Fifth Leg – 2010 Semillion Sauvignon Blanc from Western Australia

August 19, 2011

On a hot summers day somewhere in the Canadian wilderness, a wine drinker needs somthing nice. The LCBD or government booze distributor in Ontario does not carry a very large sortiment of wines, usually industrial ones, which means large and very large wineries offer their wares.

2010 Fifth Leg Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

However, we enjoyed the drink. It was a pleasant wine indeed. I found interesting what the label said.

I quote from the label

“An abundance of snow peas and passion fruit hit the nose with fragrance blossom and freshly muddled lime”

“A generous palate with intense lychee and passion fruit finishes with a crisp apple crunch”.

I never knew that I loved “muddled lime” and “apple crunch” is also something of another world to me.

The label tells the story about the fifth leg

Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon

May 15, 2011

The good news is that just across the street from the Center (ICLPST) where I teach in Taoyuan, there is a wine and spirits shop with a good selection of wines. Last night I bought a ‘2008 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon’ from Margaret River in Western Australia. Xanadu Wines is a well known first class producer.

This is a good wine, full of black currant and plum flavours; and despite the 14% alcohol, the wine is not overpowering but delicate and finely balanced. I paid 1.188 New Taiwan $ which is not cheap (about 29 EURO). The cellar door price is A$ 35.

I must say that I was still a bit disappointed. I had expected something better for that price level. Maybe I am spoiled from the Mosel where a top class Riesling can be bought from the winery for 18 to 25 EURO.

2008 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon

The back label, 14% alcohol

Restaurant review: The Grand Hotel in Healesville

February 26, 2011

The Grand Hotel in a painting in the hotel’s dining room

Lunching in the countryside is a wonderful thing. The picturesque country town of Healesville (population about 7,000 souls) is an ideal destination when holidaying in Victoria. Since my brother-in-law Michael and his wife Helen live there, we often loiter in its streets and seek out the hip and not so hip places of food and wine worship.

A nice place to have a rustic country lunch is the Grand Hotel, right in the middle of the town’s main street. The dining room is a quiet and comfortable place. There is also a bar to the left of the entrance. The staff is very friendly and the service is good.

The menu has a wide selection of dishes, even a Thai style beef salad. We went for the rural, home made type, sausages with potato mash and gravy and fish and chips. Others of our party had lamb chops or the roast of the day.


Fish and chips

There was a wide selection of local and not so local wines. We went for a wine from a more distant place, Western Australia. The Valley of the Giants was on special promotion, so why not taste it.

We selected the ‘2010 Valley of the Giants crisp dry white’. Valley of the Giants is a wine-making venture sourcing its grapes from growers in Western Australia. Nothing special so to say, not a boutique vineyard or so, just some people who make “technically clean” wine.

The front label

But the wine matched the occasion. It was a rather hot summers day and a crisp white wine was just the right choice with our meals.

The back label

The Valley of the Giants is a wilderness region in Western Australia attracting many tourists who love nature. In the village of Denmark an ancient forest is to be found of giant tingle trees. One can go on a ‘tree-top-walk’, about 40 meters off the ground.

A happy diner

My suggestion: if you visit Healesville check out the many beautiful places including the wildlife sanctuary and after that have lunch at the Grand Hotel. It’s worth it.

The Grand Hotel
270 Maroonday Hwy,
Healesville VIC 3777
Tel.: =61-3-5962 4003

Jakarta: Elbow Room Restaurant revisited

July 18, 2009

During a brief visit to Jakarta to observe the presidential elections recently, I had dinner with dear friends of mine: Flo and Nelly. We wanted to celebrate our reunion, moreover it was Flo’s birthday. Therefore we selected the appropriate venue and went to the Elbow Room in Kemang. I had been there before, and during my two days in town, I went twice to this relaxing drinking and dinning place.

The food is simple but solid. The service is excellent. The wine list is well sorted and offers a wide range of new and old world wines. We choose a wine from Western Australia, a ‘2004 Mad Fish Shiraz’.


My pasta


The dessert


Mad Fish 2004 Shiraz

The Shiraz has a dark red colour. On the nose it displays cherry and spicy peppery notes. The tannins are well balanced, the wine has structure and a good finish. Wine critics give it 88 to 90 points. I like the wines from the Margaret River region.

During my second visit the next day, a live band played extremely well and entertaining guitar music. The restaurant also displays some interesting (copies) of famous paintings as shown below.


Yue Minjun’s paintings are unique and easily identifiable, even as copies

Overall, my verdict is: If you are in Jakarta, check the place out. It is right in Kemang, not too difficult to find. You will certainly enjoy a nice evening there. I hope you are lucky as regards the live music.

Elbow Room
Jl. Kemang Raya No. 24 A
Jakarta, Indonesia
Te.: +62-21-7194274

Pink Moscato

January 24, 2009


What has become a real fashion in recent years in Australia is drinking Pink Moscato. I admit from the outset that this is not my wine. However, in the summer heat of an Australian Christmas, Pink Moscato is a well sought after, low alcohol (6-7%), refreshing and for some addictive drink.

In the Yarra Valley, Giant Steps Vignerons and Innocent Bystander Winemakers may have been the first to respond to this fashion trend with a vengeance. It’s ‘2008 Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato’ (12 A$ for a 375 ml bottle!) is made in the Moscato style of northern Italy. The grapes (Gordo Muscat and Muscatel/Black Muscat) come from Swan Hill and Glenrowan wine regions respectively. The pink colour is also different from other such wines. Some describe it as “nipple pink” others as “rose pink”.

We had a different Pink Muscato wine and drank a bottle of Evans and Tate ‘2008 Classic Pink Moscato’ from the Margaret River in Western Australia. The brand belongs to the McWilliams wine empire, one of the biggest family-owned wine businesses in Australia.

The grape base of this wine is completely different from the Innocent Bystander’s. Its a mixture of 49% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Shiraz, 15% Canada Muscat and 6% Chardonnay. The wine has 6.5% alcohol and displays a very fruity character (tropical fruits such as guava, pineapple and passion fruit). The colour of the Evans and Tate Moscato is more like a rose.


I personally prefer a “real” wine, even in the summer heat and would rather go for a true cool climate region produced Sauvignon Blanc, alternatively a Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris would be my preferred choices.

Family meals and the emptying of my wine “cellar”

July 4, 2008

Our last 60 days in Jakarta have started. Soon we will be moving to Bangkok. We try to enjoy every day. Apart from sorting out things, we are spending our time at home with family meals and drinks.

A delicious seafood pasta

I do not have a large supply of fine wines left but some of the bottles I have kept for special occasions. So what did we drink over the last couple of days? Here is a quick run-down:

‘2002 Léon Baur Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Pfersigberg’, alc. 13.5 % Vol.
We drank it before lunch as an aperitif. This is an aromatic wine, very generous in its flavours. It comes from a limestone “terroir” and is the gem of the Léon Baur collection. Low yields make great wines. It’s rather high in alcohol and has 15.2 g/l in sugar. A very enjoyable Gewürztraminer typical for this grape variety (

‘2003 Wiltinger Gottesfuss, Riesling Kabinett Feinherb, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt’ , alc. 11 % Vol.
As you know, I love wine from the Saar River, and Wiltingen is one of the major location to produce first class Riesling wines. “Feinherb” is the German word for semi-dry. “Gottesfuss” is one of the best locations in Wiltingen, a very steep, stony slate ground which produces a fine, acidic, and balanced wine. Normally I prefer dry Rieslings but with a spicy Asian meal, the semi-dry version does very well. (

‘2005 Hollick Coonawarra Reserve Chardonnay’,
alc. 13.5% Vol.
We had it with a seafood pasta. What a delicious Chardy this was. Although cellaring for up to 7 years is recommended, the bottle did not last that long. It displayed aromas of white peach, had crisp acidity and balanced creamy overtones. Though the wine was matured in French oak for 10 month, it was not “over-wooded”. Beautiful (

‘1999 Mildara Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon’, alc. 13.5% Vol.
The Mildara brand belongs to the Fosters Group ( Liz and Walter brought it with them and we had it with all kinds of cheeses, salamis, coleslaw, salads and all kinds of “nibblies”. Despite its age, it displayed all the freshness of a typical Coonawarra wine. The colour was a deep purple. The intense aromas ranged from cassis, to dark berries and plum with hints of mint and herbs. The 18 months in oak have given the wine great depth and bony tannins, mellowed by age. The wine had an excellent structure. It was well aged.

‘2004 Knappstein Clare Valley Enterprise Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon’, alc. 14.5% Vol.
The bottle retailed for US$ 26.50 at the Jakarta duty free store in Jalan Fatmawati. I had it reserved for a special evening. the wines is Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at its best. Wonderful creamy, cassis, blackberry and mulberry flavours. A big Australian wine, full and complex but heavy which lingers on long after you swallowed the last drop. The fruit is grown on the “terra rossa” soils. Low yields guarantee the quality of the fruit. 2005 was an excellent year with a long ripening season. We had it after a meal just for enjoyment. This is a great wine indeed. (

The farewell dinner with our Australian friends (Brett, Janie, John and Dhanya) last night was a delight. We drank some very good wines. I only mention them in passing. Hope you don’t mind. We started with a pre-dinner drink, a ‘2006 Vasse Felix, classic dry white’ from Margaret River, Western Australia. The entreés we washed down with a ‘2007 Yarra Burn Sauvignon Blanc Semillon’ from the Yarra Valley, Victoria. We switched to red before the main course (a pasta bolognese), first to a ‘2004 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Merlot’ and then a ‘2003 Vasse Felix, classic dry red’. Three Margaret River wines stood against the cool climate SB form the Yarra Valley. It was a wonderful evening. No sadness was to find only the joy of being together and having a good time. I love this Australian attitude to life.

Restaurants in Asia – Top Hat, Kuala Lumpur

May 15, 2008

I do not know what it is with these three letter words for restaurants, but another one of my favourite eating places in Kuala Lumpur is “Top Hat”, located in Jalan Kia Peng, the centre of town (

It looks very romantic not only in the night

The interior is very colorful

The food is amazing (here a typical Nyonya style appetizer)

The had a vegetarian pasta. Right, it is not true Western fusion or any Asian cousine, but I felt like having one. The food at Top Hat is excellent and shows great variety blending different local and foreign traditions. The desserts are to die for. The service is good as well. I can only highly recommend the place.

The wine was a “simple red” from Churchview Estate ( from Margaret River, in Western Australia. Their ‘2004 Cabernet Sauvignon’ won the trophy for best CabSav in Australia at the Cowra Wine show.

I choose the ‘2004 Shiraz Premium Range’, a very deep red wine with intense dark fruit, plums and cherry aromas. The Shiraz was spicy and fresh which went very well with my pasta and some of the Asian dishes my friends had. It’s a big wine (15% alc.) with a good structure and a memorable finish.

If you intend to entertain friends or just yourself at Kuala Lumpur any time soon, pay a visit to this very memorable place.

Top Hat Restaurant
No. 7, Jalan Kia Peng
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Te.: +60-3-21428611

Burns Supper – Java St. Andrews Society

February 10, 2007

I will write more about Celts and Celtic traditions today. Friends of ours got flooded out and could not attend this year’s Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) Supper and the related celebrations of the Java St. Andrews Society ( They kindly passed the ticket on to us and we were welcomed as replacements by the Scots. Thanks again Liz and Walter for your generosity.

Burns Supper 2007

We sat at the “Holy Willie’s Prayer” table together with four Americans. Most men at the supper were in kilts and every time I see this, I want to buy a traditional Bavarian outfit (with leather trousers and so on) which would at least come a bit closer to this formidable dress for the Scottish men. We used to be members of the society many years ago but when our Scots friends at the time had left Jakarta we did not renew our membership. We had also attended quite a few Burns Suppers so that we knew what we were in for. A very memorable one was the first ever held on Chinese soil in Beijing in 1992.

Robert Burns is the beloved poet and lyricist of the Scots (the national poet). He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement and his poems and writings became a source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. Burns loved women and drink. Statues of Robert Burns can also be found in Australia (Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide). The celebration of his birthday (25th January) follows a fixed ritual.

The program in Jakarta looked as follows:

● The Selkirk Grace (by Sandy Duncan)

● Address to the Haggis (by Chieftain Scott Thompson)

● The Loyal Toast (by Tony McEwan)

● Songs of Burns (by Barbara and Alastair Speirs)

● The Immortal Memory (Robert Burns Live by Chris Tait)

● The Land we Live in and Absent Friends (by Ross Scholes)

● The Land we Hail From (by Brian Scott)

● To the Lassies (by Tony Milne)

● Holy Willie’s Prayer (by Jim Tait)

● The Reply from the Lassies (by Alex Faulds)

● Poems of Burns (Robert Burns Live by Christ Tait)

As customary at this occasion, the haggis (filled sheep’s stomach) is served. It is brought into the hall accompanied by pipe music and usually a guard of honour sometimes holding bottles of whiskey crossed in front of their chests like swords. The pipers were the Edinburgh Chevaliers flown in for the occasion and they entertained us very well. The speeches were well presented too. In addition a Robert Burns look alike (Chris Tait) gave quite a performance. For non-Scots it is at times difficult to follow but its great fun. I always enjoy listening to these old almost forgotten Celtic languages.

The dinner consisted of green pea soup followed by the customary haggis with neeps and tatties. As the main course, we had angus steak pie with new Ayrshire Potatoes, baby carrots and Iona parsley. The desert, McEwan’s Apple Tart and ice cream, we spiced with the whisky which was generously deposited on each table. This year it consisted of bottles of Johnny Walker (12 years old).

The Scots do not grow vines as we all know. We drank a 2004 Timber Ridge Shiraz, a wine from Western Australia. It showed a very lively, fruity character of black fruit, raspberry mainly. My palate detected cherries but I might have gotten it all wrong. The wine was clean and well balanced and surprised us. I had never heard of the vineyard. The next day I searched it on the internet. Unfortunately, the website of the Timber Ridge Vineyard is not yet operational. There is a vineyard of the same name in the USA but I could not find out more about the Western Australian venture, except tasting notes for the 2004 vintage.

For the Whiskey

The Whisky “Taster”