The best butcher far and wide: Yea’s rural butcher

January 20, 2012

The Yea butcher shop’s unassuming front

Summer in Australia is also the main barbecue season. We took the opportunity of the great meat supply to indulge in quite a few feasts. This also gave me the opportunity to train in one of the major male Australian skills: operating the barby in masterly fashion.

Where do we get the meat from, you might ask?

Well, the butcher shop in Yea (in the 19th century known as the Muddy Creek settlement) is our destination when shopping for first class meat. Two brothers are running the shop, and they are very friendly and helpful to find the right piece of meat for the planned occasion.

The shop from the inside

The quality of their produce is outstanding. We had a few big occasions for which we needed beef, lamb, pork, chicken and sausages. Whatever we took home was just super-jum. Juicy and fresh, tasty and nurishing.

Yea butcher shop: quality meats

That’s the place to stock up if you need quality Australian meats.Check it out when in Yea.

Address:
Yea Meat Supply Pty Ltd
Butchers–Retail – Yea, VIC
62 High St, Yea VIC 3717, Australia
Te.: +61-03- 5797 2501


Lunch on the farm with Rees Miller 2008 Thousand Hills Shiraz

January 16, 2012

I am back at work in Bangkok after a short and exciting assignment in Myanmar. Today was my first day at the office desk. I was staring into the computer screen, reading and answering e-mails, signing contracts and organized many odd and less odd work related things.

I usually skip lunch when working in my office. Instead I eat a muesli bar or some fruit. Green mango is one of my favourites. Naturally that I was reminiscing about the recent past, the glorious days of our Christmas vacation on Two Hills Vineyard.

One very memorable meal was an Anglo-Saxon kind of food combination with roasted potatoes, silver beet, carrots and a leg of lamb. From the pictures you can see how delightful these dishes looked like. But can you also imagine the taste? Gorgeous food, awesome stuff.

The question what wine should we have with this meal was easy to answer. First of course our own 2004 Merlot. But we wanted also something else, something strong and refined, a wine with zest and character.

I selected a ‘2008 Thousand Hills Shiraz’ by one of our neighbouring vintners from the Yea area, the Rees Miller Estate.

I have written a few blog entries about wines produced by Rees Miller Estate ( I also love their Merlot), and I do not want to repeat myself. Silke Rees and David Miller produce some of the best bio-dynamic wines in our region.

The ‘2008 Thousand Hills Shiraz’ is just a wonderful wine, full bodied and spicy with lots of fruit and an intense finish. It was just the ideal accompaniment for the lamb, the potatoes and the veggies. Frankly speaking it was one of the best red wines I drank in 2011. Watch Rees Miller and their wines.

Address:
Rees Miller Estate
5355 Goulburn Valley Highway,
Yea, Victoria, 3717.
Tel.: +61-3-613 5797 2101
E-mail: info@reesmiller.com


The many realities of life

January 10, 2012

The contrast between my life on the farm during the few weeks a year in Glenburn and my day-job as a “promoter of freedom”, as regional director for Southeast and East Asia in Bangkok could not be more striking.

There is a desk job with extensive travels in Asia on the one hand and a holiday “recreational program” on the farm, under the blue and at times not so blue sky in the fields, paddocks and the vineyard, on the other.

One day I study the Weekly Times, a local farm magazine, and read about farm gate prices, noxious weeds, cattle markets, vegetable growing, the newest farm machinery and the export projections for mutton and lambs. I talk to neighboring farmers about the weather, the hay harvest and beef prices. Vintners and wine-makers tell me about the last vintage and the prospects of the Australian grape and wine industry in the years to come. I learn about the current challenges, the successes and failures, the passions and sorrows of residents in our street, Two Hills Road, as well as the ups and downs of rural life in general.

The next day I am back on my desk in Bangkok and answer e-mails, make phone calls, study various progress reports, regional political analyses, accounts and financial documents. I read about parliaments, parties and policies, about the US influence in the Asia region, economic growth, the China factor and so on. I talk to project officers and partner personal, to political analysts and social activists, to Asian parliamentarians and business people.

My two realities could not be more different, I guess.

It takes some time to get used to either of them. I usually immerse myself in farm work the first few days after my arrival on Two Hills Vineyard, partly to forget the burdens and realities of my bread-winning work in Thailand- partly to experience myself what it means to sweat in the vineyard and concentrate on slashing the grass in the paddocks.

I very much enjoy the physical work, the exhaustion, the pleasure after the completion of a task. I can see the results of my efforts almost immediately. This is very satisfying and it is in stark contrast to my professional work about institutional, political and social change in complex transforming Asian societies in the region I am responsible for. These change processes take time (ages), in fact often much longer than our project planning permits and a very different kind of patience, persuasion and perseverance is required than in farm work.

In both I find conditions which I cannot change: the hail for instance which destroys my grapes or the change in global commodity prices, the fall of a government or the call for early elections. And in both I concentrate my efforts on the issues I can influence. I try to do “a good job”, try to be professional, diligent and hard working.

I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to experience these diverse realities; that I feel the pain and the joy which goes with them, and which reward my efforts – at times – or punish me for the lack of it and/or “bad” judgment.

The time on the farm together with family and friends is invaluable. It clears my mind as a beer clears a wine-makers palate. It refreshes me like a lime soda when I jump of the tractor. It connects me to people I love and treasure. It is proof that life is just beautiful.

Back to work now in Bangkok.


2012: Only the sky is the limit

January 9, 2012

2012 is in full swing and I had not even time to write a single new post!

How could this happen?

Was I too busy? Did I have different priorities?

Yes.

But my motto for the New Year is: only the sky is the limit.

Let’s hope it works.

Welcome in 2012. Stay tuned to the Man from Mosel River.


Last day of 2011 with bubbly near our dam

December 31, 2011

Two Hills

The last day of 2011 was rather hot (32 Celsius). The best place to be during hot weather is our dam. So we prepared some food and drink for a pick nick at Brownies Landing, that is how we called our jetty from which we jump into the water.

I threw a few lamb chops on to my barbecue, the girls prepared some dips, salads, cheese and other stuff and we were set for an afternoon at our dam. The water was cold and refreshing, and we stayed until sunset.

My lamb chops

I had picked up a few bottles of bubbly for New Years evening. The dry sparkling of Yarra Burns is a fine bubbled wine made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which was very lovely.

Yarra Burns bubbly

Bring on 2012. We are ready for it.


A simple dinner on the farm with Inigo Shiraz

December 29, 2011

After a very enjoyable trip to Port Melbourne where we visited our friends Phillip and Julia who live in a former church (a very interesting dwelling), we returned to the farm and spend a quiet evening at home overlooking the vineyard and the paddocks.

Since we were spoiled with good food the whole day, we decided on a simple “German dinner” meaning cold dishes only. Some Australian cheese, cold cuts, olives, a salad and an avocado together with a German bread would do for the two of us.

Our dinner table

2008 Inigo Shiraz

From under the sink, my secret stash of fine wines, I produced a bottle of ‘2008 Inigo Shiraz’ by Sevenhill Cellars in the Clare Valley in South Australia.

The bottle was left from last years special order which we got through our friend Neville Rowe, who used to work there as marketing manager.

The ‘2008 Inigo Shiraz’ is an old fashioned red, beautifully round and full of flavours, with a lot of alcohol, in short an “umpf” wine, a wine with character. The grapes come from old vines (very old ones) and display black cherries and other dark fruit aromas. The tannins are smooth and has the spicy character we so much love in Shiraz. The finish is long and memorable.

Well, when I work in the vineyard, I inevitably think of the Bible and the many stories about vineyards in the biblical age. In fact many vineyards and wineries in my home town Trier and along the Mosel valley would not exist without “clerical” support.

The Jesuits of Sevenhill Cellars in the Clare Valley know how to make wonderful wines.

My tip: try some wines from Sevenhill Cellars. You won’t regret it.


First Christmas pick-nick at Two Hills

December 23, 2011

Dramatic clouds over the land

It was a glorious day on the farm in Glenburn. Just the right day for a first pick-nick near our second dam (the one we use to irrigate the vines).

We had bought some inexpensive bubbly (below 7 A$), a ‘Sacred Hill Sparkling Brut’ (non vintage) by De Bortoli, from the Riverina in New South Wales.

Christmas makes me wozie

It was the perfect drink for a hot summers pick-nick, just days before Christmas. I liked the crisp acidity and the strawberry nose.

We thought that a bottle of ‘Sacred Hill’ would just be the right stuff to be drunk at Two Hills Vineyard.

Another day in paradise came to a marvelous end.


Back on the farm – heaven on a stick

December 21, 2011

We are back on the farm for our Christmas vacation. Yesterday was my first full day. After a long flight from Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia via Beijing, China and Bangkok, Thailand, I had finally gotten to Melbourne. My family picked me up and off we went to Glenburn which we reach at about midnight.

I had traveled a fair bit to get back to Australia, not only distance wise. But Mongolia had minus 37 Celsius (Beijing minus eight) and it went to about 26 plus in Bangkok. The Melbourne night was cool and I slept like a baby in our shed in the countryside about 2 hours north of the Victorian capital.

It is so quiet out here. The night is very dark. We are out in the countryside and one does not see many people. I worked a bit around the house. After that we had our first family meal together. I tell you it was just sensational to have a zucchini paste and an insalata caprese.

Look at the two pictures below, doesn’t the food look delicious?

What about the wine, you might ask?

No, we did not have a Two Hills Merlot with the meal, but instead….

Zucchini pasta

Insalata caprese

….we had a ‘2008 Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay’ blend by Paul Bettio from the King Valley.

I am not a fan of a SB-Chardonnay blends in general. I prefer the two varieties as single grape wines. But this medium dry wine was just a great refreshing drink. The tropical and citrus fruit flavours went very well with the light pasta and the salad.

The King Valley is one of my favourite cool climate wine regions in Victoria. I will tell you more about its wines at a later stage.

2008 Paul Bettion Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay


My life as a blogger – good bye 2011

December 15, 2011

I am terribly frustrated right now. Sorry folks. After traveling in China where there is no access to my blogging site, wordpress.com, I have finally reached free Mongolia. I was looking forward to finalize and present a couple of stories to you which I carry with me since our holidays in Canada and wanted to share with you some notes on the excellent wines I brought back with me.

However, the internet in the hotel is so slow that I can hardly up-date my beloved the Man from Mosel River blog. At least the photos cannot be uploaded and what’s the point without them?

Alas, the other functions seem to work. So let me share some thoughts about the year which is soon coming to an end. 2011 was a very busy year for me. My job required more and more traveling, mostly in Asia. This brought me to interesting places. That was the good news. But it also left me less time on my hands for writing up my posts.

In the past, I usually had some time for further research and consequently could beef up my little stories with some additional facts and figures. These times are over, it seems. My stories are becoming shorter and shorter. I try to make up for this by adding more pictures. But is this a solution? No.

I noticed with surprise that I have almost completed my 5th year as a blogger. There were occasions when I wanted to call it a day and move on, do other things in my life. So far I have returned to my blog and tried my best to keep it up. Giving up is not an issue any more. I might have to change a few things.

When I visit blogs and websites produced by the professional wine and food writers I feel utterly inadequate. Goodness me, how poor is my writing, how limited my knowledge? I should add fancy stuff, little video clips here and there. In fact I do have some, but just not the time to cut and edit them so that they become interesting. But I enjoy visiting blogs of other, non-professionals but enthusiastic wine bloggers.

My own little vineyard in Australia, Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, was not successful from a commercial point of view. It has become a hobby, an expensive one, I freely admit. But we are hanging in there and hope that the mothballing can one day be lifted.

Well, I was warned. You all know the joke, how to make a million dollars in the wine industry: invest ten million. Well, we sold out our 2004 vintage of Merlot, the best one we ever made. The 2006 vintage is doomed, it seems. We might “resurrect” the 2008 Merlot; finally label the bottles and bring some on their way to Germany.

My feelings of the running hamster in the wheel were mitigated by the moments of glory, the moments when I sat and enjoyed good food and fine wine, among friends and family mostly or at times in a far away place all by myself. I just love to eat and drink fine stuff.

The comments I receive are of course also encouraging. It seems that some people are reading my stuff. Some of them like what I write and let me know about this. My stats are not bad in my view. I have moved up all the time over the last five years.

So what was my highlight of 2011? Let me select three issues.

1. the Rieslings from my native Mosel land
I had the opportunity to taste more fine Riesling wines from the Mosel, the Saar and the Ruwer, and actually I cannot get enough of them. They are the best for me, no doubt. The quality of these wines has gone up over the last years. The producers experienced one excellent vintage after the other. It is such a pleasure to indulge in these wines. Unfortunately, these wines are difficult to get where I live. Since wine is heavy I carry these Rieslings bottle by bottle when returning from trips to Germany.

2. my visit to Prince Edward County, Ontario and Canadian wines in general
The family vacation to Canada in July this year gave me the opportunity to explore some of the wine regions there, particularly Prince Edward County. I was very surprised by the high quality of these wines, especially the Chardonnays and the Pinot Noirs. The islands is very picturesque, the hospitality of its people is great, there is good food and excellent wines. the number of wineries is sizable but many of them are family businesses and not agro-industrial complexes of huge size. But Canadian wines you cannot get hold of overseas, except maybe for the sweet desert wines on offer in some airport duty free shops.

3. the attendance of my first ever wine conference, the 3rd international symposium on tropical wine in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand is more famous for its beaches, its cuisine and its nightlife than its fine wines. But let me tell you that the quality of its wines in general is very good and that many wines are just excellent. There are fewer than 10 wineries in the country, and not all of them have a resident wine-maker. But the people behind the wines, the vintners, winery owners, vineyard managers and oenologist, are passionately loving their soils and grapes and produce wines of international standards. The number of international awards won by Thai wines has multiplied in 2011. The good news is, that these wines are available in Bangkok where I live.

Next Monday morning I will be on my flight to Melbourne for a three week Christmas vacation. I already know that instead of blogging I will spend most of my time on the farm, in the vineyard, planting trees (one of my passions) and enjoy the tranquility of the Victorian countryside. I will take long walks, and spend hours among family and friends. I will just be there and relax. I will not think too much of the future of my little vineyard neither of my professional future.

I would like to thank all my readers and the casual visitors for coming by and having a look. I hope you come again. Let me know if you like or dislike something and share with me your own experiences and stories. A good story is always worth to be shared.

Cheers folks, happiness, good health and long life also in 2012.


Roast venison in Trier with a Merlot from Two Hills Vineyard

September 30, 2011

Whenever I visit my family in Trier, they spoil me with super delicious food, mostly game dishes. Heinz is a passionate hunter and he reserves only the best meat for me. This time young roast venison was on the agenda = my plate. I tell you, it was awesome.

The young roast venison

Venison with vegetables and egg noodles

2001 Merlot from Two Hills Vineyard

I washed the venison down with a ‘2001 Two Hills Merlot’, which is still a drinkable wine. The softness of the Merlot tannins went well with the savoury taste of the young game.