Monthly Archives: December 2012

Fishing ‘Emmes Reef’ for Sweep

5.54pm, Friday 28th December, Marion Bay, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

Still down the bottom end of the Yorke Peninsula folks…….gone fishing! Now firstly, let me explain what we went out looking for this morning. Yesterday the sea down here around the ‘shipwreck coast’ was quite angry, nasty big hollow waves and whitecaps, not a nice place to be at all! It didn’t take much imagination to see why this part of the coastline got it’s name! Today……different story. So we headed for the Sweep Spot – actually formally identified as ‘Emmes Reef’ – a set of rocks that pop up about a mile and a half off West Cape – the bottom left hand corner of the Yorke Peninsula. If you check it out on Google Earth you’ll see exactly where we were. Pretty much on our way south from the Mainland towards Kangaroo Island, and in view of a major shipping lane – we watched a bulk tanker tracking for points west as we fished!

And why were we out at this reef, with the engines always idling, swinging in slow circles back in to the ‘white water’ wash and out again? Because that’s where the sweep lurk, feeding. Basically the idea is to cast into the froth, sit your hook 3 or 4 feet below the surface, then get ready! They strike once – quick and sharp – and if you don’t grab em……your baits gone! They’re good! And why do we chase Sweep…….species Scorpis Aequipinniss? Because it’s the best kept sweet eating fish secret in Australia! A lot of folks rave about King George Whiting, or garfish, or snapper done 70 different ways……but trust me folks…’s Sweep for mine!

The fish basically looks like a dinner plate with a tiny mouth and tail attached, and they strike the hook and fight horizontally to the surface. Here’s our catch of Sweep from this morning before being filleted. (don’t worry, our 25 fish are well inside the boat limit of 60, and the minimum legal length to keep a sweep is 24cm and we kept just the 35+cm fish. It’s always a good idea to leave some behind to grow……for later on.)



After being filleted and dipped into a light tempura style batter made with Coopers Pale Ale, then flash deep fried, here’s the end result! These critters were swimming this morning! It doesn’t get fresher than this! **try these with lemon juice and fresh coriander


Oh, and if you wondered what happened to those crayfish from yesterday’s boil……here’s one of them broken up for dinner last night. With Bev’s home made egg mayo laced with mustard in that jar back right of the photo. And yes…..perfect match for another bottle of Yalumba Y Series 2011 Sangiovese Rose


On the Crayfish Coast

10.56am, Thursday 27th December, Pondalowie Bay, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

Morning folks, just a quick catch up before we put the boat in the water again. We’re making the best of a few days off before the New Year starts, and based right down at Pondalowie Bay, on the ‘toe’ of the Yorke Peninsula, which is the bit that looks more or less like Italy, sticking out from Adelaide – capital of South Australia.


This is ‘Pondy’ looking out to the heads – it’s an old crayfishing bay that’s one of the few sheltered spots on what has been called ‘the shipwreck coast’ for the last 150 years. The combination of unpredictable weather, jagged cliff faces and reefs have claimed both sailing and steam ships from Port Victoria on the west coast of the Yorke Peninsula right around to Edithburgh on the east coast. So why are we out there? Because when the weather co operates, the deepwater fishing is magnificent – sweep, nanygai, snapper, the odd bluefin tuna, mackerel…….and a mate has an amateur license for two crayfish pots! Here’s the catch from yesterday – one 2kg and the other 1.6. The crays before going into the pot, then into the cold water bath straight after. Why the bath? Because it pulls the meat away from the shell slightly, making it all that much easier to get to!




OK… now, and let’s hope that the cloud coming over disappears and the wind that’s strengthening….drops away. Cross your fingers it ends up looking like this……yesterday!


What is MedSTAR?

10.35am, Thursday 21st December, The Clocktower, Yalumba, Angaston, Barossa Valley, SA

Morning folks, let me share yesterday’s event in Adelaide with you – my last ‘off the winery site’ job for 2012. I went to the Adelaide Airport – a trip that my trusty Hi Lux ute can do blindfolded – but I wasn’t booked to fly. I was scheduled as part of the Clinical Governance day at the operational base hangar for MedSTAR. What is MedSTAR? It’s a 24 hour “emergency medical retrieval team” of doctors, nurses, paramedics and helicopter pilots that was launched here in South Australia in 2009. They also have – from February 2010 – a specialist section called MedSTAR Kids which is a 24 hour emergency service that looks after everything from pregnant mums in trouble to youngsters of all shapes and sizes up to 16 years old. These folks are the real deal! They talk quite calmly about how long you’re likely to survive in the waters of St Vincent Gulf if you fall out of your boat – depending on the water temperature at that time of the year – and you just get the distinct impression that if you’re ever in dire trouble……..these are the people you want on the way to get you out!

So we finished a very serious day program – things like “Comparison of non-invasive and invasive blood pressure in aeromedical care” – with a “Why I work where I work” discussion on being part of something special…….in this case our 163 consecutive years of Family owned wine growing at Yalumba. For mine, it paralleled quite nicely with MedSTAR…..definitely something very very special. Now please don’t take offense MedSTAR, I really enjoyed spending the day with you, but I very much hope that I’m not in a situation where I get to meet the team when they’re “on the job”! But we do hope that we see some of the team for a social visit to Yalumba next year.

So thanks Doc Andrew for the opportunity to see what MedSTAR does, and to share our story with the team. All the best for your Christmas Party this weekend, I hope that Santa makes a stop at your hangar next week, and that the New Year treats you all really well.



Rock solid!

10.48am, Wednesday 19th December, The Clocktower, Yalumba , Angaston, SA, Australia

Morning folks, just wanted to follow on from our trip down to Wrattonbully a couple of weeks ago. Making up one of the Hooper Vineyard boundary fences is a magic old stacked stone walls, and it gets its own feature in a new book – just released the weekend before last – “those dry stone walls – stories from South Australia’s stone age” by Bruce Munday with photographs by Kristin Munday.


The Mundays crisscross the whole state of South Australia and have captured the art and function of dry stone – also called ‘stacked stone’ walls. Best they explain their book in their own words:

“Far from being a dying craft, dry stone walling is enjoying a renaissance, continuing to make a statement across the South Australian landscape. ‘Those Dry Stone Walls’ is rich with beautiful imagery of these walls, the stories behind them, and the advice to inspire you to follow in the footsteps of our early settlers and start building your own.”

PS. Here in the Barossa Valley area – particularly out along Flaxman’s Valley Road – there are stacked stone walls running like string lines along many old property boundaries. According to the local old timer folk, these – and the extensive network of the same walls winding down between the Barossa and the Murray River at Swan Reach – were not built by convict labour. In fact, there were stone mason ‘gangs’ that travelled to the area and built these fences to contract, completing roughly ‘one chain’ or 22 yards each day.


Party Time at Yalumba

10.57am, Friday 14th December, The Clocktower, Yalumba, Eden Valley Road, Angaston, SA

Morning folks, it’s one of the special calendar dates at Yalumba today – our end of year breakup Holiday lunch. It’s the day when all the vineyard, nursery and winery folk sit down for lunch together with our ‘Golden Oldies’ retirees and the Hill Smith Family to mark the end of our working year – very Old School! There’s always a dress up theme – this year it’s just ‘Y’……at the minute it’s all a bit secret – each department will be off to get into their costumes in about an hours time…..all quite competitive actually. Don’t worry, I’ll post some of the more artistic efforts later on.

But it’s also traditional to do a morning tea on this day……and have a ‘Kris Kringle’ gift giving session. This is where you pull the name of someone in your department out of a hat, and organize something appropriate for that person…….for under $5….so it’s all a bit of fun, and about nailing folks with something that they really like! So here you go folks, you can be part of my Kris Kringle…..



Inside the Bon Bon is a plastic spoon and a note. “No, this isn’t it, Santa isn’t being a totally stingy old bugger this year…..even on a tight budget! You will need to consult the NI freezer….”

And there, wrapped up in matching paper…….


A whole tub of Golden North honey flavored ice cream! Perfect! See you all later on after lunch……bring your own spoon!

Wrattonbully – Serious Merlot

12.25pm, Friday 7th December, Clocktower, Yalumba, Eden Valley Road, Angaston, SA

Afternoon folks, I’ve just been up to have a chat with Pete Gambetta, our winemaker who looks after most of the grapes that come from the Hill Smith family’s vineyards ‘down south’ in Coonawarra and Wrattonbully. I was down there earlier this week to do a tasting with the full team – vineyards, office and the Menzies Tasting Room – of the new release vintages of what I thought were 6 of my strongest wines out there ‘on the road’ this year.

So what did I have on board?

The 2011 Yalumba Y Vermentino – citrus perfume and zippy lime oil flavors completely begging for yum cha prawn dumplings or salt and leper squid.

2012 Pewsey Vale Riesling – nothing short of a lemon lime floral firecracker ready for anything from the sea or river done just about any which way.

2011 Yalumba The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro – your 3D middleweight all raspberry rosemary juicy fruit savory stuff for the Lebanese kebabs, sweet beet salads, bangers and gravy drowned mash, Greek style minced lamb and garlic balls with cucumber and yoghurt dipping sauce, lamb loin chops … just about anything!

2010 Yalumba The Patchwork Barossa Shiraz – more than a middleweight leading with cloves and cinnamon backed up with dark sweet star anise laced fruit, looking for tagliatelli with proper meatballs and tomato basil sauce to mushroom risotto to old school eye fillet beef wrapped in single smoked bacon topped with Swiss brown mushroom sauce.

2010 Yalumba The Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz and its bigger and slightly more muscular brother the 2008 Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz – here we are in truly carnivorous territory with cassis ‘ribena’ driven aromas and flavours from the Cabernet over a solid cherry chocolate Shiraz carpet – looking for meat on a bone – slow braised and roasted short ribs glazed with something sweet falling apart into fibres, proper T-bone steaks with green peppercorn sauce and caramelized onions on the side, not forgetting beautifully cured sweet ham on the bone with beetroot relish … just for fun.

Yep, it was 6 of the very best for this year.

Then …

Into this top-flight company, we put something special from the family’s Wrattonbully vineyards into the toughest wine company we could. We added the – as yet unreleased – 2010 Reserve Smith & Hooper Merlot to the lineup and tasted it after the 2008 Signature. Tough debut in anyone’s terms. (PS ‘Smith & Hooper’ refers to the two local fine wool sheep grazing families that we purchased land from back in 1995. We turned that land into the rock and red dirt vineyard blocks that we have today.)

So before I go too much further, let’s give you a look at our corner of the world down in Wrattonbully – you’ll find it on the map just south more or less a bit east of the town of Naracoorte.


Left the main road in the drizzle…..


On to the dirt….


I’m in the right spot…..


And this is what I mean by ‘red dirt and rock’ blocks




So, back to the tasting, and the 2010 Smith and Hooper Reserve Merlot.

It’s 100% Merlot and a very small batch of wine made in a very interesting way. It’s the ‘berries in the barrel’ method. Remember Pete Gambetta, the winemaker? Well Pete did a vintage in Bordeaux back in 2005 with the Despagne wine growing family, and he saw an interesting way to handle Merlot that resulted in lifted fruit aromatics, as well as really good tannin fruit palate structure and length. So the inspiration was the Despagne family’s super merlot – ‘Girolate’ – and now we’ve had a crack at producing our own small-lot mega Merlot.

So how does the ‘berries in a barrel’ thing work?

The best parcels of Wrattonbully Merlot across the Smith and Hooper vineyards have been identified over the past 7 or 8 years, they’re hand picked, put in a cool room overnight, then the berries are stripped or ‘de-stemmed’, and are loaded into 30 barrels – 60 gallon / 300 litre hogsheads. There’s enough juicing that goes on during the de-stemming to provide a ‘carbonic maceration’ effect, where the berries effectively ferment more or less whole for around 14 days in the barrels. The barrels are rotated every 6 hours during that time, which ensures that there’s enough contact between the breaking down berry flesh and juice – to transfer all the aroma, colour and flavor goodies across.

After the ferment finishes, Pete takes 10 of the barrels and empties them into the press, separates off the wine, then tops up the remaining 20 barrels – wine filled onto wine in each barrel with the berries still there. These 20 barrels sit for 6 weeks as extended skin contact – still rotating – imparts this quite solid unique integrated tannin without aggression into the wine. After 6 weeks, all the barrels are emptied individually, the barrels thoroughly cleaned, with each barrel’s volume going back to its original barrel – where it stays for 7 to 12 months.

So, at the end of the day, what did we get?

Something a bit special actually. On the day, these were my tasting notes: “almost mulberry jam aromas with cracked pepper and Chinese five spice. Darker fruits of the forest (my favorite yoghurt flavor) berries on a leaner more than lush palate, more savoury than sweet, tannins but not tight and grippy … probably the best Merlot I can remember seeing from this country. And it went so well with the beetroot relish!”


So there you have it, our day ‘down south’ in Wrattonbully, and the serious Merlot they’re turning out. Just for the viticultural clonal purists, the 2010 Reserve Smith & Hooper Merlot is 80% D3V14 and 40% the new French Q45-14 and Italian 8R clones.

Also, for the fans of old school sustainability, here’s more of the area’s rock in our own traditional dry stacked stone fence line …



And completing that boundary is about 800 meters of sheoak trees – all seed saved and propagated from the original tree planted on the Smith’s sheep property.


Thanks enormously to James, Dan, Helen, all the folks at the Wrattonbully vineyards, and the gals at the Menzies Tasting Room for your hospitality … and I’ll see you all after vintage when I come back down with another set of 6 ‘road star’ wines, this time from the Feb / March Tour through Ireland and the UK.

Harbour City to Harbour City

9.24am, Saturday 1st December, Hickson Road, Downtown Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Morning folks, to an un seasonal tropical misty stinking hot day in Sydney. Yesterday morning it was wet, windy and cold at 5.30am in Auckland as I left for the airport – had to wear my lovely warm Boeing hoodie! Then it was a lumpy bumpy old 4 hour crossing to Adelaide, and more of the same back to Sydney last night. Whoever organizes the air at 30000 feet yesterday – at least in our part of the world – clearly was in a bad mood!

We were in Sydney last night to do an event with our friends at Deloittes – on this occasion, to be part of their ‘inspiring women ‘ corporate program. We had a sensational view of Circular Quay as we took the bright young business set through 6 wines – to give them an idea of varietals and blends across 3 different grape growing regions.

I have enough time before the flight back to Adelaide this afternoon to track down some good coffee up in one of my old haunts on Darlinghurst road……where there are still some old 4 stage Gaggia machines hissing and gurgling in the same fine since being installed back in the 1950s. Maybe I’ll check and see if the Piccolo Bar has re opened – that’s the spot below Cleaver Green’s Kings Cross apartment in the ‘Rake’ TV show. It was closed for some time……so you never know your luck.

So this afternoon, back to the Barossa, and we’ll be off to Coonawarra Monday morning to catch up with our vineyard men James and Dan, and we can catch up on all things Cabernet for you.
See you when we’re on the Terra Rossa Cigar.