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Wine

Behind The Vine At Helen's Hill

To celebrate the Helen's Hill Ingram Road Pinot Noir 2015 being our April Wine of the Month, we caught up with Allan Nalder from Helen's Hill.

What makes the Ingram Road 2015 Pinot Noir so appealing?

To answer that I need to take a step back. All of our wines are 100% single vineyard and are all made at my winery. Only fruit that we grow on our vineyard goes into the wines that we make. It's not that we don't trust anyone, it's just that we don't trust anyone. We think this is super important. Come visit and I can take you to the very vines that make the wine you are going to enjoy. Call us "control freaks". I'll take it as a compliment.

The Ingram Rd 2015 Pinot Noir benefits greatly from this approach. Pristine Yarra Valley single vineyard fruit, French oak maturation, careful "hands-off" winemaking and a great vintage all combine to produce a wine that expresses hallmark Pinot Noir characteristics. And its price point is extremely compelling.

You have over 50 acres of Pinot Noir, what makes you so enthusiastic about this often-difficult grape?

You're right, Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow and can really only grow well in specific, little tucked away corners of the world. The Yarra Valley, and the little patch of dirt I call home, is one of those places.

It also helps to be a bit of a Pinot Noir fanatic. To me, it is one of the most remarkable red wines in the world. I once saw a quote about Pinot Noir growers from a wine writer:

"its makers are lunatic-fringe, questers after the holy grail…" - Marc de Villiers wine writer.

We fit that mould.

Who is the Helen of the hill?

We bought the property from Mr. Fraser in the mid 90s. He had owned the pasture land from the early 1950s. The reason he bought the land was because he fell in love with a woman called Helen, who wouldn't marry him unless he owned a farm. True love prevailed and he bought the farm. Sadly, Helen passed away some 6-7 years after their marriage. Mr Fraser never re-married and throughout the property inspection, he recalled many stories of Helen and her time there. From his stories, it was obvious that she had a passion for the land. We share that passion and thought it appropriate to name the vineyard after her.

What makes Scott McCarthy a standout winemaker?

To be blunt, the fruit. We live by the very old, well used, but absolutely true saying: "great wine is made in the vineyard". The most important decision we make in the winery is deciding when to pick the fruit. The rest of the process is relatively simple. Pristine quality fruit allows us to rely on natural fermentation, minimal filtering and minimal winemaking intervention. Our ethos is not to describe "perfection" as when there is nothing left to add, but rather, when there is nothing left to take away. We feel this is the key to winemaking. Ensure that we do as little as possible so we can deliver mother nature in the bottle.

You also make a range of beers - why did you decide to go into brewing and what do you think makes a top beer?

It gets pretty hot and sweaty picking grapes. Added to that, I ain't getting any younger, so after a big day in the fields a nice, cold craft beer is a perfect tonic. As winemakers and vignerons go, we drink a lot of beer, so it wasn't that hard to come up with the idea of brewing our own.

Getting the recipe right, the choice of hops and quality malt is critical and keeping the fermentation process under control. The rest depends on what you like. We serve our brews at Cellar Door and luckily our customers reckon they're pretty tasty.

What are the top 3 attractions you'd recommend to a first-time Yarra Valley visitor?

The great thing about the Yarra Valley is the diversity. You can visit the YV Dairy and sample a variety of cheese, the Chocolate Factory, world class art museum, on-farm produce stores for things such as apples, strawberries, etc, 6 top golf courses, mountain biking, bush trails, historic buildings, micro breweries, gin distillery and of course the odd cellar door and vineyard restaurant. The valley really has a huge range of things to do.

Obviously, a great place to start is Helen's Hill. Full al-carte restaurant on top of the hill with sensational views or our Cellar Door and casual dining nestled down in the winery amongst the vines.

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Food
Best of the Best RAS President's Medal
Words by Words Ed Halmagyi on 13 Jan 2017
The president’s medal is a unique prize honouring the very best in Australian food and beverage production. When John Fairley steps into the milking yard of his iconic artisan dairy at Picton, south-west of Sydney, the motley assortment of Jersey, Friesian and Swiss Red cows congregating in the early morning mist barely respond. Their udders are huge and distended, yet the cows are perfectly at ease, trustful, and content with the calm, persistent rhythm of the farm. He walks deliberately, purposefully, and with a composure that silently echoes off the hillsides. John doesn’t farm this land, he exists within it. A seventh-generation dairyman, John has a connection to land that is about as profound as it can be. He loves this country, and the cattle, and the milk they produce together. It’s a deep and abiding affection that underscores the quality of his remarkable milk. And the milk is truly remarkable. It’s rich and creamy, with a distinctly grassy note, the season’s sweet clover obvious on the nose. This is quite unlike large-scale commercial milk, for its flavour is infused with the terroir of Picton. EXCELLENCE AND IMPROVEMENT In 2008, John and his team from Country Valley Milk were awarded the President’s Medal, Australia’s highest honour for food and beverage producers. It is an accolade that recognises not only brilliant produce, but also the extraordinary people, businesses, systems and measures of environmental management and community engagement that must underpin all great agriculture and production. Food and beverage is not simply about what we bring to the table, it’s about our place in society, now and into the future, and a relationship with the environment and our communities. A broad proposition, it must be careful, respectful and manageable. To that end, the President’s Medal is unique as it not only recognises excellence, but actively encourages improvement in all areas, for the winners and their competitors. This award is about ensuring Australia will have even better food and beverages, embodying the highest levels of product integrity. Established in 2006, the Medal is managed by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW. Open to farmers, producers and manufacturers from all over Australia, it is the distillation of the year-round competitions in Fine Food, Dairy Produce, Wine, Beer & Cider, and Chocolate. Overall champions from each division are pitted against one another in a triple-bottom- line analysis to find the very best of the best. This involves a rigorous examination of business plans, operational practices, community engagement and environmental management systems, global strategy and market acceptance. WINNING BENEFITS Many past winners are household names in fine dining – Tathra Oysters, Holy Goat Cheese, Milly Hill Lamb – while others are global brands like Bulla,  Yalumba  and Hardy’s. The President’s Medal reveals small manufacturers who think globally, and industrial players with the heart of an artisan. Benefits for all those involved are diverse. The process compels them to engage in new and productive ways with the challenges specific to their business, to find answers to stubborn questions, and to seek out new ways of marketing themselves. In addition, all competitors are exposed to a range of quality advice from industry professionals, chefs and retail experts about improvements they might consider, or ways to differentiate and grow. This is an invaluable consultation usually out of the reach and budget of most artisans. EYES ON THE PRIZE Then there’s the prize itself. A cash reward is provided by the RAS, along with a marketing package from one of Australia’s leading minds, Michael McQueen, and help with story production from Jason van Genderen, one of the world’s best film producers and filmmakers. This award is not simply about recognition, it’s engineered to help our very best produce companies grow, thrive and excel. There’s a great deal Australians can be proud of when it comes to our food and beverage industries. Diversity, innovation, resilience and excellence are all common values. Consequently, judging the President’s Medal is a daunting task, not simply because the entrants are from such diverse businesses, but because the economic, social and environmental standards are so high. But they will be judged, and a winner will be chosen. A DELICIOUS CELEBRATION To celebrate those achievements, the RAS is hosting The President’s Medal Awards Night in November, where a bespoke menu will be crafted by one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, Christine Manfield in conjunction with Sydney Showground’s Tim Browne, using all the champion ingredients from this year’s competitors. It promises to be a delicious evening to which everyone is invited. Tickets will be available through www.rasnsw.com.au/presidents_medal. If you love great food, and want to taste Australia’s finest, this is an evening not to be missed.
Wine
Five of the Best Mornington Peninsula Wineries and Cellar Doors
Exceptional  Pinot Gris ,  Chardonnay ,  Pinot Noir , and boutique cellar doors abound as we present the best Mornington Peninsula wineries to visit. Just an hour drive from the centre of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula has long been known as the home of beaches, colourful swimming boxes and holiday houses. Since the early 1980s Mornington has emerged as one of the Australia's premier cool-climate wine regions. With its many sheltered valleys and a maritime cool climate, it's now home to over 200 wineries producing award-winning Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. To help plan your trip, we've selected a collection of Mornington Peninsula wineries we feel provide the best cellar door experience, plus we've included a  handy interactive map down below . Crittenden Wine Centre
Crittenden Wines  are an icon of the Mornington Peninsula, helping to establish the region's reputation for superb cool-climate wines since the early 1980s. Today, the new Crittenden Wine Centre is the perfect place to sample a wide range of wines. Sit back and enjoy relaxed table service and be guided through a customized flight of wines by knowledgeable and friendly staff. There is a superb range of over two dozen wines on offer, from excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir through to innovative alternative varietals such as Vermentino, Savagnin and Tempranillo under their Los Hermanos and Pinocchio labels. 25 Harrisons Rd, Dromana, VIC -  View on our Mornington map Open daily 10:30 am to 4:30pm Visit the Crittenden Wine Centre website Quealy Winery Cellar Door
If you're a fan of Pinot Gris then a visit to the Quealy Winery Cellar Door should be the first cellar door on your list -  Australian wine lovers can arguably thank Kathleen Quealy for introducing us to this vibrant style.  At this charming cellar door, passionate hosts are on hand to guide you through the eclectic range of wines each with a characteristic and innovative winemaking style. You'll enjoy an amazing collection from sparkling wines and skin-contact whites to single vineyard Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir,  and cool climate Muscat dessert wines. You're in good hands here. 62 Bittern-Dromana Rd, Balnarring, VIC -  View on our Mornington map Open daily 9am to 5pm Visit the Quealy website Red Hill Estate
Established in 1989, this salt of the earth winery and cellar door was one of the first in the region and helped establish the Mornington Peninsula's reputation for outstanding cool-climate wines. There is a superb range of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Shiraz and Sparkling available to sample, with fruit sourced from their three estate vineyards. This is a great way to contrast the subtle differences that each vineyard imparts and to also appreciate the talents of winemaker Donna Stephens. Make sure you take the time to step outside and take in the magnificent view - it's one of the best in the region and looks over the vines out towards Western Port Bay. 53 Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South, VIC -  View on our Mornington map Open daily 11am to 5pm Visit the Red Hill Estate website Rare Hare
Rare Hare is the Peninsula's latest restaurant, wine bar, produce store and the new home of Willow Creek Wines and is not to be missed during your next visit. Enjoy a casual wine tasting at the wine bar or call ahead to book a guided tasting with one of the cellar door team in the barrel room. Afterwards, take in the panoramic views over the Willow Creek vines and enjoy innovative modern Australian fare in the restaurant courtesy of executive chef Guy Stanaway. Why not book a room and stay a night at  Jackalope Hotel , the region's latest luxury offering, that's just a short hop from the cellar door. 166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North, VIC -  View on our Mornington map Open Mon to Thur 11am to 5pm and Fri to Sun 11am to 9pm  Visit the Rare Hare website Yabby Lake
This charming cellar door is the perfect place to spend the afternoon sampling a host of award-winning single vineyard Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Enjoy stunning views over the vineyard and a light lunch on the verandah, or perch yourself at the slick tasting bar and be guided by the always friendly cellar door staff through offerings from their Yabby Lake and Red Claw labels. 86-112 Tuerong Rd, Tuerong, VIC -  View on our Mornington map Open Daily 10am to 5pm Visit the Yabby Lake website Mornington Peninsular Cellar Door Map Planning a trip to Mornington Peninsula? Download our interactive Mornington Peninsula winery map. To save on your browser or device,  click here For more information on visiting the Mornington Peninsula, be sure to visit the official  Mornington Peninsula Website  or stop by the visitor information centre in Dromana. If you'd like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit, explore our selection of  Mornington Wines   and find out more about the wineries listed here in our  Meet the Makers section  . And, with the  Wine Selectors Regional Release program  me, you'll experience a different wine region each Release with all wines expertly selected by our Tasting Panel, plus you'll receive comprehensive tasting notes and fascinating insights into each region. Visit our  Regular Deliveries   page to find out more!
Wine
Discover our Top 12 Whites of 2017
In 2017, our Panel tasted and rated over 4,000 wines. The Best Wines of the Year is always a hotly contested list and this year was no exception. From tried and true favourites like Howard Park Margaret River Chardonnay, to fabulous alternative varietals such as Fiano from Chalk Hill’s McLaren Vale vineyard, plus Trophy-winning Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier, here (in no particular order) are the Top 12 Whites that really stood out from the crowd and wowed all of our Panellists. View our Top 12 red wines here.
In Dreams Chardonnay 2015, Yarra Valley In the glass: Pale lemon green.  On the nose: Apple, grapefruit, oatmeal and almond aromas.  On the palate: Fine and elegant and yet it has power and drive with a delicious core of white and yellow fruits. A savoury, almost salty layer adds complexity, velvety texture and racy acidity.  RRP $23 or $19.55 per bottle in any dozen.  Chalk Hill Fiano 2016, McLaren Vale In the glass: Bright straw.  On the nose: Opulent white fruit with honeydew, Tahitian lime and guava.  On the palate: Remarkably bright and focussed core of juicy white fruits with satiny, delicate texture and length from start to finish and crunchy, almost salty acidity running to a thrilling finish.  RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier 2015, Nagambie Lakes In the glass: Pale lemon green. On the nose: Stonefruit, florals, ginger.  On the palate: A light to medium weight and fine wine with loads of stonefruit and citrus zest underpinned by zesty acidity, mouth-coating texture and good length.  RRP $27.95 or $23.76 per bottle in any dozen.  Long Rail Gully Riesling 2016, Canberra District   In the glass: Bright pale yellow straw.  On the nose: Lime zest and fresh herb. On the palate: Delicate yet intense and flavoursome with strong citrussy varietals and notes of talc and mineral. Mouth-feel is supple and lightly creamy with vibrant acidity. A really classic Riesling with delicious purity. RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen.  Cape Barren Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Adelaide Hills   In the glass: Vibrant pale lemon.   On the nose: Lime juice, nettle, grapefruit, vanilla.  On the palate: Stylish and intense lime, passionfruit and cut grass varietals, tempered by a light nutty layer with minerally acid dryness on the finish.  RRP $19 or $16.15 per bottle in any dozen.  De Iuliis Special Release Grenache Rosé 2017, Hilltops In the glass: Very fine pink with green and copper flashes.  On the nose: Hints of pink flower and Turkish Delight.  On the palate: Elegant and savoury with juicy fruit and green olive-like astringency creating a dry finish.  RRP $28 or $23.80 per bottle in any dozen.
Howard Park Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River/Great Southern In the glass: Beautifully vibrant lemon with a green hue.  On the nose: Delicate lime juice, light stonefruit, grapefruit and cedary oak.  On the palate: Refined yet intense with juicy layers of stonefruit and citrus with creamy yet poised acidity. RRP $54 or $45.90 per bottle in any dozen. Tinklers Mount Bright Semillon 2017, Hunter Valley In the glass: Pale lemon green.  On the nose: Bright citrus, white melon, mineral and lanolin perfume.  On the palate: Driven by beautiful tingling acidity, it’s deliciously layered with an amazingly vibrant fruit core and quinine-like texture. RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen. Heggies Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2015, Eden Valley In the glass: Pale lemon, green hue.  On the nose: Fresh yellow fruit lift with spice and grilled nut complexity.  On the palate: Slightly spicy and strongly varietal with nectarine, green melon and marzipan, subtle background vanillin oak, fresh leesy depth and ginger spice.   RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen Gatt High Eden Riesling 2011, Eden Valley In the glass: Pale lemon straw. On the nose: Still vibrant lemon and lime lift with very faint hints of kero development. On the palate: Still so youthful, pristine and precise with a multi-layered, savoury and vibrant core of fruit and just the start of secondary development.  RRP $40 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen. Umamu Sparkling Chardonnay 2005, Margaret River In the glass: Youthful lemon straw.  On the nose: Buttered toast, preserved lemon and background smokey notes.    On the palate: Full-bodied, layered and rich yet still vibrant with a strong undercurrent of leesy depth under a butterscotch-like core of fruit.   RRP $63 or $53.55 per bottle in any dozen. Bunnamagoo Estate Kids Earth Fund Autumn Semillon 2013 (375ml), Mudgee In the glass: Medium to full gold. On the nose: Lifted toffee, butterscotch and crème brulee.  On the palate: Luscious and viscous, with sweet layers of candied fruit complemented by bright lemony acidity.  RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. 
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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