Mandala Winery, Yarra Valley, Victoria

April 30, 2014

Through a beautiful bartering arrangement I came into the possession of a bottle of ‘2010 Mandala Prophet’, a single vineyard Pinot Noir by the Mandala Winery from the Yarra Valley.

Mandala has two vineyards, one in Dixon’s Creek where the seat of the winery is located, the other in Yarra Junction, a vineyard at higher elevation where on 10 acres a Burgundy clone of the variety is grown.

Mandala Prophet

2010 Mandala Prophet Pinot Noir

Years ago I have visited the winery and eaten in the estate’s restaurant but have not visited recently. Mandala is owned by the Mulder family. The wine-maker is Charles Smedley; the viticulturist is Julian Parrott.

When I was given the bottle and red the name on the label, I was intrigued. Calling a Pinot Noir wine, “the prophet”, is quite something. Having lived in Indonesia for 10 years I have other associations when I hear the word ‘prophet’ than a grape wine.

We enjoyed this wine the very same day the bottle was given to me. A dinner with beautiful red meat was the right occasion to open a Pinot Noir. The wine did not disappoint.

In fact it turned out to be one of the most delicious Pinot Noir wines I drank during my three week on the farm in Glenburn.

The Prophet is not made every year; only in exceptional years is this single site wine produced (so far 2006, 2008, 2010). James Halliday, the Australian wine authority awarded it 94 Parker Points. I loved the plum and raspberry aromas of this well balanced and complex wine.

When you buy this wine here in Bangkok, you will have to pay about 1,500 Bath per bottle. You should try it; it is definitely worth that money.

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All good things must come to an end

January 28, 2014

THV family

Margit, Helen, Michael, Lucy and Charlotte

After six weeks on the farm the time has come to go back to Bangkok. All good things (bad ones too) must come to an end, and the last days on the farm are always the most difficult ones. The brain tends to wonder off and indulges in the planning of activities which need to be done after the return to the job. At the same time last minutes projects await to be completed on the farm and in the vineyard. It is always the same anxiety which descends on the unprepared but well informed holiday maker.

As always it is very educative to spend such a long and uninterrupted time in Glenburn. The learning is amazing, and this on many different levels. Time and place attain a different meaning, and the observation of nature enriches the mind. The nights at the vineyard are dark when there is no moon, The milkyway looks stunning and the quiet is amazing. No street noise, nothing, things we are used from our life ini Bangkok where the city never sleeps.

While I was reading a historic account of the Crimean war from 1853-56, written by Orlando Figes, I was also browsing through a book about the history of Yea (by Harvey Blanks), the charming country town just 35 km north of Glenburn, which I have in our bookshelf. I found out that Yea, formerly known as Muddy Creek, was named after Colonel Lacy Walter Gilew Yea, an English officer who took part in the battles of Alama and Inkerman, and who lost his life during the siege of Sebastopol on June 18, 1855. After that, Melbourne street names such as Alama, Inkerman and Balaklava gained a new meaning. Who would have thought that innocuous things such as the name of a country town in central Victoria and a war fought more than 150 years ago in a very different part of the world could be connected?

Living on the farm right in the middle of an ancient Australian landscape also connects you to arts. In this case the Australian pastoral landscape paintingS. We visited the TarraWarra Estate to see the current art exhibition and have a bite at the restaurant of the TarraWarra Winery. Surprise surprise, a show by Russell Drysdale was on display, whose modernists pastoral landscapes connects the interracial histories of Australia.

The highlight on the culinary front were certainly the meal we had at the TerraWarra restaurant. I also liked the Viognier-Marsanne-Rousanne blend, an excellent white for hot summers days. Moreover, a visit to Rocky Passes Estate which is located between Seymour and Yea, gave us the opportunity to reconnect with Candy and Vitto, the charming owners. Candy prepared delicious tapas for us, and the award winning 2010 Rocky Passes Shiraz is just a ripper of a wine. Vitto does not only make delicious wines (with 90 plus Parker points) but also exquisite furniture. A visit is highly recommended.

I also discovered the Fratelli wines who make a very nice Riesling from grapes grown in the Upper Goulburn region of Central Victoria. Timo Mayer has a new Pinot Noir made from grapes grown in the Yarra Valley on granite soil. The current release is the first vintage and promises to become another star at the “Pinot Noir heaven”, if you know what I mean.

A week of sweltering heat above 40 Celsius taught us the importance of a fire plan (which we did not have but have now) and the positive effect our 12 mega liter irrigation dam can have for suffering humans. Every two hours we jumped in to cool down during those hot days. We survived a second heat wave with temperatures in the high 30ies. The hot weeks were interrupted by very cool days with even cooler nights. That might be one of the reasons why our own wines last so long. The fine and firm acids of our grapes allow for the Merlot wines to age so well. We tasted the 2004, 2006 and 2008 vintages and found that the 2004 Two Hills Merlot did still hold its freshness. Also the fruit (red cherries mainly) was still vivid. The younger vintages were less elegant and showed rather “umpf wine” characteristics.

THV Merlot 2004

2004 Two Hills Merlot

Our vineyard is still in a “mothball state”, meaning we are keeping the vines alive but do not produce fruit. Nonetheless, together with my twin daughters, I attacked the blackberries whose roots we tried to dig out. We did the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir blocks, and left the other two (Merlot and SB) for my next visit. Various repairs of the cottage and the shed were completed. We also cleared fallen branches and other wood from the paddocks. All in all, the property looks very nice and well kept. I can leave it behind with a laughing eye, as we say in German. The other one will, as always when leaving Two Hills, filled with tears. Cheers


Back on the farm

December 29, 2013

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After two years of absence we finally returned to our small farm in Glenburn, Victoria. All of us, the whole family, was exited and nerveous at the same time. What would the place look like? What to expect? Would it look devastated, neglected and run down?

Well, it was all rather normal. Our neighbour Victor had cut the grass to make hay and to feed his cows. The grass in the paddocks was green and fresh. The vineyard was in good condition as well given the dire circumstances of the mothballing regime. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir looked very good; only the old vines of the Sauvignon Blanc seemed to suffer a bit.

It took me two days to clean the cottage. I still have to do the windows. After a round of repairs the water taps were functioning again properly, and the hot water system was ready for action.

THV Cottage

The Melbourne weather with four seasons in a day, is a stark contrast to what we are used to in the tropics. So far we had sweltering days with hot northerly winds and temperatures in the 40 Celsius. But the nights remained cool. The heat was followed by cool changes and more often than not one needed a sweater and warm clothes.

Our two dams are full to the brim, so are our two water tanks. The spring was very wet. The trees around the cottage have benefited from the abundance of water. Especially the young gum trees have grown quite a bit. But also the deciduous trees from Europe are doing well, especially my oaks.

The morning walks are a delight. I usually bump into two families of kangaroos. The long grass makes it easy for them to hide. The birds are noisy and plentiful. Water birds splash in the irrigation dam. The creek at the end of the property is running and full of water. The vegetation is lush though some of the beautiful gums trees near the creek have died. After the bush fire of 2009 many of the old trees have not survived but young growth is everywhere.

THV Brotzeit

On the wine front I discovered that our old vintages are still drinkable. Two Hills Merlot 2004, 2006 and 2008 are all holding up. The 2006 vintage is rather an “umpf” wine. The 2004 is not as elegant as it was but nonetheless we are enjoying drinking it.

The New discovery is the Fratelli vineyard and winery. Their 2012 Riesling is superb. The fruit comes from a vineyard near Mansfield, the old Upper Goulburn wine region.

We have more than a month ahead. More bliss on the farm to come. Stay tuned.


Two Hills Vineyard aerial picture

June 12, 2013

Our vineyard

Source: Google maps when searching for Two Hills Vineyard

My children provided me with the above picture. Unfortunately I do not know where they got it from. Sorry for that.

The road on the right, is Two Hills road and the gum trees lining it. On the left side from the road one can see our two dams, the two vineyards (between the dams and right from the dam on the right). Also the shed can be identified. The white “lines” around the different blocks are from my slashing with the tractor. Also my windbreak can be seen (left line leading to the creek).

Looking at this shot, makes me terribly homesick.

Our next visit will be the highlight of the year for us.


Durif from Rutherglen Estates at Songkran in Bangkok

April 13, 2013

Durif 1

Rutherglen Estates 2008 Durif

It is the Thai New Year, called Songkran, the water festival. In down town Bangkok the mob is celebrating, dancing, and splashing people with water, a cleansing ritual and a good omen.

Instead of mingling with the crowd, we are enjoying some beautiful red wine on our terrace. From Wine Connection in Thonglor I got a bottle of ‘2008 Durif Single Vineyard’ by Rutherglen Estates, one of the largest wine and grape producers in the region (more than 300 ha under vines).

Durif 2

2008 Single Vineyard Durif

The wine is big with 14.5% alcohol. It has not much of a nose. The first sip comes as a bit of a shock, sucking your mouth dry like a vacuum cleaner. The second mouth full is already better, and then you are sailing. Some red fruit, some vanilla from the oak. Pleasant and satisfying, a warm climate red whispering in your ear the hot air of the northern Victorian sun.

Durif 3

Bavaria Blue

We had some Bavaria Blue cheese from Bergader Creamery with it. This is my favourite Bavarian cheese, and not only because I worked as a young man on a dairy farm in Petting which delivered its milk to that company.

Every time I am in Germany I bring some of this cheese with me. It is super delicious. And the red wine from Rutherglen was just the right complement, a perfect match so to say to the strong and hearty cheese.

More such glorious days can come, with wine and some good food.

Happy Thai New Year to all of you.


Women in the wine industry

March 8, 2013

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Lucy and Charlotte Adam

Today is international women’s day. It is a very special day especially since exactly 25 years ago I have met my wife Margit for the first time (in an Italian language class in Rome). So we are celebrating today, and I will tell you what wine we will drink at this special occasion.

But before I come to this, let me also say that the next generation is getting ready. My two daughters Lucy and Charlotte are in the middle of their preparations for the IB examinations. They have big plans. Both want to study at Melbourne University.

At this, I admit, very preliminary point, both will have some connection with the land and country, it seems. Lucy intends to do an oenology course (but she will study politics), and Charlotte wants to get involved into environmental science for sustainable agriculture. If they stay course, we might welcome two new vintners at Two Hills Vineyard.

This is of course the future calling, but the two have not disappointed at no time.

By the way, my role has also been defined in advance: farm hand, is my destination.

OK back to the present. What will we be drinking tonight? Can you guess?

It will be a ‘2012 Maximin Grünhäuser Riesling trocken’ by Schlosskellerei Maximin Grünhaus C. von Schubert in Mertesdorf, Ruwer. I have written an entry of the earlier vintage of this wonderful wine from my beloved Mosel river.

PS: Thanks to another “Man from the Mosel”, my friend Thomas Weber, I am in the possession of the above bottle. Thank you Thomas for carrying this treasure more than 10,000 miles to the other end of the earth.


Tempus Two Chardonnay 2010, Hunter Valley, Australia

October 21, 2012

2010 Tempus Two Chardonnay

The grapes for this wine are actually not coming from the Hunter valley but from the cool climate Adelaide Hills wine region. The wine is a modern product, harvested by machine, made in steel tanks and briefly kept in French oak barrels in order to get the spicy vanilla character.

The Tempus Two winery, founded by Lisa McGuigan, a member of the fourth generation dynasty of celebrated vintners, the McGuigans, is situated in the Hunter valley.

The cellar door, an ultra-modern building, is just outside Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales in the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges (a region with freezing cold winters). Fruit for the Tempus Two wines comes from many different vineyards wine regions all over Australia. The band was established in 1998 only.

Back label explaining what you taste

This mass produced wine, is something for easy, every-day drinking. Apart from the Chardonnay, the Varietal Range includes a Blanc de blanc, a Verdelho, a Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot, a Cabernet Merlot and a Shiraz.

The two premium brands are called the Pewter Range, which comes in distinctive bottle shapes, and the Copper Range, with more modern-style wines.

Since we were on a modified Dukan diet ( we made concessions for the alcohol), we had it with fish, a mackerel, which is a strongly-flavoured and oily fish. The wine coped well with the strong fishy taste. The citrus flavours and the high acidity were a great complement to the food.

Mackerel

I would have eaten another portion of the fish, and certainly could have had a second bottle of wine. My verdict: highly recommended.

PS: In Thailand, Siam Winery is the agent of Tempus Two.