Spitbucket Sessions Vol 13: Western Australian Wunderkinds with Mark Gifford

13 04 2011

 

(The man himself, sharing typical Western Australian hospitality at Prevelly Beach)

The picture above serves several purposes. First of all it shows just how stunning the Western Australian coastline is. It was taken at Prevelly Beach, just a stone’s throw from the Margaret River township and dozens of top wineries. What it also does is illustrate the generosity of Mark Gifford, who with his mate Brad Wehr (of Wine by Brad and Mantra Wines fame), hosted an impromptu beach-side tasting for my wife and I on a recent trip there. Cracking wines and fantastically friendly people. The third thing it does is show you what Mark looks like, so that when you pass him on a Sydney street this week, you’ll be able to grab him by the arm and take him to the nearest watering hole.

Mark has rounded up a special selection of top WA wines for this lucky 13th installment of the Spitbucket series. He has modestly only included one wine from his own estate, so I suggest you get online sharpish and check out the others from the fantastic Blue Poles range.

Bracket 1:
Mantra SSB 2010 [@mantrawines]
Moss Brothers Moses Rock SSB 2009 [@Moss_Brothers]

Bracket 2:
Howard Park Chardonnay 2008 [@HowardParkWines]
Fraser Gallop Estate Chardonnay 2009 [@FraserGallopEst & @kate_morgan]

Bracket 3:
Mantra Shiraz 2008 [@mantrawines]
The Collection Shiraz 2008 [@vinedrops]

Bracket 4:
Blue Poles Reserve Merlot 2008 [@BluePoles]
Greedy Sheep GA HANNETT Premium Reserve Malbec 2009 [@GreedySheep]

Bracket 5 :
Fraser Gallop Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 [@FraserGallopEst & @kate_morgan]
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 [@Mentelle]

As usual, #spitbucket is free to attend and will take place at the Coast Roof Top Bar. It is on Wednesday 13th April from 6.30pm sharp. I’m a bit late with the wine posting this week so it is now sold out – sorry! In future just tweet @coastrestaurant and ask to book a space before they’re all gone. More details here.






Spitbucket Sessions Vol 12: Hogan’s Heroes

26 03 2011

(Lifesize Hogan action figure available on the night)

The year was 2003 and Tom Hogan was working in several of Adelaide’s finest establishments: Supermild, Rhino Room and B Sharp Records. His life was populated by Too Many DJs, not Too Many Winemakers. Then one day Tom, his girlfriend (now wife) Alice, and I took off to the Barossa and I took them around some of my favourite cellar doors. At Torbreck he had some sort of epiphany. Must have been serious as he and Alice proceeded to snore quietly in the back seat all the way back to Adelaide. Up in the front seat I had an amazing run of green lights along Main North Road…and no one to share this wonder with – but I digress.

Little did I know that just like Usher, I had discovered my Justin Bieber. Ok Bieber has more hair than both of us put together but you get the point. Tom has gone on to put vintage hours in at some of Australia’s top wineries and work the floors of some of Melbourne’s top restaurants. Currently he is Head Sommelier at the Two-Hatted Lake House Daylesford where his wine list is recognised by Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards as one of the best in the country.

Sadly he now knows much more about wine than me and much more about music than Usher, though if you manage to get a ticket to this Spitbucket tasting this is pretty good news for you. The topic is intriguing and brings together 10 of Victoria’s hottest producers, some established, some up-and-coming, but all doing exciting things. I suggest you get your seat request in early for this one! Those of you on Twitter will know Tom well as @iloveriesling.

To Start
2005 Brown Brothers Patricia Pinot Chardonnay Sparkling (@BrownBrothers)

Pair 1
2010 Crawford River Riesling

2008 Gembrook Hill Sauvignon Blanc (@GembrookWine)

Pair 2
2009 Oakridge Mackay Vineyard Chardonnay (@BicknellFC)

2008 Sutton Grange Viognier

Pair 3
2008 Curly Flat Pinot Noir

2007 Greenstone Sangiovese

Pair 4
2009 Syrahmi Shiraz (@monsieurfoster)

2008 Wantirna Estate Amelia Cabernet Merlot

To Finish
Bress Bon Bon Cider (@bresswinecider)

As usual, #spitbucket is free to attend and will take place at the Coast Roof Top Bar. It is on Wednesday 30th March. All you have to do is tweet @coastrestaurant and ask to book a space before they’re all gone. More details here.





Spitbucket Sessions Vol.11: Italian Varieties in Australia

12 03 2011

 

Italy has given so many great things to the world: Silvio, quite a lot of good food, Paolo Maldini, some pretty slick art and over 900 grape varieties. Of course the rest of the word hasn’t got around to planting all of those 900 varieties yet but we’re definitely having a good crack. Always remember my WSET exams and trying to get to grips with the Italian elements…just how many major regions, the intense viticultural differences between them and the myriad indigenous grape varieties.

Well Australia is going at it as hard as anyone else in the world, and while sales of imported wines are falling, interest in Italian grape varieties vinified on Australian soil seems to be increasing. If made well these should be perfect food wines and so are the perfect foil for Adam Lord’s food at Coast. This should be a pretty special Spitbucket I reckon so get involved!

Pair 1: Vermentino
Ducks in a Row Vermentino
Chalmers Vermentino

Pair 2: Fiano
Oliver’s Taranga Fiano
Coriole Fiano

Pair 3: Nebbiolo
Pizzini Nebbiolo
Primo Estate Joseph Nebbiolo

Pair 4: Sangiovese
Coriole Vita Sangiovese
Capel Vale Cellar Exclusive Sangiovese

Pair 5: Sagrantino
D’arenberg Cenosilicaphobic Cat (DISASTER has struck – d’Arenberg have sold out of this extremely interesting 91% Sagrantino, 9% Cinsault blend with a name that take’s a little practice. I will have to hustle to find another suitable Sagrantino! Any ideas?)
Oliver’s Taranga Sagrantino

As usual, #spitbucket is free to attend and will take place at the Coast Roof Top Bar. It is on Wednesday 16th March. All you have to do is tweet @coastrestaurant and ask to book a space before they’re all gone. More details here.

After David (from Eldridge Estate) did such an amazing job at the last Spitbucket, there have been calls for me to “sit this one out again” and at the very least “raise my game”. I will, of course, do neither of these 🙂





Spitbucket Sessions Vol 9: Kiwi Reds that ain’t Pinot, part 1: Hawkes Bay

16 02 2011

This Spitbucket theme came about after a chat with Monty James – New Zealand wine’s main man in Australia. We’d already decided to focus on non-Pinot Kiwi reds for a change after having successfully covered Pinot before. So that left world-class Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet from the North Island. “How about a two part tasting? Hawkes Bay up first, compared with Waiheke Island which I’ll help to host next time I’m up?”

Sounded like a PLAN to me…so here we are…

Pair 1: Hawke’s Bay Syrah
Villa Maria Private Bin Syrah 2008 (@villamaria_wine)
Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah 2008 (@elephanthill)

Pair 2: Gimblett Gravels Syrah
Mission Estate Reserve Syrah 2009 (@missionestate)
Te Awa Syrah 2009 (@teawawinery)

Pair 3: Merlot
Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot 2009 (@villamaria_wine)
Elephant Hill Merlot 2007 (@elephanthill)

Pair 4: Left Bank Style Bordeaux Blends
Mission Estate Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2009 (@missionestate)
Cornerstone Cabernet Merlot Malbec Blend 2006 (@forestwinesNZ)

Pair 5: Right Bank Style Bordeaux Blends
Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red (Merlot Malbec blend) 2008 (@TheWildRockGuy)
Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2007

(Aerial shot of the Gimblett Gravels, top, with close up below, both courtesy of Trinity Hill)

The tasting is full up now unfortunately, but you can still get your fix of great New Zealand wines and awesome Coast food when the winemakers come to town in a week or two. Chef, Adam Lord, will be matching his dishes to a range of wines from the length and the breadth of the North and South Islands. More details here.





Spitbucket Sessions Vol. 4: Aromatic Whites

28 10 2010

(Aromatic whites: wines to wave your proboscis at…)

Continuing on the educational tip, the 4th Volume of the Spitbucket Sessions will cover a lot of ground in order to get an up front, quick smart, lowdown on aromatic white wines. An aromatic white doesn’t mean much on its own…it’s a white wine with aroma. Big deal. But the phrase has come to be associated with certain varieties that fire spicy, floral, exotic, downright sexy smells right up your proboscis.

We had to excuse a few and send them on their way…Albarino. Aromatic…yes, but recently it’s been proven that many Australian vines planted from CSIRO propagated material are actually Savagnin, a variety that originates in the Jura region in Eastern France. Oops! Vermentino…a bit tricky to get hold of. Sauvignon Blanc…I’ll get my coat. Torrontes…tastes like soap. And on and on…

In truth there are many ‘aromatic’ white varieties, which really reflects the tastes of today. No oak, less malo-lactic fermentation and more acidity (in many cases) all add up to vibrant, food-friendly wines. Acidity is an interesting one as Viognier and Gewurztraminer don’t have naturally high acid…but are chock-full of exotic flavour compounds. Beware the flab though…

In our tasting line-up I’ve plumped for some classic varieties which should show off the spectrum of aromas and flavours these wines are famous for. What do they taste like…you’ll have to come along and check it out…

Riesling
Vinteloper Watervale Riesling 2010
Knappstein Handpicked Riesling 2010 (both from the Clare Valley, SA)

Gruner Veltliner
Nigl Kremser Freiheit Gruner Veltliner 2009 (Kremstal, Austria)
Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner 2009 (Canberra District)

Pinot Gris
Johanneshof Pinot Gris Trocken 2007 (Marlborough, NZ)
Henschke Littlehampton Innes Pinot Gris 2009 (Adelaide Hills, SA)

Gewurztraminer
Louis Sipp Gewurztraminer 2008 (Alsace, France)
Borrodell on the Mount Wine Maker’s Daughter Gewürztraminer 2009 (Orange, NSW)

Viognier
Madeleines Viognier 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Philip Shaw The Dreamer Viognier 2009, (Orange, NSW)

The tasting is at 6.30pm sharp on Wednesday 3rd November on the Coast Roof Top Bar. Tweet @coastrestaurant in the usual way to book your spot. All details here…





Kiwi Pinot Noir: the verdict

10 10 2010

 

Well it was a joyous evening of fantastic Pinot Noir. Everywhere you looked there was a trophy winning wine or a “Top 10…” in such-and-such magazine. The reality is there there weren’t any stinkers at all, which reflects equally on the quality of Kiwi Pinot now and also the generosity of some great wineries out there. Here are some of my very brief notes. Trying to compere and taste wines and write notes and look cool all at once was almost beyond me… 

Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2009: Gravel and cherries, smoky hint too. Light red fruit is ripe. Very approachable.

Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008: A lot more funky and complex on the nose. Mushrooms in amongst the red fruit. Velvety texture and long. Still just a baby.

Trinity Hills High Country Pinot Noir 2007: Intense funky nose with tomato leaf, black olives and ragu! Quite chunky and rich, but not subtle.

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008:  A highlight for me. Really fragrant and delicate. Complex, sappy, peppery and raspberry notes. Elegant. Feels complete and beautifully balanced.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2008: Bright red fruit and bags of juiciness with hints of peppery spice. Finish is medium length.

Neudorf Pinot Noir Tommy’s Block Pinot Noir 2008: Subtle, understated and elegant with sappy and earthy characters. Savoury. Lovely mouthfeel and decent length.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 14 Doctor’s Creek Pinot Noir 2008: Pure Pinot nose, balance of red fruit, raspberry and savoury. Also a creamy element too. Tight with a sour cherry note on finish.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 16 Awatere Pinot Noir 2008: More open and expansive than the Block 14. Another well ballanced, refreshing Pinot with delicate red fruit and just a hint of funk. 

Wither Hills Wairau Valley Pinot Noir 2008: One of the richer Pinots with dark fruit as well as red. Silky palate wrapped around intense fruit and savoury core. Good, long finish.

Wither Hills Ben Morven Pinot Noir 2007: Some doofus left this sample at home by mistake. He has been severely reprimanded.

Greystone Pinot Noir 2008: Really earthy, interesting nose with ferrous hints (yes I did get pulled up on using such a wanky word!). Complex with tight, cherry fruit on the finish. 

Greystone Pinot Noir 2009: Richer, riper and more open than the 2008. Loads more juice and hold the mineral. Still tasty but preferred the ’08.

Mount Difficulty Roaring Meg Pinot Noir 2009: Great for a long lunch. Sweet red fruit up front and suitably refreshing. Not overly complex.

Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir 2008: As you’d expect feels a more serious proposition. Worlds apart in terms of complexity, class and length. Tonnes going on here, with darker fruit, bitter hints and lots of secondary characters. Deep like @mikerism101.

At the last moment, we were joined by the gang from Misha’s Vineyard, who proffered their approachable Impromptu Pinot and their more serious High Note Pinot, both from Central Otago. I’m afraid my notes had run out of steam by this point, so you can find out more about these wines here – http://www.mishasvineyard.com/

And notes to selves…in future we’re going to limit the tastings to 10 wines. This one went on a leeetle beeet too long. Hasta la proxima folks. Remember if you’d like to attend a Spitbucket Session then you just need to tweet @coastrestaurant.

(The beautiful view from the Coast #rooftopbar)

(The Gang)





Meatup: Urban Food Market style

10 10 2010

(Divine duck rillettes from @urbanfoodmarket and @Lordie82)

Sure Spitbucket is good; there’s wine, chat and merriment. But there’s nothing worse than all the fun being ruined by an empty stomach. You try to concentrate on what’s before you, but your eyes listlessly scan the horizon for canape waiters, fast food joints or roadkill. You nod in appreciation at the witty repartee, but really you’re thinking “I could probably eat your arm…or at least a few fingers. Hoisin and garlic marinade perhaps?”

Well let this never be a charge levelled at the Spitbucket Sessions. I’m extremely happy to announce that Tim Elwin will be supplying the tastiest of meaty morsels from now on…and for as long as we keep his glass filled with wine I suspect. Pretty much as soon as we landed in Sydney the Urban Food Market loomed large on our radar and we’ve been going back for supreme Mirragong grass-fed Wagyu steak and mince, free-range pork sausages, sublime pancetta and juicy Bultarra saltbush lamb ever since.

This isn’t just produce with a noble, sustainable story. It’s some of the best quality meat I’ve ever encountered…anywhere. You can order online here – http://www.urbanfoodmarket.com.au/ or you can head to the Kings Cross markets of a Saturday morning and choose your cuts while enjoying a spit-roasted lamb or grass-fed wagyu beef roll. It’s exactly the sort of thing that makes early morning markets bearable!

Tim is already a supplier of Coast Restaurant, so he’s able to have a chat to head chef (and wine lover!) Adam Lord – @Lordie82 – about what’s going to work with that particular wine theme. In this case it was veal and duck to go with Kiwi Pinot Noir. Between them they really know meat…and what to do with it.

(Vitello Tonnato from @urbanfoodmarket and @Lordie82)

(Duck breast and figs from @urbanfoodmarket and @Lordie82)

Make sure you get along to the next Spitbucket Session to check out Coast’s beautiful Rooftop Bar and Adam and Tim’s meaty creations. Oh and there might be wine too…