Jewels of the Upper Goulburn Wine Region Part I.

October 31, 2008

Today, I want to start a new series and introduce to you some wine and grape producers from our wine growers association, the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association. I plan to feature three to four wineries and vineyards at the time. The selection is random. I will start with the wineries with open cellar doors. Of the 30 odd members of our association, about 9 belong to this category. Another 12 are vineyards which also produce some wine under their labels but conduct wine tastings only by appointment. All the others are fruit producers only and do not sell wines commercially.

The first cohort of wineries to be presented consists of Kinloch Wines, Rees Miller Estate and, a small boutique winery, called Rocky Passes Estate. I want to be honest with you. I have tasted wines made by Malcolm Kinloch (Kinloch Wines) and David Miller (Rees Miller Estate) but not the ones made by Victor Oles (Rocky Passes Estate). I have visited the two former wineries (and I know Malcolm and David) but not the latter.

But this is no impediment to write about all three of them. Anyway, we are going to visit Australia for Christmas and we might take this opportunity to get to know the Rocky Passes people.

I am starting with Kinloch Wines. Malcolm and Susan Kinloch have established a wonderful wine business. The vineyard is located in the Booroolite Valley, about 15 minutes by car from Mansfield (almost next to another famous winery of our region: Delatite Winery).

This year at the Federation Sq Showcase Series the Kinlochs were rewarded two gold medals, one for their “2004 Mary Friend Cabernets-Merlot Blend” and another for their “2006 Don Kinloch Sparkling white”. Moreover, the “Mary Friend” red was judged the Overall Best Red Blend in its class at the Award presentation for the Victorian Wine Awards.

2008 was a most unusual year in the Upper Goulburn. Kinloch Wines harvested a record 34 tons of fruit of outstanding quality. From the 2008 vintage three wines have been released so far (cellar door prices in brackets):
-Unwooded Chardonnay (A$ 18)
-Sauvignon Blanc, and (A$ 22)
-a first rosè (A$ 18) made from Pinot Meunier grapes.

I have tasted earlier vintages of the two white wines and they are delicious. When we visited Kinloch Wines in winter, one could see Mount Buller in a not so distant distance, all in white with a beautiful snow cap.

How to find them:
Kinloch Wines
In the Booroolite Valley, the cellar door is warm and friendly and offers gourmet luncheon platters on weekends and public holidays.
Address: 221 Wairere Rd, Boorolite – 15 minutes from Mansfield
Open: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm daily
Tel: 5777 3447
Email: info@kinlochwines.com.au
Web: www.kinlochwines.com.au
Contact: Susan and Malcolm Kinloch

Rees Miller Estate is the next winery in my cohort. Located near Yea – about 15 minutes drive on the highway to Alexandra/Mansfield – Sylke Rees and David Miller own and operate a fully certified biodynamic vineyard and winery. Today about 7 ha are under vines, the farm has a total of about 64 ha. Sylke and David are both very much committed to the protection of the environment, and the organic production of food. They intend to produce pure products for consumption in a way that supports the land and its people.

We got to know Sylke and David when our wine stall was just adjacent to theirs at the 2007 Alexandra Food and Wine Expo. David conducted a very interesting wine tasting, actually my first wine tasting at such an event, and Sylke sold the wines. When we visited their cellar door some time later, they were both on Christmas holidays. To my great surprise Rees Miller wines were available at our duty free wine store in Jakarta, and we did not have to suffer any shortages of their beautiful reds.

How to find them:
Rees Miller Estate
Fully certified biodynamic vineyard situated on the Goulburn Valley Highway, just east of Yea.
Address: 5355 Goulburn Valley Highway, Yea
Open: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm daily
Tel: 5797 2101
Email: info@reesmiller.com
Web: www.reesmiller.com
Contact: David Miller or Sylke Rees

The last vineyard in this first cohort of Upper Goulburn wineries with cellar doors is Rocky Passes Estate, a small boutique vineyard of about 6 acres (5 acres Shiraz and 1 acre Viognier) located in Whiteheads Creek, near Seymour. I only know their one-page website and their listing in our membership directory. Rocky Passes Estate is another vineyard dedicated to organic grape growing and wine making (there are quite a few in our region). Cropping levels are kept low (about 2 tonnes per acre). The cellar door was opened in 2006. The wines can be ordered by mail, phone or e-mail.

How to find them:
Rocky Passes Estate
Situated at the southern end of the Strathbogie Ranges, the wines are made using organic practices and biodynamic preparations.
Address: 1590 Highlands Rd,
Whiteheads Creek, Seymour
Open: Sundays 11.00 am to 4.00pm or by appointment
Tel: 5796 9366
Email: rockypasses@activ8.net.au
Web: www.rockypassesestate.com.au
Contact: Victor Oles or Candy Westney

I hope I could stimulate your curiosity. The Upper Goulburn Wine Region is a rural place with real people who love what they are doing, have passion for their wines and commitment to the environment.


Wine economists unite

October 30, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, Karl Storchmann made me aware of the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE). I somehow got sidetracked, visited the website once but that was it. Now I revisited the AAWE and found out that they held their first ever congress in my dear home town of Trier in 2007. I couldn’t believe it. Their second conference was held in Portland, Oregon in 2008 and for 2009 they have selected Reims/Epernay in France as venue. This makes me somehow proud to come from this small town tucked away in the Mosel river valley in the far West of Germany.

The AAWE (please do not confuse it with the American Association of Wind Engineering or the Association of American Wives of Europeans) is a private, non-profit, educational association open to members from all over the world. The Association publishes a semi-annual journal – the Journal of Wine Economics, organises scholarly conferences and forums for wine economics research.

On the website you can also find a very interesting blog (http://wine-econ.org) and I strongly recommend visiting, brousing through it will give you many insights in the wonderful world of wine, this time from an economics perspective. Have fun.


Intrigued by the label – Wine tasting in Taoyuan

October 29, 2008

Old and new, close together on Taiwan

When teaching here at the International Center for Land Policy Studies and Training in Taoyuan, I frequent the little wine and liquor outlet, named “Drinks” (www.drinks.com.tw) , across the street and buy some bottles of wine for the long evenings.

The shop carries a lot of wines from France, especially reds from Bordeaux and lots of very fine whiskeys from Scotland and other places. This time I followed the eye more than anything else and bought a wine from Argentina. To be fair, there were two main motives for this decision. 1. It’s quite some time that I had tried a bottle of Malbec. Therefore the Argentinian ‘2007 Lo Tengo’ bottle of Malbec jumped right into my eye. 2. I must admit I was also drawn in by the label. The black and white picture of the legs of a Tango dancing couple where very intriguing and I found the bottle very attractive. So I paid (about US$ 18) and went.

In the evening, my friend Jim and myself sat down for a little chat-cum-wine-tasting. He had bought a bottle from Italy. Well, to cut a long story short. When I opened the bottle from Argentina and saw a plastic cork, I was already alarmed. The deep purple liquid, unfortunately, did not hold what the bottle label promised. Actually the wine tasted quite neutral, no nose, a bit of red fruit, that was it, no finish worth speaking of. Disappointing. After doing some research on the internet, I found out later that this wine can be bought in some places in the USA for about US$ 6-7. I would have needed an internet search facility in the shop, I guess. Alternatively, I could make an effort and learn more about wines from Argentina. I might do that, especially since I have seen this little charming video with the choir lately. The Riserva Malbecs from Trivento have never disappointed me, but of course they were also more expensive.

The second wine we tasted was a ‘2003 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Sante Lancerio’ by Melini. The wine came from the same shop. I held it in my hands but decided for the Malbec. What a mistake. This wine retails in the USA for about US$ 10, in the UK prices are higher, maybe around 12 Pounds, in Germany is costs about 10-12 Euro. But certain vintages are sold at much higher prices (for instance in the UK the single vineyard Nobile de Montepulciano by Melini cost about 30 Pounds a bottle).

What a difference that was to the first wine. We both liked it very much. We were reminded of our time in Italy when we both worked at the FAO for the United Nations and we allowed the wine to carry us with it, home to beautiful Italy. Sweet memories, of two reminiscing old friends. Nothing can beat that.


And the poet says…..

October 28, 2008

Recently, my friend Jim Riddell gave me copy of a collection of poems by Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) in a Chinese-English version. To my shame I must admit that I had never before heard about the poet Khalil Gibran.

Khalil Gibran (Source of the photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khalil_Gibran)

From the internet (wikipedia) I learned that he is the third best-selling poet in history after William Shakespeare and Laozi. Khalil Gibran was born in present day Lebanon. He was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer who had migrated to the USA in 1895. This is where he also died (in New York City) at the tender age of 48 only.

I selected the following excerpts from a poem on eating and drinking for you:

“And in the autumn,
when you gather the grapes of your vineyards for the wine press,
say in your heart.
I too am a vineyard,
and my fruit shall be gathered for the wine press,
and like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.

And in winter,
when you draw the wine,
let there be in your heart a song for each cup;
and let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days,
and for the vineyard,
and for the wine press.”

A good day to all of you.


The North-South Pipeline II: Liberal democracy at its worst

October 26, 2008

I am writing this piece from the city of Taoyuan on the beautiful island of Taiwan where I teach a course on “good governance in land administration”. Good governance is more likely to happen in a liberal democracy, but, it not always does. The desperate efforts of the Victorian government pushing the North-South-Pipeline project is a case in point. Components of good governance are transparency and participation, both of which are non-existent in the case of the pipeline project.

That politicians treat voters with contempt, is nothing new in emerging (young), transitional democracies. But that this can also happen in a well established and more or less functional system is quite remarkable. The current Victorian state government is a great show case for arrogance of the ones who govern vis-a-vis the governed. In its election manifesto before the 2006 election the Labour party claimed that they would not take water from the north of the divide if elected. Making and keeping promises is of course an entirely different matter. Democratic institutions and governing mechanisms guaranteeing, that the strong cannot push the weak around at will, seem to be out of order.

Many political analysts think that the government has deliberately misled the Victorian public in justifying the pipeline project (http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2008/10/01/11821_opinion-news.html and www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2008/10/07/13471_opinion-news.html).

That the labour governments does not give a damn for rural populations is nothing new. Their voters are mainly sitting in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. However, the way the Victorian government pushed its ambitious North-South Pipeline project through is worth analysing. Here, you can witness an ecological disaster in the making. If the 21st century has more of this to offer to us in rural Australia, one of the backbones of the Australian rural economy will go down the gurgler in the years to come. The rural-urban divide is widening these days.

A similar pipeline project for the rural towns of Ballarat and Bendigo (The Goldfields superpipe) incurring huge costs to the taxpayers has miserably failed. The simple truth is: “where there is no water, there is nothing to be taken” and therefore the pipeline remains mainly dry.

Moreover, private property rights are not well protected these days, it seems. The so called “public interest” overrules private rights and dispossess many. That’s also so in the pipeline case. At the end of September some of our neighbours (Deb McLeish and Deb Bertalli) protesting the “invasion” of their lands by pipeline workers were taken into custody by police. If the state would react like this vis-a-vis those gamblers (CEO’s, bank and fund managers, traders, speculators, at Lehman Brothers or AIG, etc.) who destroyed billions of wealth in the recent financial crisis, our jails would be full. But they all walk free, enjoying even bailouts paid for by the little guys and their taxes.

Grass roots initiatives such as “Plug the Pipe” have organised widespread protests but to no avail. The government’s slogan “Our water, our future” does not include rural residents, it seems. But rural Victorians cannot even say, “our water, Melbourne’s future”, because there is no water in the rural hinterland of Victoria. Lake Eildon is at 23% of its capacity and allocations are just 4%. Water restrictions in many rural settlements (97 rural towns and cities) and are on stage 4 and this not just since yesterday (since 2002). The city is thirsty. This year Melbourne consumes more water than all the Goulburn farmers use for irrigating their crops.

An article carried by The Age website today, discussed the findings of a confusing state government-commissioned report (by the Sydney based Institute of Sustainable Futures) which comes to the conclusion that Melbourne does not need any new water-saving schemes in the future because of the abundance of water sources. I wonder how that will happen?

Eildon reservoir dry like a bone

I came across an interesting website when participating in an e-democracy forum the other day. As a wonderful example of participatory democracy the city of Melbourne was praised. On www.futuremelbourne.com.au you can inform yourself about the vision the government has for the years to come. You can also participate in writing the plan of the town if you enter the wiki link. There are videos, maps, an e-village, and other things, state of the art, as far as modern participatory democracy is concerned, so you might think.

If the same method would have been applied when the North-South Pipeline project was in the making, the results might have been different. Instead secrecy, intrigue and deceit were the tools used by the Victorian government. Participatory democracy is only for those the government cares for but not us rural folks, that’s clear.

What does Melbourne want to become in 2010 according to the website?

A City for People
A Prosperous City
An Eco City
A Connected City
A Knowledge City
A Bold & Inspirational City

The same cannot be said about the rural areas surrounding the metropolitan area. They will be dried out so that Melbourne has sufficient water to become, let it slowly roll over your tongue, an “eco-city”.

Whow, that blows me away, really. It’s not easy to not turn into a cynic. I guess the Victorian government’s decision-makers should have sat in my classes on good governance here in Taoyuan. Though, I doubt it would have helped.


Jewels of the Upper Goulburn Wine Region Part I

October 25, 2008

Today, I want to start a new series and introduce to you some wine and grape producers from our wine growers association, the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association. I plan to feature three to four wineries and vineyards at the time. The selection is random. I will start with the wineries with open cellar doors. Of the 30 odd members of our association, about 9 belong to this category. Another 12 are vineyards which also produce some wine under their labels but conduct wine tastings only by appointment. All the others are fruit producers only and do not sell wines commercially.

The first cohort of wineries to be presented consists of Kinloch Wines, Rees Miller Estate and, a small boutique winery, called Rocky Passes Estate. I want to be honest with you. I have tasted wines made by Malcolm Kinloch (Kinloch Wines) and David Miller (Rees Miller Estate) but not the ones made by Victor Oles (Rocky Passes Estate). I have visited the two former wineries (and I know Malcolm and David) but not the latter.

But this is no impediment to write about all three of them. Anyway, we are going to visit Australia for Christmas and we might take this opportunity to get to know the Rocky Passes people.

I am starting with Kinloch Wines. Malcolm and Susan Kinloch have established a wonderful wine business. The vineyard is located in the Booroolite Valley, about 15 minutes by car from Mansfield (almost next to another famous winery of our region: Delatite Winery).

This year at the Federation Sq Showcase Series the Kinlochs were rewarded two gold medals, one for their “2004 Mary Friend Cabernets-Merlot Blend” and another for their “2006 Don Kinloch Sparkling white”. Moreover, the “Mary Friend” red was judged the Overall Best Red Blend in its class at the Award presentation for the Victorian Wine Awards.

2008 was a most unusual year in the Upper Goulburn. Kinloch Wines harvested a record 34 tons of fruit of outstanding quality. From the 2008 vintage three wines have been released so far (cellar door prices in brackets):
-Unwooded Chardonnay (A$ 18)
-Sauvignon Blanc, and (A$ 22)
-a first rosè (A$ 18) made from Pinot Meunier grapes.

I have tasted earlier vintages of the two white wines and they are delicious. When we visited Kinloch Wines in winter, one could see Mount Buller in a not so distant distance, all in white with a beautiful snow cap.

How to find them:
Kinloch Wines
In the Booroolite Valley, the cellar door is warm and friendly and offers gourmet luncheon platters on weekends and public holidays.
Address: 221 Wairere Rd, Boorolite – 15 minutes from Mansfield
Open: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm daily
Tel: 5777 3447
Email: info@kinlochwines.com.au
Web: www.kinlochwines.com.au
Contact: Susan and Malcolm Kinloch

Rees Miller Estate is the next winery in my cohort. Located near Yea – about 15 minutes drive on the highway to Alexandra/Mansfield – Sylke Rees and David Miller own and operate a fully certified biodynamic vineyard and winery. Today about 7 ha are under vines, the farm has a total of about 64 ha. Sylke and David are both very much committed to the protection of the environment, and the organic production of food. They intend to produce pure products for consumption in a way that supports the land and its people.

We got to know Sylke and David when our wine stall was just adjacent to theirs at the 2007 Alexandra Food and Wine Expo. David conducted a very interesting wine tasting, actually my first wine tasting at such an event, and Sylke sold the wines. When we visited their cellar door some time later, they were both on Christmas holidays. To my great surprise Rees Miller wines were available at our duty free wine store in Jakarta, and we did not have to suffer any shortages of their beautiful reds.

How to find them:
Rees Miller Estate
Fully certified biodynamic vineyard situated on the Goulburn Valley Highway, just east of Yea.
Address: 5355 Goulburn Valley Highway, Yea
Open: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm daily
Tel: 5797 2101
Email: info@reesmiller.com
Web: www.reesmiller.com
Contact: David Miller or Sylke Rees

The last vineyard in this first cohort of Upper Goulburn wineries with cellar doors is Rocky Passes Estate, a small boutique vineyard of about 6 acres (5 acres Shiraz and 1 acre Viognier) located in Whiteheads Creek, near Seymour. I only know their one-page website and their listing in our membership directory. Rocky Passes Estate is another vineyard dedicated to organic grape growing and wine making (there are quite a few in our region). Cropping levels are kept low (about 2 tonnes per acre). The cellar door was opened in 2006. The wines can be ordered by mail, phone or e-mail.

How to find them:
Rocky Passes Estate
Situated at the southern end of the Strathbogie Ranges, the wines are made using organic practices and biodynamic preparations.
Address: 1590 Highlands Rd,
Whiteheads Creek, Seymour
Open: Sundays 11.00 am to 4.00pm or by appointment
Tel: 5796 9366
Email: rockypasses@activ8.net.au
Web: www.rockypassesestate.com.au
Contact: Victor Oles or Candy Westney

I hope I could stimulate your curiosity. The Upper Goulburn Wine Region is a rural place with real people who love what they are doing, have passion for their wines and commitment to the environment.


US Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma County, California

October 25, 2008

Today, the American Wine Bloggers openend their conference in Sonoma County, California. I would have loved to be there, instead I am here on the island of Taiwan teaching a course on “good governance in land administration”. In fact I love it here; it’s one of my “regular events”. Participants come from all over the world just as at the wine bloggers events.

Though it is somehow very tempting, I must admit. If you know that all these interesting wine bloggers convene and share their experiences, hmm. But one day, I will be there and see with my own eyes, hear with my own ears and feel and taste the wines with my own taste buds. Alas, there is the internet and information can be accessed.

Among the many sponsors of the Sonama event is also a group I have joined recently: The Open Wine Consortium. It’s an interesting bunch of people, very dedicated to the promotion of wine and wine culture. Though being a rather a new member, I have not yet interacted much with them. But I will. It’s just to tempting. Log on to the conference and experience it yourself.