Sat 30th Jan, 2010 - by
I'm pretty sure wine is magic.
Last week was my Father In-Law's 60th birthday. To celebrate we were invited
around to his house for an evening of food and wine, the likes of which we see
reasonably often living so close by. What made this evening notable (apart from
the aforementioned temporal milestone) was the wine being served was:
a) A bottle of our favourite domestic champagne (Hanging Rock Macedon LD)
b) A bottle of 1983 Grange.
I was (I think understandably) excited. Would this be the best wine I had ever
tasted? It would certainly be the most expensive wine
I've ever had the good fortune to taste. Also the most critically
There is no doubt that the 1983 Grange is an exceptional wine by the standards I'm
used to judging by. It has survived the passage of time wonderfully, and I'd imagine
would have continued to do so had it stayed in the cellar. But blind tasted, would I
pay the hundreds of dollars asking price? I sincerely doubt it (even if I did have
that sort of cash). Is it even top of my list of favourite wines? Unfortunately I'd
have to say no. But you know what it is? It's magic.
To explain simply, I think there's an undentiable romanticism of wine. Since the instant the Grange
was mentioned, the dinner transformed from an occurance to a ritual. From the careful
removal of the crumbling 27 year old cork, to the decanting of the contents, and even
just leaving the wine to breathe; the ritual was excitedly observed by all present. Even members
of the group who were not particularly fond of wine understood, this wine was obviously special.
Not because it was expensive, but because it was Grange. A wine that over the years has
attained an almost mythical status at the top end of the Autralian wine tree (that should probably
But as for the most important part of the ritual, the drinking, what happens then? Everyone smells,
tastes, smells again, tastes again. Then talks. The first few minutes are spent discussing the
wine, but once that has been done then what?
Once we've discussed tannins and oaks, fruits and nose, and exhausted our wine
vocabularies what do we do?.
We move on.
We talk of other things.
Sure, every now and again throughout the
evening the conversations moves back to the Grange, but that becomes the background of the evening.
And at once it becomes clear that the ritual of the wine is not even about the wine, it's about who
was asked to take part. The Grange was opened, consumed, and now it's gone. And years from now
the six people around the table that evening won't even remember it apart from in broad, general terms.
But we'll remember where we were when we drank it. And who we were with.
That is the magic of wine.
Narkoojee Wine Lunch at Red Emperor
Tue 19th Jan, 2010 - by
Not a bad wine
A little background:
Narkoojee is a fairly small winery just out of Traralgon, about 200km south east of Melbourne. Conveniently, this places it a very short distance from where I grew
up, and an even shorter distance from where my parents live now. As a result,
whenever I'm down that way visiting family, I tend to make a detour to the
vineyard and cellar door at Narkoojee. Last weekend I didn't have to go to
them. They came to me.
We were invited* to Red Emperor at Southbank at midday, lured by the joint promises
of much food and wine. The $50 ticket price sounded an absolute bargain given the
quality of the wines on offer, so we hardly needed to be asked twice.
The food was unfortunately
not entirely up to scratch, but I'm choosing to gloss over that due to the fact I
easily drank a $50 compliment of Narkoojee wines and hence the dumplings, duck, and
beef were essentially a bonus.
This is the third winery function which I've been to in recent years. I've been going
to the Hanging Rock one for a while, and Eastern Peake put on a small dinner late
last year; but I'm going to try and make more of a habit of it. I'm one of the people
who, on the poll on the left, said I would rather go without food than wine. And at
winery functions the wine is obviously what takes center stage.
The five wines on offer this time were the Sparkling 'Harriet' Chardonnay,
a melon and citrus-y affair which has spent seven months on lees. The 08 Reserve
Chardonnay, a personal favourite; one of the best chardonnays around as far as
I'm concerned, though I've been told some of the older vintages are even more extraordinary.
The 08 Pinot Noir, paired (obviously) with Peking Duck. The 07 Cabernet Merlot,
this caused quite the discussion at our table, with suggestions this was a sleeping giant
in the Narkoojee lineup, the word 'flagship' was bandied about, although most gave that
distinction to either the chardonnay or the Athelstan Merlot(unfortunately not offered
at the lunch). And finally came the 06 Sparkling Merlot. My comment would be "well, what
else would one do with straight merlot? Were it not for the fact that the above mentioned
Athelstan is so good.
While we had a great time (as everyone tends to do when quality wine flows so freely), there
was a slight tinge of disappointment with the food. I think the winery has really been let
down by the dishes served with their wines, and while the wines held their own they really
weren't done any favours. Previous Narkoojee wine lunches have been held at such restaurants
as Neilson's in Traralgon, Church Street Enoteca in Richmond and Matteo's in Fitzroy.
Red Emperor sits oddly in such company, and I'm not sure I'd be returning in a hurry on
the strength of this visit. The wines however, will maintain a presence in our cellar, and
my visits to the vineyard will remain a tradition for years to come.
*Note: My parents actually heard about this first and invited us, the lunch was
technically booked out, but it helps that my parents have been known to go grape
picking with the owners of the vineyard.
Happy New Year!
Mon 4th Jan, 2010 - by
Gourmet Husbands Rings in the New Year in Style
As has become a tad too customary on this site, this post is late. So first of all
I'd like to thank all our readers and listeners, and wish you all a Happy New Year
from all of us here at Gourmet Husbands, and hope that your holidays were as full of
good friends and good food as ours were.
One of my new years resolutions involved keeping this site ticking over, there have been
a few too many times when it has ground to a halt for a series of weeks. And I'm off to a
good start with this post, which should really have been done a few days ago. So this is
how I celebrated Christmas Day with my wonderful Gourmet Wife:
We call him Pinchy
Sarah was brave enough to head to the Queen Victoria Market seafood section on Christmas Eve
to procure such a fine specimen, and when she returned I was terrified by the sheer size
of it. I've never cooked anything anywhere near this expensive, so I did the obvious thing
that people do in this day and age when slightly overwhelmed. I tweeted about it. Thanks to
the advice of @divinepurple from
A Goddess in the Kitchen
and @wolfinkitchen from The Lake House, combined
with Dave's Crayfish with cream and pink peppercorn sauce (here) I think I made a decent job of it:
You may notice in the first image above the two wines which accompanied our feast, a Hanging Rock Macedon (one
of our favourite domestic sparklings, and a bottle of 1999 Marsanne from Tahbilk's 1927 vines. The Marsanne
in particular was notable, with the wonderful honeysuckle flavours having developed greatly during its 10 year
cellaring. Although the most amazing bottle I had over the holiday season was another Hanging Rock Macedon, specifically
the Macedon V - a 1996 release. My father picked this one up for the princely sum of $5, (keeping in mind that a current
release will set you back ten times that amount), and this price was explained by the bottle shop owner with the wonderful
quote "people in Morwell don't drink old wines". Their loss is my gain. This bottle was outstanding, there's no other word
for it, the wine had developed a wonderful creamy texture, along with a deep and rich color, and retained all of the
flavours from its time in old French oak and on Lees that have become so known and loved by Sarah and myself.
The only sad thing about this is that I'll probably never taste another Hanging Rock sparkling this old ever again,
they certainly don't last that long in my cellar before being opened, but if anyone out there has an old one I'd be
interested to hear about it.
As for New Years, Dave and Alicia returned from their time in the United States a few days beforehand, and Dave was keen
to get back into his kitchen. I was only too happy to encourage him in this endeavour. The New Years feast which Dave and
Alicia put on for us was quite honestly extraordinary. First came prawn dumplings prepared expertly by Alicia, followed
by an entree of crab and lobster (which looked oddly familiar to my Xmas day lunch), a main of Eye Fillet and Rib Eye, with
roast potatoes and asparagus, artichoke and feta salad. Finally (as if we hadn't eaten enough by this stage) was the chocolate
mousse with berry jelly and fresh berries served at the stroke of midnight. What a way to start the new decade.