Pyrenees Perfection

A week ago I got to sit down and open up an exquisite example of a cool climate Shiraz thanks to my best man who gave me a bottle of the 2006 Dalwhinnie Moonambel for my birthday a few years ago.  After previous experience with a 2001 Moonambel Cabernet which I opened up after 10 years in the bottle I had a hard time waiting for this one to mature, but Jesus it was worth it. Those expecting a big bold knock your socks of red, stop reading here and just pick up a bottle from the Barossa for the rest who understand or a least like to pretend to understand wine, cool climate shiraz is all about balance, elegance and complexity.

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The 2006 Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz has this in spades while being some what more powerful than other cool climate heavy reds. A very dark cherry red it has an elegant aroma which draws you in and had me salivating. On the palate the rich flavour coats the mouth and a discerning critique will pick up the ” influence of the quartz, clay and gravel soils” if you believe James Halliday. Mortals like the rest of us might just have to settle for the hints of spice, cherries and plums which have been drawn blended well with age in this extremely silky and smooth wine. A nice long tannic finish with a strong hint of pepper just makes you want to go back for more. This was indeed everything that is good about an aged red, approachable and elegant it was simply perfection.

It might be to late to get yourself a bottle of the 2006 but do yourself a favour and head down to Dalwhinnie in the Pyrenees as  David Jones the chief winemaker is truly an expert of his craft.

Cheers,

Jono

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SA Xpress part 1

Normally on the school holidays Loz takes a couple of days off from work so we can enjoy along weekend together. This September was a bit different as we both wanted to get away and do something special. A few gaps in our new wine fridge was all the motivation we needed to embark on a whirlwind tour of South Australia and its famous wine regions. After driving up Friday evening we started the next day with a few stops in the Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills.

Henschke

Henschke view from the garden

Henschke view from the garden

An hour and a half out of Adelaide, Henschke was a bit of a detour from our planned trip but due to its limited opening hours a clear necessity. Established in 1868 the small stone buildings and their low ceilings added to the old world charm. Famous for the Hill of Grace it is definitely the reds that hold your attention at Henschke, while this expensive and rare label wasn’t on offer their was still plenty to sample at different price points. Starting with the readily available Henry’s 7 we quickly moved to the Keyneton Emporium shiraz, cabernet, merlot and cab franc blend with its bold flavour and balanced finish showing a clear step up in quality. Our favourite however was the 2010 Abbott’s Prayer a merlot and cabernet blend with its layered complexity and long smooth finish. Unfortunately, our tasting experience wasn’t great as the very small cellar door was filled to bursting and staff were just too busy to give us a detailed analysis of the wines on offer. Definitely worth the visit but if possible it might be better to plan a mid-week taste as the three-hour window on Saturday’s means that it’s always going to be busy during the holidays.

Yalumba

The historic clock tower at Yalumba

The historic clock tower at Yalumba

A short drive from Henshke is the iconic clock tower built in 1908 from Angaston marble and the stunning grounds of Australia’s oldest family owned winery. It is easy to connect Yalumba with the entry level range found readily in stores but that is a disservice to the quality on offer. Starting with the recognisable Pewsey Vale Riesling, a symbol of the Eden Valley, Yalumba’s wines often try to distance themselves from any connection with large scale mass production. Pick of the whites for us was not this trademark Riesling but the Hill – Smith Adelaide Hills Chardonnay made by the family vineyard with its noticeable stone fruits shows great potential in the bottle. In contrast our favourite reds were about value for money as The Strapper GSM and Galway Malbec both have unique flavour and are approachable everyday wines. At the more expensive end the FDR1A a cool climate Cabernet Shiraz blend has a complex expression of fruits which will continue to develop overtime.

Shaw + Smith

In hindsight our decision to try to visit a couple of wineries in the Eden Valley before driving down to the Adelaide Hills was poorly conceived as a large portion of our day was spent in the car. The pick of the few wineries we did manage to reach was easily Shaw and Smith where tasting is an experience. The cellar door is a non descript shed with a nice open modern feel that captures the view down to the water perfectly. Shaw and Smith doesn’t offer the traditional tasting found at most cellar doors instead providing a cheese matching flight of its five wines alongside some other local produce. Home to my favourite Sauv Blanc the wine did not disappoint, the current vintage has a nice dry finish and citrus flavours, it continues to be the benchmark for Australian Sauv Blanc. The rest of the whites are worthy of the same level of recognition as both stood out above anything else we had sampled. The 2015 Riesling has a strong nose and a nice expansive flavour that fills the palate while the 2014 M3 Chardonnay lived up to Loz’s expectations from our previous experience as it’s an excellent balance of stone fruits, acidity and oak that suggests it will only continue to get better. Not to be out done the 2013 Shiraz is possibly the perfect example of the capabilities of this variety in the cool climate with more elegance and depth then the traditional styles found in the Barossa. My only regret is we didn’t pick up a bottle since we had another day of touring for heavy reds fast approaching.

Tasting at Shaw + Smith

Tasting at Shaw + Smith

Check back for our experience in the Barossa where we visited some of the big names in Australian wine.

Jono

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A little slice of Tuscany

Just 20 or so minutes away from the major Yarra Valley wineries lies Pantone Hill nestled off the beaten track at Kangaroo Ground. This little winery has it’s own unique character that reveals itself once you reach the top of the drive. Sitting neatly on the top of a small hill surrounded by slopping vineyards is a stunning collection of original stone buildings.

Welcome to Panton Hill at Kangaroo Ground

Welcome to Panton Hill at Kangaroo Ground

It is the creation of winemaker Teunis Kwak who has combined the outcropping sandstone found at the site with a host of recycled materials. An approach that has even been able to imbue the winery with its own history as the buildings have incorporated convict mined Grampian  sandstone and Welsh slate. The result is a well spaced out collection of impressive stone structures with heavy doors and wrought iron fixtures providing an old world feel.

Open for business

Open for business

One of the large doors left slightly ajar invites you into the tasting room with its high cathedral style ceiling and its stone fireplace. Nestled underneath the stairs you’ll find Teunis ready to have a friendly chat about the winery. To set themselves apart Panton Hill specilise in only offering aged wines which makes the tasting a bit of a different experience especially if your not familiar with the characteristics of aged wine. Previously the 2006 Chardonnay with it’s deeperning yellow colour and buttery finish has been one of our favourits. Additionally, they offer a range of different fortified liquors which got us thinking more about dessert wines when we first visited 4 years ago. All their wines are ready to drink and affordable making it one of regular stops for something different. However, if your looking for bit more of an experience on a sunny day Panton Hill is a pefect place to enjoy a wine and a fresh woodfire pizza. Maybe we’ll see you there.

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Jono

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Heathcote on Show 2015

Jono and I are off on our annual drive up the Calder to one of our favourite wine festivals, Heathcote on Show. This wine and food festival is held every Queens birthday weekend, a great time of year to escape the rat race to visit a quaint town north of the city. Granted it is always pretty cold but hey it’s miserable this time of year anywhere in Victoria!

We are rugged up armed with our camera, tablet for notes (of course) and a couple of extra layers ready to re-visit some of our favourite wineries. This year we are only doing a day trip so limiting our stops to some of the best.

  • Downing Estate
  • Sanguine Estate
  • Red Edge Winery
  • Whistling Eagle Vineyard
  • Heathcote Winery

Here are our reflections…

Downing Estate

An ever reliable start the small cellar door in the wine maker’s garage is deceptive as we have found some of the most elegant Shiraz’s in the region here; some of which have become favourites of the parentals. Their Merlot is a “corker” in Jono’s words with one still in the cellar from a previous visit, a taste of the same 2009 vintage showed how well it was developing with a little age. Today it was the Cabernet Sauvignon that caught our attention with the three vintages on vertical tasting demonstrating a breadth of characteristics, ultimately the bold flavours of the 09 won us over. A surprise to finish our visit was the discounted 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon which had aged well and at $15 a bottle a real steal for something ready to drink.

Sanguine Estate

Our next stop was this more commercial set up which is always busy during the festival, as usual due to its popularity we had to wait a few minutes for our tasting. However past experience made sure we hung around as the reliable standard of the Progeny Shiraz was as a delight. This drop can be found readily around Melbourne and is just a hint of what is on offer. The surprise of this visit was the 2012 Cabernet blend which we expected to be a reasonably soft red, instead the deep almost purple hue alluded to a robust flavour and the chalky finish knocked our socks off. An equally powerful wine was the 2013 Inception (formally estate) Shiraz which in James Halliday’s own words is “almost ridiculously good from all angles” and is one of the purest examples of a bold Heathcote Shiraz. After a strong start we needed a break to recharge, so our next stop was an awesome chocolate brownie and a coffee from the ladies at ‘just cookies and tarts’ stall which helped regain our enthusiasm and set us up for the rest of the afternoons touring.

Red Edge Winery

Red Edge is always a welcoming family affair, this low key winery always greets us with a complimentary BBQ displaying local produce. Today we enjoyed Tooborac pork sausages and homemade pumpkin soup whilst keeping warm in front of the fire pit. A local artist in one of the sheds singing and playing keyboard completed the ambiance. We finally got around to trying the wines and as usual I enjoyed the current vintage Tempranillo, Jono also twisted my arm into buying few of the Degree Shiraz. Our bargain buy of the day as this entry level drop was great drinking now and at a heavily discounted rate for members we decided this will save us visiting the local bottle shop over winter this year.

Whistling Eagle Vineyard

After missing out on trying the Eagles Blood Shiraz last time, I declared on the drive up to Heathcote this was the wine that I MUST try this festival! We found their stall set up in front of the Willow Room on the main drag, with many people still out and about it took us a little while before we had our chance at trying this elusive wine! Jono has been raving about it since he tried it last year and once again enjoyed this robust and complex drop. Overall this stop was worthwhile as it displayed just another wonderful example of what this region can produce.

Heathcote Winery

Being the designated driver I decided to sit out of our final tasting at Heathcote Winery, instead I strolled around the old cellar door and grounds. In the meantime Jono enjoyed the extensive range on tasting. The Viognier was the highlight of the white varietals, the dry finish was pleasing as this is the style of Viognier we enjoy the most. The latest vintage of their flagship Mail Coach Shiraz aged in a combination of American and French oak had a strong flavour on the front of the palate whilst had complexity on the finish. In contrast the Slaughter House Paddock Shiraz aged solely in American oak was an explosion in your mouth and lacked the complexity to round it off, it will be interesting if this wine mallows over time. The newly rebranded The Origins Shiraz had a much more subtle and elegant structure thanks to the French oak.

We had hoped our day would be capped off by wins for our beloved Dons and Bulldogs but unfortunately this what not to be. Until next time.

Loz

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Tahbilk

Our trip to Nagambie lakes brought back some memories of early morning regattas during my school days. Although our trip started well after the 5am start of years past it was still a long drive from our base at Eildon. Arriving in the early afternoon the different age of the vines was obvious from the car and the boarding wetlands gave a feeling of isolation from the dry countryside.

icon man building at Tahbilk winery

Iconic  main building at Tahbilk winery

Tahbilk winery has a proud history of being one of Australia’s oldest vineyards with a small remaining plantation of the original 1860 Shiraz which survived the phylloxera outbreak that hit the Goulburn region in the early 1900s. The history of the winery is maintained as much in the old stables and the subterranean cellar as the wines that they produce. Since both show the progression from the 1860’s beginnings to the present with the addition of a modern café overlooking the water and the continued development of their winemaking.

1860s Underground Cellar at Tahbilk

1860s Underground Cellar at Tahbilk

There was a large range of wines on tasting and thankfully neither of us were driving but we still needed to be selective. Tahbilk has the largest single holding of Marsanne in the world so this is where we choose to start, Lauren instantly took a liking to the dry crisp finish. Amazingly the Marsanne can be aged for long periods and the picture below shows the changing colour of the wine over the years. Readily available in stores we are keen to start our own collection since the museum release we purchased had only improved. In contrast the RMV (Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier) had a creamier texture and was more fruity on the front palate.

Marsanne through the ages

Marsanne through the ages

Before we got stuck into the heavier reds we were both tempted to try the Rosè on offer since it was made unusually from Cabernet grapes. The result is a very different style of wine as it had a noticeably drier finish and lacked the fruitiness that is often common in Rosè made from the Pinot Noir grapes. Although the Rosè did not make it on to our shortlist, missing out alongside the Riesling, it remains in our memories of the vineyard and is likely to be included on any future orders.

Traditionally known for its Shiraz the GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre) was quick to steal my attention as I have developed a fondness for this rare blend and the subtle Grenache characteristics made it very easy drinking. The Cabernet Sauvignon was a hit with Lauren as it displayed good strong tannins with a chalky finish which makes it a prime example of the variety. To finish the more expensive ESP label Shiraz is exquisite and compares to anything we have had in Victoria.

We have already been looking out for Tahbilk wines more in stores and will no doubt be looking for an opportunity to be picking up an ESP in the future.

Cheers

Jono

 

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Black Cow Bistro

 

Being proud Melbournians we always have high expectations when it comes to eating out. Strangely enough this includes the location of a proper fish and chip shop in a seaside town which seems to be lacking in some parts of Tassie. These dramas seemed to follow us to Launceston until the locals gave us some good oil and sent us to the Black Cow Bistro.

After a last minute booking, which is a must, we made our way to George St to find the up market steakhouse. Located in the old Luck’s Butchery shop I appreciated the Art Deco characteristics of the building which had been enhanced by the tasteful use of modern design. The Bistro itself is intimate and inviting with a well stocked bar filled with local wines and everything needed to make a decent cocktail.

I decided on the 200g eye fillet after perusing the menu and realising that it was the only steak I could manage, which was fine since its one of my regular cuts anyway. Thankfully I played it safe after seeing the size of another diners (450g+) rib eye on the bone which tipped the scales at approximately 650g that night! Accompanied with the Café de Paris butter and Truffled bearnaise for Jono, we both agreed that it was the most satisfying meal we had on our trip.

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Thanks to the high standard of service and quality of produce we will definitely be going back and recommend the Black Cow Bistro to any carnivore.

Loz

http://www.blackcowbistro.com.au

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Pipers Brook

Found about 10 minutes away from Bay of Fires, Pipers Brook is an excellent follow up to any wine tour around the Tamar Valley. Without prior warning I nearly missed the turn off since Pipers is in a small compound along side Jansz. The drive down to the cellar door was very pleasant as we slowly worked our way through the vines and tree line driveway. In fact the whole place has the feeling of a European estate rather than a Tasmanian winery.

The view looking out from Pipers Brook

The view looking out from Pipers Brook

The wines are where Pipers really won us over as the building itself has character but was nothing spectacular. Starting with a bang, the Kreglinger Brut is simply an outstanding sparkling with a fresh crispness and a lengthy finish. It was definitely Lauren’s favourite bubbly of the trip and compared well with any of the entry level champagnes available in stores.

The rest of the wines continued this high standard, even the Ninth Island range had its moments with the Pinot Grigio able to work its way onto our list of daily drinks. However it was the 2012 Pipers Brook Pinot Gris which we decided to purchase for a friend due to it’s surprising amount of flavour. To finish we both enjoyed the 2012 Pinot Noir on offer and found that the Pipers Brook compared well with the one we had tasted earlier from Bay of Fires with bright full colour and excellent fruit earning a place in the cellar.

With these highlights in mind Pipers Brook is a winery we will definitely return to next time we are in the Tamar. Until then we will have to keep an eye out at our local bottle shop and dig in to the back pocket for some freight to the mainland.

Cheers Jono

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