It has been a couple of weeks or so since I've put pen to paper (OK, I'm still old-fashioned and like the idea of pen on paper). Reckon it has involved too many good times to actually get my arse into gear.
I pinched my friend Julia's idea to do a late dinner at home for a friend.
A dozen freshly shucked oysters each to start and then toasted sourdough spread with beautiful Meredith goat's fetta and covered with smoked ocean trout with a squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh dill for mains. And a green salad and a salad of rocket, nashi and chards of parmesan, all washed down with the most excellent Santa Carolina chardonnay from Chile (my local grog shop has finally replenished its supplies). Also some Chateau de Caraguilhes Corbieres 2009 rose. It's a cracker at a reasonable price.
Just love the smoked ocean trout. It's about 10 bucks for a quarter kilo at the South Melbourne Market.
Then there's been a dinner at my favourite Japanese restaurant EIS, in Albert Park, where for the first time in a while my friend and I opted to go without the degustation menu (and matching wines) and order from the menu.
Two dozen mixed sushi and sashimi pieces later, we were ready for coral trout mains, washed down with some excellent Darley chardonnay. Darley makes pinot gris, chardonnay and pinot noir from the Mornington Peninsula and a shiraz made from a blend of Mornington Peninsula and Heathcote shiraz.
There was nothing wrong with the company, the food or the wine.
And given that it was a bloody cold night, the best after-dinner option was a warming cognac and muscat at Lina's wine bar before calling it a night.
A couple of weekends ago I'd planned to get some friends together and search for the biggest red we could find. The numbers dwindled quicker than the Labor Party's stocks, but it ended with three of us ... the most excellent wine writer Ben Thomas (follow him on Twitter ... @senorthomas ... or in The Weekly Review (www.theweeklyreview/wines/), Damian (he stops a drop going stale), TWR's CTO and myself.
The search for a big red has been, for the past few years, an annual (blind) tasting, notes and the tally of votes, culminating in a perpetual trophy. The blind bit is a reference to the wines being seen and then encased in brown paper bags (and, no, it’s nothing to do with sitting on a park bench with a brown-paper bag … not that I’ve ever done that. Normally I don’t bother with the bag. Just kidding), so that we go by our senses, such as they are. Confession here: yes, blind does come into play a good deal of time later, usually 11pm or later.
But I digress.
We eased out way into some nibbles … pickled octopus, smoked ocean trout, olives stuffed with fetta, prosciutto, salami, baguette, breadsticks and sundry other stuff before the three of us tasted and slurped out way through some very, very good wines (yes, there was some spitting):
2007 Brothers in Arms cab-sav. A 15.5 per cent wine from Langhorne Creek and made by the Adams family;
Chapel Hill il Vescovo tempranillo, 2010, at 14% it tasted exotic and smooth;
Peel Estate zinfandel, 2001, and at 16.5 per cent a remarkably well-balanced wine for such a big mother and best described as a “wine for heroes” nose;
Brothers in Arms 2006 shiraz. It was 15 per cent and beautiful;
Westend 2008 Hilltops tempranillo, a 14 per cent, cool climate wine that was as smooth as cat’s … OK, it was really smooth;
Wanted Man Shiraz, 2006 , at 14 per cent, it was on the money; and
Vin de Petanque le Libian, 13 per cent, and biodynamic and organic.
And, no, we didn’t finish them all.
Ben proved that he is so much more than a wine writer … he arrived at my place with everything he needed to produce a paella that was as good as any I’ve ever had. The man CAN cook.
Ben beat a retreat not too late into the afternoon, so Damo and I continued on our merry way, sampling some chilli wine from Cairns, a (too-old) bottle of Cooper’s Vintage Ale … it was from 2002 … which had gone to God. I opened another the next day and it stood up with a decent head. Guess it’s just the luck of the draw.
Some very fine Camus Borderies XO Cognac saw us out … and it was a hell of a way to end what had been a memorable wine experience.
In the time since I’ve actually added anything to this blog, I have (with help most times, sometimes without … and nothing to do with the big red search) sampled the following:
Chateau de Sours Grand vin de Bordeax 2009 (x2);
Chapel Hill The Chosen House Block shiraz 2009 from McLaren Vale;
Bress Sparkling shiraz;
The Parish of Gruyera chardonnay 2010;
Blue Pyrenees sparkling;
Fraser Gallop Estate chardonnay 2009 from Margaret River;
Fairbank Viognier 2009 from Sutton Grange Winery. I have a bit of a passion for straight viognier;
Vin de Petanque le Libian (probably two of these from the case I bought a while ago.
A couple of bottles of Santa Carolina chardonnay (I find it hard to go past it now that supplies are plentiful).
And yes, I have even been out of the house for the odd taste of something fermented.
It was a great fortnight or so and stood me in good stead for a stay at Balgownie Estate in the Yarra Valley.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.