On the farm

July 31, 2009


Morning visitor: a kangaroo

Life on the farm is just wonderful. Mornings are misty, sometimes cold with frost. Groups of kangaroos graze on our paddocks and come very closed to our house. The little joeys following their mothers.

It is so quiet, the air so clean. Winter in Victoria is like an Irish summer. Everything is green which nurtures the illusion that everything is fine. It is not. We are in the middle of a draught.


Our dams are at their lowest ever

Finally, we got a reasonable amount of rain. Last night according to the rain gauge we got 10 mm, the most since early July. The other times it was between 2 and 3 mm, and once we had 7.5 mm. Fact is that the draught is still on. The soil is dry. You just need to dig, and you will know.


Wombat wholes are big

I am still busy chasing the Wombat from his home which it made in one of our dam walls. Not a good idea. Every day I carry some rock down and fill in the whole. It has to go. The beast will dig until it gets through. Then of course it is going to be flushed out but I will have lost a dam.

We applied organic fertilizers to the Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinot Noir. 10 more rows need to be done but because of the rain yesterday, we had to stop. The wire dropping is finished too.

I plan to roll up the barbed wires of my burned out windbreak. The second windbreak has its fence almost intact. Many trees, all local varieties, look dead. Only the larger gums seem to have survived. I have given up on the windbreak near the house but plan to replant the one on our second hill. Also our little wood needs replanting. I will have to wait a bit longer for the assessment of what has survived.

The weekend, my last one for this visit, will be full as usual with socialising, and wine drinking. Heaven on a stick, paradise pure.

Wine tasting: Upper Goulburn selection

July 30, 2009


Three of the four wines

When up on our vineyard in Glenburn, Central Victoria we do not only drink our own wine, but sample also quite a few, mainly local wines. Some of them I have introduced to you before (Rees Miller Estate and Kinloch Wines).

The four wines, we tried recently, were the following:

Lost Valley Winery, ‘2004 Hazy Mountain Merlot’ (14.0% alc.), from the Upper Goulburn
Mount Samaria, ‘2005 Shiraz Cabernet’ (13.5% alc.), Upper Goulburn
Girdwood Estate, ‘2005 Pinot Noir’ (16.0% alc.!!!), Alexandra, Upper Goulburn

The fourth wine came from the King Valley, just north west of The Upper Goulburn wine region.

DALZOTTO, ‘2002 Cabernet Sauvignon’ (13.5% alc.), King Valley


Mount Samaria has a wombat on his label.

I do not want to describe each wine (I hate tasting notes), but a short summary is warranted.

Unfortunately, the Pinot Noir from Girwood Estate was somehow off. I had a strange smell and must somehow gone bad. We will have to try again.

I loved the Merlot from Lost Valley Winery. What a ripper wine with all the qualities of an excellent single variety wine. Also the Shiraz Cabernet from Mt. Samaria is a very nice wine and need to be praised. Both wines show that members of our association produce outstanding cool climate wines.

Also the King Valley wine from Dal Zotto was just lovely (excellent). It seems that we will not be able to visit this cool climate wine region during this visit. After the bush fires, there is just too much to do out here on our farm. Moreover, winter is an ideal time for cleaning up the bush, the land and the vineyard.

We will continue tasting various local wines. Soon more, stay tuned.

The good life – country living in Glenburn

July 25, 2009

We are having such a wonderful time in Glenburn, on our small vineyard cum farm. One of the highlights are the meals with friends and family. Ken Mountain, our neighbour and friend (we bought our land from him 15 years ago) invited us and Michael and Helen for a country dinner in his Adjinbilly home in Glenburn, just a stone through from Two Hills Vineyard.


vltr.: Lucy, Charlotte, Margit, Michael, Helen and Ken

We had a wonderful time and great food. Winter is ideal for any kind of roasts. In this case it was lamb and the “usual” vegetables: potatoes, parsnips, broccoli, carrots and onions. The fireplace provided warmth and heat, and the cosy atmosphere of a country home.


Ken does not drink red wines, only whites. So he had Giessen Sauvignon Blanc. For us, he choose a Shiraz. Ken selected a ‘2006 Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz’. This is a beautiful wine, with fine tannins, lots of fruit (mainly blackberry) and a spicy character.

The Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz was a great choice and it went very well with the hearty country food, Ken had cooked for us.


The next day we had Brett, Eve and Shea for lunch up the vineyard. Michael and Helen were also there. Family complete, so to say. Margit had cooked ‘Ossobucco’. The recipe came from Francine Segan’s book “Opera Lover’s Cookbook”, which is a magnificent book.


The dinner table is set and various “anitpasti” are ready for consumption


Shea, Eve, Brett, Margit and Michael


The ‘ossobucco’


Also dessert was provided: chocolate mousse, strawberries and cream

The entrées were consumed with a ‘2007 Windy Peak Cabernet Rosé’ by De Bortoli, a ‘2005 Murrindindi Family Reserve Chardonnay’, and a ‘2007 Allira Sauvignon Blanc’ by Elgo Estate Winery (they are not yet members of our Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association).

This time we drank with the main course various vintages of Two Hills Vineyard Merlot wines and a bottle of Brett’s home made Cabernet Sauvignon. The lunch lasted until about 10 p.m. (nobody wanted to go home) and I did not count the bottles consumed, but for sure we all loved the company, the atmosphere and of course the Two Hills wines.

The recipe for the “Ossobucco” can be found on page 105 of Francine Segan’s “Opera Lover’s Cookbook”. You need the following ingredients:

– 4 to 6 (or more) bone-in veal shanks (about 3-4 cm thick)
– salt and freshly milled black pepper, two bay leaves
– all purpose flour
– 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 2 small carrots, one stalk of celery and one large onion, all finely minced
– garlic (as much as you like but a minimum of 5, also finely minced)
– marjoram, either dried or fresh
– 1/4 cup of white wine
– 3/4 cup best-quality beef stock
– 8-9 tomatoes, peeled and halved
– lemon juice
– one or two anchovy fillets, finely mashed
– fresh rosemary leaves

The oven should be pre-heated to 180 degrees Celsius. The shanks should dreadged in flour and seasoned with salt and pepper. Sear the shanks in a casserole with medium heat filled with olive oil until browned. Remove them after 2 to 3 minutes and let them rest. Then prepare the sauce.

Add the minced vegetables to the above casserole and cook them in medium heat for about 6 minutes until tender. Add the garlic, and the other herbs for about one minute. Then add the wine and simmer for a couple of minutes. Now you add the stock and bring it to a boil, then remove it from the fire.

Put the shanks in a large casserole in one layer, top with the sauce and the tomatoes, cover and bake. After about 2 hours you add some more tomatoes and cook for another 30 minutes. Turn the shanks during the cooking regularly after about 30 minutes. You can serve rice or potatoes with the beef shanks as well as green vegetables. It’s a great traditional Milanese dish. What a wonderful hearty-rustic dish this is. Enjoy

Impressions from Two Hills Vineyard

July 24, 2009


The vineyard this morning covered in frost

We had the coldest night so far here on the vineyard. The land was and still is covered in white frost this morning. The sun tries to get through. It will take a while.

But the vines are pruned, so most of the important winter work has been completed.


Two Hills Pinot Noir spur pruned


Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc cane pruned

We hope that the sun will come through later today and look forward to a panorama like the one below. Fingers crossed.


Splendid winter days at Two Hills

The weekend promises to keep us busy with all kinds of social events. Should anybody say that rural live is dull and boring. Cheers

A memorable visit to Andechs, Upper Bavaria

July 22, 2009


Fields near the monastery of Andechs, Upper Bavaria

Although right now I am sitting on our family vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria, I have to post this little story and my impressions from a visit to the monastery of Andechs, Ammersee in Upper Bavaria. Maria and Christian took me there on a Sunday in early July. We drove up from Fischen. It was my very first visit to this famous place of worship and beer brewing. I will disappoint the wine freaks among you again but Andechs is not known for its wine but its beer.


Gate with beer mugs on the way from the car park to the monastery

When you walk up to the monastery church from the car park, you pass the above gate, with one litre beer mugs above your head. “Look up folks”, it says, this is what you are aspiring to: litres and litres of Germany’s finest beers.


The church

The church is, as many churches in Bavaria, built in Baroque style. I found it very pretty.


The inside of the church


Carl Orff is buried here

Who does not know the “Carmina Burana” and the famous composer, Carl Orff who was a native of Diessen, Ammersee just a couple of kilometres from here. He is buried in Andechs. I liked the inscription of the stone: Summus finis, which freely translates as “everything ends”.


Music festivals honouring Carl Orff are looming

Maria and Christian were to attend the music festival that very evening, while I had to catch my plane back to Bangkok. I would have loved to join them and give Bangkok a miss, but…


Droves of people came to enjoy lunch at Andechs

The monasteries “Gastwirtschaft”, Bavarian country inn style was full of people. We had, of course, lunch there. Christian and I, we shared a pork knuckle (they are just too big). A litre of dark brown beer was just the right drink to wash it down.


Pork knuckle divided into two

I just love to eat pork knuckle. It was delicious. What a great visit that was. I am so grateful to my friends for taking me to Andechs.


A Bavarian litre mug

Andechs is a great place. If you are travelling in Bavaria this summer, please budget some time for a visit. it is definitely worth it.

Night sky over the vineyard

July 21, 2009


Some of the last evenings at Two Hills Vineyard were just stunning.

Today we had the warmest July day in 15 years.

The earth is very dry. I look forward to lots of rain.

Needless to say, we are having a great time.

Jakarta: Elbow Room Restaurant revisited

July 18, 2009

During a brief visit to Jakarta to observe the presidential elections recently, I had dinner with dear friends of mine: Flo and Nelly. We wanted to celebrate our reunion, moreover it was Flo’s birthday. Therefore we selected the appropriate venue and went to the Elbow Room in Kemang. I had been there before, and during my two days in town, I went twice to this relaxing drinking and dinning place.

The food is simple but solid. The service is excellent. The wine list is well sorted and offers a wide range of new and old world wines. We choose a wine from Western Australia, a ‘2004 Mad Fish Shiraz’.


My pasta


The dessert


Mad Fish 2004 Shiraz

The Shiraz has a dark red colour. On the nose it displays cherry and spicy peppery notes. The tannins are well balanced, the wine has structure and a good finish. Wine critics give it 88 to 90 points. I like the wines from the Margaret River region.

During my second visit the next day, a live band played extremely well and entertaining guitar music. The restaurant also displays some interesting (copies) of famous paintings as shown below.


Yue Minjun’s paintings are unique and easily identifiable, even as copies

Overall, my verdict is: If you are in Jakarta, check the place out. It is right in Kemang, not too difficult to find. You will certainly enjoy a nice evening there. I hope you are lucky as regards the live music.

Elbow Room
Jl. Kemang Raya No. 24 A
Jakarta, Indonesia
Te.: +62-21-7194274

Five months after the bush fires

July 17, 2009


Forest near Glenburn

Nature is amazing. The landscape around Glenburn looks almost normal. The paddocks are green and the winter sun is warming the earth. But the scares from the fires are everywhere. We hear terrible stories from neighbours and friends.


Driving through the area makes you sad. Amazing, that not everything burned and vanished in the flames. One finds burned out homes next to fully intact ones. Many of the burned gum tress show new signs of live. The splendid winter sun makes everything more bearable. We pray for the 173 people who lost their lives in the fires.

Much of the debris had been cleared up already. Fences have been rebuilt, sheds are under construction, burned out places have been cleared up. Where the Glenburn pub once stood, there is an empty space right now. Nothing left.



No pub any more

Question: What flower can you find in the southern hemisphere in July?
Answer: Daffodils
Signs of hope. Life goes on.


Greetings from Down Under: Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria

July 15, 2009

Down Under

Greetings from down under

Finally, I am on leave and I will enjoy a month long break at the family vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria. It is winter in the southern hemisphere but after many months in the tropics the cool temperatures of a Victorian winter do not scare me. After the devastating bush fires in February, a lot of cleaning up work awaits us.


Lucy and Charlotte collecting debris from the fires

Every meal is accompanied by Two Hills wines. There are just a few bottles of the 2001 and 2004 vintages left which we consume with our meals. The ‘2006 Two Hills Merlot’ is very fruity, the intense cherry taste knocks you over. We have to organise the new labels for the 2006 vintage before going back to Bangkok.

But we drank also a lot of local wines, for instance from Giant Steps Vignerons in Healesville (2006 Harry’s Monster) in the Yarra Valley or from Rees Miller Estate (2004 Cotton’s Pinch Merlot) and Kinloch Wines (2003 Pinot Meunier) in the Upper Goulburn. Both Merlot wines went well with a Spanish omelette with mushrooms collected from our paddocks. Winter in Glenburn is just wonderful. The Pinot Meunier we had with a pasta.


The mushroom omelette


Lashings of Merlot from Rees Miller and Two Hills


The lucky vintner

Beautiful Bavaria: Fischen, Ammersee

July 14, 2009


Photo of the Ammersee and the church in Diessen, just opposite of Fischen

After the visiting program for our MPs from Malaysia had come to an end in Munich, I had just about 24 hours before my return flight to Bangkok. I decided to visit good old friends from our time in Jakarta: Maria and Christian Hegemer who live in Fischen, a small hamlet at the Ammersee, one of the Upper Bavarian lakes. Fischen is part of the village of Pähl and was first mentioned in a deed in 776. The region is a very popular recreation area just about 45 minutes from Munich and attracts many tourists.


Community members assembling in traditional Bavarian dress

Christian picked me up from the train station. What a happy reunion that was. I was lucky that the villagers had planned a village event. They had hired one of the larger cruising boats for an afternoon on the lake. The local brass band entertained the 200 guests. I was, what we call in Australia a “ring in” but was warmly welcomed.


The Fischen Brass Band

We got on to the boat in Herrsching, then went south to Fischen and turned north on the other side of the lake. The scenery is very lovely, green forests, villages, churches and many beautiful lakeside houses. It was a wonderful summer’s day with bright blue sky. The brass band played jolly good music. The villagers were cheerful and we had a great time on the boat.


Christian and Maria

The natural drink in Bavaria is beer, though wine was also on offer. It came from Wachau, Austria, was drinkable though not a memorable drop.


The tour ended in the early evening. Shortly before we landed in Herrsching a fire works greeted us. The evening concluded in the inn of Maria’s brother Beni (Benedict) in Aidenried where Christian shared a cheese platter with me. More beers found their way into my stomach. It was a most wonderful day in Upper Bavaria.