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McW 660 Reserve Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon, $25

McWilliam’s is a rare breed amongst Australia’s largest and oldest wine companies, as it is still Australian-owned and still in the hands of the McWilliam family. Its long history of winemaking (140+ years) bestows a provenance that deserves to be proudly upheld. Its McW range celebrates the regional diversity and elegance of cool climate, high altitude wines, the 660 denoting the fact that the fruit is harvested from vineyards at an average altitude of 600 metres above sea level. This Cabernet is from the Hilltops region of New South Wales, where McWilliam’s has long held vineyards, giving it access to mature vines producing elegant wines that pair well with a wide range of dishes. This one has dark chocolate and blackberry notes, and we think it would go well with meatballs, a hearty roast or slow-cooked beef.

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The post McW 660 Reserve Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon appeared first on Food Wine Travel.

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McW 660 Reserve Canberra Syrah, $25

With a range of altitudes and micro-climates, Canberra is a versatile region, capable of producing a number of varietals of excellent quality. Shiraz is one of its flagship varieties, the cool Canberra climate producing medium-bodied reds with an enviable finesse and elegance. It’s because of this that McWilliam’s chooses to label its McW 660 Reserve Syrah, suggesting a softer European-style than the full-bodied Shiraz produced in many Australian regions. This one is a vibrant purple red with spicy oak, gentle tannins, bright red berry flavours and a long finish that invites you to kick back over a winter-warming meal or in front of a roaring log fire. Enjoy!

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Winemaker Sue Bell pours some of her Bellwether wines at Wandering Cooks.

Wandering Cooks is one of our favourite venues in Brisbane. It’s so unique that it’s very hard to describe it to anyone who hasn’t been, but if you love food, wine and quirky entertainment, it deserves to be on your radar. Located in an old warehouse in South Brisbane, its main purpose is as an incubator for artisan food businesses, providing micro start-ups with commercial kitchen space to get their ventures off the ground.

But it’s also much more than that, featuring classes and workshops in everything from mushroom growing to minimising waste, as well as a great bar, beer garden, coffee spot and food stalls. There’s a strong emphasis on ethical and sustainable food production, which resonates with us. We especially love going to Wandering Cooks on Sunday afternoons when it regularly offers Sunday Hot Club with live gypsy jazz music that lures people of all ages to the dance floor.

We’ve enjoyed all the dishes we’ve tried while kicking back at Sunday Hot Club, and we’ve also taken the opportunity to sample some really interesting drinks from the bar. Wandering Cooks actually has one of the most interesting wine lists in Brisbane, and it’s great to see it supporting small producers who are doing some really smart, interesting products. For some of the producers, Wandering Cooks is their only outlet in Queensland, so they are lucky to have such enthusiastic support.

Fruit for the Bellwether Wines is sourced from leading Australian regions.

Last month Wandering Cooks hosted a ticketed event called ‘Unknown Pleasures’, an afternoon of cellar door tastings with some of the boutique producers whose wine is sold through the bar. Most of the tastings were poured by the winemakers themselves, offering a great opportunity to talk with the winemakers in a relaxed and unpretentious setting.

The wines we tasted came from as far afield as Margaret River, Tasmania, McLaren Vale and Macedon, and there were some real treasures amongst them. It was a hard choice but probably our favourite of them all was the Stargazer 2017 Chardonnay from Tasmania’s Coal Valley, a sleek wine with notes of hazelnut and lemon curd. It is wild fermented, adding the tiniest bit of funkiness (which we love) balanced by subtle oak. It was only later that we learned this wine sells for $55 a bottle. Yes, we do have expensive tastes!

Stargazer winemaker Samantha Connew became captivated with Pinot Noir while working in Oregon.

All the Stargazer wines are wild fermented, according to winemaker/director, Samantha Connew, who spent 10 years as senior winemaker at McLaren Vale’s Wirra Wirra Vineyards, followed by a couple of years at Tower Estate in the Hunter Valley. “The fruit in Tasmania is so pristine we are using wild ferment to add interesting flavours,” she said.

Connew established Stargazer in 2012 and one of the things that sets her wine apart (other than flavour) is the cool packaging – all the labels have vintage pictures with a Tasmanian theme. Her Palisander vineyard was planted by Norm and Jan Gangell in 2004 and acquired by her in 2016. It’s planted pretty much half and half to Riesling and Pinot Noir. Connew expanded it in late 2017 to include two more hectares of vines, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Stage two of the expansion is planned for 2020, by which time she hopes to be totally estate grown.

The Stargazer 2018 Riesling has typical Tasmanian acidity with generous citrus notes and hints of ginger on the nose. We particularly liked the 2018 Tupelo, an Alsace-inspired blend of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling, named for the Van Morrison song, “… She’s as sweet as Tupelo honey”. It is perfumed and spicy, with quince paste, pear and rosewater notes.

Cambodian style wagyu steak, from Aburi Boi Street Food, one of the delicious dishes we tried.

Connew became captivated with Pinot Noir while working in Oregon, and her straight Pinot is another $55 beauty. But she also does Rada, a co-fermented blend of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir in which the Noir component contributes soft red berry flavours and the Meunier more savoury, earthy, spice notes.

Although Sue Bell is based in Coonawarra with her Bellwether label, she has been sourcing Tasmanian fruit since 2009. In a previous life she worked for Hardy’s, which sourced Chardonnay from various places, but her favourite was always from Tasmania. We really enjoyed the Bellwether 2015 Chardonnay and 2017 Riesling, both from Tasmania.

Chicken pot pie, from In Pie We Crust.

Bell, who calls herself “winemaker/director/gardener”, doesn’t actually have a vineyard, instead buying in all her fruit. Inspired by some fruit she was given from a CSIRO project, Bell made a Rosé blend of Nero d’Avola, Barbera and Pinot Grigio. She liked the results so much she has continued to make Rosé this way. The 2018 Rosato 2018 definitely got our tick of approval. We also enjoyed the Bellwether 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra and 2016 Shiraz Malbec from nearby Wrattonbully.

Jane Bromley and Hylton McLean, from Honey Moon Vineyard, are passionate about Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Rosé from the Southern Rhône, and Shiraz from the Northern Rhône, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie. All of these have informed their winemaking, and their basket-pressed 2016 Pinot Noir in particular was a stand-out for us.

Bromley said their small family-run vineyard in the Adelaide Hills was so named because the moon looks like honey at harvest time. The vineyard was planted in 2004 and all their wines are made from their own Pinot Noir and Shiraz. Their “Fancy Rosé” is a blend of Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Chardonnay; we found it to be a refreshing, easy-drinking wine with good acidity and generous fruit.

Paolo Bottin, with his Italian-inspired Vigna Bottin wines.

Also very easy drinking was the Dirty Black Denim 2017 Syrah, a Mornington Peninsula label at the vanguard of style and regional experimentation. With an alcohol content of just 11%, this light-bodied Shiraz is great for those who don’t want to drink a big red on hot days.

Margaret River producer South By South West was offering tastings of its European-style 2016 Syrah, but it was their 2017 Tempranillo One Tonne Project that appealed to us most, for its delicate spiciness. The South By South West 2016 Malbec Cabernet, a surprising diversion from the Cabernet Merlot blend more commonly seen in Margaret River, was big and jammy – one for those who love a big red.

Paolo and Maria Bottin, owners of McLaren Vale winery Vigna Bottin, make a wide range of wines inspired by their Italian heritage, including Vermentino, Fiano, Sangiovese, Barbera, Nero d’Avola and a sparkling wine, cleverly called Versecco, made from Vermentino and Fiano.

Street art in nearby Fish Lane.

We particularly liked their 2017 Vermentino, with notes of lemon curd and a little spiciness, their silky smooth 2015 Sangiovese, and their 2018 Rosato (made from Sangiovese). Vigna Bottin is opening a cellar door in September 2019. It’s great to see these small producers going from strength to strength.

This is just a small sample of the wines we tasted and the lovely winemakers we met at Wandering Cooks. Pop along to this terrific Brisbane venue to see what other treasures they have in store for you at the bar.

If you go:

Wandering Cooks
Corner Fish Lane & Cordelia Street,
South Brisbane QLD 4101
Australia
www.wanderingcooks.com.au

The post Unknown Pleasures At Wandering Cooks, Brisbane appeared first on Food Wine Travel.

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Shaw Vineyard Estate 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, $32

While the Canberra region has great success with Riesling and Shiraz, a lot of people are unaware that it also produces some fine Cabernet, especially around Murrumbateman where Shaw Vineyard is located. Graeme Shaw has had great success with Cabernet over the years and this 2016 blend is no exception. Both 2015 and 2016 were excellent vintages for Shaw Cabernet, and so for these two vintages, Shaw chose to produce an 85% Cabernet 15% Shiraz blend rather than the predominantly Shiraz blend favoured in previous vintages. Matured in French oak for 22 months, this classy red has generous notes of blueberries and blackberries, with subtle hints of pepper and spice. It’s already scooped up a few awards in international competitions, which is not surprising as in our eyes it is definitely a winner.

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The post Shaw Vineyard Estate 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz appeared first on Food Wine Travel.

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Chandon 2015 Vintage Brut, $35

Dan Buckle is a meticulous winemaker and the evidence of that is in the pristine sparkling wines he turns out at Domaine Chandon’s Yarra Valley winery. This is the first Chandon Vintage Brut to be made purely from estate vineyards, allowing even greater control and precision in the process. Chandon has two wonderful, mature cool-climate sites at Whitlands and the Strathbogie Ranges, and with this new approach, the blend begins in the vineyard, with the best blocks already selected at pruning time. By pressing the grapes in the vineyard, thus minimising the time between harvest and pressing, the delicate aroma is protected and phenolic extraction is minimised. Such a lot of love and care to produce a wine for our drinking pleasure. A little yeasty and nutty with zesty citrus notes, it has fine bubbles and persistent mousse, and frankly, you could drink it with almost anything.

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Cat Amongst The Pigeons 2017 Fat Cat Barossa Shiraz, $29

The producers of this big, bold, full-flavoured Shiraz have definitely set the cat amongst the pigeons with this one. Intensely ruby-purple coloured with rich plum and blackberry flavours and alluring chocolate and spice notes, it has fine tannins, nicely balanced oak and a long finish. Available at Dan Murphy’s and BWS, it’s a lovely wine to drink now but you might also want to pop a couple of bottles in the cellar to drink at a later date.

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Cat Amongst The Pigeons 2018 Fat Cat Eden Valley Chardonnay, $29

The fact that this range is called “Fat Cat” suggests a richly flavoured wine that invites you to sit up and take notice. As indeed this Chardonnay does. A departure from the over-oaked and buttery Chardonnays of the past, it is nevertheless bold and fruit-forward, its tropical fruit flavours making it perfectly suited to seafood, roast chicken, salads and a wide range of other dishes. Sauvignon Blanc, eat your heart out. The fruit comes from South Australia’s Eden Valley, a sub-region of the Barossa that produces fruit with oodles of natural acidity. Judicious use of French oak balances the acid out, resulting in a refined and elegant but beautifully expressive Chardonnay. Available at Dan Murphy’s and BWS.

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On Saturday, May 25, Wandering Cooks will host an afternoon of cellar door tastings in the heart of Brisbane. The inaugural Unknown Pleasures event will feature tastings of wines from as far afield as Margaret River, McLaren Vale and Macedon.

Known for its innovative food-incubation model and a die-hard ethos of ethical, high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, Wandering Cooks has also become a quiet hero of the local wine scene. Today it has one of the smartest, ever-evolving, seasonally-driven, all- Australian wines services in Brisbane.

Located in Cordelia Street, South Brisbane, Wandering Cooks specialises in sourcing bottles direct from some of the best small wineries in the country – producers who often have no other outlets in Queensland – and showing them off to its faithfully curious crowd.

Unknown Pleasures is a celebration of those small producers. It’s a day for Brisbane wine-lovers to come and see some of the country’s best-kept vinous secrets, to talk and taste with cult winemakers from all over the country, and to hear first-hand how and why these incredible drops are made.

The first six wineries announced in the line-up include recently shortlisted Young Winemaker of The Year candidate, South By Southwest, from Margaret River. Passionate Tasmanian Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay producer Samantha Connew will pour wines from her Stargazer label.

Established regional legends Sutton Grange (Bendigo) and Vigna Bottin (McLaren Vale) will bring their wide array of estate-grown, European- inspired wines. Two young labels working at the vanguard of style and regional experimentation, Dirty Black Denim (central Victoria) and Konpira Maru (Queensland & Victoria), will also be there.

Wandering Cooks’ indoor/outdoor converted warehouse will be devoted to bringing winemakers and wine-lovers together in a way that eschews the stuffiness that often characterises wine tastings. For those who want to stop for a bite to eat, four beautiful little kitchens will serve a range of cuisines. As well as tastings, tickets include a glass of your choice from one of the producers.

This is wine-tasting the Wandering Cooks way – casual, friendly and fun, with time and space to drink it all in. Tickets cost $60 and are available here.

Photos supplied by Wandering Cooks and used with their permission.

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Yalumba 2018 Eden Valley Chardonnay, $28,

South Australia’s Eden Valley is known for its excellent Riesling in particular, but surprisingly there’s no Riesling in Yalumba’s new Samuel’s Collection. Instead, I’m turning my attention to the Chardonnay, which has wonderful stone fruit and citrus notes. The aroma is like grapefruit and lemon curd, with other citrus and stone fruits thrown in. It is zesty and refreshing, with subtle oak, and will pair beautifully with many dishes.

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Atze’s Corner 2018 Wild Rose Vermentino, $25

Founder of Atze’s Corner, Andrew Kalleske, comes from a long line of vignerons in South Australia’s Barossa Valley but his eyes are squarely on the future with this crisp, fresh white made from Vermentino, a variety that is only just starting to take off in Australia. More commonly seen around the Mediterranean – we fell in love with it in Sardinia, where it is widely planted – Vermentino has been part of the Atze’s range for a couple of vintages now. Kalleske has been tweaking it a bit as he gets to know it better, so this one has a little more zest and longevity than previous vintages. It’s aromatic with tangy, citrus notes and vibrant, fresh acidity. It’s also beautifully packaged in a bottle decorated with the wild roses that feature in the name of the range, which in turn is inspired by the roses that herald each new vintage.

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