At the winemakers home – Timo Mayer, Yarra Valley

April 30, 2010

Timo Mayer and his Mayer Vineyard are well known among the wine fraternity in Australia, Germany and the UK. Timo is wine maker at Gembrook Hills and he has his own vineyard in the Yarra Valley. The Mayer Vineyard is what is called a boutique vineyard. Timo is also member of The South Pack, a group of innovative and independent winemakers in Victoria.

We know each other since many years. In fact Timo made the second vintage of our Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc (2002), which won a bronze medal at the Singapore Wine Show. Since many years our two families have been together, usually for skiing on Mount Buller, eating and drinking, either at our vineyard in Glenburn or at Timo and Ronda’s place, the Mayer Vineyard.

Also this time Timo and Ronda invited us for a gourmet dinner after an afternoon of ice skating and a visit of the Victoria market in Melbourne. The latter program was only attended by our two daughters; the old folks were only in for the eating and drinking part. Needless to say, Timo is not just an excellent wine maker but also an excellent cook.

Timo Mayer in the kitchen

My pictures of the event were somehow heavily affected by the enthusiasm of our re-union, and maybe, maybe, the alcohol of the many wines we tasted. Anyway, I do not have excellent pictures to show you. The longer the evening went on, the more terrible my pictures became. Bear with me. It was a great evening.

But let us start with the food. Out of this fine piece of tuna below, Timo made a delicious sashimi (second picture below). After that we ha another entrée, garlic prawns. The fist main dish was mussels with chorizo sausage chunks followed by some fish (white-head for the kids, and tuna). We were not in the position to eat another main course, although there was beef and various other meats waiting for us. What a wonderful feast that was. Delicious stuff.


Sashimi Timo style

Garlic prawns

Mussles with chorizo sausages and herbs

The wines we tasted before, during and after the meal were:

• 2006 Vintage Yarra Burn Sparkling, Yarra Valley

• 2009 Bloody Hill Chardonnay, Mayer Vineyard, Yarra Valley

• 2008 Bloody Hill Rose, Mayer Vineyard, Yarra Valley

• Grande Signature de Rapatel, Roussanne-Bourboulenc, by Gérard Eyraud, France

• 2008 Bloody Hill Pinot Noir, Mayer Vineyard (and we had the 2009 vintage as cleanskin)

• 2008 Les Griottes, Beaujolais, by Pierre-Marie Chermente, France

• 2007 Syrah, Domaine des Rapatel, Gérard Eyraud, France

• 2006 Big Betty Shiraz, Mayer Vineyard, Yarra Valley

• 1996 Cornas, by Thierry Allemand, France

I did not take tasting notes, this was a social event and not a formal wine tasting. Below you will find photos of some the bottles. The two bottles from Domaine de Rapatel are not represented. You can find reviews in my earlier blog entries.

Vintage Yarra Burn Sparkling

This Yarra Burn is a wonderful cool climate sparkling wine, a classical blend of Pinot Noir (58%), Chardonnay (35%) and Pinot Meunier (7%), from the Yarra Valley. The price is about A$ 22/bottle, great price-value relationship.

2009 Bloody Hill Chardonnay, Mayer Vineyard

Just released, this young white wine from the Mayer Vineyard, although low in alcohol, is an easy drinking but very fine and delicate specimen of a modern Yarra Valley Chardonnay. It has funk, is zesty and very harmonious.

2008 Bloody Hill Rose, Mayer Vineyard

Great wine for hot days and not so hot days. We compared the Bloody Hill Rose with the Grand Signature de Rapatel and found to our amazement that both wines, despite being of such different origins, go well with the garlic prawns.

2008 Les Griottes, Beaujolais, France

Ha, this fine wine from Beaujolais by Marcel Lapierre of Domaine du Vissoux, is just a very seductive drink. Made of Gamay grapes it represents the traditional style of a truly grand Beaujolais. It is not as fruity (among them strawberry) as the “nouveau” wines but has the structure and depth we treasure so much. The carbonic maceration gives it some banana flavours. It is low in alcohol but rich in flavour. Get a bottle of it, if you can. The wine is young and you can enjoy it for some time to come.

The 1996 Cornas by Thiery Allemand

This wine is very powerful and just amazing. Thierry Allemand, the son of a factory worker and not blessed with a family history of wine making, is producing two blends, Les Chaillots and Reynard both from Cornas. The wines are made from low yielding, old vines. Thierry is one of the “wine gods”, the masters and spin doctors, producing “cult” wines. It has the “burned rubber” taste which needs some time to get used to in the beginning.

The Shiraz pannel

From left to right, we drank the Syrah by Domaine de Rapatel, 2008 and 2009 Big Betty Shiraz by the Mayer Vineyard and the 1996 Cornas by Thierry Allemand. Whereas the Domaine de Rapatel Syrah is “raisin” wine, made from very ripe fruit, heavy and full of fruit flavour, the Mayer wines try to be less of that style.

Timo sees the Cornas as a benchmark for his own Shiraz wines. Both Big Betty Shiraz vintages follow the traditional wine making of Burgundy. The Cornas has the “burnt rubber” taste, which is rejected by many wine lovers and seen by some as a fault (which is nonsense). It is also full of stalks and tannins on the palate resulting from the whole bunch fermented grapes. The range of different tastes, just from one grape variety, is amazing. I ended loving the Thierry Allemand style wines best.

The morning after a successful battle with delicious wines

The evening ended with coffee and water. We stayed over. It was just a wonderful evening, a great re-union and the sharing of experiences. We had to get up the next morning fairly early because Lucy and Charlotte were going horse riding. Getting up was not the slightest problem, we were still enchanted by the magical evening. Thanks folks.

PS: The Bloody Hill Pinot Noir wines I have not mentioned above but will do so in a separate entry.

And out they go: The exodus of vintners in Australia

April 29, 2010

The recent ABC Landline report nicely summarizes the predicament of the Australian winegrowers. A$ 250 per tonne for your fruit is just not covering costs. Grape growing has no future, it seems. I find it quite shocking somehow. The documentary depicts the individual detiny in a very touching way.

Click on the link below and watch this very informative film.

ABC Landline

A Sunday in April: Music at the Yarra Glen Hotel

April 28, 2010

The Yarra Glen Hotel

Sunday live music is one of the highlights in the Yarra Valley. We used the opportunity twice listening to music at the Yarra Glen Hotel. On April 11, it was the Detonators who entertained us.

The Detonators at the Yarra Glen Hotel

It’s something for young and old, and Sunday afternoon is just the right time. I just love it. Needless to say that you can taste local wines from the Yarra Valley.

Autumn in Victoria

April 27, 2010

Near Mt. St. Leonard, Toolangi road to Healesville

Most of the following pictures I took through the car window while driving from Glenburn to Healesville via Meyers Creek Road. Gum trees do not turn yellow in autumn as desidious trees do. But the combination in many gardens and park lands make a great composition of colours.

Gum treas near Castella

Mountain Ash trees in Toolangi

Mt. St Leonard from Healesville – peak to the left

Two Kukkaburra birds waiting for their feed at Michael’s home

I found the following short video clip on the internet. Please visit the place, it’s magic.

Upper Goulburn Vintage Celebration

April 26, 2010

Autumn is a splendid time in Australia. It is the time of colours and, of course, harvest festivals. The past weekend saw two such events celebrating the 2010 vintage of the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association.

The first was the traditional “Day on the High” in Mansfield, High Street, which is a street festival. The second event was the “Upper Goulburn Long Lunch” which was held in the Mansfield showground pavilion. Both events are the highlight of the year for many of our winery members and the many related trades displaying their wares and produce, meeting friends, eating and drinking and being merry.

Australia’s 2010 vintage was the smallest in a decade. Instead of 1.8 million tons of grapes, only about 1.4 million tons were harvested. The wine industry is being plagued by oversupply in general. Moreover, 2010 was another drought year with poor grape prices. Many grape growers just gave up. More than 8,000 ha of vines have been pulled already and many more vineyards have been abandoned.

So therefore, this autumn was also a great time for the birds feasting on the many unharvested grapes on the vines. The wine industry crisis is hitting many family businesses, not so much the very small weekender and backyard vintners, but the full-time and medium-sized ones. Some of the investor driven schemes have also suffered. The corporates, however hard hit, are shedding “the fat”, meaning they are “selling the crap” and keeping the profitable brands and vineyards.

For many vintners 2010 was not a good year and for many more, crunch time is still to come. But on this weekend those sombre thoughts were stashed away for a few hours. Let the good times roll on (even if only for a couple of hours).

Vietnamese delight – lazy Saturday

April 25, 2010

Bubbly to start a wonderful weekend. In the background Luke Nguyen’s beautiful cookery book about Vietnam

Finally, we had some rain on Saturday morning which might be an indication that a season’s change is in the making. Anyway, it was cooler than normal which needed to be celebrated with a Prosecco. That’s how it started. In the background there was music from the Skyehooks, a Melbourne cult band from the 1970ies. All four of us we were very relaxed, did’nt have to be anywhere, did’nt have to go anywhere, in short quality time.

The cooking started with us making our first fish sauce. We followed Luke Nguyen’s recipe. I will not provie it here but instead encourage you to buy the book yourself. It is called: “The Songs of Sapa” and is the most fascinating cookery book I have seen in a long time.

The fish sauce recipe of Luke Nguyen

This is what it looks like: The home made fish sauce

After that the fish cakes were made, also a recipe from the above book by Luke who has become a kind of celebrity chef in Sydney. Together with his sister Pauline and Mark Jensen he has his own restaurant called Red Lantern.

Fish cakes sizzling in the pan…..

…….and on the plate

Rice vermicelli

Fresh salad leaves

Voila: this is what it looks like on a plate

You do not need cutlery or chop sticks, no, just use your hand. get some vermicelli on the salad leave, take some fish cake and dipp it in the fish sauce: hmm. You will not believe me but this is the most delicious “finger food”. What we forgot in all our enthusiasm was the plate of mint leaves. We will try this next time.

My go at it

The last question: what about the wine? Well, I hose my favourite Riesling from Alsace, a simple ‘2007 Hugel Riesling’, a wine with zest and character, young and vibrant, a citrus bomb for the taste buds.

Hugel, one of my favourite Riesling wines from Alsace

If you have the chance to get your hands on Luke’s book, please do so. It is worth it. The recipes he has collected are wonderful. Vietnames cusine is light but at the same time filling. After this wonderful lunch we were not hungry until late in the evening.

And this is what the cookery book looks like:

Country meals with Rocky Passes Syrah 2005

April 24, 2010

Chicken, vegetables and cauliflower

Lunch in the vineyard is always a highlight, especially if the weather allows us to have it on the terrace outside with those spectacular valley views. Of course wine is an important ingredient in a successful lunch. We had another bottle of Rocky Passes Syrah, the 2006 vintage this time. It received 92/100 Parker Points by James Halliday.

2005 Rocky Passes Syrah

Later the same day we followed the 2006 vintage with a 2005 Syrah. I had just one bottle of the 2005 vintage left which had received a whopping 94/100 Parker Points. Vitto Oles is doing a great job on these stony slopes of Rocky Passes Estate. Good food and good wine, that’s what makes a great day. The other two ingredients are old friends and good music.

Hope you have a good Saturday yourself.

Down under: Autumn time – harvest time

April 23, 2010

During long walks in the vineyard and around the paddocks we collected quite a few delicious mushrooms. The specimen above was particularly significant. Together with some other mushrooms it made a great pasta ai funghi porcini.

My olive grove was bady damaged during the bushfires last year. Only about 30 of my 100 olive trees escaped unharmed. Although there is lots of new growth from below, it will take years before the olive grove will take shape. However, there were still some beautiful olives to be harvested.

And of course, there were grapes, lots of them. Below a ripe Merlot bunch. It’s a pity that we could not sell all of our vintage this year. The grapes were very sweet and full of juice.

Autumn is a wonderful time in the cyle of the year. It was only the second time that we had the chance to experience it on our farm first hand. Happy days.

The good life on the farm

April 22, 2010

We have hearty good food when on the farm in Glenburn. The beautiful autumn weather allowed us to sit outside and enjoy pasta dishes, meats, salads and other rural food in the mid-day sun. And we all love Italian cuisine.

Zucchini pasta

Insalata caprese

We also have wine with the food. Often we just open a bottle of Two Hills Merlot. But more often than not, we are tasting wines made by our friends in the wine industry. The cucchini pasta we had for instance with a bottle of 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from Steve Sadlier’s vineyard, Nenagh Park, in Yarra Glen.

It has no label as yet, what Australians call “clean skins”, but it’s a ripper of a wine, not in the New Zealand style but rather the one of Sancerre, France. Epicurus would give an arm and a leg to be with us, for sure.

Steve’s Sauvignon Blanc

Backyard vintner

April 20, 2010

Pips Paddock, Springvale, Yarra Glen

The current overproduction of wine grapes is a great worry for many of the small, medium as well as large producers. Especially for fruit growers the outlook is bleak. Nobody wants to buy your grapes if the slightest deviation from “perfect” is detectable. They just walk away from you and let you sit on the fruit. It’s a buyers market.

However, there are options. One is to make your own wine. Not much equipment is required and space is usually available, even if it is on the back porch of the house.

The new stainless steel tanks on the back porch

My friend Gayle Jewson from Springvale, Yarra Glen did exactly that. The grapes were hand picked and sorted, pressed, destemmed and dumped in new stainless steel vats for fermentation.

When we arrived I tasted the “brew” for the first time. Two weeks later I had a second tasting opportunity. What a difference two weeks can make? Amazing. I think Gayle’s Pinot Noir is on the right track and her Chardonnay is just lovely. Lock out for Pips Paddock Pinot and Chardonnay this year. There is only very limited supply. Visit Gayle on her farm and/or order by phone.

Tasting if fun

The backyard vintner in action