Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Jaunt To The Southern Highlands

So I had a brief little sojourn to the Southern Highlands early last week. Some wine tasting, touring and eating was done, all in all a pleasant way to pass the time. The start wasn't all that auspicious however as after the 1.5hr burn down the freeway from Sydney, we arrived at our first port of call only to find it not open! I was keen to visit St Maur Wines as I had had a few good samples previously. It seems the website and printed material are at odds and they are in fact closed on Monday. Don't make our mistake, go on the weekend (the website is currently not correct)! Next trip I guess I'll just have to drop in, the wines are good though so give them a go.
Chris, with one of the staff out front.

Disappointment still smarting, some debate ensued about where to go next. We also drove past a few places; I blame the driver in these situations, however salvation appeared on the horizon or at least the signposting, in the form of Centennial Vineyards. This is a rather grandly styled establishment along french provençal meets grand château lines. You can dine here as well so this was a definite plus as our late start meant lunch beckoned. Rather an excuse to drink more wine I thought but that's a good thing!

Quite loooong
Looking at the tasting list what strikes you immediately is the number of wines produced. Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Savignan and Pinot Gris in the whites, then Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Barbera for reds. I may have missed some as well, anyway these wines are also made into two different ranges for some grapes and I believe they also have Nebbiolo in the ground! When I see this in a single producer wariness creeps in as often a lot of mediocre wines result. I don't know if that comes from the winemakers efforts being spread a bit thin or a lack of focus in the vineyard, but it can be a problem. However I'm prejudicing things a bit for you so it pleases me to say I was pleasantly surprised, there was some good wines in the mix, and some interesting stuff. I still think they try and do to many different things but overall quality was good.

Without giving notes on all the wines there were some highlights: in the whites the Riesling and Chardonnay were good, I was particularly taken by some of the off dry rieslings presented. These wines had lovely balance between the residual sugar and acidity whilst being lovely and aromatic. I would see these as very versatile and food friendly wines. The Rosé style, Sauvignon blanc and Savignan made pleasant if not exceptional quaffers. In the reds Cabernet was the dark horse, perhaps not classically styled, but this wine was intense with fruit concentration and formidable tannin, pretty interesting and atypical. In the other wines the Tempranillo and Barbera are very good wines worth a look. The Pinot was good if not exceptional. I wasn't impressed by either the Shiraz (which had a 5% co-ferment with Viognier) or the Sangiovese.
Upside down tasting plate (uploaded oddly, hmmm)

So the advantage here was the range having something for most tastes; if you are a bit into wine there's interest, if you just like a drink to chat with that's here to. Overall the wines can't have been too bad as we decamped to the dining room...

Faux Château was the term I jokingly ascribed to the décor and styling, maybe when I make some wine that's what I'll label it! It all depends if you like this sort of thing in your interior decorating; for myself I find it treads a line a little close to tacky, not bad just not me. Each to their own I suppose.
Lovely Asparagus spears and Pork belly in the background

The food itself was very pleasant and well executed. Sourdough was a great start along with a shot of pumpkin and ginger soup. I enjoyed some Oysters and then the tasting plate with a glass of Chardonnay and then some of the Tempranillo. The plate had a lovely terrine of pork, cauliflower soup shot, beans and peas with feta, oyster, chicken sausage, salt cod croquette. Quite a mix but very tasty, except for the sausage which was rather beige in flavour. My other quibble was that it needed some of the lovely bread to go with it, still nice. Serving the tasting plate and oysters on bits of slate was a nice textural effect, if a little contrived. I also had images of the slate being frisbeed away after use (given the cost of slate I'm sure it goes in the dish washer)!

The Tempranillo was quite interesting as I always find this wine a bit of a shape shifter in the glass. It has really nice lighter cherry and rose characters on the nose, but then you get lovely whiffs of funk and meatiness. Sweet fruit and hints of citrus also follow on the palate and the acidity keeps it taut. Nice and light but with quirks so a nice lunch wine.

Around the table we also had a rolled roasted Loin of chicken, Pork belly and a lovely side of fresh asparagus. Yum!
Faux Chateau courtyard...

Overall then a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and it's always nice to have some of the wine just tasted in a real world setting, with a meal. This gives you more of a sense of what the wine is really like, just like people...

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Art Of Simple Things

I have really neglected the blog of late, which is poor not least because I keep thinking about it rather than just doing a post. So to get things back on track I thought a post about some of the simplest of dishes and foods. Quite often when you are into food or wine it all seems to get complicated pretty quickly, when in fact I'd be amazed if even the most dedicated gourmet doesn't return to the basic and even most rough and ready of dishes. Sometimes it's just what you want more than anything else in the world.

Soft boiled, a few extras but pretty basic... 
For myself one of these is a nice poached or soft boiled egg on toast; not flash, easy to make and a few additions and variations are possible. Winner.

Cold beer with a Salt & Vinegar chip, how could you go wrong.

Even in the world of wine let me disappoint by saying you can do worse than a crisp dry white, assuming that it is of course a crisp, dry white and not some sweet and flabby pretender.

Others will have their simple favourites and friendly standbys that I'd love to know about. You do however get an idea of the variety these snacks provide from more elaborate fare. Food is so contextual anyway so the right thing at the right time crucial, sometimes even magic, the 2am kebab, or some oysters by the water. Nothing else is needed as time and place is captured.

Just what was required whilst waiting for a delayed flight!