Dame Mint Pattie endures a long time between drinks

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Forgive the above title, it’s colloquial and catchy but aside from that complete bullshit. Our self-assigned mission to visit all the cellar doors in the Canberra region has meant that casa notional has been awash with local vino for more than 12 months.

What it has been a long time between, is fresh posts – something I’m aiming to rectify very soon. In the meantime, I’ve noticed Bryan Martin, winemaker at Ravensworth and Clonakilla, is now blogging a selection of his Canberra Times food columns and it’s well worth a look. Finally, if you’re after thoughtful wine reviews and reports* then Chris Shanahan’s site is the one to bookmark.

Meanwhile, if you’re browsing some of the cellar door lists for Canberra, you might come across England’s Creek and Four Winds Vineyard. Both grow grapes and Four Winds does produce wine under its Alinga label, but neither are open to the public.

England’s Creek grows contract grapes for the local wine market so chances are you’ve already gargled some of their produce.

Four Winds has deal with the Arc Cinema at the National Film and Sound Archive but I haven’t been tempted by their screenings lately, so I haven’t had a chance to try any (although Our MIC tells me he’s spotted them on sale at the Kingston IGA). You can order their wines online and you can also follow them on twitter.

*On the other hand, if you enjoy too many footnotes and weak jokes, then head straight to our notional archives.

Cross-posted from Our Notional Capital, where Dame Mint Pattie blogs with Our Man in Canberra; the rest of the series is here.

Dame Mint Pattie’s Canberra Wineries A2Z reaches Eden. Eden road, anyway.

“My dog has no nose.”
“How does he smell?”
“Awful.”

There is a point to this ancient gag but we’ll get to it later.

The exterior of the cellar door at Eden Road isn’t visually inspiring – think disused light industrial warehouse rather than timber-panelled rustic winery – but the quality of the wine and the friendliness of Patrick, the CD attendant, more than made up for any dowdiness.

Situated in what was the Kamberra winery, Eden Road has links with South Australia (Eden Valley, as the name suggests) but is now focussing on winemaking in the Canberra region using local grapes as well as fruit from Tumbarumba and up and comers such as Hilltops. This has already paid dividends – last year winemaker Nick Spence and the 2008 Hilltops Shiraz strolled away with the Jimmy Watson trophy in a competition that attracted more than 560 wineries.

Before we started tasting, Patrick, who is also a student winemaker at CSU explained there were three tiers to try – top of the range Eden Road, second tier The Long Road and entry level Grower’s Co-op. The Grower’s Co-op is a great initiative that has managed to turn growers’ surplus parcels of fruit into good quality quaffers selling for around $10 a bottle.

The current wine list is extensive. We tasted only a fraction, but still managed to carry away a carton of wine and sign up for their discount club (as an Eden Roadie you score a 20 per cent discount on all future purchases).

It was just after Patrick explained about the three tiers, we’d worked out what to sample (only the local-ish drops) and I was feeling pretty much in command when my nasal intelligence had a major setback. My nose wasn’t blocked but I was missing the upper register. We were only on the light whites, no need to panic. But taste after taste it was all the same – something was definitely wrong*. It was not until I got to the stronger reds that I started picking up verifiable aromas. And even then nothing more definable than vague spice and earthy smells. Bugger… you never hear about ‘King’ James, ‘Captain’ Hooke or ‘Soupy’ Mattinson having an off day with no sense of smell#.

My nose had never let me down like this before – even with a light case of the flu I can usually detect scents others can’t. Possibly, I should’ve called it quits and returned when my conk was shipshape but hey, this blog won’t update itself and we’re a long way away from finish line.

So, calling to mind the words of Mr Ryan, my grade 10 science teacher (“Oh well, the experiment didn’t work but we all know what happens anyway. Look it up in the book”) I decided to plough on regardless. The takeout was they tasted good and to fill in the blank spots I spent the next two months in research (i.e. drinking copious amounts of Eden Road).

The best way to get a handle on the tiers is to try the pinot noir as they’re all worth the bottle price. The Eden Road 08 Pinot ($30) is the more complex of the three with lots of silky tannins and some earthy notes while at the other end of the spectrum the 08 Growers Coop ($10) is lighter and very drinkable with bright cherry flavours. My favourite is the middle tier 08 Long Road Tumbarumba Pinot ($16) – it’s not as intense as the Eden Road but has lots of flavour.

On the day the 2008 Hilltops Barberra Nebiollo stood out ($16.50). It’s dark and earthy on the nose, juicy and luscious with savoury notes but could benefit from some cellar time. From all this it was easy to make up a mixed dozen (for which we paid around $160 – not bad as we included more than a couple from the top tier). Our haul included two chardies (08 Growers Coop & 08 Eden Road Tumbarumba), a riesling, a rose and a cab sauv, the three tiers of pinot noir and the barberra nebiollo.

The surprise pick was the 2008 Growers Coop Viogner that thrown in without tasting to make up the numbers. I can’t remember what we drank it with, probably something like pizza or pasta, but I do know we should have bought a few more bottles. It was a lovely quaffer – honeydew and apricot on the nose and that deliciously distinct viogner flavour. Refreshing, with good acidity it tasted better than the $10 bottle price.

My nose may have deserted me on the day but nothing could spoil the sheer enjoyment I got from this visit. Having a friendly and engaging cellar door attendant who is enthusiastic about the product makes all the difference. I’m looking forward to a return visit, allergy free and with a wider tasting brief to tackle the rest of the road.

*It was only later when my nose started feeling delicately sandblasted that I realised it was an allergy.

#Or perhaps they’re smart enough not to go wine tasting if they have a cold or an allergy. Please note any complaints regarding the nicknames foisted on some of our most respected wine writers should be addressed to our man in Canberra.

Eden Road
Cnr Northbourne Ave & Flemington Rd
Lyneham ACT 2602

12 noon to 4:30pm Friday
9:30am to 4:30pm Saturday
11am to 4pm Sunday

(02) 6220 8500

Dame Mint Pattie’s Canberra Wineries A2Z is crossposted from her blog Our Notional Capital, where she blogs with Our Man In Canberra.

Dame Mint Pattie’s Canberra Wineries A2Z – D is for Dionysis

It’s been some time since we visited Dionysus, so I’m going to have to rely on my crap scant notes and even crappier less than perfect memory. The mere suggestion that we should revisit the cellar door (and the thought of having to pay for more wine) had Our Man idly speculating whether the national library would accept wallets as part of their delayed release document program.

Which is pretty much bullshit bollocks because Dionysus ticks most of the boxes when it comes to good value local wine. It also ticks the try hard obvious name box* but I came away with a few of their bottles in hand, feeling well disposed towards this pleasant, family-owned winery.

Dionysis vineyard

It was an execrable late winter’s afternoon when we trundled out to Patemans Lane in Murrumbateman and they hadn’t long finished bottling for the year. Owners Michael and Wendy O’Dea were away for the weekend and their daughter Lizzie was on duty at the cellar door. Her enthusiasm for the family business was genuine and something of an antidote to the ‘lazy, self-absorbed Gen Y’ meme that seems to be on high rotation these days.

Lizzie was particularly proud of the May Riesling, made in honour of her grandmother who had planted the first vines about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available for tasting but if I was looking for a dessert wine, I’d be tempted to buy it for the backstory alone.

As mentioned, the wines were reasonably priced, ranging from a very affordable $10 for the 2008 chardonnay (a little restrained and not too much oak) to $25 for an 08 pinot noir (delicate savoury notes with a bit of grip). Some of the wines available for tasting were from the new vintage and were still a little tight in the glass but there were no seriously bum notes that I can recall.

We brought home a very smooth 08 Merlot ($22) – all silk, with hints of violets on the nose**. It was very drinkable but hard to pin down with a food match. We flipped a coin and tried it with lasagne but this made the fruit taste a little stewed and in the end we decided it stood up best on its own – all the better to bring out the violets.

We also tried a peppery 06 Shiraz ($22) that worked a treat with steak. Did I mention it was peppery? Think white pepper on the nose, a crack of black pepper on the palate and restrained tannins for structure. There were also some enjoyable juicy fruit notes (red berries?) present. I don’t remember much else, other than there was nothing left in the bottle to double check the next day. I also suspect that this style of shiraz could be a love or loathe proposition for some folk and thus the perfect BBQ wine.

Dionysis wine

There’s still a bottle of 09 Maenads Rosé ($18) on the shelf at home – waiting for the right dish, perfect weather and a moment of weakness on OMIC’s part***. Made with shiraz, it’s a delicate pink colour and smells of Turkish delight, rose water and macerated strawberries. It’s a delightful balance between sweet and savoury –– a very pleasant wine with or without food.

For those interested in other things than wine, Dionysus Winery also sells a selection of locally made foodsuffs – nuts, oils, bush herbs etc – as well as a range of wine accessories. Wish I could tell you more but that’s where the notes (and my memory) fade.

* A bit like calling a boatyard Poseidon’s or a courier service Mercury.
** It’s quite possible I just imagined this. I was working pretty hard at willing spring to arrive.
*** Pattie loves rosé. She loved it when it wasn’t kewl and will still love it when (once again) it slips off the wine radar. OMIC finds rosé less than inspiring and believes it exists chiefly so Max Allen has a regular, easy get column every summer (cf. sparkling shiraz, Italian wine, Spanish wine, topics wine writers routinely flog).

Dionysus Winery
1 Patemans Lane, Murrumbateman, NSW, 2582
http://www.dionysus-winery.com.au
10 am to 5 pm weekends and public holidays
(02) 6227 0208
www.dionysus-winery.com.au


These posts are cross posted from Our Notional Capital, where Dame Pattie blogs with her partner, our man in Canberra. The progressive list of Canberra and region wineries is here.

Dame Mint Pattie samples the Curate’s egg menu @ the Canberra wine dinner

On a wet, icy Saturday night we’re playing ‘spot the winemaker’ in old Parliament House. It goes something like this: no tie, expensive but rumpled suit that looks as though the wearer has arrived straight from the office – senior public servant, scratch and sniff tweed sports jacket matched inappropriately with jeans – our man in Canberra, corduroy trousers, sensible shoes and possibly scotch guarded coat – winemaker.

The excuse for this stereotyping* is the Canberra district wine & regional food dinner, and while making outrageous assumptions about complete strangers is always fun, we’re really here for the booze chance to try the region’s best wines.

Anne Caine, energetic Prez of the Canberra District Wine Association, noticing 14 Canberra wines had cracked Halliday’s Top 100 Wines of NSW, cooked up a dinner with Janet Jeffs and Ginger Catering to showcase the result.

It was, as a certain sartorially challenged, tweed aficionado said, a top idea, as well as a convenient way to get a handle on where some of the best Canberra juice is heading. And the results were excellent.

wine dinner

Top drops of the night included old mates like the Brindabella Hills sauv blanc and the Collector shiraz, and other local heroes such as the Wallaroo riesling and Capital Wines shiraz. While the dinner mainly featured wines from the 07/08 vintages, the 2005 Four Winds shiraz and the 06 Yarrah Wines Cabernet showed how a little bottle age can make all the difference for the right wines.

The only bum note was a couple of the food courses – a goat cheese ravioli that had but a passing acquaintance with boiling water and a deconstructed lamb pie that our man said looked and tasted like it had been assembled by a semiotician rather than a chef (but I expect he’s just been reading Roland Barthes again).

Next year – and this has all the makings of an annual event – if the quality of the food matches the wine, I’ll be a completely happy Dame (well, as long as OMIC wears some reasonable strides).

* and we won’t even mention what I had to say about the chicks (yes I’m a bit of a biatch, move along).

Dame Mint Pattie’s Canberra Wineries A2Z – Collector Wines

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Okay, so this is another winery that really shouldn’t be on the list, but…

Our Man and I first came across Collector Wines at the Cafe in the House* annual goat BBQ. It went down very smoothly and we wanted to try it again just to make sure it wasn’t the siren song of roast goat that lured us to the second glass.

A quick phone call to winemaker Alex McKay confirmed Collector doesn’t have a cellar door.

“I’m concentrating on getting the wines right first,” he said (or something like that – can’t read my notes). In any case, you’ve gotta like someone who’s more focused on what ends up in your glass than worrying about all the extras. It’s a decision that carries through to the bottleshop floor – Collector produces only two wines, a reserve shiraz and the Marked Tree Red, which both King James and Captain Hooke** give props (…the Ali G eps do come in handy at times).

The wines are available across Canberra: Airport Market Cellars, Plonk at Fyshwick, Cox Kelly in Civic and Georges Liquor Stable in Philip, as well as some of the IGAs (Deakin, Ainslie , O’Connor, Lynham). Alex explained most stores have the 06 Marked Tree Red. The 07, a frost year, had a low yield and the 08 has just been released. According to Alex the 08 is closer to the style he’s chasing – a lighter shiraz that still packs a punch – a bit like a burgundy.

With a slight nod to symmetry, we picked our bottle of 06 Marked Tree Red from the Kitchen Cabinet in OPH for $28 and matched it with a big, juicy Angus steak. The wine was deep red, almost magenta in colour, with a hint of white pepper on the nose and lots of berry flavours – fruit with a touch of sweetness but a dry peppery finish. It’s soft, juicy and went down a little too easily if you’re eating out but since we were at home…

Cellar door or no cellar door, if the 06 is this good, I’m very keen to try to an 08. And who knows, maybe OMIC will crack open his moth collection wallet for a taste of the reserve.

*I always want to call it Cafe in da House – too many Ali G episodes I guess
**or should I say James Halliday and Huon Hooke both rated these wines highly

www.collectorwines.com.au


These posts are cross posted from Our Notional Capital, where Dame Pattie blogs with her partner, our man in Canberra. The progressive list of Canberra and region wineries is here.

Canberra Wineries A2Z – Clonakilla

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Okay, let’s get the obvious question out of the way first. No, we didn’t get to try Tim Kirk’s fabled shiraz viognier. Yes, it was a little disappointing but hardly surprising given it’s considered by many to be the duck’s nuts of Canberra wines. In any event, there were plenty of other wines to taste including a sem sauv blanc, some shiraz, a couple of viogniers and even a young port taking its first baby steps.

clonakilla sign

Along with Helm and Lambert, Clonakilla (church meadow) is one of three wineries claiming to be the oldest in this region (and we’ll let them work this one out amongst themselves). Whatever the case, the Kirk family as been growing grapes and making wines for almost 40 years and happily this experience shows in the bottle. They’ve had plenty of time to get the shiraz viognier mix right too, having adopted the practice of adding a touch of viognier back in 1992, after Tim’s trip to the Rhone Valley the year before.

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Canberra Wineries A2Z – Capital Wines

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Capital Wines is a joint venture between Jennie and Mark Mooney of Grazing restaurant Gundaroo and Andrew and Marion McEwin’s Kyeema Wines, so they should know a thing or two about making food friendly wine. There’s no cellar door yet, but Jennie says they’ll be opening one on site with Grazing restaurant in early 2010.

CapitalwinesIn the meantime the wines are available through their online cellar and a variety of places throughout Canberra including Plonk – OMIC* reports spotting some of Capital’s ministry label at the national museum gift shop. With names such as ‘The Backbencher’ Merlot, ‘The Fence Sitter’ Rose and ‘The Swinger’ Sauvignon Blanc, it’s a series clearly in touch with this town.

I’m pretty keen to try ‘The Ambassador’ Tempranillo, and while I could wander off to Plonk for a bottle and let OMIC go at it in the kitchen**, the idea of trying some in situ at Grazing is very appealing. On a more worrying note 2010’s not that far away, so once the cellar door is operating, a full report will be lodged.

For more on Capital Wines, the old master Chris Shanahan has an informative post at his website.

*I wanted to start referring to our man in Canberra as ‘our Mick’ but apparently this makes him sound like ‘an indentured Irish day worker’.

**In our loose coalition, he tends to cook and I switch on the Asko.

Capital Wines
Opening early 2010
(02) 6236 8555
www.capitalwines.com.au


These posts are cross posted from Our Notional Capital, where Dame Pattie blogs with her partner, our man in Canberra. The progressive list is here.