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Wine

Celebrating Christmas with Brown Brothers

We recently caught up with Ross Brown from the iconic Brown Brothers to talk Prosecco and Christmas.

Your Brown Brothers Vintage Release Single Vineyard Prosecco 2014 is our Wine of the Month for December – what makes it so special for this time of the year (or anytime really)?

Sparkling wine is all about celebration with friends and Prosecco is the new exciting fashion for Sparkling. It’s fine, zesty, dry and refreshing and just perfect for those lazy summer days.

Brown Brothers has over 126 years of history in Australian winemaking and family is obviously very important to you. How is your family planning on spending this Christmas?

Having all the immediate family around the Christmas dinner table is mandatory, but just a bit more complex this year, as Emma our youngest daughter is living in Napa Valley, California. We have all made a commitment to be in Mammoth Mountain, a ski town for Christmas. We will go by the local market and buy oysters and salmon for entree and duck for mains. My wife Judy's confit of duck recipe is a family legend.

What wines will your family be enjoying over Christmas?

This year as Emma is hosting, she's sourcing the wines with the brief to surprise us with the best of California, especially Pinot for the duck.

Can you remember the first wine you ever tried?

No, not really. There was always wine on the dinner table, and I was always allowed to taste, as long as I described the taste and aroma. It was no big deal as wine and food was a natural.

When did you fall in love with wine?

Growing up in the 1960s drinking wine socially was a risky business – real men drank beer! In the 1970s wine became fashionable and I had lots of friends curious about what wine I had brought to the party. I guess that was when I fell in love but not only with the wine.

It’s a tough question, but do you have a favourite wine or varietal?

When I'm asked which is my favourite wine, my reply invariably is the "next one".
In truth Riesling is my favourite white varietal – the flavour dimensions are remarkable with lean and minerally Tasmanian styles through to rich, ripe and generous Noble Riesling.

With reds I'm fascinated with Pinot Noir. For me it’s about the silken texture – fine and powerful and so reflective of the vineyard. It matches so many different foods and I'm already thinking about that duck for Christmas.

What is your favourite wine memory?

This is an impossible question as my entire life has been wine. I have been just so fortunate to grow up in a thriving family business, based in beautiful North East Victoria, and to share a wine and food lifestyle with so many wonderful people.

Having dinner with friends and finding that gem that has remained hidden in the cellar for far too long, and it opens fabulously, along with a flood of memories around the year the wine was made, is the ultimate Saturday night filled with lots of laughs and short memories!

How do you spend your time when you’re not making wine?

With my daughter Katherine now winemaking, I'm delighted to run away and admire her good work, especially knowing she has the best mentors in the world.

Judy and I love the ‘hunting and gathering’ lifestyle, we are crazy about fishing and love Tasmania. There we can catch crayfish, calamari, and flat head or fly fish for trout all in one day, and if it's a really tough day, fit in a game of golf just for the frustration.

For me seeing another generation, my three daughters, excited and totally engaged in the wine business is the greatest reward, especially if they find a great Riesling and Pinot for Christmas dinner and don't forget the Prosecco!

What is your choice at Christmas:

Carols by Candlelight – love them or loathe them? A must on Christmas Eve. 
Sparkling Shiraz, Champagne or both? Prosecco is the new Champagne.
Plum pudding, pavlova or trifle? Depends on the age of the Noble Riesling.
Turkey, glazed ham or seafood? Seafood, seafood and more seafood.
Christmas lunch or dinner? Don't know the difference as it starts around 11am and goes on and on....
Boxing Day recovery? This calls for exercise and this year given a white Christmas, we will all be skiing probably until lunch.

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The Story of Yalumba
Words by Paul Diamond on 15 May 2017
Cabernet and Grenache are two essential chapters in the story of Yalumba. Join us as we uncover the characters and the plot behind their creations with a dream vertical tasting in the Barossa As Australia’s oldest family wine brand, Yalumba has a rich history packed with incredible stories. And, like any family, the tales offer more about the individuals and their character than the brand itself. As time passes, these stories meld and form an identity that ultimately shapes the family’s place in the world. Yalumba is bursting with such yarns and if you visit its home, just outside Angaston in the  Barossa Valley , you will see mementoes of these moments, memories and people everywhere. As for the brand, ‘Yalumba’ is an Indigenous word that translates to ‘all the land around’ and is now connected to its home, the winery and cellar door just outside Angaston. This impressive structure, complete with clock tower, is made from Angaston marble and it stands as a five-generational, 168-year statement in winemaking vision and commitment. Interestingly, Yalumba’s story began not with wine, but beer, when brewer Samuel Smith came to South Australia in 1849. With the help of his son Sidney, Samuel set up shop and started planting vines on 30 acres on their land. Today, the Yalumba empire is considered a multi-regional, multi-layered, modern, family wine business that has plenty of products across a wide brand portfolio.  Most people will have a Yalumba taste or experience to call on if required, but what about the lesser known stories? Thankfully, a recent Yalumba tasting helped bring a couple of significant ones to light: its commitment to  Coonawarra  and its undertaking to  Grenache .    AN ODE TO SIR ROBERT Former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, who was well known for his love of Claret, once declared that a 1962 Yalumba Coonawarra was, “the greatest wine he had tasted.” Someone at Yalumba took note and in 1987 the first ‘The Menzies’ was born.  Today, The Menzies, under the custodial care of winemaker Natalie Cleghorn, is classic Coonawarra and represents the best of Yalumba’s Cabernet plantings on the magic terra rossa strip. The Menzies is a serious wine, built to last with elegant measures of everything – structure, complexity, balance and long term cellaring potential. From the current 2013 to the soon to be released 2014, all the way back to the original 1987 vintage, the bracket proved that this wine deserves its place in the Yalumba narrative.  Natalie, originally from the  Adelaide Hills , came to Yalumba to work in the lab and loves the frame that Cabernet offers to the winemaker’s palate. “To me, Coonawarra Cabernet is a building block; fruit and flavours are on top of the presence of its structure,” she explains. “When it comes to wine, it’s like looking at a beautiful building. It’s a hard thing to describe, but it’s about creating something that will live for a long time.” Structure is key when it comes to Coonawarra  Cabernet  and the impact of that factor in the life of a wine was not lost when we tasted the 1987 vintage of The Menzies. Fine and elegant with buckets of dusty violets, blackcurrants, cassis and chocolate flavours beguile the nose and palate, while the texture of this wine in the mouth is quite stunning.  HOLD THE OPULENCE Next up was  The Cigar , made from the same vineyards as The Menzies, but designed to be less opulent and therefore more of an approachable Coonawarra Cabernet statement.   The Cigar was first released in 2006, but has been steadily gaining popularity since. Now part of the ‘Distinguished Sites’ range, this wine shows controlled intensity and classic Cabernet flavours with satisfying, well-toned complexity and length. A standout was the 2013 for its dense blackcurrant and tobacco leaf aromatics balanced by a juicy palate of elegant black and red fruits. The not yet released 2014 shows plenty of elegant, feminine beauty and medium weighted potential, soon to become a new character in the Yalumba story.  A CHAPTER REBORN Grenache has been a blending partner with  Shiraz  and Mourvèdre for years, but only recently has the thick skinned, late ripening variety gained attention as a single expression.  Ironically, while it’s thought of as an alternative grape in Australia, Grenache was one of the first to be widely planted here and the Barossa has some of the country’s oldest vines. Yalumba has long recognised the important part this variety will play in its story and has entrusted it to senior red winemaker, Kevin Glastonbury.  Kevin has spent his working life in the Barossa and has been at Yalumba since 1999. Highly regarded and respected, he has a real soft spot for Grenache’s many vivid expressions and unique power to weight potential. Kevin has been on a Grenache crusade and all his wines are beautiful expressions of versatility, each with its own tale.  “One of my personal goals when I joined Yalumba was to bring focus onto Grenache, mainly because it’s my favourite single variety to work with,” Kevin describes. “Consumers are appreciating that Grenache isn’t just another big Barossa or  McLaren Vale  red wine. They are now wines of finesse and texture, with techniques like whole bunch fermentation playing a big role.  “At Yalumba, we have seen incredible growth with Grenache. When I started here 18 years ago, we had a couple of Grenache wines. Now we are making it in two Rosé styles, five single varietal wines, and one blended with Shiraz and Mataro. It is really fantastic to see how Grenache is being appreciated.” And with resources like the 820 gnarly, 128-year-old bush vines that Kevin has at his disposal for theTri-Centenary Grenache, it is easy to see why he is a happy Barossan. The Tri-Centenary line-up going back to 2005 was incredible. These wines are light, almost  Pinot Noir -like in weight, but all possess incredible depth and complexity. From the rustic, heady aromas and tart-ripe cherries of the 2005, to the exotic truffle and blackberry aromatics and rounded length of the 2011, these wines express a depth and intensity that is quite special.  WEIGHTY WONDERS Next bracket of wines were the Carriage Block Grenache planted in 1954 in the valley’s north towards Kalimna by local train driver at the time, Elmore Schulz. These wines showed a little more weight that the Tri-Centenary wines, but had wonderful layers of bright cherries, spices and raspberries. With all that ripe fruit you would expect some sweetness, but surprisingly, both wines had an attractive savoury finish. To finish up, we looked at the 2015 and 2016 Vine Vale wines, yet another expression of the Yalumba Grenache tale. These wines expressed a gamey, savoury complexity that was charming and again, exhibited bags of power and finesse, but in a light-weighted frame. As a variety that loves the warmth, Grenache can sometimes exude alcohol heat, but none of Kevin’s wines had fallen victim to this curse. Grenache is a wonderful old part of the Yalumba story that, through the support of the Hill-Smith family and the drive of Kevin, has become a new chapter. Similarly with Cabernet, Coonawarra and Natalie, we will start to see new stories emerge and find their as part of the bigger Yalumba picture.  If you haven’t formed your own Yalumba impression, you should take a closer look, the wines and the story are definitely worth it.  THE WINES OF THE TASTING Yalumba The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1987, 1995, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2014  Yalumba The Cigar Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 2010, 2013, 2014 Yalumba The Tri-Centenary Grenache 2005, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 Yalumba Carriage Block Grenache 2015, 2016 Yalumba Vine Vale Grenache 2015, 2016 RARE, FINE AND DISTINGUISHED YALUMBA WINES
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.
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  Riesling ,  Chardonnay   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?
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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