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.

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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


Sticks Pinot Noir and Cowboy food

March 18, 2012

Beautifully coloured Pinot Noir

The last thing I did at Melbourne Airport when we left for Thailand in early January this year, was to buy a bottle of ‘2010 Pinot Noir’ by Sticks Winery.

I knew the bottle would not last long. On a Saturday when we felt like rural folks, we had it with a hearty meal of cowboy food.

Sticks Winery and its vineyards are located just opposite the old homestead of the Sadlier family at the foot of the hill South-west of Yarra Glen, called Christmas Hill. My friend Steve Sadlier had set up most of the vineyards many years ago when the place was still known as Yarra Ridge Winery.

If I remember correctly, my first ever wine tasting in Australia was in the tasting room of this winery. The wines were presented by Meagan, who became Steve’s wife a couple of years later. Sticks was the first vineyard I walked through in Australia. Goodness me that’s now so many years ago, maybe 1991 or 1992.

The 2010 Pinot Noir by Sticks

I was not sure if the wine would go that well with rural tucker. After all Pinot Noir makes a delicate and refined wine, something subtle and gently textured. And Sticks Pinot Noir is exactly that with delicious fruit aromas from wild cherry with a bit of spice, long on the palate with a suppleness hard to imagine. Maybe ill suited to the food we were going to have, I thought.

However that may be, we were in for a dish by Jamie Oliver, one of my favourite chefs of modern cuisine. From his “America” book, we cooked the Mountain Meatballs (page 308).

Mountain Meatballs as interpreted by Margit Adam

These meatballs are spicy. Jamie Oliver made up the recipe, he says in the book. The true Rocky Mountain dish is made of “prairie oysters”, sheep or cattle balls. We followed Jamie more than the wild West tradition.

The melted cheese in the meatball is just wonderful creamy. I also love the slight coffee aromas. This dish is a ripper of bush tucker, as we would call it in Australia. We served it with rice. I could eat it for breakfast, I must say, with bread or potatoes.

Jamie suggests a wine from the Côtes du Rhône, most likely a Grenache, a Shiraz and/or a Mourvèdre. Next time we’ll have these meatballs, I will try that.


Yarra Valley: TarraWarra Estate and Museum of Art

March 8, 2012

One of the places we always wanted to visit is TarraWarra Estate and Museum of Art, which is one of the attractions in the Yarra Valley. Year after we year, we postponed our visit. We simply ran out of time.

Not so this year, that was at least our resolution for the Christmas holidays 2011-2012. My daughters were very keen that we kept our promise this time, and in the end, we did.

Unfortunately, I have no really good photo of the place. But rest assured, it is a very lovely place indeed. The Tarrawarra Estate and Museum of Art is a must see in the Yarra Valley.

We were lucky that the works of William Delafied Cook, a landscape painter from England, and his paintings of the Australian countryside, were on display. This was a faboulous exhibition and the three of us had a great time.

When we wanted to buy the catalogue, it was out of print but the lovely ladies behind the counter offered to send it to Bangkok. We were stunned. But just two weeks later, the catalogue arrived savely. What a great service.

The view from TarraWarra

The vineyards near the winery

My daughters Lucy and Charlotte

We had no time for a proper wine-tasting because we had to rush for a lunch appointment with our friend Steve Sadlier. Therefore, I just rushed in the cellar door and bought a bottle of ‘2009 TarraWarra Estate Pinot Noir’.

2009, the year of the great Victorian bush fires was a challenging year for win-makers in the region. Lot’s of grapes showed smoke taint, and were not useful for wine production. TarraWarra was no exception. That’s why this Pinot is a blend from different sources in Victoria.

But it turned out to be a good choice. The cherry and dark fruit aromas were very pleasant and so where the fine tannins. I regretted that we did not buy a second bottle which we could have enjoyed at home.

Charlotte with the Pinot Noir bottle

Address:
TarraWarra Estate
311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road,
Yarra Glen 3777
Tel.: +61-3-5957-3510
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 11 am to 5 pm
www.terrawarra.com.au


Winery review: Punt Road Wines – Yarra Valley, Victoria

February 4, 2012

Punt Road cellar door entry

We were on St Hubert’s Road on our way to Healesville when we passed Punt Road Winery and decided on the spot to drop in. Our main motivation was to buy some of the famous pear cider for Michael, my brother-in-law.

The back entrance to the tasting room

In all the many years we have come to the Yarra Valley, we had never made it to this well known winery. The estate with about 75 ha under vines (two vineyards, one planted in 1987 and the other in 2001) is owned and operated by the Napoleone family.

The senior wine-maker is Kate Goodman, one of the so called “young guns” of the Australian wine industry and much sought after judge for wine competitions.

The Punt Road vineyards are planted with the white varieties Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Viognier and the reds Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.

The cider stacks

From the outside we already spotted the boxes with the Napoleone Co. apple and pear cider piled up in a neat stack.

My heart jumped. Here it was, the golden liquid which stirs up so much emotions, and is considered one of the best ciders in the valley. Quality has its price, so a box of the stuff does not come cheap.

Having been raised in Trier at the Mosel river, I am very familiar with cider, which is called “Viez” in the local dialect. “Viez” is a mixture of fermented apples and pear juice coming from a very small kind of apples/pears (they are in-edible and very very sour/acidic).

The trees are grown along the rural roads. All the peasant in the region used to make their own cider, as a very refreshing drink for home consumption.

The garden

The premises are very lovely with wide open spaces, tables and chairs, picnic facilities and an area prepared for boule playing (pétanque).

The back porch

We had not time for a proper tasting. The man behind the counter was not very welcoming either. So we decided to try some of their bubbly and the Pinot Gris which we (my wife Margit and I) both liked.

I am not a fan of Pinot Gris but this one was just the right stuff for a hot summers day. We bought a bottle of each. Later we also tasted the Pinot Noir, but the 2010 vintage did not catch our fancy.

The two bottles we acquired at Punt Road Winery

Golden liquid: Punt Road Pinot Gris

I guess we will have to come back for a proper tasting. Punt Road is a good place to visit in the Yarra Valley.

Address:
Punt Road Wines
10 St Huberts Road – Coldstream
Victoria, Australia 3770
Tel.: +61 3 9739 0666
Fax: + 61 3 9739 0633
wine@puntroadwines.com.au
www.puntroadwines.com.au


Winery review: Oakridge Wines, Yarra Valley – Winery of the year 2012

January 22, 2012

Oakridge Winery

When we are on vacation in Australia, we are always trying to visit some of the many wineries in our vicinity. From Glenburn the Yarra Valley is just a “stone’s throw” away so to say; a 30 to 40 minutes drive will drop you at the doorsteps of most of the famous Yarra Valley wineries.

However, when it comes to the execution of our plans, we more often than not fail. The Christmas holidays in 2011 were no exception. But at the last minute, we dashed along the Maroondah highway to buy a couple of bottles of wine we could take back to Bangkok.

The Oakridge Winery was our destination. We knew through the grapevine that Oakridge had won the prestigious “winery of the year award 2012”. Moreover, the critics also praised the 2010 Chardonnay 864 of the Lusatia Park Vineyard.

The newly invented “twilight cellar door”, open until dark, made the visit possible, because it was already 18 h (most wineries close at 17 h) when we got there. We rocked up at the vineyard where a function took place but did not miss the “tent” with the mobile cellar door.

Well managed vineyards surround the winery

Oakridge has become an icon in the Yarra Valley. Since 1978 the family-owned winery produces premium and award winning wines on about 10 ha of land. Since 2002 David Bicknell is the chief wine-maker at Oakridge.

The winery and lots of green space around it

The Yarra Valley is considered to be a cool climate region. Its wines are often compared to the wines of Bordeaux, Cotes d’Or and the Northern Rhone.

Especially the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay wines of Oakridge are very remarkable, but also some of the other wines win top awards for instance the 864 Syrah (gold in 2011). From the Oakridge website you can find out more about the awards and the awards performance of the Oakridge wines.

The new crop on the vines

The twilight cellar door with the very friendly staff

Oakridge’s premium brand is the 864 series. Unfortunately, the Chardonnay we intended to buy was not available at the twilight cellar door that day. We were pressed for time but tasted another one of their premium wines, the ‘2010 Oakridge Lieu-dit Chardonnay’ from the Duck’s Lane vineyard. Delicious.

According to the Age & Sydney Morning Herald 2012 Good wine Guide, this Chardonnay has 95 Parker points. As you know, I am not phased by the various point systems. I either like a wine or I don’t regardless of the points

By the way, it is scientifically proven that wine judges cannot replicate consistently the same rating in replicated test series. And ever since I red Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking fast and slow” I know the reasons which are neatly explained by “prospect theory”.

Anyway, we bought a bottle of this gorgeous drop. She was one of only four in our luggage to make the way to Bangkok. I will tell you how this ‘2010 Oakridge Lieu-dit Chardonnay’ tasted when I open this treasure. For now it is safely stored in my wine fridge. Stay tuned.

Brochures and wines at the twilight cellar door

The other sure think is that we need to come back to Oakridge for a proper tasting. You are cordially invited to join us.

Address:
OAKRIDGE WINES PTY LTD
864 Maroondah Highway,
Coldstream, Victoria 3770 Australia
Tel.: +61 3 9738 9900
www.oakridgewines.com.au


Deen de Bortoli VAT Series – 2011 VAT 2 Sauvignon Blanc

December 30, 2011

One of the nicest Sauvignon Blanc blends I had so far this summer is the ‘2011 Deen de Bortoli VAT 2 Sauvignon Blanc’ by de Bortoli Wines.

This is a fresh and clean wine with strong herbal and tropical fruit flavours. The wine is medium bodied and low in alcohol (12%).

About 50 % of the grapes for this brand come from old vineyards in the Riverina region in South Eastern Australia; the other half comes from the cool climate King Valley in Victoria.

As you probably know, 2011 was a difficult year for wine makers all over Australia. First, there was so much rain, second there was so much pressure from fungal diseases and third not all grapes would ripen perfectly.

We enjoyed the wine with a pasta with mussels and chorizo. The perfect choice.

Life is just beautiful.