Music at the Yarra Glen Grand Hotel

February 27, 2011

The Yarra Glen Grand Hotel

One of the great things in the Australian countryside is the many occasions live music can be enjoyed. From blues to country and western to blue grass and hilly billy as well as jazz and rock, all music styles are on offer.

The last Sunday before my departure I had the chance to listen to Broderick Smith, an icon figure in Australian music and well known for his involvement with the Dingoes, a country rock band from the 1970s. He played together with a guitar player in the Yarra Glen Grand Hotel.

The music was great and I had to buy a CD from Broderick. The atmosphere in the pub was good too. Friends drifted in an out. I missed Australia already before I even left it behind. I love these Sunday afternoons with live music at the pub.

Broderick Smith and his mate

Restaurant review: The Grand Hotel in Healesville

February 26, 2011

The Grand Hotel in a painting in the hotel’s dining room

Lunching in the countryside is a wonderful thing. The picturesque country town of Healesville (population about 7,000 souls) is an ideal destination when holidaying in Victoria. Since my brother-in-law Michael and his wife Helen live there, we often loiter in its streets and seek out the hip and not so hip places of food and wine worship.

A nice place to have a rustic country lunch is the Grand Hotel, right in the middle of the town’s main street. The dining room is a quiet and comfortable place. There is also a bar to the left of the entrance. The staff is very friendly and the service is good.

The menu has a wide selection of dishes, even a Thai style beef salad. We went for the rural, home made type, sausages with potato mash and gravy and fish and chips. Others of our party had lamb chops or the roast of the day.


Fish and chips

There was a wide selection of local and not so local wines. We went for a wine from a more distant place, Western Australia. The Valley of the Giants was on special promotion, so why not taste it.

We selected the ‘2010 Valley of the Giants crisp dry white’. Valley of the Giants is a wine-making venture sourcing its grapes from growers in Western Australia. Nothing special so to say, not a boutique vineyard or so, just some people who make “technically clean” wine.

The front label

But the wine matched the occasion. It was a rather hot summers day and a crisp white wine was just the right choice with our meals.

The back label

The Valley of the Giants is a wilderness region in Western Australia attracting many tourists who love nature. In the village of Denmark an ancient forest is to be found of giant tingle trees. One can go on a ‘tree-top-walk’, about 40 meters off the ground.

A happy diner

My suggestion: if you visit Healesville check out the many beautiful places including the wildlife sanctuary and after that have lunch at the Grand Hotel. It’s worth it.

The Grand Hotel
270 Maroonday Hwy,
Healesville VIC 3777
Tel.: =61-3-5962 4003

Sauvignon Blanc by Alan Johns, Yering Farm Wines

February 23, 2011

Our girls had played touch rugby the whole day and were very hungry when they came home. It was a wonderful mild tropical day, with sunshine and blue sky. Why not have a Spanish meal: Paella came to mind.

Paella in the pot

Paella on the plate

We had just the right wine to go with the spicy and robust Spanish dish. From our Christmas holidays on the farm in Glenburn we had brought with us a bottle of ‘2010 Sauvignon Blanc’ from the Run Rabbit Run series of Yering Farm.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc by Yering Farm Wines

Alan Johns the ower-wine maker of Yering Farm is also making our own wines (Two Hills Merlot). In 2010 Alan bought our Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and these grapes went into the ‘2010 Sauvignon Blanc’ of the Run Rabbit Run series. So we were quasi drinking our won stuff. I do not know what other grapes went into this vintage but I am very proud that Alan made such a good wine with it.

The back label

The Sauvignon Blanc is just the way I like it, fresh, young, zesty, full of flavour with fibrant acids and a good finish. I wish I would have access to this wine here in Bangkok. I urge you to try it if you can.

Yering Farm Wines
St Huberts Rd
Victoria 3770 Australia
Tel.: +61 3 9739 0461
Fax: +61 3 9739 0467


2011 party at Two Hills Vineyard

February 20, 2011

From time to time we organize a big party at Two Hills Vineyard; that’s what we did on January 2nd, 2011. We invited some of our neighbours, friends and family to spend an afternoon with us.

We were very lucky, the weather played along. The second of January turned out to be a splendid summer’s day. We were busy preparing the food, cooling the wine, getting soft drinks for the kids and so on.

We put out the garden furniture. I prepared the grill which is a man’s job in Australia. The “barbie” as they call it, is something like the holy grail for the weaker sex, the hormone driven, muscular men of down under.

According to some expert witnesses, I did well. Not bad for a “semi-vegetarian”, I guess. We had lashings of food and buckets of wine. In the following I will introduce some of our guests.

fltr: Ruby, Helen, Jenny, Timo and Michael

fltr: Heidi, Steve, Brownie, Helen and Michael

The kids table

Netsi and Stacy

Rhonda, Jenny and Hilary (background Timo and Richard)

Our lovely neighbours, Richard from down and Hilary from up the road

And now some cool dudes:



Timo (should anybody say winemakers cannot play cricket)

Cricket was the game of choice of the kids and adults alike

Australian crayfish from our dam

Persian spicy mango by Ali

Meagan’s Pavlova, the Australian dessert

Men in black

Busy talking friends

Rhiannon and Bill

My love for turbans always shows when I have got a few drinks.

I do not have photos of most of the food. I was just too busy. The yabbies (a kind of Australian crayfish) came from our dam where we caught them with nets. They were superb. I just got one of them.

We drank of lot of our 2004 Merlot and other wines and beers.
Thanks folks for following our invitation and making our day.
It was splendid indeed.
See you at Two Hills next year.

Water? No problem – new tanks at Two Hills Vineyard

February 19, 2011

On the farm in Glenburn, Australia we get our drinking water from the roof of our dwelling. It is stored in galvanized iron tanks. Our old tanks started to leak a couple of years ago. One of them collapsed almost completely last time we were there.

We needed new tanks. They were delivered last week. Jack and Dave, two local blokes made it all happen. Michael was there to make sure it went well. He also took the pictures below. Next time we come, we will have new water from new tanks. Thanks folks for helping.

No tanks being delivered

Newly installed water tanks

Out go the old ones

PS: Photos courtesy of Michael Meinhold. Thanks Michael.

The five best Riesling wines of 2010

February 18, 2011

Riesling the queen of white wine

Well, let’s be clear from the outset: this is not the result of an orderly wine tasting. I am reminiscing about the most remarkable Rieslings I drank in 2010. The five wines below are the ones I selected, and I call them “my best Rieslings in 2010 – the Man from the Mosel selection”.

As you might know, any recall from memory about events past is a tricky and challenging thing. I also do not have the opportunity to drink these wines parallel to each other (what a shame). But here is my top five list:

1. ‘2009 Dhron Hofberg Riesling GG’, by Grans-Fassian Estate, Leiwen, Mosel.

This is a marvellous Riesling. The 2009 vintage was great. Grans-Fassian is a top Riesling producer from the Mosel. With 95 Parker points the Dhron Hofberg Riesling is just divine. I could not believe my luck when I casually strolled into the cellar door and picked up these treasures.

2. ‘2008 Schieferterrassen Riesling’ by Heymann-Loewenstein, Winningen, Mosel.

Weingut Heymann-Loewenstein is another of the great Riesling producers from the Mosel. The wines are made in a different style from the mainstream. They show great character and have funk. Only on April 30, 2011 the 2009 vintage will be released. I am very excited and cannot wait to taste the 2009 Riesling.

3. ‘2008 Monzinger Halenberg Riesling trocken’ by Emrich-Schoenleber, Monzingen, Nahe

The wines made from fruit grown at Monziger Halenberg are among the best Riesling wines in Germany. The Nahe is the region where my maternal grandfather started to introduce me to wine when I was just a boy. Ever since I love this very diverse region.

Monzingen is a small village next to Martinstein where I spent time with my grand parents. I walked all the different hills and slopes in the vicinity. Emrich-Schoenleber is one of the top producers at the Nahe, a lovely family too where father and son make the wine together.

4. ‘2009 Riesling Leiwen Laurentiuslay GG’ by St. Urbanshof, Leiwen, Mosel

Another wonderful wine from the Mosel. Weingut St. Urbans Hof is located in Leiwen, Mosel. Recently we had a bottle of this Riesling with Sunday lunch. Goodness me what a treat that was. I had only one bottle with me when I came back from Germany in November. The good news is: I will be in Trier in mid March and guess what…..

5. ‘Dr. Mayer Riesling Kabinett trocken’ by Timo Mayer, (Yarra Valley), Remstal, Wuerttemberg

Timo Mayer is an Australian boutique wine maker of the Yarra Valley and a native of Grossheppach, Remstal. He made this wine while travelling in Europe. The grapes come from his brother and the family vineyard. The 2009 vintage was ideal for making this wine. Timo shipped about 60 cases back to Australia. We were so lucky to have access to a few bottles.

You might say, all these wines are German Rieslings, did you not drink others? Well, I did. I tried quite a few Australian ones but that’s usually not my cup of tea. But I am undeterred. My to to list (to drink list) is long.

I admit that I also love Riesling from the Alsace, France. Though they are creamer, heavy, earthy.

I also love Riesling from Rheingau und Rheinhessen, in fact there are so many good German Rieslings it is very difficult to say which one to drink first.

Please let me know what your best Riesling was in 2010.

3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine

February 13, 2011

I am very excited. Recently, I was invited to the above event. From November 14 to 16, 2011 the Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna (RMUTL) in Chiang Mai, Thailand will host the 3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine.

It will be the most significant gathering of wine experts, scientists, vintners and wine drinkers here in tropical Asia. Thailand is maybe the best developed producer of new latitude wines. Although the Thai wine industry enjoys some protection from outside competition, it’s technological progress is remarkable, many of it’s wines are outstanding.

Wineries such as GranMonte Family Vineyard and PB-Valley Khaoyai Winery have become household names. Many new latitude wines have won major awards at international wine competitions. Chiang Mai and it’s surroundings will be a wonderful location for the event.

Needless to say there is a facebook group to promote the event. I suggest you better join this exciting group to always be up to date about the progress we make.

See you in Chiang Mai in November.

St. Urbans-Hof Estate in Leiwen, Mosel

February 9, 2011

Flat vineyards around the St. Urbanshof winery in Leiwen

There are not only steep slopes and stony vineyards along the Mosel but also flat bits, as in the picture above which shows the vineyards around the winery of St. Urbans-Hof in Leiwen, Mosel.

St. Urbans-Hof Oekonomierat Nic. Weiss Estate is member in the prestigeous VDP, the association of the top wineries in Germany. I visited the cellar door on a bleak November morning last year.

The winery

The entrance to the estate

Cellar door

Cellar door

Cellar door

My purchase

Wine box with label

2009 Laurentiuslay Riesling GG St. Urbans-Hof

The tasting of German “grand cru” (GG=grosses Gewaechs) Riesling wines by the German wine magazine “Weinwelt” awarded 91 points to the ‘2009 Leiwen Laurentiuslay Riesling GG’ by St. Urbans-Hof. I bought a couple of bottles, one of which I openend with a meal of game prepared by my friend Heinz. The wine is a wonderful specimen of Mosel Riesling and shows all the marvelleous characteristics they posses.

My conclusion is that any visitor to the Mosel river should visit the wine village of Leiwen, and – ergo – the fantastic wineries and vineyards to taste these georgeous Riesling wines.

Weingut St. Urbans-Hof
Urbanusstraße 16
D-54340 Leiwen/Mosel
Tel.: +49 65 07 / 93 77-0
Fax: +49 65 07 / 93 77-30

We remember

February 8, 2011

Two years to the day after the horror of the Victorian bushfires, people in Melbourne as well as the communities ravaged by the blaze are remembering the losses and honoring the dead. 173 people lost their lives on Black Saturday making them the deadliest fires in Australian history. In Kinglake just a couple of kilometers southwest from our farm in Glenburn 42 people were killed.

If you drive through the area today you might not any longer notice the devastation. Nature has reclaimed it’s “green colour” and the vegetation seems to be unscarred. Only on some stretches along the Melba Highway one can still witness the scars the fires have left behind.

The scars in peoples hearts and minds, however, do not heal that quickly. They are still there. It is important to remember. The floods in Queensland and the bush fires around Perth may also remind us of the dangers and how quickly our “normality” can turn into mayhem.

Time of reflection. I admire the people who have rebuilt their lives and moved on after such calamity. I guess one never really recovers from the loss of close family members, women and children and husbands perished in the fires.

I wonder how many people in our community have now better emergency plans in place. How many are really prepared for the next calamity?

We were lucky. Only a meter from the backside of our shed (in the photo below) was the fire stopped. Where there is green grass now, the soil was charred and blackend. We are forever thankful that the shed was saved.

Our shed – it looks so peaceful

Di Vino – wine bar in Thonglor, Bangkok

February 7, 2011

The entry of di Vino wine bar in Thonglor

If you walk through the Thonglor-Ekkamai neighbourhood in Bangkok you might come to the conclusions that wine bars are like mushrooms, sprouting everywhere.

A good place to hang out, enjoy a glass of wine and have some Italian cuisine, is di Vino, a small and cosy wine bar in Thonglor, Bangkok. The play on words is funny too, is it “divine” or “of wine”? Both I suggest.

Roberto, the manager-owner, is a very sociable guy and a pleasure to talk to. He loves quality in wine and food and he is also a good cook. For my wife he made a fegato dish (liver), very difficult to make indeed, which was just superb. And he offers some great wine choices.

For instance the ‘2003 Il Lemos Negroamaro’ by Leone di Castris. The wine is not displayed on the website of Leone de Castris any more. You will fnid there only younger vintages. But the company has a wide selection of different wines on offer.

Leone de Castris was established in 1925 and the winery was the first in Italy which bottled rose wines. Many of its products are made from indigeneous grape varieties such as Negroamara, Primitivo and Aleatico.

2003 Il Lemos by Leone de Castris

This Negroamaro from Puglia produced in the Salento region, the heel of Italy, is just wonderful. It is a very earthy wine, rustic in character. Often it is blended with the highly scented Malvasia Negra as in the case of Salice Salentino. The grape produces some of the best wines of southern Italy.

Roberto has still some bottles left of the 2003 vintage, but you have to hurry to taste it before it is gone.

Di Vino
Penny’s Balcony, Thong Lo Soi 55,
Sukhumvit Road, Watthana, Bangkok, 10110