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Wine

Bleasdale's Paul Hotker Loves Wine - And Bacon!

The Bleasdale Frank Potts Cabernet Blend 2013 is our May Wine of the Month, so we caught up with Bleasdale's senior winemaker Paul Hotker.

Can you recall the first wine you tried?

I can't remember any specific bottle, does Stone's Ginger Wine count? There was always wine at the table growing up, plenty of West Oz Cabernet as I grew up in Perth, and Eden Valley Riesling, I still drink these wines.

When did you fall in love with wine? 
I remember drinking some beautiful Rutherglen Muscat in my early 20s, as well as cellared Bordeaux and Margaret River Cab - wines that probably set me on the path to the wine business.

Do you have an all-time favourite wine?

I'm not usually one for favourites, but Hugel 1989 SGN Gewürztraminer was an unexpected gem in a tutored tasting about 15 years ago, and I got to take the leftover bottle home.

What is your all-time favourite wine memory (other than a wine itself)?

Sharing great bottles with friends and family and those who appreciate it is always fun. Most recently, my last bottle of 2001 Semillon made at uni (good but not great) served blind with the mates who made it 16 years ago. We drank far better wine after this prelude to dinner.

 

Other than your own wine, what is the wine that you like to drink at home?

I drink widely, but also seasonally. Late summer and into autumn usually Pinot Noir, Grenache and blends, mature whites - aged RieslingChardonnay and Sancerre. Later autumn and into winter, mature reds and whites. As spring and summer come along, younger whites and reds with vibrancy: Riesling, Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc and blends, younger Shiraz, Cab Merlot blends, etc.

What's your ultimate food + wine match?

Roast chook and Chardonnay, always a favourite, particularly during vintage.

What's your 'signature dish'?

I don't have a signature dish, it depends on the season. Roast pork with redgum smoke I make at all times of the year, I love the challenge of 100% crackle! Very keen on the flame grill, just about anything: beefsteak, lamb chops, butterflied chicken, and I love slow cooked meals in winter: roast chook, osso bucco, boeuf bourguignon are all perfect with mature reds.

What is special about your wine region?

Langhorne Creek is a cool maritime but dry region with beautiful clay and limestone soils. The cool ripening period moderated by Lake Alexandrina and The Southern Ocean maintains the aromatics and natural acidity

How do you relax away from the winery?

I'm a keen reader, I love cycling through the Adelaide Hills, which is on my doorstep. I like playing board games and puzzles with the family: chess, scrabble, UNO, snap, just about anything.

Do you have a favourite holiday destination/memory?

I love Kangaroo Island, easy to get to from here and great to slow the pace down a few notches.

What is your favourite book?

No favourites, but I just finished the Harry Potter series, couldn't put it down.

Movie?

No favourites, but I prefer independent films, I recently saw Paterson, which was a cracker, as was Drive.

TV show?

The Fast Show.

Beer?

Wine.

Restaurant? 
Locally, The Olfactory Inn at Strathalbyn is excellent.

Breakfast?

Can't go past bacon and eggs, everything tastes better with bacon.

Lunch?

BLT, everything tastes better with bacon.

Dinner?

Roast pork, that's close to bacon, right?

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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.
Wine
Meet Richard Freebairn of Paxton Wines
What was it that drew you to the wine industry? I grew up on a sheep and cereal grain farm in South East of Western Australia, and I enjoyed the outdoors and hands-on side of farming. However, I love the diversity of winemaking. You can be filling barrels or digging out a ferment one day, and the next hosting a five star dinner in Sydney. Always interesting and great challenges. You have worked in vineyards all over the country, including the Margaret River, Swan Valley, Sonoma Valley, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley . What is the best thing about working and living in McLaren Vale ? McLaren Vale has it all, I live in Adelaide with my wife and work in the most beautiful wine region five minutes from the ocean and 30 minutes (depending on how you drive) from the city. What’s your must-do for visitors to McLaren Vale? BYO picnic basket to our beautiful cellar door surrounded by 1850s stone cottages and rolling green lawns.
What have been some of your highlights of your time at Paxton? We have won some nice Trophies and received some great James Halliday scores, but I think it is teaching people about Organics and Biodynamics . It is a fantastic way of farming and can really make a big difference to the fruit and especially the wine. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given when it comes to winemaking? Be patient, wine is not a picture or a snapshot, it is like a movie – always evolving and moving with you. Be patient with wine and enjoy the ride! Do you have an all-time favourite wine to make? Why is it? I love making our Pinot Gris , because I don’t use carbon to remove the colour, I use hypoxygenation (basically oxidise it with oxygen). The wine looks so murky and brown all through ferment and stabilisation until one day, generally about three months after harvest, all the brown drops out and you are left with a bright, almost green, hue. It is such a relief! In 2011 Paxton became a fully certified organic and biodynamic wine producer. Can you tell us more about this certification, what it means, how it is achieved etc.? We are very proud to be Organic and Biodynamic at Paxton; it gives us a great sense of growing and making for the future. The vines look healthy and the wines have vitality. The certification process takes three years from the dates of application. From that point everything you do must be approved through your certifying body, we are certified through NASAA Certified Organics. The Paxton Organic MV Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is our Wine of the Month for June – what makes this a standout wine? The beautiful aroma of winter greens, it is such a fragrant wine. I love smelling this Cabernet Sauvignon . The other great part is the palate, a perfect wine for the colder months. It has power and poise, bright fruit, as well as lovely tannins. A great wine with stews, soups and hearty winter dishes. What do you do to relax when you’re away from the winery? I play golf, not so relaxing, but it gets my head out of the winery. What’s your ultimate wine and food match? Paxton MV Cabernet Sauvignon, lamb loin chops (from our farm in Western Australia) mashed potato and peas. What is your favourite… Movie? The Lion King Book? Power of One Time of day? Any time of the day is a great time in McLaren Vale! Restaurant? Ruby Red Flamingo in North Adelaide.
Wine
Riverina: Farming, Food And Wine
Words by Nathalie Craig on 16 Mar 2018
The Riverina region has undergone a renaissance that’s seeing its established traditions given a fresh makeover. The result is a dynamic food and wine experience presenting local produce with European flair. The Riverina  has long been referred to as Australia’s food bowl. This south western region of New South Wales between Griffith and Wagga Wagga is abundant with citrus and stonefruit, grapes, figs, olives, nuts, lamb, beef, chicken, wheat and rice. What is not so widely known is that there is a shift happening in this rural farming centre. It’s being led by a growing number of innovative chefs, winemakers and growers dedicated to providing new and unique wine, food and agritourism experiences. Dining Out
The wealth of fresh produce available in the Riverina , combined with a strong history of Italian immigration following the World Wars, means there is no shortage of quality places to dine. Chef Luke Piccolo, who owns and runs Griffith’s renowned Limone Dining , cut his teeth at Sydney restaurants Pilu at Freshwater and Pendolino before returning home to Griffith to open his own fine-dining establishment. Luke, who is of Italian heritage, won the Council of Italian Restaurants Australia (CIRA) Young Talent Award in 2013. His nonna, who cooks beautiful rustic Italian food, was the first to show him the ropes in the kitchen. “When he left school, Luke came to help at our family restaurant and we were blown off the planet with what he could do,” his father, Peter reveals. “We were blind to what had been going on for the past decade. Then all of a sudden there he was in the kitchen at 16 years of age with amazing cooking skills, work ethic and creations.” Luke’s nonna taught him about the no waste policy, which you can now see woven into Limone Dining. The place is built almost completely from recycled materials and Luke offers an evolving seasonal menu featuring local produce. Think fresh tagliolini with spring lamb ragu followed by char-grilled quail with pancetta finished off with blood orange almond sponge and lemon custard. For full-blown Italian dining in Griffith, visit Zecca Handmade Italian in the old bank building. Run by returning locals, Ben, Michaela and Daniel, Zecca’s regularly changing chalkboard menu is packed with delicious Italian staples. Their Maltagliati, casarecce and pappardelle pastas are lovingly made by hand each day. Plates of house-made antipasti are packed with olives, salumi and baccala from local Murray cod. Another restaurant not to pass by is Pages on Pine in the main street of Leeton. It is a stalwart of the area, run by French-born chef Eric Pages and his wife Vanessa. They serve up French fare with a creative twist and are huge supporters of local producers, including Coolamon Cheese, Bruceron pork, Riverina  lamb and Randall Organics. They also offer a three-course set menu, matched with Leeton wines from Lillypilly and Toorak. Coolamon Cheese
A nirvana for cheese-lovers has been formed inside an historic 1920s co-op building in the main street of Coolamon. Cheesemaker Barry Lillywhite and his son Anton Green have filled the space with top-of-the-line cheese making facilities, a commercial kitchen, deli and generously sized dining area. All their cheeses are handcrafted on site using just four simple ingredients: local Riverina milk, starter culture, rennet and salt. “By hand-making our cheeses in small batches we can tend to them more closely, watch them mature cheese by cheese and release them to our customers at exactly the right time,” Barry explains. Barry’s signature collection of native Australian-flavoured cheeses pack a punch. Right now he has lemon myrtle, river mint, bush tomato and alpine pepper cheeses on the menu. Other cheeses available include vintage cheddars and oil-infused fettas, blues and runny Bries and Camemberts. His soft cheeses are a far cry from varieties you find in the supermarket. “Our soft cheeses are not stabilised and this is why they are soft and gooey and have a mind of their own,” he explains. “In fact, the only preservative we use in any of our cheeses is salt.” Visitors to Coolamon Cheese can taste test the cheeses or sit down to a cheese-inspired meal from the cafe menu. Here the cheeses are served with a range of gourmet accompaniments like tempura saltbush, cold roast lamb, pickles, onion jam, sticky prunes and balsamic strawberries. Guests are also invited to take a tour of the factory led by one of their cheese makers. “We want visitors to understand where their food comes from and the processes it goes through to get to their plates,” Barry says. Wine a plenty
The Riverina  is home to 20,000 hectares of vines, making it the largest wine producing region in NSW and the second largest in Australia behind Riverland in South Australia. The region is well established, having been pioneered in 1913 by the famous McWilliam family of the Hunter Valley. Riverina wineries are largely family owned with many having Italian heritage including Calabria Family Wines, Mino & Co, Lillypilly Wines and De Bortoli . Some of the families behind these labels actually began making wine out of necessity when they first migrated to Australia, so they could enjoy a glass with their meal as they would have back home in Italy. “At the end of the long working day, my grandfather found he looked forward to a glass of home-made wine,” Elizabeth Calabria of Calabria Family Wines explains. “Unfortunately, he didn’t have the money to invest in all of the necessary equipment to make it, so he took over my grandmother’s laundry tubs and improvised,” she continues. “Soon enough, he was producing wines for the local Europeans who had also made Griffith their home.” Ideal conditions
The Murrumbidgee Irrigation scheme, coupled with rich red soils and a warm Mediterranean climate, allows most varieties of grapes to grow well. Although the area was once looked upon as a producer of table wines, successful Italian varieties are fast becoming the star. “What is exciting is what we are learning about alternative varieties, such as Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, Vermentino and Pinot Bianco,” chief winemaker at Calabria Family Wines, Emma Norbiato says. “By controlling the yield and the canopy, we are seeing some beautiful fruit and making some exciting wines. “In the next five years, I would like to think we will see more thoughtful viticulture and winemaking in our alternative varieties. Montepulciano , Nero d’Avola , Pinot Bianco are new to our region and haven’t even reached their potential yet.” Vermentino has also been a successful addition to Lillypilly Wines. Their first vintage of the dry Italian white was released in 2015 and went straight on to win the trophy for Best Dry White Varietal at the Perth Royal Wine Show and another gold at the Small Vigneron Awards in Canberra. General manager of Mino & Co, Nick Guglielmino says while Italian wines are not new to Griffith, there is now a higher demand for them. “We are experiencing a time where these varieties are being more accepted by consumers,” he says. “Griffith indeed has a rich history of Italian culture, so it makes sense for us to follow the style of wines we are familiar with, that of Italian authenticity yet grown in Australian conditions similar to that of their origins.”
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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