On the road again

February 27, 2008

I am on my way to Europe again. My last evening at home in Jakarta we spend with a bottle of ‘2005 Understudy Cabernet Petit Verdot’ from Pertaringa Vineyards, a winery in the McLaren Vale, South Australia.

I bought it in our local duty free shop at Jalan Fatmawati for US $ 15.50 and its a ripper of a wine with a great quality-price ratio.

It is made of 70% Cabernet and 30% Petit Verdot grapes, traditionally vinified and matured in French and American oak. The ‘Understudy Cabernet Petit Verdot’ is Pertaringa’s “second wine” after the flagship reds (Pertaringa’s Rifle and Hunt Cabernet Sauvignon).

The wine has a dark red colour and a very intense nose of blackcurrant. It is spicy and rich in flavour, has a good structure, length and a long finish. needless to say that it won a couple of awards in various wine shows.

Pertaringa is not exactly a small vineyard (www.pertaringa.com.au). It has 31 ha under grapes, most of it Shiraz (13 ha), but also Chardonnay (4 ha), Pinot Noir (4.5 ha), Riesling and Semillon (3 ha each), and smaller areas of Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc and Frontignac. The vineyard was planted in 1970 and purchased by Ian Leask and Geoff Hardy in 1980. Ever since it’s been run by them and their families. Pertaringa is an Aboriginal name and means ‘belonging to the hills’.


Understudy Cabernet Petit Verdot

Pertaringa Wines
Conerner of Hunt and Rifle Range Roads
McLaren vale
South Australia 5171
Ph.: +61-8-83238125
Cellar door open seven days a week (Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, rest 11am-5pm)

PS: I’ll be gone for a while. Please leave messages.

Ghin Ghin Olive Grove

February 26, 2008

What an exotic name, you might say: Ghin Ghin. Its the place name of a location a couple of kilometers West of Yea, a charming country town of about 1000 inhabitants (about 28 km north of our vineyard), a little more than an hours drive northeast of Melbourne, Victoria.

To tell you the truth. We went with what Australians call “a ute” (a utility vehicle) to the tip near Ghin Ghin to dispose of some old stuff we had cleaned out of our shed.

Near the turnoff from the main highway (along the Goulburn Valley Road towards Seymour), the Ghin Ghin Farmstore and Café (www.meetthemaker.com.au) is located.

The beautiful Victorian cottage contains a small café where you can also buy various local products including extra virgin olive oil and olives coming from the olive grove behind the cottage where about 650 trees are planted.

The cottage used to be a stable located on a dairy farm which has been in the hands of the Lawrance family for over 70 years. Scott Lawrance and his partner Frank Schoenemann run the Farmstore Café open from October to May.


A young olive grove in Central Victoria

We dropped in by chance, had an interesting chat, an enchanting encounter and left enriched by a couple of olive oil bottles and preserved olives. Next time we are in Glenburn, we will spend some more time to check the place out.

Ghin Ghin Farmstore and Café
211 Ghin Ghin Road
Yea, Victoria
Ph.: +61-3-57972734

PS: Olive trees are very much in vogue in Australia. One can see olive groves in all parts of the country. We at Two Hills Vineyard have planted about 100 trees and intend to produce olive oil as well.

Sunday lunch the Roman way

February 24, 2008

We had a ripper of a lunch today, incredibly delicious, I tell you.

Do you know “The Philosophers Kitchen”, a wonderful cooking book ? Francine Segan has done a great job bringing to life recipes from ancient Greece and Rome.

You will not believe me, we had salmon with rasberry glace. Fish with a fruit sauce, you might ask? And you are right, I was sceptical as well but it’s an incredibly wonderful dish.

We had three more dishes from this cookbook though with some variations because we could not get all the necessary ingredients in Jakarta. The fish was served with rice and cucumber salad with coriander vinaigrette (Pythagoras suggested this dish) and a mushroom dish, ‘field and forest salad’.

First I though of a white wine, maybe a Chardonnay, but then I changed my mind and chose a Yarra Valley ‘Gulf Station Pinot Noir’ from the ‘Australian Winemaker of the Year 2007’, Steve Webber of DeBortoli Wines in Dixons Creek, a wine readily available from the duty free shops in Jakarta. It complemented the food perfectly. The rasberry sauce and the dark forest fruit aroma of the wine matched perfectly.

Here are the recipes (in abbreviated form):

You start with the ‘rasberry glaze’ ( a fruit sauce).

Heat 2 medium shallots in a pan in which you have heated 2 tablespoons of butter on low heat until the shallots are softened, add 1/2 cup of vinegar (ideally rasberry vinegar which, but we did not have this and used apple cider vinegar quite successfully), add 1/2 pint of fresh rasberries (frozen ones might also do, but the fresh stuff is much better) and cook for about 15 minutes. Then you have to press the liquid through a filter so that the solids can be removed, add a tablespoon of honey and some butter and keep the glaze warm.

Then you prepare the salmon (steaks or fillets) which need to be seared in hot olive oil.

The cucumber salad is made from European cucumber (cut very small, maybe graded in a food processor) with 2 ounces of feta cheese, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, add fresh cilantro leaves, some muscatel or sherry vinegar, coriander, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a table spoon of honey, salt and freshly milled pepper (and golden raisins if you like, which we did not do).

For the mushroom salad we used fresh ‘portobello’ and enotaki mushrooms which were served in a olive oil vinaigrette with forest and garden herbs, freshly milled pink pepper and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped pistachio nuts.

The rasberrry sauce and the salmon harmonise wonderfully. It’s also a delight for the eyes, these colours are amazing. I tried to take photos and hope you get an idea what was served.


The salmon with the rasberry glaze


The mushroom salad

As you know, I am not the cook in our family. Margit surprised us all with these dishes. When she told me about it earlier, I somehow did not pay attention. But boy was that a delicious meal. If the old Romans ate like that, I would not mind having been born 2000 years ago. If you happen to visit us, we might surprise your tastebuds with salmon and rasberry sauce.

I wonder which Italian wine would have harmonised with this meal. Steve Webber’s Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley was good enough and helped ‘to reach out’ from the old to the new world.

Well, I did not have access to any good bottle at the time, but maybe you can help me. Looking forward to your wine suggestions.

Surprise surprise: Rees Miller wines in Jakarta

February 23, 2008

The other day when we went to our duty free bottle shop in Jalan Fatmawati we discovered to our great surprise a whole stack of wines from Rees Miller in Yea. Never before did such treasures reach our local water whole. The price was right too, 19.90 US$ we paid. It was a 2001 vintage, the Wilhelmina Falls and the Thousand Hills. David, you have to update your website now and add Indonesia as export destination of your wine. We are very happy with this unexpected development. Cheers to Upper Goulburn and Rees Miller.


The two bottles

Shakespeare in the Vines – Sevenhill Cellars

February 22, 2008

Ever since my friend Neville Rowe became general manager of Sevenhill Cellars in the Clare Valley I have followed this interesting enterprise though the internet.

The Clare Valley is one of Australia’s oldest and most famous wine regions, about 120 km north of Adelaide, South Australia. Sevenhill Cellars is located south of the small country town of Clare which gave the valley its name (along the B 82).

The vineyards and the cellar are owned by the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) (www.sevenhillcellars.com.au) who migrated to Australia (from Austria) in 1848 so seek a more peaceful life. In 1851 they established Sevenhill Cellars. It is the oldest winery in the Clare Valley and the largest producer of sacramental wine in Australia. Watch out for the ‘St. Aloysius Riesling 2005’ , their flagship wine (ranked 34th in the “Top 100 Rieslings” of the 2005 Sydney Royal Wine Show) but also try some of their fortified wines – Liqueur Tokay, Verdelho and Frontignac or the ‘Jesuit Fine Old Tawny’. Hope this is enticing enough for Riesling lovers to check it out.

Originally the place was called “Open ranges” but the Jesuit settlers called it “Sevenhill” reminiscent of the seven hills of Rome. The intention was to make the place a centre of Catholicism in this part of Australia and to produce sacramental wines. Today, they also produce table wines for the laicist consumers.


Every year a Shakespeare play is put on at Sevenhill, called “Shakespeare in the Vines”. If you are around today, you are lucky because the romantic comedy “Twelfth Night” is shown on Friday 22 and Saturday 23, February. The ticket costs 35 A$ only. I am sure you will have a stunning night and the opportunity to choose from a variety of excellent wines.

The play is divided into five acts. It is actually quite complicated for me to give you a short account. I would like to refer you to http://absoluteshakespeare.com where you can read details about the story line and the characters.

I only want to mention that one of the most beautiful songs Shakespeare ever wrote can be found in this play. It goes as follows:

Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away, breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O prepare it;
My part of death no one so true
Did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strown;
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover never find my grave,
To weep there!”

Thumbs up for Sevenhill Cellars


Neville Rowe, general manager, Sevenhill Cellars

Sevenhill Cellars
Box 13 Sevenhill SA 5453
Ph.: (08) 8843 4222
e-mail: info@sevenhillcellars.com.au

Hanging Rock China Success

February 21, 2008

In today’s Daily Wine News electronic newsletter I read about the huge success of Hanging Rock wines in China (www.hangingrock.com.au). When we visited the winery in July last year, Andrew, who manned the cellar door at the time, told us about this venture. At that time the order was out but the wine was still in Hanging Rock’s storage. We tasted the Hanging Rock Shiraz wines at that occasion (see my blog entry from September 2007), discussed wine tastes around the world, how they could differ and how difficult the Chinese wine market was.


Hanging Rock winery, Macedon Ranges Wine Region, Victoria

I am delighted to hear therefore that everything went according to the plan. The Daily Wine News cited John Ellis, CEO and chief winemaker of Hanging Rock as follows:

“We believe that this is probably the largest premium wine order ever sold into China by a small Australian producer. Apart from the sheer size, the complexity was mind boggling. We had 5 variations of wine type and vintage plus two bottle sizes, spread across four importers to be identified on their particular selections of the five wines. All in all we had to produce and translate into Mandarin, 36 different back labels. In the process we learnt that there are several ways to write ‘Hanging Rock’ in Mandarin.”

Congratulations John! Great stuff.


Hanging Rock vineyard, in the background the “hanging rock” Photo taken in July 2007

This success is great news for all the small family-owned businesses around Australia. It shows again that also difficult markets can be cracked by boutique vineyards. Hopefully the Olympics will have an additional effect on exports to China and further stimulate the wine industry. Given that stocks of Australian wines are down, the 2008 vintage promising regarding quality but maybe down on volume, we might even expect a price rise for grape prices.

Giant Steps – Innocent Bystander

February 20, 2008

As promised ealier, here is my log entry about Giant Steps which is also known as Innocent Bystander. It is the most amazing new winery in the Yarra Valley. Wines under the Giant Steps label were released in 2001. But the new winery building was only opened in 2006.

It already earned very favourable critiques and the wines of course won quite a few awards and medals. A select Yarra Valley red wine tasting (all reds except Pinot Noir) late last year – by Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine, December/January edition – (http://gourmettravellerwie.com.au), for instance, ranked the ‘2006 Giant Steps Miller Vineyard Shiraz’ (92 points) and its 2005 Giant Steps Harry’s Monster’ a blend of Cabernet Sav., Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc (89 points) quite highly.

Actually Giant Steps – Innocent Bystander is not only a winery but also a restaurant, café, bakery, meeting place, etc. in the heart of Healesville, the charming rural town about an hour away north east of Melbourne. Phil and Allison Sexton, the owners, deserve great praise for having the courage to establish such an enterprise, the merging of an industrial work place like a winery with the inviting hospitality necessary for a café-bistro.

I had the opportunity to visit it twice during our recent Christmas vacation and had a great time there. First of all, its the only place I could find where I was able to surf the internet wireless with my laptop. Great. Second, the food is very delicious (people seem to love the pizzas) and so are the wines.

The modern interior leaves space for tranquility as well as play. We loved, what Germans call, a “kicker”, a kind of table soccer-machine, which invites for exciting competitions. For me the wireless internet access was such a bonus. Nowhere else could I update my blog in Healesville more easily.


Any time of the day is good to visit. You can have breakfast there from 10h onwards (many young mothers with their babies came) and enjoy the open atmosphere or you might opt for a meal or a drink later in the day. We came for breakfast. The coffee was delicious and the cakes were a culinary delight. But I also tried a ‘2007 Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris’, a very young and refreshing wine, with hints of citrus, dried pear and apple aromas, crisp on the palate with a dry finish.

Prices are reasonable given the location (Yarra Valley and Healesville). The wines under the Innocent Bystander label (sourced mostly from contract vineyards in the vicinity) for instance Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir or Shiraz Viognier sell for 20 A$/bottle. Trophy winners of the Giant Steps label are a bit more expensive (30 – 45 A$/bottle). The grapes for these wines come from single vineyard sites in the Yarra Valley either owned by the Sexton’s themselves or from long-term contracted growers. The winery and its wine maker, Steve Flamsteed, are proud of its new ‘sweat’ wine creation, a ‘2007 Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato’ (375 ml).


The entrance of Giant Steps – Innocent Bystander

The architecture of the place is also stunning. Its housed in an modern-industrial type of building. Its been designed by architect Martyn Hook of Iredale Pedersen Hook. The building consists of a steel structure with blends of wooden slates. There are also a lot of concrete walls. The substantial complex located at the thoroughfare of the small country town is a perfect blend of functionality with hospitality.


The side view of Giant Steps: winery side from the parking lot

The name! Of course, I forgot. It comes from the John Coltrane jazz album and stands for the ‘giant step’ the owners took in selling their successful vineyards in Margaret River, Western Australia and moving to the Yarra Valley in Victoria to start all over again.

Hope you have a chance to check this place out.

Giant Steps – Innocent Bystander
336 Maroondah Highway,
Healesville, Victoria
Ph.: 03-59626111