12pm, Thursday 12th April, Menzies Retreat, near Penola, Coonawarra wine region, South Australia

Afternoon folks, our winemaker Pete Gambetta and I are on a flying roadtrip to the Menzies vineyard down here in the Coonawarra wine growing region – 5 hours driving time south of the Barossa. We’re staying at the Menzies retreat tonight, which is part of the Yalumba Wine Room surrounded by big old red gums and a proper native vegetation block left in the middle of the vineyard.



We start the Rare & Fine Roadshow next Monday across in Perth, featuring The Menzies and The Cigar Coonawarra Cabernet wines, so the best way to catch up on how the 2012 vintage is traveling is to get down here and look at it from the ground up. That’s why my tour guides today are our prize viticulturalist Dan Newsom and the winemaker for all grapes from down this way Pete Gambetta. (that’s Dan on the left)


OK. Coonawarra. Before we go any further, it’s all about the dirt. ‘Terra Rossa’ red dirt over a ‘cigar’ shaped limestone ridge running north / south about 18 miles long and up to a mile wide in places – and when you plant Cabernet Sauvignon on top, you get this fabulous combination of cassis blackcurrant, mint eucalypt, mushroomy earth, choc and long lean tannins that hang on forever from the best vintage years.

This is why they call it ‘terra rossa’ – from the old east side section of the Menzies vineyard


And as far as the vintage 2012 is concerned, you never want to say too much too early…….but there’s every indication that this one might be one of the memorable ones! So far, so great…….we’ve taken all our fruit off and it’s bubbling away in the fermenters back up at the winery, with some ferments having finished – been pressed and put into oak to settle down.

Why do we think there’s every chance 2012 might be a bit special? Because the season was always going to start well on the back of the 2011 rains down in Coonawarra. The season opened with a tiny heatwave followed by a couple of small rainy moments, so the buds burst well and the shoots took off straight away. Flowering came early along with some southerly chilly winds, so set wasn’t high and there was a bit of ‘shatter’ – which essentially means not a lot of berries, and some looseness in the bunch. Then the berries stayed small because it stayed reasonably dry. This is all good stuff, as you end up with small berries and loose bunches – perfect for high intensity flavors and less chance of disease respectively.

The fruit ripened through to around 12.5 baume fairly evenly, then a series of cool nights with those chilly southerly breezes around 9 degrees Celsius kicked in and slowed everything down. A couple of 6 mm rain showers freshened the vines up, and that green flesh around the seeds ripened up, the season almost went Autumnal, base leaves started to drop, and a long consistent section of flavor and aroma accumulation rolled on through to around 14.5 baume. There was even a touch of ‘bagging up’ with the berries, where the skin softens due to ripeness, and Dan tells me that you could eat the Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes and they tasted like table grapes there was so much fruit flavor going on.

Maybe that’s why at our ferment tasting last week – the colours, aromas and flavors were so intense. Have a look at these:

From the vines on the terra rossa in the photo above


The winemaking crew involved with Coonawarra –


Left to right – Kerby (doing vintage with us from the Finger Lakes district in New York state, USA), Matt Zadow, Nat Cleghorn & Pete.


So, it looks like this great fermenting stuff above off this particular Menzies block of terra rossa stuff below……..could very well make into the bottle in the same shape and with any luck prove 2012 as a memorable Coonawarra vintage. Watch this space, and we’ll keep you up to date as the wine progresses through it’s time in oak to blending, and finally to bottle.


Now we’re off to the Prince of Wales Hotel in Penola to have dinner with another Coonawarra winemaking superstar……Sue Hodder from Wynns. See ya tomorrow.

Oakbank Picnic Raceday

9.15am, Sunday 8th April, Family Tasting Room, Yalumba, Eden Valley Road, Angaston, The Barossa, South Australia

There’s only me and the magpies here at the moment – I’m getting sorted to do a tasting for a delightful group of professional blokes visiting the Barossa, and the birds are chortling away on the winery front lawn cleaning up the crumbs from yesterday’s Easter picnickers.

We took our first-time visitors up to the Oakbank Races in the Adelaide Hills and had a top day out – the Oakbank Picnic Race Meeting being a two-day Easter carnival held up in this sleepy corner of the hills for over a hundred years. The idea is to get there early, drive across the track and set up your picnic inside, and stay there for the day, enjoy the racing, go on the hurdy gurdy thrill rides, and have all those sticky sweet fairy floss and jam-filled doughnut things from the food caravans in between!

Here’s the ‘before’ picture – I arrived at 10am, they close the track crossing at 11am, and the first race is at 11.45am. This is the ute with all the gear we’ll need for the day on board.


Here’s everything set up and ready to go


Add some lovely professional blokes to the picture


And the first hurdle in the feature race of the day – the Von Doussa Steeplechase


And you can see why it’s such a magic day out!