Friday, 29 January 2016

A Wedding and a Winery

Tucked away in the Gold Coast Hinterland, a picturesque 1 hour drive from Brisbane, is Mount Tamborine. My husband and I were visiting this rainforest destination for a friend's wedding, which we had been looking forward to for many months. 

Whilst living remotely, I have found that looking forward to a holiday takes on a whole new level of excitement. To the point where I research every minute detail of the trip. I anticipate what we can see and do each day and, of course, where we can eat good food and drink great wine.

This was how I stumbled upon the unlikely fact that there are a number of wineries at Mt Tamborine. This surprised me, as I was quite sure the rainforest climate there would not be entirely conducive to grape growing. For this reason, I discounted even bothering to take a look at any of the wineries whilst we were there. Luckily, however, a friend highly recommended one winery: Witches Falls. So I thought we had better take a look.

At the entrance to the cellar door, I was even more surprised to see a proudly-displayed sign announcing the winery's five star James Halliday rating. Now I was very intrigued.

I was further impressed by the affable cellar door attendant who guided us through a well-paced and informative tasting. My favourite wines were:

2014 Co-inoculated Verdelho 
Fermented with two yeasts from South Africa and France, this wine had a herbaceous nose, with crisp acidity and lime flavours. Different to my usual tropical fruit expectations of Verdelho, but enjoyable nonetheless.

2013 Syrah
Not your average Syrah, the fruit was 'redder' than usual, I was reminded of a strawberry muffin. I agree with the wine being labelled a Syrah rather than Shiraz due to its light and savoury nature. I would recommend enjoying this wine with a spring or autumn lunch.

2014 Wild ferment chardonnay
After spending 8 months old oak then 8 months in new, the wine displayed a well balanced acidity and butteriness. 

2013 Wild Ferment Cabernet Franc
All raspberry on the nose, with astringent peppers adding some liveliness. Very fun.

2012 Prophecy Syrah
Much more extraction and intensity than the Granite Belt Range sample with a good pepper finish - more what I expect from Australian produced Shiraz (but not quite worth the $51 price tag).

Quality wine was evident at Witches Falls. The secret? 
Most of the grapes are sourced from the cooler Granite Belt wine growing region around Stanthorpe (see map below). 

This underrated wine growing region has recently been winning awards throughout Australia, proving that those pioneers who saw its potential and took the risk were onto something. The establishment of Witches Falls at an intermediary point to source grapes from this region, whilst showcasing them at a busy tourist location is really helping promote the fact that Queensland can produce good wine.

Granite Belt Wine Region
You can read more about owner and winemaker Jon Heslop and his wines at the Witches Falls website.

So if you live in Brisbane or on the Gold Coast, or you are in Southeast Queensland for a holiday, Mount Tamborine is a great place for a day trip. Start out early and take one of the well-marked walks through the rainforest to crystal clear waterfalls or spectacular views to the Pacific Ocean. Then recuperate with a coffee or lunch along the Gallery Walk before spending the afternoon sampling locally crafted wine, beer and spirits. And make sure Witches Falls is marked on your route.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Tasting Pinots

A benefit of having a business in a small community is the support from friends and acquaintances. One of my friends decided that it would be a good idea to have a wine tasting afternoon to celebrate her birthday. It was not a milestone birthday, but nevertheless she thought that it was as good an excuse as any to taste some new wines. I was honoured to be asked to facilitate on this occasion - my first private event as Vine to Vintage.

My trusted assistant (husband)
making sure no one was
drinking on an empty stomach
Private events are very fun to organise, as you eliminate the concern of having to cater to a broader (and somewhat unknown) demographic. So my first question to the birthday girl was: what style of wine do you like to drink? Her answer: Pinot Noir.

What an excellent answer! It has been a stark reality here on the island that there is definitely not enough Pinot Noir kicking around, and this presented an opportunity to start challenging the norm. For those that prefer red wine, Barossa Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet are just not suited to a scorching and humid Northern Territory wet season!

Being a birthday party, I wanted to make sure there was a light-hearted mood about the event. So the birthday girl and I decided that a blind tasting would be a bit of fun. I didn't want to scare people off with requirement for making detailed tasting notes, so we kept is simple. Three white wines (Pinot Grigio/Gris) would be served, followed by three red wines (Pinot Noir) and there would be one wine each from Australia, New Zealand and Europe in each set. All the guests had to do was relax, enjoy the wines and guess which region they were from.

Here's how the afternoon of tasting unfolded.

Pinot Gris/Grigio

'The grey-skinned grape variety'

Whilst everyone was tasting the whites, I was flitting around topping up glasses and giving a few pointed clues as to the varying styles this grape variety can manifest. I tried to make sure everyone knew, at the very least that:

  • Italians make it crisp, dry and citrusy (Pinot Grigio)
  • French make it rich, spicy and tropical (Pinot Gris)
  • There were 2 Pinot Grigios and 1 Pinot Gris to try
1. Bollini Pinot Grigio 2014

Region: Trentino, Italy
Tasting Notes: Crisp aromas of white blossoms, apples and pears lead into a structured, clean cut palate with the typical zest of the Italian style.
Suggested Pairing: Pasta with cream sauce

2. Tar & Roses Pinot Grigio 2015
Region: Victoria, Australia
Tasting Notes: Highly fragrant with honeydew melon and orange blossom. Crisp lemon and juicy pear flavours fill out the well-balanced but dry palate.
Suggested Pairing:Spanish lemon chicken with black olives

3. Rabbit Ranch Pinot Gris 2013
Region: Central Otago, New Zealand
Tasting Notes: Apples and pears feature on the nose and palate, with some mineral acidity complementing the rich texture. Surprisingly refreshing.
Suggested Pairing: Oily fish, shellfish, mature and hard cheeses

Only one person guessed all three regions for the white wines correctly, although I was thrilled to note people taking the blind tasting one step further and attempting to guess whether each wine was a Gris or Grigio style. 
Plumm glassware on display

Pinot Noir

'The heartache grape'

For the reds, my subtle hints were:

  • French make it savoury and elegant
  • Australians make it fruity
  • The New Zealand region is a cold climate
1. Marchand & Burch Pinot Noir 2010

Region: Burgundy, France
Tasting Notes: Initially a closed nose, but opened up to sour red fruit and black pepper on the palate.

2. Chard Farm River Run 2013

Region: Central Otago, New Zealand
Tasting Notes: Bouquet of red fruits, spice and violets. Striking mineral acidity and extended red fruit flavours on the palate. 

3. Yering Station Pinot Noir 2012

Region: Yarra Valley, Australia
Tasting Notes: Intense dark cherry and blackberry fruits with playful spices. A rich and silky palate. 

Perhaps the second time around my clues were a little more direct, as I had 4 people guess the regions of origin correctly!

A bonus for the party goers was that they were able to order any of the wines tasted on the night at close to wholesale prices. I can't think of many better ways to go about purchasing wine - tasting it first, then getting someone else to order it in for you at a cheaper price than you could get it yourself.

The birthday girl and friends tasting Pinot Noir
It was pleasing to hear that some of the guests found they enjoyed the Pinot Noir on offer, even though they would not usually choose to drink this wine style. And that, to me, is one of the major benefits of a blind tasting - removing any bias or reservations and letting the wines speak for themselves.