Monday, 21 April 2014




David Ellis


SMALL though it is as a winemaking region, and small though in turn most of its makers are, the cool-climate NSW Southern Highlands is grabbing increasingly serious attention with wines from fruit that thrives in its clean, cool and elevated environment.


Sauvignon Blanc is one of these varieties, with Bill Hall at Banjo's Run at Exeter recently releasing a 2011 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc that can probably be most-easily summed up in just one word: stunning. For here is one that's got a wonderful generosity of flavour about it, and whose so-forward fresh stone fruit and herb characters, and lively acid finish, make it an ideal partner year-round with so many seafoods.


Bill has done absolute wonders with the rundown vineyard he bought some five years ago at Exeter, which is at the very southern end of the Southern Highlands region and some 700+ metres above sea level; if you're visiting the Highlands (Exeter is around just 1.5hrs drive south of Sydney) make a point to drop into his Banjo's Run Cellar Door that's open every weekend, and midweek by appointment, for a tasting of this and Bill's range of other varietals and blends (made for him by premium contract makers.)


The 2011 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is $22 a bottle and $240 a dozen; give Bill a call on 0408 228 724 to order, or simply go onto Freight $10 dozen to NSW coast, $22 dozen to remainder NSW, ACT, Victoria and southern Queensland.


ONE TO NOTE: IF you're thinking something Italian for the table like a tomato-based pasta or a wood-fired pizza with a hint of basil, think too about a further touch of Italy from the bottle to go with it – Barbera that's one of that country's most-grown varieties.


The Adelaide Hills' Chain of Ponds has an excellent example under its 2010 Stopover label, with full-on juicy red fruits from cherries to plums on the palate, a nice spiciness and balanced oak, and acid that make it a really great match with those tomato-based pasta and pizza options. Or if you prefer, a home-baked lasagne; at $22 excellent value for family entertaining.


NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.





[] NSW Southern Highlands wines grabbing increasingly serious attention – from 700m up, this one's made for seafood.

[] NICE taste of Italy from the Adelaide Hills: think tomato-based pasta, pizza or lasagne.


Monday, 14 April 2014



David Ellis


EDDYSTONE Point is a new label that debuted last year with an aim to creating cool-climate wines from the rugged and somewhat windy northwest tip of Tasmania that are, in the winemaking team's eyes, drinkable, affordable and representative of the island State's reputation for quality fresh produce.


And the just- released 2012 Pinot Gris certainly suggests they're on the right track: this is a wine that came from an outstanding vintage at Eddystone Point, one that began with a cool start to Spring, a slightly warmer than average Summer with just the right rainfall, and which all ran into a perfect growing and ripening period.


And the result is their 2012 Pinot Gris is a wine with a lively palate of melon and sweet pear characteristics, a supple mouth feel, and a bouquet of spicy pear and rosewater... certainly reflective of what the winemaking team said they were after.


Local lass Penny Jones who hails from Hobart, moved to South Australia in 2001 to do a winemaking course at  Adelaide University, graduated as Dux of Oenology in 2004, joined Petaluma in the Adelaide Hills and rose to become a winemaker there, and returned last year to her home-State to join the new Eddystone Point team.


Pay $26 for this one and enjoy with virtually anything from the sea – our suggestion being pasta with a seafood sauce.


ONE TO WATCH: THE Adelaide Hills' Howard Vineyard has put together a nicely balanced 2012 Shiraz/Cabernet under their Picnic label, a wine that's one of those you know you can comfortably take along to any barbecue.


With rich plum, spice and blueberry aromas, on the palate it's got nicely upfront red berries, plums,  toasty oak spice and soft tannins; a generous everyday wine from this family maker, its carefully chosen 62% Shiraz, 33% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon making it an ideal general BBQ wine at just $19, or equally so with Asian-style pork spareribs.


NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.




[] ONE from our islands State to enjoy with anything from the sea.

[] SAFE bet to take along to any barbecue.


Struth! Second chance for disgracefully aged wines.

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that when wine company Fifth Leg recently offered to swap for absolutely free a fresh new bottle of one of their wines for a bottle of any other label that owner's thought may have been a bit suss, an amazing 3,200 people travelled to bottle shops across Australia to accept their offer.

And many were remarkably frank about "bad wine experiences," including one-in-four admitting that if given what they considered to be a poor bottle of wine as a gift, they would re-wrap and re-gift it to someone else at a later date – while three-in-ten said they'd open and offer it to everyone at their party "for all to suffer."

The West Australian-based Fifth Leg invited people to take a suspect wine to select First Choice liquor stores Australia-wide on what they called Fifth Leg Bad Taste Amnesty Day, taste for free five Fifth Leg wines on offer, and to swap their possibly "crook plonk" for one of those fresh new Fifth Legs.

The amazing 3,212 bottles brought in to swap ranged from some without labels to others with labels Fifth Leg and First Choice staff said they'd never heard of, and with many looking very much like they'd been left to age most-ungracefully in the backs of kitchen cupboards, "under the house," in garages and even garden sheds.

The majority brought in to swap were Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, with greatest interest in those on free-swap offer being Shiraz, Chardonnay and Fifth Leg's Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot blend.

Fifth Leg is an off-shoot of Margaret River winery Devil's Lair, and is named after the fossilised skeleton of a Tasmanian Tiger found in a cave on the Devil's Lair property, with a mysterious fifth leg amongst those remains…

But that's another story.

PHOTO CAPTION: IN the back of the kitchen cupboard, under the house, even in garden sheds… some wines are left to age most ungracefully. Photo: Catherine Wyatt Bell.


Monday, 31 March 2014




David Ellis


THE Hunter Valley's Margan Family Winegrowers have an enviable reputation for their Aged Release Shiraz, a drop that winemaker Andrew Margan sees as wonderfully  rewarding for he and his team, and one that's equally rewaqrding for we as consumers.


The reason is that Andrew only makes this wine in years of exceptional vintages, and his just-released 2009 was from one of those which he considers in the "outstanding" category – making this one a little unique as he did not make a Margan Aged Release Shiraz in years immediately on either side of his 2009, that is in neither 2008 nor 2010.


Fruit for the 2009 came off 40 year old vines with a low half a tonne per acre yield, and with intense concentration of flavour: while typical Shiraz dark fruits (blackberries through to plum) and a peppery spiciness are to the fore, this a not overly-full-bodied Shiraz but rather nicely medium-bodied with a mild savouriness about it and fine tannin.


With a $75 price tag it's a great wine to share with good company around the fire during the coming cooler months, or to put on the table with eye fillet of beef leaning towards the rarer side, lamb shanks with garlicky mashed potatoes, or game dishes. And with 15-20+ years of drinking life, one to also consider getting your hands on now as a Christmas gift for that special person as Andrew made only 100 dozen – to do so (be it for yourself or another,) phone (02) 6579 1317 or visit


ONE TO NOTE: SHAW Vineyard Estate at Murrumbateman in the Canberra District is another to release a great drop from a great vintage, their 2013 Estate Riesling that company CEO Graeme Shaw says is the result of "near perfect conditions" after three previous years of cool, wet and difficult times.


Those good conditions gave fruit of full-flavour that's reflected in this wine that has a typical Riesling crispness that the Canberra District is well-known for – and lovely intense flavours of guava and cumquat coupled with beautifully balanced acidity.


At $25 it's a wine that's got "love me with the seafood" written all over it.


NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.





[] WITH just 100 dozen made, get in early to snare a bottle of this for yourself or a special someone at Christmas.

[] LOVE me with seafood is written all over this one from the Canberra District.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Novotel Swan Valley Vines Resort spearheads tourism campaign

Media Release

Western Australia’s Tourism Council is planning to promote the Swan Valley as one Perth’s major tourist drawcards. The Council is starting a campaign to promote its food and wine experiences and lifestyle benefits, according to recent media reports in WA. More than two million people visit the Swan Valley each year.

The campaign will centre on the Valley’s 80 wineries, a range of quality, family-run produce businesses and impressive cafes and restaurants, and the Novotel Swan Valley Vines Resort is situated perfectly to explore all that the valley has to offer.

From Easter Monday (April 21) onwards, The Novotel offers special rate of $175 per room per night, and this will also include a $50 dining voucher to be used at any dining facility for meals or drinks. This offer is valid until April 30, 2014.

The almost 25 year resort is entrenched deeply in the history, with ancient original vines, being uprooted during the construction of the Resort in 1996, removed and tended, then replanted around the grounds of the hotel again after completion.

This is the 180th anniversary of winemaking in the region this year, so grab a bargain few nights, and head to the hills to enjoy all it offers.

On return to your Resort hidden amongst the fairways, bunkers, and greens you can relax in the hot spa, swim a few lengths, have a hit of tennis or visit the Keishi Day Spa for some pampering.

Top your day off with some local wines, recognized worldwide brands such as Sandalford, Houghtons and Lamonts with a beautiful meal at Muscats restaurant.

To book please call 08 9297 3000 or email -

Monday, 24 March 2014



WORTHY of the Best name and
created for that very special occasion.

David Ellis

IT'S not every day we've the chance to enjoy a $200 wine, but just such an opportunity came our way a couple of weeks back when we shared a bottle of 2012 Best's Thomson Family Shiraz from Best's Wines at Great Western, in the Grampians north-west of Melbourne.

And what a WOW factor it turned out to have: made from fruit hand-harvested off just fifteen rows of some of the oldest, most-gnarled Shiraz vines in Australia, having been planted by Henry Best a-near 150 years ago in 1867, it has an almost explosive bouquet of dark fruits, bitter chocolate, dried flowers and intense white pepper.

Savour these with a swirl of the glass, and then be wonderfully seduced on the palate with mouth-filling, yet quite mellow, fragrant dark fruit flavours, and delightful tannins… just perfect with roast suckling pig on a spit, fresh garden veggies and a rich gravy.

TASSIE beauty that's ideal with carpaccio of
Tasmanian salmon with a white wine
vinaigrette, capers and chervil.
The Thomson family who bought the winery from Henry Best in 1920 are now "5th generation custodians" of Best's vineyards and made the first Best's Thomson Family Shiraz in 1992 to celebrate 100 years of the Thomson's settling in Best Western; they've made just twelve since from a dozen particularly outstanding quality vintages.

A very special wine for a very special occasion, the more so with 5-20 years cellaring.

ONE TO NOTE:  IF you've carpaccio of Tasmanian salmon on the menu as a starter for that next dinner party, a great drop to offer it with is a Bay of Fires Tasmanian Cuvee Rosé – particularly as it's from the salmon's home State and priced so nicely at $29.99.

Made from highest-quality fruit sourced from across Tasmania's four major viticultural regions, this is a great cool climate bubbly with loads of red berry fruit flavours, earthy mushrooms and crisp acidity; the creamy mouth-feel making it ideal with that carpaccio of Tasmanian salmon, that winemakers Ed Carr and Peter Dredge suggest be best served with a white wine vinaigrette, capers and chervil.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

Monday, 17 March 2014



David Ellis

THE NSW Southern Highlands is considered one of Australia's newest wine regions, yet the first wine grapes were in fact grown there by surgeon, explorer and settler Dr Charles Throsby at his property, Throsby Park in Moss Vale way back in the 1820s, most likely for making into small quantities of fortifieds that were popular at the time.

But it took another 160 years before the region was recognised for its potential for producing exceptional cool climate wines, with a couple of vineyards planted in the 1980s and followed by more from the 1990s. Today there are 60 vineyards across the Southern Highlands and some 15 cellar doors at which to enjoy their product.

One really worthy of a visit on a trip down that way – and it's just over 100km south of Sydney – is Diamond Creek Estate that planted 7ha of vines at Mittagong in 1997, today hand-picking these and having its wines made under contract by local wineries.

PERFECT with Thai Chicken Curry,
or all manner of seafoods.
Particularly rewarding is their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon that has wonderfully intense blackcurrant and cassis on the palate, and a hint of mint. Surprisingly its just $22 a bottle cellar door or $264 a dozen plus freight (free within the Highlands, around $20 NSW, elsewhere TBA) and a great drop with crumbed lamb cutlets and garlic potatoes.

For details or to order go onto, or if you'd like to have a chat about this and their other reds and their whites, call them on (02) 4872 3311.

ONE TO NOTE: WESTERN Australia's cool maritime Margaret River is undoubtedly our most-prolific region for stand-out Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, and Voyager Estate's 2013 is an interestingly sophisticated, yet easy drinking example of this popular blend.

With 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon picked from across fourteen vineyard blocks, all fruit was harvested in a record eight days after an almost-bizarre weather pattern that saw the driest July on record, good Spring rains, November storms and a hot summer. But the result is a classic drop with vibrant fresh and crunchy tropical and citrus fruit flavours; at $24 perfect with Thai Chicken Curry, or all manner of seafoods.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

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