Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Southern Tasmania Wineries

Two days at MONA, including dinner at Source restaurant, fishing for fresh flathead at day break (well that was Mr Nomad, I did partake in the eating ritual though...)and Taste of Tasmania festival, we get on to the wine trail. 

 Wine Time!

This is a man with big plans. Restaurant and large expansions are planned for 2013. In the mean time we enter the cavernous warehouse and are surrounded by palettes of wine and the detritus of wine making with like-minded travellers, sipping and supping at the makeshift cellar door. Having planted the vineyard in 1991, the Stefano Lubiana vineyard has gone a long way to establishing southern Tassie as a wine destination. With biodynamic management, this is a winery going the whole hog.

Beautifully balanced wines, full of slow ripening fruit flavours and an Italian twist, with the Moscato style Riesling perfectly suited to a summer’s night at home in Sydney-town. But it was the 2009 Estate Pinot Noir that took my fancy and sent me to dream land with fields of cherry trees a little reminiscent of this...

Cherry pickin' Mornington Peninsula

Fresh and bold with a beautiful fragrant, red fruit aroma, and length on the palate that leads you down a garden path. Delish.

Stefano Lubiana
2009 Estate Pinot Noir
Price: $45 rrp

Quaint. Little. Boutique. Adorable. In the minds eye I see this as the quintessential wino’s dream. A patch of dirt, toiling the land and producing supreme wines. A little rickety gate just off the Lyall Highway about 20km out of Hobart, gives rise to a little rickety timber structure housing the cellar door. 

This block of land has been in the Hanigan family since 1913. It is stunning - north facing, and sloping down towards the Derwent River are rows of hand pruned vines. 

Photo courtesy of derwentestate.com.au

Considering the parameters of the site, it is no wonder that the Pinot Noir from here for me was an absolute standout. Really intense, plum on the nose, red berries on the palate, with a fresh, soft mouth feel, this wine will stand the test of time. I am thinking middle of winter, duck ragú and loads of parmesan cheese, this wine and big cashmere blanket - sublime.

Derwent Estate
2009 Pinot Noir
Price: $35 rrp

From here we headed across the Derwent River to Pooley Wines. Did I mention picturesque? 1830’s sandstone building, grape vines and ivy growing freely and the ol’ master of the stables, Digger - the golden retriever, who has seen this winery prosper over the years.

It is here I strike up a conversation with John, proprietor, and custodian of this beautiful patch of land. John has much to smile about, the wines are as spectacular location. The Margaret Reisling in particular, for me was a standout as well as the Pinot Noir. We haven’t been drinking much Pinot of late, however this Tasman jaunt could be changing that. The flavour, the colour, the food friendliness of these bold, beautiful reds are astounding.

Pooley Wines
2011 Margaret Pooley Tribute Riesling
Price: $40 rrp

Pooley Wines 
2008 Pooley Butchers Hill Pinot Noir
Price: $40 rrp

Rosé and Pinot Noir in the sunshine with local cheese, and the two resident Corgy’s. It is here I must lament that Charlie, our beloved Dingo pup is staying with his Grandma and not exploring wine country with us. Charlie couldn’t find accommodation anywhere due to the time of year – New Years, the taste festival, Sydney to Hobart, and the only warm weather that Hobart sees year-round. So our fix of winery pooches must suffice until we get home 10 days from now.

Did someone say passionate? That’s right – when asking the locals around where else to visit on our sojourn, Puddleduck vineyard kept popping up. This dude is passionate about wine and about Tasmania. With two corgis running around and a lake straight out of a Jane Austen novel, picturesque springs to mind. Insert a purple and green building and the twang of the Aussie accent and we’re right back in the land of Oz. With a name like Puddleduck and the Sparkling called Bubbleduck, here is someone having fun with wine and making a really good drop, be it bubbles or the more serious Cabernet Sauvignon.

and the quirky label (Rosé)...

2011 Rosé
Price: $28 rrp 

Sigh. Now time for a drive to Launceston...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hobart - Garagiste and MONA

Crazy I know. But instead of heading somewhere warm and tropical which Sydneysiders are want to do over the Christmas break, Mr Nomad and I head to our southern most capital city. "To relax",was my general response when people would ask the inevitable “Why Tassie?”. However, I must point out that 'Hobart' and 'relaxation' over New Years are not a match made in heaven. During new years this has to be the most happening town ON THE PLANET with the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the Taste of Tassie Festival ramping up (hello to the 500,000 visitors on day one alone!). So not only food and wine obsessed locals and travellers, you have the extreme sport and uber-wealthy “yachties” hitching a ride into town.

First night though and nothing was stopping us from our search for Garagiste. Luke Burgess and his team have created a destination restaurant right in the heart of a capital city - novel idea really! Garagiste – this is one special restaurant. I say this for one reason that will stay in my memory and consciousness forever and will have a food type forever compared to – the oyster. “Not served on ice”, I remark to Mr Nomad, while standing at the bar, starving and not willing to wait for mere morsels at our table. I proceed to eat this oyster, it is hot. It has been steamed (NOW she looks at the menu!) Bruny Island Oyster with an 8 year old apple cider vinegar emulsion. I am one happy lady. This is hands down the best first mouthful of a meal I have ever had. This is before the bread with smoked butter. Before the wagyu tongue and before the wine. D’meure 2008 Pinot Noir. Only one of two local pinots available. Deliciously rich and full mouth feel, truly astounding with my oysters. This is a wonderful example of Tassie Pinot Noir with minimal intervention - a wine that speaks of its home. There isn't much around considering the very low yields Dirk Meure is producing. So please do yourself the favour if you come across d'Meure wine.

Other standout dishes were the wagyu with fresh beetroot. The chawan-mushi – which we are told is the best selling dish. A Japanese custard set and baked in the dish with puffer buckwheat, broad beans and the freshest sweetest little peas.  While the flavour wasn’t explosive, the subtleness of the dish was just divine. A thinking man’s dish I guess you’d call it – you had to work at liking it. Mr Nomad found it a little more difficult considering that he puts chilli or Tabasco sauce on EVERYTHING! Float float a-floatin' back to our horrifically terrible hotel room (DON'T book late November for Tassie sojourn over New Years...).

Tasmania’s Southern Wine region. Finally. We have been planning to get down here for as long as I can remember and now here we are. I am completely upside down and inside out. No matter how many times I’ve looked at maps of the region, I am convinced that MONA and Morilla winery and its surrounding vineyards are SOUTH of Hobart. So convinced, that when Mr Nomad starts hitching our ride north, my mind is spinning and I instruct him to head out of the ‘burbs south.

It is with this mindset we wonder into MONA, North of Hobart in Berriedale. I was 100% sure that MONA was south so suffice to say I was 100% wrong and hence in a state of apoplexy.

Ascending to MONA via the Ferry

Yes Hobart is pretty, and yes the Taste festival was wonderful, minus the cheapskate’s figuring out which was cheaper: the local cider or a sparkling which is available by the barrel. Apart from that, I must say the raspberries and strawberries are the best I’ve had outside of Paris. The atmosphere is amazing, especially when the Sydney to Hobart Yachts come in to the harbour. But it is the MONA and the wineries that got me here.

I had seen plans of the MONA and some of its most redeeming features being in the design industry and through intense media coverage but nothing prepared me for the onslaught of this building and its facilities. This is not just a gallery, or a winery. This is the realisation of a man, David Walsh who had great vision for his beloved home town. A winery, cellar door, world class restaurant, gallery, brewery, concert space, café, wine bar – all on a peninsula surrounded on 3 sides by the Derwent River. Sound amazing? It is. If for no other reason, this alone is worth a trip to Hobart.

Ground floor of MONA

Morilla’s tasting room is upstairs, adjacent to the Source Restaurant on the first floor of one building. If the views weren’t spectacular from ground level, try this elevated glass room. If the Syrah had been on tasting this would have felt like heaven. But the Riesling was on tasting as was the Pinot, and the Gewürztraminer which, following this trip we have decided is a somewhat glamourised alcoholic version of turkish delight.

While here, the pig/lamb on a spit with pineapple, salad and mustards are worth it. The smell permeates the atmosphere, and even the most chaste vegetarian would be questioning their food stance. So with glass of Pinot in hand, plate of swine with the Derwent River surrounding is a special slice of what Hobart has to offer. 

Some of the most amazing art works:

Tattooed Man - guessing meditation may help here...

Comment on Consumerism anyone?

Now to plan next stay in Hobart - stay at the MONA Pavillions!

Images by: Mr Nomad

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Margaret River Escapade

The Margaret River region on Australia's West Coast is simply stunning. A two hour drive south of Perth reveals a coast line of unrivalled beauty. Unlike the East Coast, there are huge stretches of beaches and gorgeous cliff faces, and little inlets that are not completely overrun with beach houses, tourist buses or homo-sapiens. Surfers, appearing as dots in the water, are the only indication that civilisation is a stones throw away.

Coastline of Margaret River

Four days in this sprawling wine region won't come close to being time enough is to cover everything however here are my recommendations when visiting.

This a winery that came highly recommended. This is also a winery with no cellar door...a small issue that is overcome with a little tenacity and the luck of senior wine maker Kate Morgan on site, willing to take Mr Nomad and I through to a tasting. Kate really knows her stuff, and her passion for what she does, and this vineyard, is palpable. Grapes here are dry grown to concentrate the fruit and are hand picked. There is an impressive selection of well-refined wines on offer.

While all the wines we tried were excellent, the 2010 Chardonnay was smooth and fresh and completely unexpected. A little more acidity than your usual chardonnay with winter fruit flavours like quince and fig undertones makes this a wine that will cellar well but you may find difficult to.

Fraser Gallop
2010 Chardonnay  
13.5% alcohol
Price $24

Delightful, and backs it up with really good wine. Really good. With Steve at the cellar door, and Opera playing in the background in a little timber-paneled room by a stream complete with ducklings, this is my kinda tastin'. A more picturesque setting? I think not!

This way to the lovely cellar door!

Juniper is old school style with a whole lot of punch. What hits me the most with these wines is the aroma. The nose is so fragrant, you don’t know whether to drink it or put it in a vase. The Shiraz and the Cabernet Sauvignon tied for equal first. With vines from 1973, and small amounts of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot the Cabernet Sauvignon is so savoury, I couldn’t imagine needing a meal with it. Made from dry grown vines (seems to be a trend with these older vines), the tannins are well developed, as are the full fruit flavours.
The Shiraz is smooth, tannic and white pepperish. Now, I hate white pepper, but when red wines have that slight white pepper taste, I tend to like it. Go figure!

Juniper Estate
2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% alcohol
Price: $50

2007 Estate Shiraz
14.5% alcohol
Price: $34

At our most southern port of call is Leeuwin Estate. Planting my feet on the large open grassed area below the cellar and restaurant, this is pure joy. With a sense of anticipation, a smiling sun and the waft of wine in the air, it is off to the cellar door. I have loved Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling for many years, and was looking forward to trying other wines on offer.

The ’07 Chardonnay is very different to the upper Margaret River. Richer, deeper in colour and a nose of oaked, spiced goodness. I left this to breath a little to see it open up and warm up. After just 20 minutes or so, the bouquet on this wine was all lychee, peaches and honey. Viscous and luscious mouthfeel reveals a headiness of flavour quite unexpected. Love a Chardonnay bursting with flavour and this one truly is.

Leeuwin Estate
2007 Chardonnay
13% alcohol
Price: $85

Much smaller cellar door than I was expecting, which I love. I have a similar sense of excitement on seeing the small timber building as I did when we visited Clonakilla in the Canberra Region. The service here at the cellar door was up there with the best and made this experience that more beautiful. Our host was knowledgeable and passionate about both the wine and the history of the label. Cullen was outstanding. While I was expecting wine that was exceptional, the service and the space really made this a treasure of the region. Walking away with a bottle of the Madeleine makes me feel like I have a treasure from the Cullen family trove.

2009 Diana Madeleine
12.5% alcohol

Edwards Wines

Edwards Wines, which we have tasted and loved East side, recently rescued a meal for Mr Nomad and I in Broome. The wine list at this restaurant, who's name we dare not speak, was seriously lacking quality wines but happened to have a bottle of Edwards Chardonnay on the list. Hallelujah! At a tasting in Sydney over a year ago, we met Michael Edwards, one half of this brother duo. At the cellar door we meet Christo Edwards, the consummate host and viticulturist. 

The story behind the label has to be one of the most compelling on offer. The little gold plane trailed by dots of gold over a world map represents the journey their father Brian Edwards took in 1990 from England to Australia in his 1943 Tiger Moth Matilda. (Must say here that the graphic designer has done a stellar job – in the cut-throat world of wine marketing, where the label has a direct relationship with your consumer, they have nailed it!).

But to the wine. My pick would have to be the 2010 Chardonnay, with 10 months in french oak, it has a subtle smokiness which is still crisp. And the flavour goes on for miles.

And yes, while its the cabernet sauvignon this district is famous for, I must say the Shiraz, from Edwards and up and down "Margie's", is sublime. This was our first stop and Mr Nomad being a Shiraz lover, found the 2008 Shiraz smooth, big and bold with lots of berries and a fragrant nose. Pre-conceptions gone!

(Ps - check out their VERY cool website here)

2010 Chardonnay
12% alcohol
Price: $32

Having read about Pierro, I was happy to find this right in the heart of the region. With building works happening for their new offices, this charming building was a little more rustic than per 'uge. Upon negotiating the gamut of bricks and mortar and entering, this place has some charm! Trudy introduced us to the Shiraz Viognier that was smooth yet not too sweet with length on the palate. I felt the urge to "let them eat steak". While we were a little confused by the Italian name and Chinese characters on the walls and bottles, the LTCF was the stand out. Now of course being back in Sydney, the name Pierro keeps popping up. On wine lists, friends lips, write ups - love when that happens.

14% alcohol

And the rain starts. We buy the biggest umbrella with Cape Mentelle written across each segment of the 'brella, we now feel truly submerged in this region. We are now heading down to the southern area of Margaret River, stopping in here to try some Zinfandel. Mr Nomad's love of this full bodied, savoury variety knows no bounds. The nose on this one is really jammy and coffee like. The colour is dark and rich and the flavour is full of chocolate. Planted in 1975, the dry grown bush vines are producing a texturally rich and complex drop which is a just reward for what seems like quite a labour intensive grape.

Sheep a-grazin' in the vineyard

Cape Mentelle
2008 Zinfandel
15% alcohol
Price: $49

Chardonnay! I love me a chard, and the 2009 Reserve Chardonnay is sublime. This naturally fermented wine is from some of the oldest vines on the property. Quite zesty in flavour, the white peach and stone fruit characteristics are offset beautifully by the creamy, textural mouth feel that lingers forever....

2009 Reserve Chardonnay 
%14 alcohol
Price: $85

Driving past Gralyn as we wind our way up and down the region, interest was piqued. A timely email from Wine Master Rob Geddes had us stopping into this cellar door as we are heading back to Perth.

Established in 1975, this family run winery only sell direct to the public (lucky we stopped!). Yes, the wines are pricey but they are truly sublime. From the Cabernet based Rosé full of strawberry flavours but not too sweet, to the full bodied reds, subtle flavor is the G-O.

My pick would be the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. After 16 months in new French Oak, chocolate, liquorice and black fruits hit the tongue with aplomb and slides right down into your insides to say "hello". While I am a fan of the 'drink now' wine philosophy, I hope I can wait until it develops a little more before opening!

Gralyn Estate
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
14.8% alcohol
Price: $110

Monday, October 10, 2011

Margaret River Escapade

After 6 days of this:

Cape Levique

and this:

James Price Point

And a little more of this:

From Coco Eco Retreat

To 4 days of Margaret River bliss. From Broome up to Cape Levique and back, Mr Nomad and I were lazily exploring the natural beauty of this unique part of Oz. Broome has to be the beauty spot of this great land. Coco Eco, where we stayed is about 20 minutes north of Broome and a little slice of paradise.

Relaxed, rejuvenated and re-energised, we caught a flight to Perth and drove 3 hours south to Margaret River and the Hilltop Studios.

Cabins at Hilltop Studios

Waking up to this:

View from Hilltop Studios

Hilltop Studios is right in the heart of Margaret River on a stunning 150 acre property. We didn't see another soul on the property throughout our stay, and highly recommend the slight Swedish bent of this top notch self contained accommodation. 

Coco Eco
Lynda and James Hagan
Lot 9 Williams Road
Coconut Well

Hilltop Studios
Claudia and Paul
Carters Road
Margaret River

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Barossa Wine Tasting at The Oak Barrel

Bucketing down. Dashing through the rain drops on a Wednesday evening is not my idea of an ideal way to start a wine tasting. Or maybe it is. I deserve every sip.

A Barossa tasting of two of the stalwarts who are part of the reason this region is world renown, and two emerging which I’ve been hearing a lot about but hadn’t had the opportunity to try at The Oak Barrel.

OK. Must admit, this is one of my favourite Australian wineries, it is just so good. Mr Nomad and I were in the Barossa last year and we have nothing but amazing cellar door reminisces and there are wines here tonight that I had never tried.

2009 The Steading Banc - Price $46.95

The Steading Banc being one of them. This is like a red in a glass when you feel like white. Make sense? Hmmm – 55% Roussanne 25% Marsanne 20% Viognier – RMV, catchy? Thinking so! I would like crustacea. And some peas.

2009 Les Amis Grenache - Price $210

Planted in 1901 these bush vines look like knuckles breaching the soil. This is a low yielding crop but it is amazing and, at 15.2% alcohol, a big wine. This has been aged in new French oak for 18 months. I didn’t want this wine to end. I know it will just get better with age, but this is good drinking now – 2011!

Courtesy of clarendonhills.com.au

2008 Weapons of Mass Seduction – Price $80

Best name of the night goes to Kaeslers 2008 WOMS Shiraz Cabernet. WOMS – Weapon of Mass Seduction. I can see men touting this line to a sleuth of women come Friday night. A 64% Shiraz and 34% Cabernet blend, winemaker Reid Bosward has nailed the best of Aussie terrior. My pick of the Kaesler bunch.   

This family owned winery from the Vine Vale(this is not a typo) region of the Barossa, where son Christian Canute is winemaker.

2008 The Driftsand Grenache Shiraz - Price $32.95

Fruit, fruit, fruit. Soft tannins and juice like a punch in the face. 60% Grenache, 40% Shiraz, and the Shiraz is coming through nicely. The work this family has put in to get Grenache back and growing after an 80’s exodus has been well worth the effort. Cleared to make room for popular white varieties, grafting the Grenache back on to the vines has been a great success.

2009 Good Shepard Cabernet Malbec - Price $49.95

I’ve never had this blend. I know – rookie! Now I will drink more of this blend. Almost sweet to begin with, it finishes with soft silky tannins, and then my tasting splash is all gone. No spittoon for you my new friend!

Due to a fellow taster who seems to be a Rusden follower from way back, I find out that Rusden also do a Chenin Blanc and a Zinfandel that is worth seeking out.

Ben Chipman and Toby Yap now have a wine label of their own after making their mark at many Barossa wineries. And what a label – with the byline “the coming together of all things foolish”, I have a smile on my face even before I try the wine. Isn’t that what it’s all about, not taking ourselves too seriously?

2009 Black and Blue Shiraz - Price $42.95

Pleasantly surprised and then some. With vines between 30 and 150 years of age, this wine was well structured with the smooth, flowing, long lined finish I was hoping for.

2008 Artful Dodger Shiraz - Price $95

This new vintage will age well. Quite a deep purple, the flavour is there – quite earthy with lots of berries and, once laid down, will develop into a full bodied, cheeky red with which to impress. Note to self: do not drink upon purchase.

Note: Go to the Tomfoolery website! I would love to know more about the graphics – to be a part of that marketing meeting would have been amazing. Join their ‘Skullduggery Club’ for further information.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nomad Musings

The whimsical ensures we don't take life too seriously... Food jokes are my achilles heel. Happy weekend!

Buy these letter press online from Lisa Krowinski at Sapling Press