Zonzo and Train Trak

January 25, 2008

After a New Years eve with about 40 degrees heat (which did not lend itself to dancing and jumping around), we did not feel like cooking at the first day of 2008. So the six of us – my brother-in-law Michael and his wife Helen, Margit, Lucy, Charlotte and me – went to have a meal at Zonzo. It was our first visit and we wanted to check out the place. From Healesville it is only a short drive to Zonzo which is located a couple of kilometers only from Yarra Glen in the Yarra Valley. It was a beautiful day, blue sky and sunshine, just right to celebrate the beginning of 2008.

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Charlotte and Lucy at Zonzo Restaurant in the Yarra Valley

Zonzo just opened in mid 2007. It is owned by Bart Crescia and Rod Micalles who have been running pizza restaurants for more than 10 years. The dining room offers splendid views of the Yarra Valley, views you do not get from other locations. The place looked like an old horse farm, but our friend Steve Sadlier told us later that it used to be a cattle stud.

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The view from the dining room

The interior is functional and modern in a typical Australian shed-like structure. It has a large bar well stocked with all kinds of drinks and a fire place.

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The interior of Zonzo

All of us ordered pizza. Australians usually like their food in an exuberant style with lots of different ingredients and a mixture of flavours. The preferred pizza type of our family is the Italian style, and thats what we found at Zonzo. I like them thin and simple with only three, max. four ingredients. It comes as no surprise that a traditional Pizza Margerita is the one I like best.

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Pizza Margerita at Zonzo

What did we drink with the food? Well, next door to Zonzo is Train Trak, a boutique winery. The waiter suggested we have a tasting before ordering the food, and that is what we did. We selected the ‘2005 Train Trak Pinot Rosé’, a beautiful and lively wine ideally suited for hot days.

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2005 Train Trak Pinot Rosé

Train Trak also produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. They are typical for the Yarra Valley, a cool climate region, and show elegance and style. Needless to say that the wines won many medals. To mention only a few: the ‘2005 Train Trak Chardonnay’ won the gold medal at the Rutherglen Wine Show in 2006, the ‘2005 Train Trak Pinot Rosé’ got a 91/100 rating in the penguin Wine Guide 2007 and the 2004 Train Trak Cabernet Sauvignon’ received from James Halliday a 94/100 score in the 2008 edition of the James Halliday Wine Companion. Not bad, I would say.

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Train Trak wines selection

Train Trak (www.traintrak.com.au) is named after the picturesque railway that runs across the vineyards. It was established in 1995. It’s owner-winemaker is John Mayall. John Evans is responsible for viticulture. All fruit used to make their wines is estate grown and hand picked. The area under vines is about 18 hectares with a total production of about 90 tonnes per year from which we derive a cropping level of about 5 tonnes/ha.

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Wine tasting at Train Trak

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Would love to have that many barrels myself !

If you visit the Yarra Valley have a look for yourself and taste a delicious Italian meal with a beautiful Yarra Valley wine from Train Trak at Zonzo.

Zonzo
957 Healesville-Yarra Glen Rd.
Yarra Glen
Phone: (03) 97302500
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 4 pm; Thursday-Saturday, 5 pm-10 pm

Train Trak
957 Healesville-Yarra Glen Rd.
Yarra Glen
Phone: (03) 97301314
info@traintrak.com.au

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News from Two Hills Vineyard

January 23, 2008

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In the back, you can see the two hills which gave the vineyard it’s name.

2008 promises to become our best year ever in the almost 13 years history of Two Hills Vineyard. A new block of Chardonnay has been successfully planted in early December 2007 and with this we will be able to produce on site one more ‘single vineyard wine’ in a couple of years from now, to be precise in about 2013. I will hopefully have retired by then from my work overseas.

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Young Chardonnay plant

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Morning in the Chardonnay

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Chardonnay block

The fruit on the vines of the other three varieties looks really good (as the pictures below show). Despite the already mentioned freak hail storm on December 22nd, the fruit is healthy and in abundance. We expect to harvest about 25 tonnes of fruit from 3.5 ha under vines this year.

Because of the extreme heat we had in early January, vintage time might be earlier than in previous years, maybe in late February; usually it is in the middle or end of March. We in the Upper Goulburn Wine Region (www.uppergoulburnwine.org.au) are usually starting to harvest our grapes later than the colleagues in the Yarra Valley further south.

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Young Merlot grapes

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Young Pinot Noir grapes

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Young Sauvignon Blanc grapes

Our old Fiat tractor will be retired in 2008. Because of a generous donation from my mother it can be replaced with a newer model with some more horse power. We will also retire our old Mazda 626 car which is not exactly a useful farm vehicle but which served us well as a means of transport during the short months we spend on the vineyard during the last 12 years.

We will hopefully also get around in sowing one of the front paddocks with a horse loving grass mixture. Then we will have the plot fenced in by Peter Thwaites and turned into a horse paradise where our horse enthusiastic daughters, Lucy and Charlotte, can keep their ponies and other horses when we visit Glenburn.

We have started to irrigate our vines. I hope their will be no large bushfires as in 2007 when extensive smoke tainted many grapes. If the high temperatures persist, the likelihood of fires will rise too.

Finally, we have decided to extend our dwelling on the vineyard. We plan to link the old shed with a new wing to become our house, a proper residence so to speak.

Let us see what 2008 has up its sleeves.


The Top 100 Wines of 2007

January 20, 2008

The other day while recovering from jet lag I surfed the internet late at night and as usually came about many interesting sites. One of them was the Wine Spectator’s (www.winespectator.com). Their list of the top 100 wines for 2007 makes an interesting read.

First of all, there are wines from all around the world on this list. Second, one could find wines from 11 US$/bottle (Emery, Athiri Rhodes, Rhodos 2005) to 250 US$/bottle (Krug, Brut Champage 1996), but many wines were in the price category which I would consider as truly affordable.

As a son from the Mosel river I was delighted to find two Mosel Riesling winesamong the top 100. The first was on position 14, a ‘2005 Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Joh. Jos. Prüm, Riesling Auslese’ (US$ 45). The second was on position 87, a ‘2005 Ürziger Würzgarten, Robert Eymael (Mönchhof), Riesling Kabinet’ (US$ 20). By the way, the photo below shows where this Riesling grows. I took it a couple of years ago while cruising along the Mosel. The slopes are steeper than the picture makes us believe.

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Ürziger Würzgarten, Mosel River

Among the top 100 wines of 2007 were seven wines from Australia on the list (positions 5, 8, 16, 24, 60, 72, and 84), none came from the Upper Goulburn Wine Region or from the Yarra Valley. Three wines came from the Barossa and the McLaren vale each, the remaining one was an “industrial” wine, the ‘2005 Reserve Shriaz of Yellow Tail, South Eastern Australia’ (US$ 11/bottle). Position 5, the top Australian wine, was a ‘2005 Bella’s Garden, Two Hands Shiraz” from the Barossa Valley.

All the Australian wines were reds. Apart from Shriaz (5 wines), one was a Viognier-Marsanne (the ‘2006 Hermit Crab from D’Arenberg’, McLaren Vale), the other one a GSM (‘2003 GSM, Rosemount’, McLaren Vale). The most dear of the Australian wines was the ‘2006 Carnival of Love, Mollydooker Shiraz’ from McLaren Vale (US$ 80). The second most pricy Australian wine was the “2006 Two Hands Shiraz”. Third came a ‘2005 Entity Shiraz’, by John Duval from the Barossa Valley. Apart from the ‘2005 Schild Shiraz’ for US$ 25, all others were below US$ 20/bottle.

The top wine came, of course from France, and was a ‘2005 Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape’. There were three more French wines among the top 10 (which brings the total to four), two came from California, two from Australia, and one each from Italy and Spain.

I promised myself that I would try to get my hands on some of these wines during 2008.


Rees Miller Estate

January 13, 2008

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The Rees Miller Vineyard near Yea

The other day we had a wonderful funghi porcini pasta for dinner in Glenburn at our vineyard. I selected the wine and decided to try a wine from our region, the Upper Goulburn Wine Region. The ‘2004 Cotton’s Pinch Merlot of Rees Miller Estate’ which Sylke Rees had swapped with us at last years Alexandra Food and Wine Expo for a bottle of our 2004 Two Hills Merlot seemed to be the right wine for this occasion.

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Charlotte, Lucy and Margit enjoying the family meal

And indeed a great wine it was. It matched the strong and intensive aromas of the mushrooms in the pasta perfectly. The wine was of a beautiful dark red colour. It displayed rich flavours of blackberry and other forest fruit. The wine has a full body, its tannins are soft and it has a long finish. It was just perfect. What a delight.

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The 2004 Cotton’s Pinch Merlot of Rees Miller Estate

We decided on the spot that we should go and visit the Rees Miller Estate the next day. After the wine tasting class of the Alexandra Wine and Food Expo David Miller had invited us to visit but so far we were unable to follow the kind invitation. So, off we went the next day. It was the last day of the year and very, very hot.

However, Christmas time is not a good time for unexpected visits. When we entered the cellar door we had to find out that Sylke and David had gone for a holiday to Tasmania.

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The Rees Miller cellar door

Rees Miller Estate (www.reesmiller.com) is located about 3 km to the East of Yea, a small country town in Central Victoria, about a 30 minutes drive from our vineyard in Glenburn. It was a hot day and we intended just to say hello and buy some more bottles of this excellent Merlot. When we found out that Sylke and David were not there we decided on a tasting. The woman in the tasting shed, I think Anne was her name, led us through the wines. We started with the Chardonnay (sourced from another location), always a good drink at a hot day, and than we went straight into the reds. The ‘2003 Wolter’s Run Merlot’ was, unfortunately for us, sold out. We tried the 2004 Wilhelmina Pinot Noir, the ‘2004 Cotton’s Pinch Merlot’, the ‘2004 Sier’s Field Cabernet Sauvignon’, the ‘2004 Thousand Hills Shiraz’ and the ‘2006 Reserve Shiraz’ (also Thousand Hills). I will not bother you with tasting notes here. Needless to say they were all excellent and delicious wines. Needless to say, we took a couple of bottles home for “further tests”.

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The Rees Miller wine list

I suggest you visit the website of Rees Miller which is very informative. It starts with a kind of mission statement.

– “Serious about the environment, passionate about wine” –

Environmental concerns are at the centre of the Rees Miller philosophy. In 2007 Rees Miller became certified as a biodynamic property and ever since they produce biodynamic wines. The prejudice, that organic wines are more expensive than conventional produced ones, does not hold true (as you can see from the cellar door price list above).

The above mentioned 2003 Thousand Hills Shiraz has been placed as one of the 20 best Shiraz wines of Australia (in the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge). Fortunately for biodynamic and other organic producers Central Victoria is a very rural region without any serious industrial and/or other polluters around. Around Yea the summers are also rather hot so that disease pressure is comparatively low.

There are quite a few biological and biodynamic certified wine producers in the Upper Goulburn Wine Region (www.uppergoulburnwine.org.au), and many other products are produced in an environmental friendly way. Rees Miller sell some of
these in their cellar door. The picture below depicts some of them on offer.

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For sale: Various organic products are nicely presented

If you are touring around Yea, a visit at the Rees Miller Estate should be on your ‘to-do-list’. We will certainly come back to say hello and buy some more Merlot and Shiraz, and maybe some of the other wines on offer.


Christmas in the vineyard

January 11, 2008

We had a wonderful Christmas eve dinner in the vineyard. Michael, my brother in law and his wife Helen stayed over night and as customary in Australia we opened our presents in the morning of the 25th.

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It’s present time

Later that day Florian and Nelly, our friends from Jakarta holidaying in Victoria, joined us and we had ‘lunch in the vineyard’ or rather on the lawn in front of our dwelling with magnificient views of the Glenburn hills. We ate turkey of course and drank lashings of Two Hills wines. It was a sunny but rather chilly day and our guests from Asia needed jackets.

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Nelly, Flo and Margit

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Christmas lunch on the lawn

It felt so good to be back home among family and friends. We did not mind the low temperatures but enjoyed the clean air, the quiet, nature and the splendid surroundings. What a lovely Christmas this was.


Back home in Jakarta

January 10, 2008

We arrived last night in Jakarta after a wonderful three weeks at our small vineyard in the Victorian countryside. Our Qantas flight was like almost all economy class flights these days; a rather sobering affair. Airlines all over the world save on almost everything it seems, especially the quality of food and service on board are sacrificed for quarterly profits. That’s at least my impression from the flight- intensive life which I lead. In fact the meals on this Qantas flight were so awful that I suggested to my wife we bring our own food in the future.

The airline had also saved on TV/video screens. There were only one large screen and two small monitors in our large section of the plane. Whereas in other planes they would have done with at least some more small ones every five meters, we had to do with the three, one for each 15 metre aisle. It was hard to see what was going on and to follow the films. There seems to be not enough competition on flights between Indonesia and Australia so that the airline can get away with these low standards.

The movies shown were good though. Not for all the passengers I must admit. The mainly Asian crowd did not know what to do with these two movies and opted largely to ignore them. For some of the Caucasians on the other side, especially those from our own socialisation cohort (older folks born in the early fifties), they were a treat. First we watched “Across the universe”, a film set to music from the Beatles of the 1960s which is fabulously made, with great soundtracks and a good sense of the era. The film has some surreal parts which make it the more lovely. Many parts reminded us of our youth, which is always nice. Later we watched “September” a story about the friendship of a white and a black Australian boy on an outback farm. Beautiful empty landscapes were shown. One felt taken back to the 1970s in rural Australia were people were even more quiet than today, were they say only the necessary but are observant and show empathy with their fellow citizen.

The wine selection was also not so bad. At least we could drink a nice 2004 Cabernet blend from Sticks Vineyard in the Yarra Valley (www.sticks.com.au) which is located just across the road from our friend Steve Sadlier of Nenagh Park in Yarra Glen. It took some considerable persuasion to have the flight attendents part with their wine. But as experienced travelers we finally found a willing accomplice and were able to sample a couple of bottles. So after all we had somehow a homely feeling and the wine lifted our otherwise doused spirits. It’s no fun to fly economy these days.


Welcome 2008 – The very first day

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year to all of you. I am having breakfast with my daughters Lucy and Charlotte. We are sitting at a large table in Giant Steps Winery (www.innocentbystander.com.au) in the middle of Healesville and are enjoying this very first morning of the New Year. It is busy here, families eating out and meeting friends, waitresses running from table to table, beautiful guitar music in the background. People are recovering from last nights new years eve celebrations. A large Christmas tree occupies the middle of the restaurant.

Giant Steps Winery (I will write more about this winery later in a separate blog entry) provides for its guests wireless internet connections which is fantastic and this is why I can write this very first blog entry of 2008. We had a wonderful time in Australia so far. It started with the wedding of Michael and Helen on 16 December, a very merry and happy occasion which sat the tone of the rest of our holidays on the vineyard in Glenburn.

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At the wedding (I hold a bottle of Bitburger Beer!, my “home” beer from Germany)

We celebrated Christmas in the vineyard with family, my brother-in-law Michael and his new wife Helen, and our friends Florian and Nelly from Jakarta. It was peaceful and very homely, intimate. The weather was splendid and we enjoyed the nature and scenery of Two Hills and its surroundings.

Needless to say we met droves of our friends and had a lot of visitors ever since, hopping from one meal to the next, gobbling up huge amounts of delicious food and drinking gallons of wine from our own vineyard and wines from wineries of the Upper Goulburn and the Yarra Valley.

All is fine at Two Hills Vineyard. The grapes look very good. Despite a freak hail storm on 22 December, which fortunately did not do much damage, the 2008 crop shows great promise. The next vintage could be the best ever. Another good news is that all the grapes are already sold to a keen wine maker who knows the outstanding quality of our grapes. We might even enter a long term arrangement and deliver fruit to this winery on a continuous basis. This is bad news for our own wine-making. The good news is that we still have a couple of thousand bottles of the 2006 Merlot vintage in our hands which we have not released as yet. The few bottles we tasted show all the good qualities of our earlier vintages. You do not have to worry though, we will bring this wine to the market soon.

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The newly planted Chardonnay block

I hope your new year started as good as mine. I will be busy with vineyard work in the coming few days before returning to Jakarta. See ya later mate.