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.


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

???????????????????????????????

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.


Wine tasting at Oechsle, Trier

October 29, 2013

The following wine tasting was a remarkable event which we utterly enjoyed. I do not include tasting notes here; we were not in the mood to write all that stuff down. We wanted to enjoy each others company and get on with the exploration of the wines.

???????????????????????????????

The Oechsle wine house in Trier

???????????????????????????????

The tasting facilities

???????????????????????????????

Wine stored in the tasting room

The wine tasting costs about 15 EURO/Person and includes six wines. So what were the wines we had included in the tasting, you might ask?

They were as follows:

– 2011 Chardonnay by Sektgut Laurentius
– 2011 Elbling Classic Margarethenhof by Juergen Weber
– 2011 Riesling Spaetlese (old vines) by the Bremm winey
– 2011 Ayler Riesling by Peter Lauer
– 2011 Chardonnay by von Nell Estate in Kasel
– 2011 Kasler Kehrnagel (off dry) by Recihsgraf von Kesselstatt

and two red wines
– Rotweikoenigin (red wine queen) by Longen-Schloeder
– 2011 Pinot Noir by Chateau Edmond de la Fontain

You will have noticed that this in more than six wines. In fact the sommelier was so encouraged by our enthusiasm that he served us some selected drops.

???????????????????????????????

Elbling, my new passion

???????????????????????????????

Riesling from the Mosel

???????????????????????????????

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, semi dry Riesling

???????????????????????????????

The Mosel produces also excellent Pinot Noir wines

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

The jolly wine tasters: The Weber and Adam families


Shopping for wine in Beijing – Cheers near People’s University

April 17, 2013

???????????????????????????????

Cheers at Renmin University

The other day, when I took a stroll from the Friendship Hotel in Beijing where I stayed during my recent visit, I came also across the Cheers wine shop at Renmin University (People’s University). I knew this shop from earlier visits, and was curious to know what it had on offer.

???????????????????????????????

I was surprised to find even a few wines from Germany: Two off-dry Riesling wines from my native Mosel and a Pinot Noir from the Pfalz.

???????????????????????????????

2011 Peter & Peter Pinot Noir by Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller

I had never before heard about the “Peter & Peter” brand but could not resist to buy and later try this wine. I did not regret it. After my return from a business dinner with lovely Chinese food but without table wine, I opened the Pinot Noir and enjoyed it as a night cap.

???????????????????????????????

Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller is a wine company in Zell, Mosel with about 300 employees and vineyards and wineries in the Mosel and Pfalz wine regions.

Jancis Robinson awarded this wine a 15 out of 20 points. The sales price varies. I found websites where you could order it for 8 to 10 EURO/bottle; in Canada it is available for about 19-20 C$.

Before taxes one can have it in Thailand for 356 Bath. But remember that the luxury tax in Thailand is considerable (400%).

For me it was great to enjoy this fine specimen of German wine so far away from my native land.


Champagne at Easter – Carte Blanche from Bauget-Jouette

April 2, 2013

Bauget Jouette

Easter was looming and I had not had any real champagne for a long long time, therefore I decided to get a bottle of bubbly from France. I went to the Wine Connection shop in Thonglor and came out with a bottle of Carte Blanche – Bauget-Jouette from Épernay, Champagne in France.

This is a very fine specimen of bubbly wine from Champagne, France. I loved the small bubbles (12% alcohol), and the intensive yellow fruit aromas. Apricots and apples come to mind. The 60% Chardonnay grapes in the blend are tangible (30% are Pinot Meunier and 10% Pinot Noir).

Maison Bauget-Jouette is one of the oldest ‘champagne houses’ in France (1822). The family owned and operated business produces about 150,000 bottles per year on 15 ha of vineyards. This makes it one of the smaller and lesser known champagne producers. The good news is that its products are available here in Asia. Wine Connection in Bangkok sells it for about 2,000 Bath per bottle.

According to the German champagne platform www.champagner-portal.de (which carries about 61 champagne producers, big and small), Bauet-Jouette in Épernay is worth visiting. The winery has a historic cellar from the 17th century which is located 27 meter below the surface. Today the fifth generation of the Bauget family, Stephan and Nicolas, is operating the estate.

My verdict: I will buy this champagne again. Next opportunity is the graduation of my twin daughters from Patana International School in Bangkok in May. I will wait outside the school with a bottle of Carte Blanche in a wine cooler and the necessary accessories and we will celebrate their new won freedom.


Last day of 2012: Taking stock

December 31, 2012

What to do on the 31 of December? Well, I thought to check out my wine fridge. Small as it is, the review did not take very long.

I was amazed that my wine collection included wines from Germany (yes mostly Riesling wines), Austria, Italy, Canada, Australia, China, Vietnam, Myanmar and of course Thailand. This makes eight countries, four in the West and four in the East.

I also realized that I have no French wine in stock.

Wine fridge 1

1982 Scharzhofberger Spaetlese

Two wines in particular I look forward to taste in 2013.

One is a ‘1982 Scharzhofberger Riesling Spaetlese’ by Egon Mueller from Wiltingen at the Saar river, the second a ‘2009 Pinot Noir Centgrafenberg Grand Cru’ from Rudolf Fuerst in Buergstadt, Frankonia.

Wine fridge 2

2009 Centgrafenberg GG Spaetburgunder

Both wines, both terroirs and both vintners are among the top in Germany.

The Riesling bottle looks OK, just the label has suffered a bit. I wonder what a 30 year old wine will taste like. In any case it is a treasure. I wonder when I shall open it?

The bottle of Pinot Noir I bought from Fuerst junior during a wine tasting at Karthaeuserhof in Eitelsbach last August.

There are of course other treasures in my wine fridge. More about this next year. Now I will get ready for the New Years party.

I wish all of you a good start into 2013, and stay tuned to the Man from Mosel River.