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

Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley with Peking Duck

October 8, 2011

The beautiful “off-red” colour of a Pinot Noir

Well, I gave it almost away in the title of this blog entry.
Yes, it is a Pint Noir and yes, it comes from the Yarra Valley in Victoria.

But please answer me:

Mirror mirror on the wall which is my favourite wine of them all? ,

asks the wicked queen alias “the critical consumer of fine wines”?

Well, the answer is just below; on my wine cabinet so to speak.

Can you identify the producer?

I guess now you can.

2009 Bloody Hill Mayer Vineyard Pinot Noir

And yes, you are right, this is an awesome wine from the Yarra Valley, the eastern part of which has a truly cold climate. Timo Mayer is a great wine-maker. In his boutique vineyard near Healesville he produces outstanding fruit. His philosophy of minimum interference in wine-making does the rest and out of this comes a wonderful product of a vintners craftsmanship.

The bottle has DIAM cork, the real thing

It is just a shame that we cannot get this wine here in Bangkok.

In the UK, Ireland and in Germany you can order it.

By the way, right now Timo is on a sales tour in Europe. On September 28th he was special guest at the K&U Weinhalle, a wine merchant in Nuernberg. There is a nice story about Timo written by Martin Koesler.

Our Sunday lunch table with the Peking duck

PS: We made the Peking Duck ourselves. It was a beautiful feast on a warm tropical Sunday. Timo’s Pinot Noir is an ideal wine also with Asian food. The proof is in the eating and drinking. Trust me I know what I am talking about.

Which distributor in Asia is interested? Now is the time….

Summer time, summer wine: Mayer Vineyard Rosé

January 14, 2011

If you see the pictures of the Queensland and New South Wales floods, it is hard to believe that we in Victoria had perfect weather conditions and enjoyed two beautiful weeks of a mild, but enjoyable summer over the Christmas break.

It is also hard to imagine that the area affected by the floods covers the size of France and Germany combined. The tragic loss of many lives makes me sad. The individual stories are heartbreaking. It is to be hoped that further losses and damage can be avoided in the future.

But Summer calls for summer wines, Rosé being one of them. Timo Mayer, winemaker and owner of the Mayer Vineyard in the Yarra Valley produces just one such wine. His ‘2010 Bloody Hill Rosé’ made in the traditional way out of Pinot Noir grapes, is a just wonderful; it is delicate, complex and refined.

I also love its colour. I wish we had more bottles of it but so is life.

Summer lunch with Timo Mayer Rosé

2010 Bloody Hill Rosé

We enjoyed the wine with an Italian main course consisting of gnocchi with a side salad.

The Mayer Vineyard
Timo Mayer, Miller Road,
Healesville, Victoria
Tel.:+61-3-5967 3779

Three treasures and my new knife

September 26, 2010

Three treasures

I just got back from a business trip to Mongolia where I had a great time (but none for blogging). Unfortunately, I had no time to look for a Mongolian herdsman’s knife.

However, I bought a new knife during our summer holidays in Italy. I just love the knives produced by Scarperia Consigli near Florence. I choose a fisherman’ knife, called Anconetano typical of the central Adriatic coast.

So what are the three treasures? Well, in the photo above you can see my new knife from Scarperia Consigli, a DIAM cork used by the Mayer Vineyard (coming a chardonnay recently) and a my favorite cigar from Nicaragua.

2008 Big Betty Shiraz, Mayer Vineyard, Yarra Valley

August 22, 2010

It is my birthday today and I am not in a blogging mood. But I had a great day starting with a birthday cake (Schwarzwaelder), some prosecco, followed by a meal prepared by my daughter Charlotte with red wine from my friend Timo Mayer from the Yarra Valley.

His ‘2008 Big Betty Shiraz’ is a ripper of a wine. The colour was an almost deep purple red. The fruit is big with lots of forest fruit. The wine has a great structure, good mid palate weight and a long finish (alc. vol. 14%).

You can read more about the Mayer Vineyard at James Halliday’s website ‘wine companion’. I also wrote about the South Pack, a group of young, funky wine-makers from Victoria to which Timo belongs.

Timo gave me this bottle to take home to Bangkok. My birthday was just the right occasion. Unfortunately, there was only one bottle. Well, that’s just tough luck.

2008 Big Betty Shiraz, Mayer Vineyard, Yarra Valley

What a beautiful colour

Since I had a ripper of a day (with lots of good music, for instance from the Sky hooks), here is some funky music for you: Spider Bait and Black Betty. Enjoy.

Restaurant Review: Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company in Yarra Glen

April 19, 2010

Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company in Yarra Glen

Where to go for lunch on a Sunday in the Yarra Valley? Ample choice it seems. But many of our choices turned out to be fully booked, to be precise the wineries cum restaurant were. So why not going to a beer place? Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company in Yarra Glen came to mind. They had seats available (online booking available!!) and off we went.

A beer tasting paddle

We started with a beer tasting. For this purpose a “tasting paddle” is available with six different beers. As a German I was pleased to find some German style beers such as the ‘Hargreaves Hill Hefeweizen’ and the ‘Hargreaves Hill Kellerbier’. But the paddle also includes classic English (Hargreaves Hill ESB, Hargreaves Hill Stout and and Hargreaves Hill Pale Ale) and Belgium style beers (Hargreaves Hill Abbey Dubbel). I liked the ‘Kellerbier’ best.

The beer tasting notes

The various aromas and tastes are neatly described on the beer tasting menu. Amazing what you can taste in a beer. I just loved the experience. This was a good start to a Sunday lunch, I thought.

The food was equally good. Below you find pictures of what we ordered. Needless to say all the dishes were delicious. The service was excellent. I loved the salmon on the bed of herbs and veggies.

The seafood pasta

Some side dishes

Slow cooked pork belly

My salmon dish

The desserts were equally delicious.

Simon Walkenhorst, the “brew master” and one of the co-owners

At the end of the meal I went over to the bar and asked one of the owners, Simon Walkenhorst, the micro brewer, if I could take a photo for my blog to which he kindly agreed.

From my friend Steve Sadlier I learned later that the brewery had burned down in last years February bushfire and that Simon and his partner Beth had lost their house and all their possessions. Now the beer is brewed in Lylidale. The quality of the “hops drink” has certainly not suffered. We had a great time at the Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company.

The good news for the wine aficionados is that Simon offers a fine selection of local wines. Among them the fine wines of boutique vintner Timo Mayer and the Mayer Vineyard of the Yarra Valley. I am a fan of the vintner and his wines . Try them if you can.

Hargreaves Hill Brewing Company
25 Bell St
Yarra Glen VIC 3775, Australia

A Sunday at Bloody Hill

September 21, 2009


Great Yarra Valley views from the Mayer Vineyard (left to the dam)

On a beautiful Sunday in early August, we were in for a surprise visit to the Mayer’s. We bought some “nibblies” (Australian for cold meats, sausages, cheeses, condiments, etc.) and some wine in Healesville and drove up the steep drive to Bloody Hill on top of which their beautiful house (rammed earth) is situated. Alas, they were in and happy to welcome their unannounced intruders.


The vineyard at the crest of the hill is very neat


Some of the wines on “offer” (f.l.t.r.: a Silvaner from Franconia, Dr. Buerklin-Wolf, a Riesling from the Pfalz and a Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley)

We came at the right time. A shipment of Riesling wine (about 60 cases) which Timo had made on a visit to Germany last year had just arrived and was ready for tasting. Moreover, as a member of the South Pack, Timo was in the preparation of a wine tasting tour to three Australian cities (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane). The South Pack is a group of eight innovative young Australian wine-makers who have raised the bar for the selling of premium and super-premium wines in sluggish markets.


The German Brotzeit

A quick “Brotzeit” was thrown up and the wine tasting could start. We did not drink in any kind of order but rather according to gusto and enthusiasm. First cap of the rank was the German Riesling Timo had made, Dr. Mayer Riesling of which I have no picture which speaks for itself. This was not a time for tasting notes but for joy and nourishment of body and soul, for Australian and Swabian story telling and song.


Bloody Hill Pinot Noir

Timo is a native of a small hamlet, called “Grossheppach” (about 4,500 inhabitants), today part of the small town called Weinstadt (translated: wine city) in the Rems valley (the Rems is a small river), Wuerttemberg, about 15 km east of Stuttgart. As everything in Germany, Grossheppach has a long history.


Coat of arms of Grossheppach showing the river Rems and four grapes on a vine

Furthermore, the village has a long tradition of vine cultivation and wine making. Timo comes from a family of small vintners (and farmers).

In 1279 a historical deed is the earliest written testament of the flourishing wine production in Grossheppach. Magister Rudolf, a local doctor, had bequeathed his house in Esslingen and three vineyards in Grossheppach to the Abbey of Bebenhausen which was witnessed by knight ‘Fridericus miles de Heggebach’.

Timo showed as a historical chronicle of Grossheppach with black and white photos which also depicted his family in the 18th and 19th century. Here we are, thousands of kilometres away from the old land and talking grape production, wine traditions and wine styles. To cut a long story short, Timo had made his first ever Riesling wine in Grossheppach and shipped it for sale to Australia.

It was not the time for tasting notes, I guess. We opened one bottle after the next. First the Riesling wines, then Chardonnay and finally Pinot Noir and Shiraz, all Mayer Vineyard wines and Timo Mayer creations.


Mayer and Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir and a traditional German wine label with the coat of arms of Grossheppach

The Mayer Vineyard is only a small operation (2.5 ha under vines). All wines are hand crafted and from a single vineyard. Timo believes that wine is made in the vineyard, therefore there is minimal interference. The reds are unfined and unfiltered. Timo makes wines with a difference, with great character and individuality. As he says “he wants to bring back the funk”, and funky these drops are. James Halliday, “the wine pope of Australia”, has awarded his highest rating, a 5 stars, to the Mayer Vineyard.

The Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir is one of the newest creations from the masters hands; a great wine, elegant, whole bunch fermented if I am not mistaken. Timo assumed that all of it would be sold during the South Pack promotion tour together with the Riesling. By now there should be nothing left, I guess.

Needless to say that the day extended to the night and ended with a pasta feast for 9 hungry mouths.


The pasta sauce in the making



The magician at work, this time in the kitchen and not in the wine cellar

We had a great time. The children played all afternoon. We walked the vineyard and Timo showed me where he shot a deer. Then we went to get some of that venison for us to take home. The “Brotzeit” led to dinner and then it was time to drive home to our own vineyard in Glenburn. Good news is that Timo is planning to make Riesling again in 2009 and maybe the following years.

For sales and enquiries contact:

The following wines are for sale:
Bloody Hill Chardonnay
Bloody Hill Pinot Noir
Big Betty Shiraz
Mayer Close Planted Pinot Noir (also as the Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir)

The South Pack: Young Australian winemakers on a mission

August 15, 2009

The wine glut in Australia makes wine marketing a true challenge. Many vignerons and wineries have to knock on endless doors of wine outlets, restaurants and retail shops. You get sick of it. Among others, that’s one of the reaosns why eight young independent winemakers from Victoria have created “their own thing”. They call themselves “The South Pack”.


Three years ago they started their own roadshow to Melbourne and Sydney. Instead of going out and selling wine, they decided that people should come to them. They look for a suitable location, a restaurant, a hotel or any other suitable facility and invite the top trades and restaurant people to come for a tasting: meet the maker and his wines. Usually it’s accompanyied by food and music and great fun.


The eight young winemakers (actually they are nine people) knew each other through the wine business and are friends and mates. This year the roadshow will be conducted for the third time. Last year, also Brisbane was included. Attendence is by invitation only but numbers at the shows have multiplied every year. This year will be no different. There is a great interest to meet the originators, the magicans, the winemakers and have them talk about their products: hand carfted artisan fine wines of ourstanding qualities. These wines are not like the industrial liquids, technically well made wines but a bit ordinary, normal, faceless.


Meet the unusual. I only know one of the eight personally, Timo Mayer, a longtime friend. Timo is the winemaker of Gembrook Hills in the Yarra Valley and has his own vineyard and label. He made our award winning ‘2002 Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc’. He told me all about South Pack. I was exited to learn about this initiative and its immediate success.

Even if you have not been invited, just pick up some of their wines. Most of them you can buy online. Here is where to find and contact them:

Luke Lambert: mainly Syrah from St. Andrews, Yarra Valley and Nebbiolo from Heathcote.

James Lance – Punch: The winery in the Yarra Valley was severely affected by the bushfires, produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon

Gary Mills – Jamsheed (named after a famous Persian king): Shiraz and Gewuerztraminer

Timo Mayer: Bloddy Hill he calls his vineyard on the top of a windy peak overlooking the Yarra Valley, most of his 2.5 ha are under Pinot Noir, some Chardonnay and some Shiraz

Mac Forbes: wines come from the Yarra Valley (lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) but also the Strathboogie Ranges (Riesling). The so called “alternative wines” are made from fruit from other wine regions in Victoria. Here you’ll find varieties such as Barbera, Gruener Veltliner, and Blaufraenkisch

Adam Foster -Syrahmi: another winery from Heathcote with beautiful Shiraz wines
I could only find references ot his wines but not a proper website.

William Downie: solely Pinot Noir wines are made by William, the fruit comes from the yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland

Barney Flanders and David Chapman – Allies: Allies is a collaboration between Barney and David. They produce a variety of wines (one label is called “Garagiste”, implying garage wines of made of excellent fruit; there must be a lot of French influence!?). Their Pinot and Chardonnay wines come from the Mornington Peninsula, the Shiraz comes from Heathcote (no surprise).