12.16pm, Sunday 31st May, Central Station, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Officially the afternoon now folks, and I’m waiting on a train to take me up to Newcastle where we’ll be catching up with some old very wine switched on mates from Merewther through to Lake Maquarie. They’ll be coming to see us tomorrow either during the day at Customs House, or at dinner right on top of the Newcastle harbour with Neil of Scratchleys. I love the trains, and have done my fair share on UK Rail and Amtrak, so it’s nice to do the short northern run to Newcastle in my own country. About the same time on the rails gets me from Baltimore to New York on the ‘Capitol Corridoor’ – it’s weird sometimes when you compare these things. Biggest city on that run that you go through? Philadelphia. Biggest town on this run? Probably Gosford. The one thing both worlds have in common? The train stations in each city are beautiful old buildings, with treasures like this lurking in every corner….
So I’ve got 45 minutes until we leave, so I’ll try and catch you up on what we’ve been doing for the last couple of days. Friday morning we drove from Canberra down to Wagga Wagga – yes the cruel jokesters do say “the town so exiting that they named it twice” – but I like it. It’s home to a lovely old clubhouse, complete with snooker tables and cellar – The Riverine Club – that puts on a wine dinner for the locals when we bring our new Rare & Fine releases to town. And that’s what the plan was for last Friday night, and 65 of the Club members and their friends thought it was a good one.
When Mick – our man that looks after Yalumba in Canberra and Wagga Wagga – and I went across to the Club early to open the wines – it all promised a great night out was on the way. We had everything you need – proper glassware, a top local chef at the stoves, a tremendous Cellarman Dennis who’s been there for every dinner we’ve done going back 8 years, and really enthusiastic local folk who love wine and have taken us under their wings as favourites. Thanks very much Paul, the professor(s), John, Dr Sleep, and Magic Fingers – you all know who you are. (Well actually, Magic wasn’t there on this occasion, but he was missed! At least by me! )
I did well at the start, grabbing a pic of an excellent pre dinner canapé – heres the ‘Lamb mignon topped with truffle honey and dates’ – gluten free as well!
Just as a ‘by the way’ – these would be fab with our 2014 Bushvine Grenache, 2014 Y Series Shiraz Viognier or 2012 ‘Cigar’ little bit lush Coonawarra Cabernet Sauv…..just in case you’ve got a bottle floating around.
Oh hang on – lost track of time……I’d better get through the gate and on to the platform, we’re off in 20 minutes. I’ll be back when we’re on the train.
OK – on board. Here’s my home base for the next few hours – for the folks who often get a bit caught up with the glamarama side of the road wineselling warrior role…
So, back to The Riverine Club dinner in Wagga. I didn’t get any photos of the excellent entree, main and dessert courses, as I was flat out getting around the tables a couple of times – everybody wanted to have a chat, and there a lot of really good questions. Plus….for the first time….I worked in tandem with the Riverine Club’s specialist wine appreciation group “Six at Six”. It’s an excellent idea. On Thursday evenings at 6pm, the group gets together at the club, and they taste six wines – and they try and focus on a ‘vertical’ (that’s several vintages of the same wine for the interested novice readers) of something interesting. The ‘6 at 6’ Tasting Session usually goes for about an hour, then they do dinner afterwards. The current ringmaster of the group is a very dapper winewordsman (yes! That’s one of my very own invented terms) Duncan Farquar, and he presided over a table of 22 group members on the night – and summarised their thoughts on the wines……course by course. They’re a pretty creative bunch when it comes to wine descriptors, and they had some pretty memorable winey things to say!! Long live Wagga’s ‘6 at 6’ crew! And yes, I should’ve taken a picture of Duncan and the long table of ‘Sixer Sippers’.
Back to the menu…..sorry abou the no illustrations !
The entree was duck – Peking style – popped into crispy spring rolls with ginger, lime, coriander and plum sauce on the side. Just the right combination to jump into the ‘exotic aromatic’ double – our 2013 Roussanne and 2014 ‘Virgilius’ (barrel selection from a single vineyard) Viognier. The Sixer Sippers were struck with the “silky and rounded” Viognier…..which reads “voluptuous” to me!
On to the main event…..Pork Belly. Not just any old ‘seen on every smart menu across the world so we better do it here in Wagga as well’ Pork Belly. This was nearly the best fall apart fibres of pork without that gluggy fat character stuff that I’ve seen this year…..and that’s including across 6 states of the USA and one province of Canada! Straight from the menu it was “Crispy Roast Pork Belly with poached pear” – and you could have easily substituted quince for the pear….its that caramelised sweetness that helps cut through. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it held hands with our two quite lush layered bigger reds – the 2012 ‘Cigar’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, and the big gun 2012 ‘Signature’ Cabernet Shiraz. The Signature, which at 53% Cab to 47% Shiraz is pretty much half and half – shows that way on the nose and in the flavours. One moment it’s red berries and cassis on the nose – all Cab – then next look it’s chocolate and plum – all shiraz. It’s lush though, and because the tannins are so well soaked in together with the fruit – it’s deceptive. It appears to be so ready to go that our biggest problem is going to be to convince people to leave the cork in, and not polish it off with a T Bone tonight!mGood problem to have!
And then, just when you thought it was all done….on came the ‘deconstructed’ Etonian Mess – one of my favourite sweet treats that I first hadon my travels through england. There, I’ve always had the cream + raspberry + meringue concoction presented almost in a ‘thrown together’ fashion in a parfait glass or similar. At the Riverine Club dinner, we had it sitting like a sweet sugary caterpillar spread along the plate. So good, and completely happy with the honey, nougat and apricot of our 2014 FSW (Fine Sweet White) 7B Botrytis Viognier. A suitably sticky finish to an excellent wine and food showcase…….in my humble opinion. I knew there was a jolly good reason for including Wagga Wagga on our Rare & Fine wine release roadshow!!
So a big “Thanks Very Much” must go to Riverine Club for having us back to visit, keep up the good work Duncan Farquar and the ‘6 at 6’ers…..and with any luck we’ll see you all – same time, same place – to do it all again, next year.
PS and I do like all the antiques in the club!