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

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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.


Glorious days at Two Hills Vineyard

May 2, 2011

Today is one of these days when I would prefer to be somewhere else. Well, where? This is easy to answer: Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria.

For some time I wanted to assemble some of the pictures I took while on the Vineyard last December and January but I just did not find the time. Now I am finally getting to it, thanks to the public holiday in Thailand.

In times of digital photography it is not easy to make a meaningful selection. There are just too many photos to choose from. I try to show you some of the natural conditions and beauty of the place with plenty of flowers and wildlife. But will also be hinting at some of the pleasures of eating an drinking.

Drying hay with the two hills in the background

Mothballed vineyard

Washing line with traktor

When we arrived the swallows had just fallen out. They were lovely little featherballs squeezing through any cranny in the door. Flowers everywhere, below is a selection.

Our young swallows

Hollyhock below the stairs

Australian native: Bottle brush

Native lily

Another native

Many animals roam our property. Kangaroos we can see every day. The bird life is the most amazing. We were thrilled when the king parrots visited. The kookaburra is hunting small animals and calling out with a thrilling “song”. But we have also many small creatures for instance shiny little skinks.

A King parrot visiting our place

The kookaburra, a meat-eating bird

A “roo” on our dam

A skink in dry gum leaves

The girls have fun in the dam

We have two dams. The bigger one is used for irrigation. The smaller one carries native fish, mostly silver perch but in both dams we catch “jabbies”, a type of crayfish which tastes very nice and is great a entrée.

Jabbies for lunch

The beauty of Victoria is that there is plenty of wine available. On hot days we consumed “bubbly”, lots of rose from the Mayer Vineyard, some white and plenty of Two Hills Merlot (left overs so to say from our 2001 and 2004 vintages).

Luckily we found another box of the 2004 vintage. Of the 2001 vintage we have still stock. Not every bottle is still drinkable. We chuck the ones which are off and consume the reasonable ones.

This bubbly does not reveal its identity

…and there is a bench to enjoy the wine on

2004 Two Hills Merlot

Reminiscing about the glorious days past is just wonderful. The good news is that the place does not run away (it just has to be lucky in the wildfires).

Hope you visit us one day. Cheers to the good life.


Sunday roast – lemon chicken

April 4, 2011

Chicken is not my favourite meat. Therefore, I have really high quality standards when a chicken dish is brought before me.

Well, in comes the classic cookery book “Sunday Roast – the complete guide to cooking and carving” by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott.

Their suggestion for a lemon chicken on page 100 is just a treat.

It is a traditional Greek recipe and you need the following ingredients (4 serves):

– 1.3 kg whole chicken
– 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– salt and freshly grounded black pepper
– 1 large onion, finely sliced
– 3 carrots sliced
– 1 celery stick
– 6 sprigs of basils
– 2 lemons
– 300 ml of hot water

And what do you do with all this?

Well, heat the olive oil in a casserole and brown the seasoned chicken. Cook the onion slightly until it is transparent. Then add all the vegetables and the basil for a few minutes. Put the chicken back into the casserole atop the vegetables and pour the juice of the two lemons over the chicken. Cut the rind of the lemon in small stripes and sprinkle it over the chicken. Then you add the water and cook for about one hour.

And ‘simsalabim’, magic is done: serve.

Doesn’t it look great: Lemon chicken the Greek way

The asparagus with tomatoes

We had some boiled baby potatoes with it and a side dish of fresh asparagus with tomatoes. All in all super delicious. I could not believe it. The meat was not dried out at all, it was moist and very tender. Chicken can be very tasty. It just needs to be prepared the right way.

A great dish and a great Sunday lunch

Unfortunately, we did not have a Greek wine (no retsina or a nice red from the Greek islands). Therefore a bottle of ‘2009 Yellow Label Merlot’ by Wolf Blass, South Australia had to do the trick.

Beautiful colour

This Merlot is an industrial wine, well made, something for every day. I did not have anything else at hand, and did not want to plunder my already diminished treasures.

The front label of the Wolf Blass Merlot

I just love a straight Merlot. The Yellow Label Merlot is medium bodied with all the characteristics of the grape variety.

It matched the chicken very well, because it was not overpowering and not as fruity as for instance our own Merlot is (lots of cherry in the 2004 vintage).

13.5% alcohol

PS: I love this old fashioned book by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott.


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:

Brownie

Steve

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.


My bench at Two Hills Vineyard

January 29, 2011

Since quite some time I was contemplating about a garden bench but never found the time to build one. During the last holidays at the vineyard I finally succeeded. It was one of these summer projects of a paper pusher.

I learned a lot. First, I should have made a drawing of my bench before starting to work on it. Second, there is room for change even if you have no or an unclear plan. Third, I am not very clever. Fourth, I still succeeded and will make a better one next time, promise (maybe with a back rest).

And here it is: my bench, a very simple one, but good enough for resting a few minutes and enjoying a glass of wine.

The first bench I ever made

That’s the view you’ll could have while sitting on the bench

It attracts the first visitor: Thank’s Michael for sitting on my bench and for the photo.