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Wine

Meet Tom Carson of Yabby Lake

With the popularity of Australian Pinot G continuing to climb, we chat with Yabby Lake general manager and winemaker, Tom Carson, whose Red Claw Pinot Gris 2016 is so deliciously food-friendly.

Along with being an award-winning winemaker, you’re also heavily involved with the Australian wine show circuit – including holding the position of Chairman of the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. What’s exciting you most about Australian wine?

Australian wine is in a wonderful period at the moment, there are so many small producers producing stunning wine. As we have seen at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards, this year a Grenache won the most coveted Trophy in Australian wine, the Jimmy Watson Trophy. Grenache is a wonderful variety and produces stunning wines, particularly from the incredible old vine resources of South Australia – couple this with a modern, sensitive approach to winemaking and we are finally realising the potential of this variety.

You’ve worked in multiple wine regions across Australia and France, and this year celebrate ten years at Yabby Lake –  what drew you to Yabby Lake and the Mornington Peninsula?  

Yabby Lake is a stunning property and is an amazing vineyard site. It was the unrealised potential of this site that really drew me in – just imagining what was possible with this vineyard had me hooked, and 10 years on that hasn’t changed.

Fruit for the Red Claw Pinot Gris 2016 was harvested in early February 2016, which is quite early for the Mornington Peninsula! How’s vintage 2018 looking? 

Yes, 2016 was the earliest vintage we have ever experienced here, picking 10 days earlier than ever before. 2018 is shaping up nicely and we should be harvesting late February this year!

Both Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio have really found their place in the Australian wine market – what is it about Pinot G that makes it so popular?

It is a wine that is easy to connect with – it’s subtle, finely detailed, but also wonderfully drinkable and really suits that summer weather when you are craving something refreshing but also interesting.

What makes the Red Claw Pinot Gris stand out from the crowd?

Red Claw Mornington Peninsula Pinot Gris captures the variety and region in a way that just draws you in and makes you an instant fan.

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

I remember when l was very young, maybe 5 years-old, treading grapes in a garbage bin and thinking what great fun it was getting covered in wine and grapes. It’s funny how things work out!

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

I am massive fan of Yarra Valley Chardonnay, particularly from Oakridge, old vine McLaren Vale Grenache from S.C. Pannell, and Nebbiolo from Italy.

What is your ultimate food and wine match?
Chinese roast duck and Pinot Noir! Yes, it is a bit of a cliché, but have you tried it?

What do you do to relax when you’re away from the winery?
On a golf course! Well, l try to anyway, but that depends on how the game is going!

Your must-do for visitors to the Mornington Peninsula.
Peninsula hot springs in winter.

Beach in summer.

Golf in autumn and spring.

What is your favourite…

Book?

Girt by David Hunt – every Australian should read this book and True Girt.

Movie?

Alien.

TV show?

Game of Thrones.

Restaurant? 

Kisume.

Breakfast?

Coffee.

Lunch? 

Long.

Dinner?

In summer a barbeque eating outside and enjoying a few nice wines.

Time of day/night? 

Morning.

Sporting team? 

Essendon FC.

Beer? 

Proper Italian brewed and canned Peroni Nastro Azzurro – not that rubbish they brew and bottle here, it is a scandal and should be exposed.

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Vine Change for the Good Life
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 27 Nov 2017
Ever dreamed of making a vine change? Meet some daring individuals who took a leap of faith to embrace the good life – vinous style. We’ve all been there. Visited a winery, wandered through the vines, dreaming of days spent pruning tips and tasting wines straight from the barrel. Of course, this romantic picture glosses over the constant stress of too much or not enough rain, grape-eating pests and the changing tastes of fickle consumers. But for a special selection of wine producers, the challenges were never too great. Their dream of a life on the land was enough motivation to pack in their career and take up the secateurs for a life dictated by vines, veraison and vats. For Todd and Jeff of Belford Block Eight in the Hunter Valley , it was love at first sight of their property’s driveway. As Jeff explains, “Todd and I turned off the car, listened to nature, admired the olives, turned to one another and said, ‘this is it.’” Jeff gave up his job in the finance department for CanTeen and Todd left Ebay, where he’d worked for 12 years in strategy, marketing and analysis. Neither knew anything about winemaking. But on their property were around 12,000 vines, so, as Todd describes, “Jeff and I tracked down a bottle of 2006 Brokenwood Block Eight Semillon, a single vineyard release made only using our grapes and it was truly remarkable. So, we thought, maybe there’s an opportunity to make some nice wine from these grapes, let’s give it a go!” And given it a go they certainly have with their first ever wine, the 2014 Reserve Semillon now an award-winner. It hasn’t been all plain sailing, though, and they’ve learnt some valuable lessons. Apart from the vagaries of harvest, the necessity of tractor headlights and that their deckchairs are just for show, they also know that un-neutered piglets turn into boisterous 150kg boars and goats can be as loyal as dogs. But regrets? “No bloody way, mate!” is Jeff’s answer, “One day we’ll sit on those deck chairs, sipping on a 20-year-old Block Eight, admiring what we’ve built.” Healthy vines
Back in 1997, while Jeff and Todd were still slogging away in the corporate world, over in South Australia’s Clare Valley, medical professional, Anura Nitchingham planted his first vineyard. He’d chosen Clare because, he says, “The region is really an unsung hero in the world of viticulture. It’s unique and has some really great producers in a very small, but beautiful region.” That first planting has grown into Claymore Wines , one of Australia’s most unique wine brands. While Anura hasn’t left his medical career, he says that winemaking provides something medicine can’t: “Vines don’t complain! And there’s wine!” The medical theme is also part of the story of Hobbs of Barossa Ranges . Allison Hobbs was a nurse and her husband was a former policeman turned firefighter when they bought their vineyard in the Barossa. Their decision to make a vine change was borne of a desire to provide a rural lifestyle for their children. Like Jeff and Todd, Allison and Greg knew very little about making wine, but the stars aligned, providing them with some strokes of good fortune in the early years. Foremost was they happened to buy the property next door to local winemaking expert, Chris Ringland, who provided invaluable advice and made their wines. While being a nurse, police officer or fire fighter might be worlds away from making wine, Allison and Greg feel they brought vital skills from those professions to their new endeavour. As Greg says, “attention to detail is very important to both nursing and winemaking”, and Allison adds, “the observation techniques you learn in nursing, the police and fire brigade are important as we wander through the vineyard and take note of what’s right and what’s not.” Livin’ in the 70s
Although Allison, Greg and Anura faced challenges in the mid-1990s, things were even more basic in the 1970s. Having left successful careers in the emerging computer industry, Linda and Ian Tyrer bought a property in WA’s Mount Barker region to establish Galafrey Wines . Again, they had no experience, but, as Linda describes, she arrived at their new home four months pregnant, armed with a few thousand grape cuttings – “naive but starry-eyed, full of enthusiasm.” A lack of money meant a lot of back-breaking work, but by 1985, they had won their first Trophy and Ian’s tireless dedication saw him awarded the George Mulgure Award for outstanding service to the industry in 2003. Unfortunately, the same year, Ian lost his battle with cancer. However, his legacy lives on with Linda still at the helm, along with daughter Kim, who left her own career as an artist to return to the vines. One thing all these people would agree on is that a life among the vines is a hard slog. But is it the good life? Absolutely!
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Meet the Maker – Oliver’s Taranga
Spend some time with Winemaker Corrina Wright from Oliver’s Taranga, whose 2016 Fiano is our September Wine of the Month . Your Oliver’s Taranga vineyards are located in McLaren Vale , what makes the region so special? I think that McLaren Vale is such a beautiful region- the vines, the beaches, the food, the proximity to Adelaide. Pretty much Utopia! Your family has a fantastic grape growing history in McLaren Vale dating back to 1841. In 1994 you made and launched the first Oliver’s Taranga branded wine – is that correct? Yes, I am the 6th generation to grow grapes on our Taranga vineyard in McLaren Vale. So we are 176 years and still going strong! In 1994, I started my oenology degree and began making some wines from the vineyard after begging my Grandpa for some fruit. He was pretty keen to sell some wine to his bowls mates, so he was on board. I suppose things just grew and grew from there. I was working for Southcorp Wines and making Oliver’s Taranga on the side. Eventually, Oliver’s Taranga took over, and we renovated one of the old worker’s cottages on the property and turned it into a cellar door in 2007. We are still growers for a number of different wineries, but now around 35% of the crop from our vineyard goes to our Oliver’s Taranga brand. Find out more about the Oliver's Taranga cellar door in our McLaren Vale Winery Guide .
Six generations on, you and your cousin Brioni Oliver are winemaker and cellar manager respectively – what’s it like working with family? I love it. Brioni is actually on maternity leave at the moment –  little 7th generation Hugo was born a few weeks ago, and I am really missing her. We work well together and are focused on making our business as good as it can be. Your wine labels are quite fun and quirky – who’s responsible? We work with designer Chris Harris from Draw Studio , who has a very quirky sense of humour. Also, we know there’s a myriad of wine brands for people to choose from out there, so what makes us different? It is the people and the history, so being able to tell real stories are key to helping us stand out above the white noise! We have been on the property for 176 years now, and have many documents from back in the day. Producing the wine each year is a continuing documentation of our time on the land, so we use our little comments on the label “The Year That….” To tell something quirky that happened on the farm that year. Our Wine of the Month is your 2016 Fiano –  what is it about alternatives like Fiano that you like so much? They suit our climate and lifestyle so well. Fiano is very drought and heat tolerant and has lovely natural high acidity, it is also disease resistant and has great thick skins. Also, the resultant wine works so well with our foods and regional produce. Being coastal, we eat a lot of seafood in the region, and Fiano has lovely texture and line that works perfectly in this space. Find out more about Australian Fiano here . In our food and wine matching calendar, we’ve paired it with a delicious avocado spring salad (avocado, snow peas, radicchio, witlof, radishes, red onions, pea shoots and roasted macadamias) – what’s your choice of food partner? That sounds yum! I love it with kingfish ceviche with avocado, lime, cucumber, tomato, spring onion, coriander, salt, pepper – delish.  What’s your favourite wine memory? Probably doing the Len Evans Tutorial – a week of wine, learning, sharing and food. On a personal level, the 1996 Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs I shared with my husband on our wedding day. Other than your own wine, what wine do you like to drink at home? Anything goes. Grenache is a current favourite. Riesling gets a solid bashing. I probably tend to drink more white wine at home and the Champagne is always cold. What are your three top recommendations for a first-time visitor to the area? A summer day in the cellar doors, followed by a dip in the ocean at Pt. Willunga and fish and chips from the Star of Greece as the sun goes down. Early Saturday morning at the Willunga Farmers Market getting all your produce for a decadent feed. Visit tiny wine shop Fall from Grace in Aldinga for something quirky and meet up with the locals. What is your favourie? ​ Way to spend time off? Beachside/poolside somewhere warm with a book. Holiday destination? We are heading to South Africa for the first time, next year, so I am very excited about that. Our go to is Bali – surf, sun, food, easy as. Time of year? Spring Movie? I just binge-watched ‘The Handmaids Tale’ on SBS On Demand last weekend. So, so, so good. And disturbing. Restaurant? Pizza-teca or Salopian Inn. McLaren Vale has loads of choices, and it’s hard to go wrong! Sporting team? Adelaide Crows #weflyasone FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OLIVER'S TARANGA SMALL BATCH FIANO
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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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