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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Glorious days in the vineyard

April 6, 2012

Visitrs have arrived at Two Hills Vineyard

As the cars indicate, we had visitors at Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria. It was one of these occasions when we wanted to dine and wine with old friends. There is never enough time. We usually take it, as it comes and fortunately, Tony, Helen and Joe dropped by for a meal. My brother-in-law, Michael and his wife Helen completed the group of diners.

The weather was wonderful, warm and dry, a typical summer’s day when farmers all were busy taking care of their hay. In the background of the picture above you can see the hay bales produced by our neighbour Victor.

The table was ready

We were busy since the morning to prepare various dishes. And as is customary in Australia, the senior male in the family is in charge of the grill. Alas, under the watchful eyes of my brother-in-law Michael my barbecue skills have improved over the years.

My “little” barby in the shed

Australian beef

The quality of Australian meat is outstanding. We usually buy it from the butcher in Yea, a lovely little country town about 30 k to the north of Glenburn.

I am always a bit nervous when grilling the meat. I am afraid to ruin these wonderful raw materials. We had pork, lamb and beef, various vegetables and some Italian salad. Needless to say, all delicious stuff.

The diners on “the lawn” under the gum trees

What a glorious day in the vineyard

Having friends over it always a great opportunity to sample all kinds of wine from Australia as well as abroad. With the strength of the Australian dollar, imported wines become more and more affordable. In fact there are more and more imported wines available these days.

The ‘2010 Casano Nero d’Avola’ from Masala, Sicily was one of the many different wines we had with our meal. Casano Vini was founded in 1940. Ever since it is producing quality wines. Remarkable are their ‘TerrAntiqua’ and the ‘Classics selection’. The bottle we had was one of the Casano table wines. The red fruit aromas and the solid structure make this a great wine with red meats.

Casano, Sicilia – Nero d’Avola

But we also sampled a few local wines. From our neighbours in nearby Murrindindi (this is also the name of our shire), we had a ‘2008 Family Reserve Shiraz’ by Murrindindi Vineyards was an excellent choice for the meal.

Murrindindi Vineyards produces the family reserve wines only in outstanding years of high quality fruit. The Shiraz was spicy and full of flavours. In our cool climate Shiraz produces outstanding wines, not every year though, but often enough.

Shiraz Family Reserve – Murrindindi Vineyard

After the meal, we had to move into the shade. We opened the shed doors and sat in the cool of the mud brick building. The sampling of wine did not stop, of course. What a jolly good day that was.

“Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days
Oh, yes, those were the days”.

These song lines from my youth (Mary Hopkin) come to mind.

Come on, sing along with me.


Resfreshing bubbly produced by Di Giorgio Family Wines

March 9, 2012

Di Giorgio sparkling

One of the many refreshing bubblies we tasted during our Christmas holidays in Glenburn, was this bottle of Di Giorgio sparkling, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. I had bought it in our local supermarket in Yea.

The bottle of sprakling on our kitchen table

Di Giorgio Family Wines is a family business celebrating in March its 10 anniversary. Some of the vineyards are located in Lucindale district of the limestone coast near Coonawarra, South Australia.

Stefano Di Giorgio migrated from Italy to Australia in 1952; with his wife Rita, he has four children. Apart from viticulture, the family holds interest in cattle, sheep, wool production and horticulture.

In 1989 the first vineyards were planted in Lucindale. Today, about 126 ha are under vines, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shirz, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are produced.

The holdings in Coonawarra covers almost 228 ha under vines. Apart from the varieties above, they also include some Cabernet Franc and Tempranillo.

From 1998 onwards the Di Giorgio’s decided to move from fruit growing to wine-making, and in 2002 they established their own winery. The enterprise is not small. I wish to congratulate them to their anniversary and wish them well for the future.

The sparkling Pinot Noir (85%) Chardonnay (15%) is a very fresh and refreshing wine. I loved the strawberry aromas and the spicyness. It is not completely dry but carries some hints of sweetness. The soft creaminess is lovely and gives it a very “homely” character.


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


My wine of the month: Jean-Pauls Vineyard 2007 de Castella Shiraz Cabernet

August 29, 2011

I have written about the wines produced by Jean-Pauls Vineyard near Yea, Victoria earlier.

August is a special month anyway since it carries my birthday, and I needed to be spoilt somehow. That is why I opened one of “my treasure wines” the other day. Wine bottles are heavy and one cannot carry many on the plane. Moreover there are customs regulations which somehow limits further the number of bottles on can carry. Believe me it is not easy to decide which bottle to take on the plane.

But we brought this bottle of ‘2007 de Castella Shiraz Cabernet’ by Jean-Pauls Vineyard.

William de Castella is one of our neighbours so to say. His Jean-Pauls Vineyard is situated near the pcituresque country town of Yea, about a 30 minutes drive from our farm in Glenburn. Will is also a member of our association, the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association.

Will de Castella started his operation in 1994. From about 6 acres under vines he produces only 200 cases a year, a tiny amount in comparison to much larger family and industrial operations. His vineyard is organically certified and produces exquisite fruit. I just love boutique vineyards and wineries since the passion of the people behind the operation directly transpires into their wines.

The de Castella family carries a famous name, Will’s ancestors where the pioneers of the Yarra Valley and the Victorian wine industry in the 19th century. I love his fruity and delicate wines which are well balanced and just a delight. This blend of Shiraz and Cabernet combines the strength of both varietals.

So this wine made my day after a busy and stressful day in the office. We had it with food, of course, one of our customary family meals which are so enjoyable.

If you should visit Victoria, please take a day and drive up to Yea and check out some of the wineries along the way. You will not regret it.

Address:
Jean-Pauls Vineyard
RMB 6173, Yea, Vic 3717 (postal)
Upper Goulburn VIC
Tel.: +61-03-5797 2235
www.jeanpaulsvineyard.com.au


We remember

February 8, 2011

Two years to the day after the horror of the Victorian bushfires, people in Melbourne as well as the communities ravaged by the blaze are remembering the losses and honoring the dead. 173 people lost their lives on Black Saturday making them the deadliest fires in Australian history. In Kinglake just a couple of kilometers southwest from our farm in Glenburn 42 people were killed.

If you drive through the area today you might not any longer notice the devastation. Nature has reclaimed it’s “green colour” and the vegetation seems to be unscarred. Only on some stretches along the Melba Highway one can still witness the scars the fires have left behind.

The scars in peoples hearts and minds, however, do not heal that quickly. They are still there. It is important to remember. The floods in Queensland and the bush fires around Perth may also remind us of the dangers and how quickly our “normality” can turn into mayhem.

Time of reflection. I admire the people who have rebuilt their lives and moved on after such calamity. I guess one never really recovers from the loss of close family members, women and children and husbands perished in the fires.

I wonder how many people in our community have now better emergency plans in place. How many are really prepared for the next calamity?

We were lucky. Only a meter from the backside of our shed (in the photo below) was the fire stopped. Where there is green grass now, the soil was charred and blackend. We are forever thankful that the shed was saved.

Our shed – it looks so peaceful