The musings, travels, tastings, and photographs of an Australian expat.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

San Diego to Melbourne

Everything is left to the last minute. Packing, paying bills, house cleaning. Broken up only by a lunch of Mexican food at Carmen’s in the company of Robin, the pet whisperer we bring out from Long Island to care for the Poodles and the cats. He also acts as the chauffer to the Commuter Terminal of the San Diego airport for our 8:30PM flight to Los Angeles. Is Miranda trying my patience or is she really serious about taking our entire luggage and heading straight through the security checkpoint and onto the plane? Let’s go to the ticket counter first, dear. Its always a brief flight to LAX and we actually get something to drink! This has not been the case for few years. We have to make our way out of the Terminal 4 and into the Bradley International to link with QANTAS, and it hits us. Well perhaps not an actual body blow, but we are weighed down. By carry-on luggage! Wine, laptop, Christmas presents, and one backpack of essentials; at least that are Miranda’s excuse. How far do we have to carry all this, time to get some food – and rest! We had already been given our boarding passes for the QANTAS flight by American Airlines in San Diego, so after sharing a bowl of Chinese wonton soup we head to the south Departure gate, only to be told we need new boarding passes from QANTAS. Which just happens to have its ticket counters at the other end of the building. It then takes a seemingly endless time to get the new passes. Why is all this necessary? Have I noted before just how poor the communication is between American Airlines and QANTAS? They may be part of the One World Alliance, but I doubt that they exist on the same world. OK, new passes in hand we go smoothly through security only to find that our gate is at the opposite end of the terminal. And there is all this hand luggage. The only saving grace is that Miranda has her ticket marked as RUBY OneWorld – so she gets early boarding, and I tag along. As this flight is to Melbourne we know to expect something in the realm of 15 hours, quite a bit longer than our usual direct trip to Sydney; actually turns out to be about fourteen and a half. But once I see the guy opposite me with his oxygen mask on I begin to wonder if he knows something we don’t! I never asked the guy sitting by the window in our row what he thought of it. Forty years old, and his first flight out of the USA. And other passengers are wearing oxygen masks! Easiest thing to do is ignore it all and watch movies. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The World’s Fastest Indian, and Four Brothers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Australia Bound OK, so this eBlog really does not get too much attention unless we are on the road (or in the air) to Australia. Good news, its about to happen. What? The in the air bit, then we'll get to the wine bit. We don't leave until December 1st, but don't say you weren't warned. As usual its all in the guise of attendance at the Australasian Society of Immunology annual meeting. This time its in Melbourne and that means we have a choice of wine regions to visit. I've decided that we should go south to Mornington Peninsula and taste some Pinot Noir. But for the diehards we will be traveling by overnight train to Adelaide to check out our little house in the Barossa Valley. Yes that's it in the picture - what would I do without Google Earth. While we are there I guess we might as well taste some Aussie Shiraz.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Barossa - Adelaide Today we pack our bags, clean up the B&B and head out to Adelaide. But first we need to visit Wayne Dutschke to get a couple of bottles of his wonderful Muscat and to sign his barrel of fortified Shiraz. We also check out the hole in his front yard that suddenly appeared after recent heavy rains; its apparently the shaft of an old gold mine. Then it is on into Adelaide and lunch at the National Wine Centre of Australia. After a quick tour around the exhibits John drops us at Pacific International Apartments and heads out to the airport and home to Brisbane. Thanks for all the hard work putting such a great few days together, Big Brother!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Barossa - Day 5 There are only two vineyards on the itinerary today, but what a day! First is Hutton Vale, named over 150 years ago. A mixed production farm making jams and chutneys as well as wine. The owners, John and Jan Angus, provide great hospitality and a tasting of excellent wines. The viticulture practices, including use of a large fan to combat frost on the shiraz vines, are explained by John during a trip through the vineyard in the company of the family dogs. The second vineyard we visit is Heathvale, another old property dating back to the 1860s, that is now owned by Trevor and Faye March. Trevor is clearly an enthusiastic vigneron, and it shows as he takes us on a walk through the vines and explains the ages of the vines and the different trellising methods he is using to gain optimal flavors in the grapes. His wines, especially the 2002 Shiraz, are wonderful. On the way back to Tanunda we stop in at the Eden Valley Pub for a pizza and some Irvine merlot. Later that evening dinner is at Salters where we finish off the Heathvale 2002 Chardonnay and the 2002 Shiraz kindly provided by Trevor. It’s a pity that the meal is spoiled by air conditioning that is blasting out super cold air, and coffee that takes forever to get to our table.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Barossa - Day 4 Today Ngaire and Chris head back to Dubbo, and Miranda wants to check out Real Estate in Tanunda which leaves John and I to do wineries. First on the list is a fairly ordinary range of wines at Elderton. Next is Bethany Wines which boasts a great view from the cellar door, and some interesting aged Rieslings. However the best range of wines comes next at Liebichwein. These are wines made in the old style with big, bold tannins. They will need years to settle down. Last is another adequate but not exciting range of wines from St Hallett Winery, and then its time for lunch at the Krondorf Café. Dinner that night is at Barr Vinum, and a taste off between Dutschke 2002 St Jakobi Shiraz and Summerfield 2002 Shiraz.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Barossa - Day 3 First on the agenda today is a trip out to the infant winery of rising star Troy Kalleske. John has been able to organize a private tasting with this amazingly young, but after being anointed by Robert Parker, now internationally known winemaker. The winery is only several years old and much of the operation is still being done in Troy’s brother’s big tin shed. As we walk toward the shed some very serious barking emanates from the side of the house. Its Tyson, a Tyrolean Shepard, who is a monster of a dog; but not in the Wine Dogs book. Troy says he friendly and he’s released to bound up and greet us. Through Troy’s generosity we taste through some amazing examples of Shiraz and Grenache. The Grenache wines are wonderful spicy wines, almost Christmas cake in a glass, and the Shiraz is certainly outstanding. The top of the line, the 2003 Johann Georg Shiraz, comes from vines that go back to 1875 and some of the fruit used to go into the greatest Australian wine Penfolds Grange. By the amount of drooling he does, Tyson seems to envy our enjoyment of the wines. Before we leave I ask Troy if he would autograph a magnum of his 2003 Shiraz for me. Thanks Troy! That bottle is going into the cellar for a loooong time. The next winery is Torbreck Vintners. One of the most impressive things about Torbreck is that almost all of their wines are available for tasting, unlike a number of wineries who hold back their top line wines. The Torbreck wines, especially the 2003 Descendent, are very impressive. Their icon wine, Run Rig, is outstanding, but for my money it is pipped at the post by the Descendent. The next winery is Veritas where we are served by Mrs Binder. The first wine she serves us is the 2004 Mrs Binder Barossa Riesling. It’s a wine that the advertising blurb says was specially made for her and I would imagine that she deserves it. When most people would be retired she is busy serving wines quietly but effectively to anyone who walks in the door. Good-onya Mrs Binder! Lunch is a Maggie Beer’s little establishment overlooking a small lake. The food is quite excellent but we have to rush through it as we have to meet Matt Wenk to taste his Smidge wines. Matt is also winemaker for Two Hands and so we head out there but we arrive late and are told he has gone on to the Branson winery, where he is also the winemaker. Branson is also a little hard to find but after wandering around, or maybe its through Seppeltsfield, we see the fermenter shed on stilts that we were told to look for. The tasting with Matt is one of the most interesting experiences we have during our Barossa trip. We taste his bottled wines, especially his 2002 Zinfandel, The Tardy, and then head into the barrel shed. This is where it gets educational. Matt has 2004 Zinfandel in French oak barrels from Langhorne Creek that was fermented using different yeasts. The wines are completely different, ripe fruits of blackberry/blueberry in one case, more subdued spices of nutmeg in the other. But the wine to watch for is the 2004 from Barossa fruit. It apparently will be called The Donald. This wine is more typical of zinfandel, spicy and fragrant, and covers the palate with ripe, intense fruit flavors. Matt also lets us taste the Two Hands 2003 Ares shiraz from barrel as well as its sister wine the Aphrodite, made from Cabernet sauvignon. The 2003 and 2004 Aphrodite are outstanding wines. The 2003 Ares is one of the best wines I’ve tasted. Many thanks to Matt for a great tasting, and the bottle of The Tardy! The last winery for the day is Thorn-Clarke. Miranda obviously does not want to destroy the memory of the Smidge/Two Hands wines and stays in the car while the rest of us go through their line-up. The best wine is clearly the 2002 William Randell Shiraz. Dinner is at 1918, and this time everyone is ready for wine. First up is The Doctor Sparking Red from The Willows Vineyard. Entrees are with Smidge Wines 2002 The Tardy Zinfandel. Main meals are over a comparison of Greenock Creek 2001 Alices Shiraz and Torbreck 2003 The Struie.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Barossa - Day 2 The first winery on our second day is Kellermeister Wines, also home to Trevor Jones wines; a father/son operation. We are a little bit early and have to wait while the staff set up the tasting room and cash register. Once all is ready we taste through a very diverse array of wines. Some are excellent like the 2003 Trevor Jones Vintage Virgin Chardonnay, while the Pink Mink is, hmmm, interesting! All in all we taste some 16 different wines. Spitting is certainly the order of the day for those of us who are not embarrassed to do so. The next visit is with winemaker Wayne Dutschke. My brother John is a great admirer of Dutschke Wines and has asked Wayne to show us his current line. It would be little exaggeration to say that this visit is a highlight of our Barossa wine experience. It is very obvious that Wayne Dutschke not only loves to talk about his wines and wine in general, but that he also makes outstanding wines. Its clear Wayne is serious about us tasting his wines when he pulls out a set of the largest glasses I’ve ever seem. It immediately occurs to me that if I put my nose in there its very likely to get lost and never find its way out! His two shiraz wines, the 2002 St. Jakobi and the 2002 Oscar Semmler, are intense and seamless, and among the best we will taste in the next five days. We also get to taste a range of barrel samples of both dry and fortified wines. It’s a great shame that these wonderful fortified wines are made in such limited quantities. I notice that Miranda is not spitting anything out at all but by the end of the tasting she is doing an awful lot of smiling and swaying. An interesting sidelight to the Dutschke experience is the invitation to sample a coffee made from beans that have been soaked in port. Its still in the experimental stages but there is a taste of port there. After such great hospitality we are pleased that Wayne accepts John’s invitation to join us for lunch at 1918, a well known bistro and grill in Tanunda, where we finish off those opened bottles of Dutschke wine. The food is impressive enough for us to reserve a table for dinner on Tuesday night. Rockford is the next stop where John is a member of the Stonewallers which allows us to get a more private tasting in the Stonewall Cellar. The buildings at Rockford really are stonewalls and very quaint. The smell of burnt ash from the fireplace in the Stonewall Cellar would also be quite quaint under any other circumstances but we are here to taste wines. I come away somewhat less impressed with Rockford and their wines than I thought I would be. Glaetzer is also not as impressive as expected. This might be due to the first wine that we are shown, a Sparkling Pinot Noir, being corked. Last winery on the list for today is Turkey Flat Vineyards. This winery is just outside Tanunda and has some of the oldest shiraz vines in the Barossa. Its no wonder then that their Shiraz is sold out, so we try some very tasty Cabernet Sauvignon instead. Miranda doesn’t taste anything here or at Glaetzer; I think she is still savoring the taste of Dutschke Muscat. Dinner is at La Buona Vita. Pizza and yes, you guessed correctly, no one has the palate left for any more wine.

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