Chalone Australia Tour
Luigi and Manly, 1997

Sunday, February 23
Hotel Windsor
103 Spring Street
Melbourne, Victoria
Tel. 011-61 (3) 9653-0653
FAX 011-61 (3) 9654-5183
For us there was no Saturday, February 22, because, if it happened at all, it was very abbreviated in the middle of the night when we crossed the International Date Line. But this was partially compensated for by our arrival mid-morning after a slightly delayed flight that left Los Angeles Friday evening and stopped at Auckland, New Zealand, en route.

The thirty-odd member group was met at the airport by Paddy Nichols, our eternal den-mother, who guided us to the bus that took us to our grandly Victorian hotel that had been tastefully modernized. The central area was enclosed by a glorious staircase with wrought iron balusters and tile flooring on the landings and hall floors adjacent to the rails. The rooms were large with high ceilings; Luigi's and mine was across the street from the old Parliament Building.

On the steps of Parliament were a couple of bridal parties having their pictures taken, one with a classic white car and another with a new white Jaguar. In time I recalled that this was no longer the seat of government, which had moved to Canberra many decades ago.

The bathroom contained no surprises except for a knob on the lid of the toilet tank bearing the legend:

Full Flush
Half Flush

A half flush generally sufficed. Subsequently, nearly all the toilets we came across in Australia provided this option, although in some places it was difficult to notice any difference between the choices.

That evening we had a reception and dinner at in the hotel. After putting on our name tags we were allowed cocktails of sparkling white and sparkling pinot noir wines. A splendid buffet offered various stews -- veal, lamb, beef stroganov, and a delicious shrimp and seafood curry with spaghetti, rice, and excellent whole wheat bread. The only vegetables were a few carrots. With the meal were served 1994 Blue Pyrenees red that was good although unidentified as to variety and Yarra Ridge 1996 Chardonnay -- light, fruity, little oak, long aftertaste. A superb chocolate mousse cake, coffee custard, pear tart, plus cheese and bread and crackers finished the meal.

Monday February 24

After a good buffet breakfast in the hotel, the group was taken by bus to James Halliday's Coldstream Hills Winery with a house on a hillside overlooking the lovely Yarra Valley. Semillon-Sauvignon blanc '96 and sparkling Chandon ros‚ were served for cocktails. In a room on top of a small warehouse full of barrels three tables of ten were set for us. The white walls were four feet high surmounted by and an A-shaped ceiling of white wallboard that focussed sound back at us. Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay '95 accompanied gazpacho and basil -- splendid aroma, flavor, and aftertaste. The method of production was described in detail by James Halliday, who previously gave us an excellent overview of the Australian wine industry and its prospects. Coldstream Hills 1995 Pinot Noir (Halliday said this grape causes more suicides than any other among wine makers) was poured with fresh tuna with lentils, spinach and lima beans; a delightful combination. For desert we had James Halliday / Griffith Botrytus Semillon 1994 with peach melba - a whole peeled peach in custard with fresh raspberry sauce. Superb!

On the way back into Melbourne, for those of us who were interested, the bus stopped at a Gemtec store a couple of blocks from the hotel where we saw 10-minute video on opals and the mining of them. White opals are mined with shaft and lateral digs, black by open cut, and boulder opals by shaft alone. Lots of slag is produced by all three operations. This store has high grade stones, mostly set, at prices in the thousands of dollars. We looked at many.

Tuesday, February 25

The bus took us to the Mornington Peninsula and the Dromana Winery. Garry Crittenden, the owner, was away, but we were adequately looked after by his staff. Dromana 1995 Reserve Chardonnay, unfiltered, unfined, good aroma, became superb by the end of the meal, 45 minutes after pouring. This was a wine that needed to breathe and warm up slightly before being its best. Dromana Estate Le Pinot Noir, 1996, with good aroma, much tannin, good aftertaste was served alongside bread, pita, and ritz crackers with salmon mousse, eggplant, and tomato and garlic spreads. We also tried the Dolcetto 1996 that had slight aroma, was very smooth, soft, and with decent aftertaste. Garry Crittenden Dolcetta Riserva 1995, was even better, with more character, yet still smooth and soft. This was served with pat‚ of undisclosed origin plus salami and apple slices. Then there were quiche of corn and spinach, pickled baby pears, figs, cantaloupe and prosciutto presented with 1994 Cabernet Merlot -- good, slightly smokey, modest astringency, a proper blend. For dessert there were chocolate and nut torte with strawberry sauce and sliced strawberries or cheese and crackers and bread. The former was very good indeed. An accompanying ros‚ wine of various grapes was harmless. Paddy had requested a light lunch at Dromana because of the dinner set for the evening; her wishes were only partly observed in this respect.

On the bus taking the group to dinner (which happened to be my birthday dinner, though only Luigi and I knew it), Paddy told us of Stephanie Alexander, the chef/owner of Stephanie's restaurant to which we were going. Deciding that Australia's cuisine lacked refinement, she went to France for several years to study French cooking, and then came back to Melbourne to open a restaurant that would serve viands hitherto unknown there. As a result Ms Alexander was almost single- handedly responsible for teaching the Australians to like more imaginatively prepared food. Stephanie's is in one of the few houses remaining in a light industrial district that had been a prime residential area around the turn of the century. Owned by the Cato family, it retained much of the feel of its Victorian opulence despite an occasional anachronism here and there. Stephanie herself welcomed us and talked a little about the history of the house. The dining room has dark wood paneling up to the plate molding (with plates) about 6 feet above the floor; art nouveau carved plaster extended upward to a ceiling paved with dark wood edged hexagons and squares. Maroon damask draperies were ten feet high. The table was covered by a white linen embroidered and appliqued tablecloth.

Dinner started off with Tasmanian oysters on the half shell, thin bread sticks and 1993 Domaine Chandon Brut (produced in Victoria nearby). Prentice 1996 Chenin Blanc -- light, fruity, long aftertaste, good aroma -- went very well with the first course of yabby (like large crayfish) tails and seafood dumplings in a light bisque with torn basil and hairlike fried ginger. Next came caramelized tomato and onion tart and sheep's milk fetta cheese and Kalmatta olives from McLaren Vale accompanied by Narkoojee 1995 Chardonnay from Gippsland -- dairy country with a tiny area of the right microclimate. A picture of a cockatoo and thistle appears on the label. The wine had excellent aroma and aftertaste, medium body, and exemplary flavor.

Then the main course comprised veal chop with Parmesan crumbs, crisped sage, smoky eggplant puree and gratin of buttermilk pumpkin. It was accompanied by 1995 Mount Langi Ghiran-Shiraz, very dark garnet, intense, full body, smooth, good tannin. And then we got three cheeses with oatcakes and walnut toast -- Affine Goat by Gabrielle Kervella, King River Gold (a washed rind style), and Gippsland Blue, all accompanied by Boynton's Merlot, 1995, -- good aroma and aftertaste, medium body and very smooth.

For dessert there was chocolate and raspberry terrine, a chocolate tart with fresh raspberries, served with Domain Chandon Cuvee Riche

Wednesday, February 26
Mount Lofty House
74 Summit Road
Crafers 5152, South Australia
Tel. 011 61 (8) 339 6777
FAX 011 61 (8) 339 5656

The group took an early morning flight that reached Adelaide about 9:30 local time, which is half an hour behind Melbourne. On the wall in the men's room at the airport I noticed a yellow box with a hole in the top. It bore the legend, "Please dispose safely" and picture of hypodermic needle. There was also a sign reading, "Travel safe. Pack condoms" on the wall near a machine dispensing the same -- 2 choices (texture or color) one dollar per pack.

We reached Mount Lofty House after about half hour on the bus. This hotel is atop Mount Lofty with splendid views of forested hills, including Picadilly Valley. The hotel was originally one of the large houses built for summer use by one of the early rich men of Adelaide. It became a hotel after his death, burned in the brush fires of 1938, and was rebuilt in 1986 and an addition put on later. The rooms were OK but would have been improved by the addition of shelves or drawers.

Paddy assembled the group at 11:30 to meet special friend who turned out to be a two-year old Koala named Kaliri or something like that and who clung to and was held by a young woman named Karen from the nearby biological park. We patted and took pictures of the koala as it slowly munched on eucalyptus leaves and twigs that Karen had brought. Don't expect such an animal to be soft and furry like a teddy bear; the fur was brushlike and flat and the back no softer than a greyhound's. Later, when she saw a picture of me next to the koala, my daughter mentioned that the picture also included a cute girl. I agreed, but said we were allowed to pat only the koala.

Lunch was in the Picadilly Room of the hotel. Glass on three sides displayed the splendid view. West End draft beer was light and tasty. Luigi had a torte of figs, goat cheese and ham; I had a small "pumpkin" stuffed with couscous, field mushrooms and roast bell peppers. Both were very tasty, especially since the pumpkin was not the sort of which we make pies and jack o'lanterns.

Later that afternoon, Brian Croser, head of Petaluma Winery, met us at an observation point in the Barossa Valley, and talked of tectonics and slopes and sunshine and their effects on the growth of wine grapes. Then we proceeded to Petaluma vineyard which illustrates use of different slopes for different grape varieties.

Petaluma develops own yeast rather than buying it commercially.

My tasting notes read: Croser Sparkling -- good;
1996 Reisling -- dry;
95 Chardonnay -- splendid aroma and flavor, long aftertaste, Yum! very intense, well balanced;
96 Barrel Specimen Chardonnay - very intense, great aroma, will be used in blending later;
94 merlot -- soft, high tannin, aromatic;
95 merlot -- similar, less tannin;
94 Coonawara 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% merlot -- felicitous blend, intense and well balanced.

Later a very attractive blonde enologist in denim shorts gave a brief lecture in which she said, "Cabernet has a hole in it which is filled by Merlot."

Dinner was at the Bridgewater Mill Restaurant, a part of Petaluma. 1996 Bridgewater Mill Sauvignon Blanc was served with crayfish dumplings in hot chili, coconut milk, and cilentro sauce; the wine's strong, fruity aroma and appropriate flavor resulted in a marriage made in heaven! 1994 Bridgewater Mill Shiraz - good, true to type and smooth -- accompanied seared pepper venison with potato cake and cognac cream. 1994 Coonawara Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot was served with the cheese - goat cheese and local blue were both good, and a hard cheese was especially so. The wine went very well with all three. Sweet 1996 Primo Estate Botrytis Reisling was served with a whole peach tart plus vanilla ice cream and blueberries in raspberry sauce. It was a very good combination, though by this time I would have enjoyed the dessert about as much without the wine.

Thursday, February 27

The group took a bus ride through Adelaide with commentary by the driver/guide. One stop was at the monument to Col. Light who mapped out the city and gave it the name of the King's wife; the governor had intended a different name, but the fact that Light had notified the King of the choice stymied him.

We stopped also at the local market, a large covered one. As supper was to be on our own this evening, Luigi and I bought supplies: smoked kangaroo sausage, cheese of unknown variety but the right size, two rolls and two large nectarines.

Next was a tour of Southcorp's Penfold winery facilities in Adelaide: now most of its vineyards have been replaced by housing, but a few acres of vines remain here with a winery, which has been mostly superseded by larger facilities elsewhere. Having bought the Penfolds Winery, Southcorp uses the name on labels of certain of its wine from various sources. Other Southcorp wine brands include Lindeman's, Seppelt, Wynn's Coonawarra Estate, Seaview, Woodley, Leo Buring, Rouge Homme Coonawarra, Tollana, Killawarra Wines, Matthewland, Kaiser Stuhl, Tulloch, and Hungerford Hill. We were guided by the chief public relations man and his assistant. The former presided at a Penfolds tasting:

Reisling -- very aromatic, fruity, dry, long aftertaste;
Old Vines Semillon -- aromatic, unusual, good, some fruit, dry, good aftertaste;
Semillon-Chardonnay, Barossa Valley -- good aroma and aftertaste, some oak;
Kalimina Bin 28 -- little aroma, fair body, light color, good;
Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz -- well balanced, medium body, long good aftertaste, OK;
Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon -- OK but harsh and needs ageing;
Magill Estate Red -- very good but I got only dregs.

Lunch at Magill Estate restaurant comprised:
onions and mushrooms with Penfolds St. Henri 1988 claret -- very good and the correct wine for this dish;
Chicken with 1992 Chardonnay Clare Valley Trial Bin 2A, unfiltered -- good match; Cheese with Magill Estate 88 Red -- very good.

Friday February 28

The group went by bus east to the Barossa Valley, stopping briefly at to look the Orlando Winery; it resembles an oil refinery with scores of stainless steel tanks and pipes wandering hither and yon. A few cork trees grew on the side of the road. Despite vast areas that resemble the dry plains of Portugal and Spain where cork trees do grow, this is not a significant crop in Australia.

The Rockford Winery, at the other end of the scale from Orlando, presses 200 tons of grapes per year from nearby privately owned vineyards. All are thrown through a window in an external stone wall into a trough which takes them into a wooden paddle crusher, strainer, and stemmer. Fermentation occurs in slate tanks 5' x 7' x 5-1/2' high. A manually screwed basket press, recently waxed, was standing ready for approaching use. The aging cellar was full of 300 liter barrels, stacked and separated by wooden wedges so that each barrel can be reached for emptying and filling without moving any of them. Each barrel bears ticket showing name of vineyard as well as grape variety so that, at the annual celebration for the growers, each can get some wine from his own grapes. The motto of the establishment is, "time makes wine."

1995 Reisling was dry, intense, acidic, and with good aroma and aftertaste;
1996 Frontenac Semillon white was quite tasty, slightly sweet, fruity, with little acid;
1995 Grenache tasted of fruit, good tannin and intensity;
1994 Shiraz was excellent, authoritative, well balanced, and intense;
15 year Port had a musty aroma but good taste and aftertaste.

The driver of our bus was a knowledgeable and garrulous young man named Langdon Hamlyn. A young woman named Sarah was our local wine guide; her knowledge seemed to be limited to what she was taught to tell us; questions were not answered by her, but often by Langdon, who would talk about bakeries or whatever.

We passed a deer farm where we saw deer, kangaroos and a small emu that resembled a little black haystack.

Next was a "winemakers' lunch" at St. Hallet's Winery. Their Poachers' Blend, mostly Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc was light and fruity. The Eden Valley 1996 Reisling was very good with yabbies, oysters, salmon mousse, pat‚ etc. The 1996 Chardonnay Barossa was excellent and appropriate, as it should be. The 1994 Blackwell Shiraz with the grilled beef was a proper full bodied red, uncomplicated by blending, with plenty of flavor. Don't try this with orange roughy. Cheese and grapes, plums and figs were accompanied by 1993 Old Block Shiraz, from Ancient Vines, very good indeed, soft, flavorful yet masterful.

On the way to the next winery, and far from any buildings, we stopped briefly at a field populated by sculptures. They were a welcome relief from all that scenery, the more so because the environment was not where one usually sees such items.

At Yalumba Winery we were greeted with a sparkling, yeasty Reisling, some pleasant Viognier, and a light red Grenache that was like Beaujolais but more acidic.

Returning through Adelaide we noticed an automobile dealer operating under the name, "Chateau Moteur," and offering to sell Saabs, Mercedeses and the like.

Supper for Luigi and me was most of the rest of the smoked kangaroo sausage, cheese, bread and the remaining nectarine. Served with it was some 1997 South Australian water directly from the bathroom tap that we found quite satisfactory.

Saturday, March 1
Sails of the Desert Hotel
Yulara Drive, Yulara
Ayers Rock 0872, Northern Territory
Tel 011 61 (8) 8956-2200
FAX 011 61 (8) 8956-2018

A morning flight took the group to Ayers Rock, changing at Alice Springs where the little black flies welcomed us enthusiastically on the 75 yard walk from the plane to the terminal. They were also in the terminal, prompting many of us, including Luigi and me, to buy fly nets that fit over our hats, heads and faces. We were told that these pests want us not for our blood, but for our moisture, especially around the lips, eyes and ears, yet that they will be glad to lick off any insect repellent we wear. I took the occasion also to buy an Alice Springs T shirt for my sister, Alice, whose springing days are over.

The flies were also at Ayers Rock, in less profusion, but still plenty to make us use the nets. In the afternoon we were taken by bus to visit the Olgas (Kata Tjuta in the local Aboriginal language), a group of red-brown rocks protruding lumpily from the desert floor to a maximum height of 546 meters (1791 feet) and covering several square kilometers. Those of the group who chose to walked varying distances along the path into the area.

We were then taken to a remote area and turned loose at the site of a picnic that had been arranged for us in the desert just as the sun was setting. Ayers Rock (Uluru) looks like an immense bread loaf rising 348 meters (1,141 feet) above the desert, and was easily visible in the distance. It was supposed to look spectacular as its color changed in the sunset, but if it did we were a little late for the major part of the show.

On getting off the bus each of the group was given a glass of Australian Champagne, and later both white and red wines were poured. Dinner, served buffet style, included grilled kangaroo and emu meat as well as chicken.

For illumination there was a gas-powered lamp on each table, supported by a 10 pound gas bottle.

Music for the occasion was provided by an Aborigine playing a dijeridu - mostly one deep note accompanied by clicking sticks. The instrument was a tree limb about five feet long that had been hollowed out by termites; the player blew into one end of it.

After dark an astronomer with a powerful focused hand-held light showed us many of the stars and constellations that one sees in the Southern Hemisphere. They included all of the Zodiac that were then visible and the Southern Cross (that looks more like a kite) and two false crosses.

Sunday, March 2
Ayer's Rock -- Cairns

After an early breakfast we were taken by bus to where we could get close enough to Ayers Rock to climb up a few feet if we chose. There is a well established path for a climb to the top, and one of our party did get up particularly early for the climb and met the rest as the bus stopped at the beginning point around 7:30 AM. Others walked up a few feet, so they might say they climbed Ayers Rock if and when not inhibited by excessive veracity. I did not get near the rock, but sat quietly looking at it and observing how some of the local flora with relatively large leaves were bright green and those with little if any leaves were greenish gray. I suspect that the former are opportunistic and grow only when it has rained recently and that the latter grow all the time.

Next stop was the Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park Visitor Centre where there are many exhibits and a constantly running movie portraying elements of Aborigine culture. There was also a sign urging people not to climb the rock because it is sacred to the Anangu. It gives one a remarkable sense of virtue to have resisted a temptation he did not feel.

The 11:15 Qantas flight to Cairns, near the northeast corner of the continent took us somewhere else first and waited for a thunderstorm to leave the Cairns airport. Then we landed at a pleasant airport with no desert flies but plenty of heat and humidity. The Reef House Hotel in Palm Cove, 20 minutes drive north of the Cairns Airport, proved to be a delightful tropical resort with bedrooms air conditioned and public spaces not. Pieces of Aboriginal art are displayed throughout. Cairns is on the Great Barrier Reef at 16.5 degrees South Latitude, about 300 miles closer to the Equator than Honolulu.

On the bar was a sign that read, "Special -- Cocane Juice." The product turned out to be a mixture of coconut milk, sugarcane syrup, lime juice, and Bacardi Rum.

At dinner at the hotel, 1996 Crosset Polish Hill Reisling was served with the salad and 1996 Delatte Victoria Chardonnay and 1996 Ninth Island Tasmania Pinot Noir were served with the choice of duck or local fresh reef fish. The last of these was very light and served chilled, so we who chose the fish could with pleasure drink either the white or the red or both.

Monday, March 3.
Reef House
99 Williams Esplanade
PO Box 120, Palm Cove
Cairns 4879, Queenslan
Tel: 011 61 (70) 55-3633
FAX: 011 61 (70) 55-3305

I was not feeling well and spent the day at the hotel while Luigi and the rest of the group went for a reef cruise on a catamaran. This included snorkeling.

While eating lunch in the open-air dining room looking over the Coral Sea, I noticed a dark fin slicing the water from right to left, parallel to the shoreline about 25 yards out. We were told that swimming is not allowed at the lovely beach because of sharks and stinging jellyfish.

Dinner at the hotel was pasta with chili and seafood and salad and Peter Lehmann 1995 Barossa Valley Shiraz. Very good, full-bodied, smooth, tannic.

Tuesday March 4

It rained all night and well into the morning. Wisely the planners of the trip provided the day at leisure, with various options for those who had to do something, such as go to the nearby rain forest. Luigi and I stayed in the hotel all morning and walked to a nearby shopping center where we had lunch at the Colonies restaurant. Then we walked along the beach a few yards and saw a designated swimming area set off from rest of sea by long yellow booms under which I suppose were nets. Some people were swimming in this area.

A sign on the beach near the designated swimming area showed and described types of stinging jellyfish and prescribed the treatments for stings - mostly washing the afflicted area with vinegar - two gallon jugs of it were in a box at the base of the sign.

An adjacent sign bore a resuscitation Flow Chart:
Check for Danger, Prevent Further Injury - Send for Help;
Assess consciousness by shaking and giving simple commands;
Conscious: make comfortable
Unconscious: place on left side
Clear airway
Assess breathing
Breathing present: make comfortable
Breathing absent: give 5 deep breaths and check pulse
Pulse Present: continue expired air resuscitation
Pulse absent: commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation
Assess after 1st minute, then every two minutes
Place in lateral position after successful resuscitation
Send others for ambulance / medical assistance
As there were no corresponding instructions for shark bite, Luigi and I did not go swimming there.

Later in our walk we saw a peculiar mushroom growing from wood debris. Ordinary looking when young, it develops into a bright crimson framework for a geodesic dome about five inches high. Later I identified it as Clathrus Cancellatus (Rinaldi and Tyndalo, The Complete Book of Mushrooms, Crown Publishers, Inc, New York, 1974 English translation by Italia and Alberto Mancinelli, pp 228, 229: "... it exhales an unbearable cadaveric stench...Not edible"). We did not notice the stench, but did not get close enough to smell it well.

That evening dinner at the hotel was buffet style with beef, chicken, salads, baked potatoes, grilled vegetables on sticks, tiramissou, fruit, and cheese. With it were served:

Rochecombe 95 Tasmania Chardonnay -- very good
Annie's Lane 94 Clare Valley Shiraz
Peter Lehmann Barossa 1995 Shiraz
Aphrodis Muscat de Rivesaltes Appellation Controlle Carte Blanche vin doux naturel, French 15% alcohol "Delicieux sur Roquefort et Foie Gras, Servir Glace."

As the public parts of the hotel were open to the outdoors, it was not surprising that an occasional little wild creature appeared or otherwise made itself known. This evening we noticed frogs or something that sounded like someone breaking slate with a hammer.

Wednesday, March 5
Regent Hotel
199 George Street
P.O. Box N185
Sydney 2000, New South Wales
Tel: 011 61 (2) 9238-0000
FAX: 011 61 (2) 9251-2851

The group took the mid-day Qantas flight to Sydney and were transported without incident to the Hotel Regent, which is new and fancy and with good view of the harbor and opera house.

We all had dinner at Bilson's Restaurant on a small promontory that projects into the harbor with spectacular views in three directions through the glass walls. Pinot noir (light, well balanced, fair tannin, long aftertaste) and sauvignon blanc, (very fruity aroma, dry, medium body) were served with risotto. The pinot noir was better. Then some unidentified shiraz served from a decanter and some 1995 chardonnay were presented with our choice of veal, salmon or lamb. Mt Horeck Reisling came with dessert.

The walk back to hotel through warm, light rain was pleasantly brief.

Thursday, March 6

Our bus took the group on a two-hour drive to Lindemans Winery in Hunter Valley where we entered a building with sales facilities on the ground floor and above that a tasting room. Long wooden tables and benches stood under a corrugated iron roof that made a wonderful sound when the heavy rain fell on it. The people in charge of such things presented each of us with a folder containing several printed sheets describing the winery, its history, and the wine maker,one sheet each described the various wines we were to taste. Also each of us got a colored leaflet showing, among other things, the name of Lindemans Internet home page ( which contains the same wine sheets with color pictures on them. We tasted the following wines:

10:35 - Lindemans 1995 Hunter River Semillon Bin 8655 (good aroma, not too fruity, very dry, astringent, intense);
10:43 - Lindemans 1995 Hunter River Non-Oaked Chardonnay Bin 8675 (slight aroma, very dry, acidic, medium light);
10:55 - Lindemans 1995 Hunter River Chardonnay Bin 8681 (medium-full body, long aftertaste, acidic, smooth at end);
11:05 - Lindemans 1995 Hunter River Chardonnay, Reserve Bin 8680 (OK);
11:12 - Lindemans 1994 Hunter River Steven Vineyard Reserve Shiraz Bin 8625 (good);
11:23 - Lindemans Still Room 1992 Hunter River Shiraz (astringent, medium body).

Then we dashed through the rain to our bus and were then taken to Rothbury Estate. The concrete winery floor was unevenly dyed wine red. The warm fermentation smell of crushed grapes working welcomed our nostrils; hoses of various colors snaked randomly over the floor; three concrete and two steel tanks stood on our left, six steel tanks on our right, all 20-30 feet high.

The next room we entered appeared to be about 150 feet by 75 with thousands of barrels on racks piled up to 7 layers high, 7 barrel-lengths deep along walls. A forklift stood idly in the middle of floor. The room after that was about the same size, also with many barrels and thousands of wine cases piled up to 15 high on pallets holding 5 layers each, 16 cases per layer. Boxes of labels labeled "UK LABEL" stood to one side, near palettes of collapsed cases and new barrels still wrapped in plastic. In the next room a bottling line was operating at one end; the rest of the room held more cases and steel tanks.

The tasting room was upstairs, walled by white painted concrete blocks; large varnished casks lay along the walls and on racks near the ceiling. The center of the red tile floor had a drain running length of room, with buckets every few yards to pour wine into after tasting.

Rothbury Estate 1996 Hunter Valley Semillon (modest aroma, little fruit, tart, light in color and body, good aftertaste, good generally, faint curry-like flavor);
Medillo, 1996 Hunter Valley (very light color, crisp, light, little aroma, good aftertaste, ok);
1996 Reserve Chardonnay, Hunter Valley (good, proper aroma, taste and aftertaste, light color, medium-light body);
1994 Hunter Valley Traditional Shiraz (good aroma and aftertaste, medium body and color);
Black Marlin, (white, painted label. Yuk!); we were told that they ship a lot of this to Miami.

I counted 40 bottles on the tasting table; duplicates were few.

Lunch was at long wooden tables and benches, buffet style, with wines of our choice from the tasting table. The meal comprised cole slaw, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, barbecued lamb, grilled beef steak, lime yogurt, home made barbecue sauce and fruit chutney, cheese, crackers and grapes. Pitchers of orange juice were standing on the tables for those who had enough wine.

On the way back to Sydney the passengers were pretty quiet, and the bus driver thought we might like to hear some real Australian songs that he had on tape. One I remember recited the woes of a pub that had run out of beer.

Dinner was on our own. Luigi and I walked to Ox on The Rocks, 135 George Street North, Sydney, 9247-1920. This area of the city, near the ferry terminal, is called "The Rocks". We had Wolf Blas 95 Rhine Reisling from South Australia (reasonable fruit, medium light body, well flavored, good aftertaste) which was good with my crocodile in white wine with shallots, sweet potato and zucchini with garlic, and with Luigi's grilled fresh John Dory fish.

Friday, March 7

After a brief bus tour of downtown Sydney, the group took a counter-clockwise harbor cruise on the Catamaran Frejay. We passed by an American warship labelled "USS LHD2" of a class they didn't have fifty years ago. She had helicopters and a few jets on the top deck, the stern was open like an LST's bow, and the lifeboats were labelled HD2. According to the U.S. Navy website (, this is the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship. These ships use Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), conventional landing craft and helicopters to move Marine assault forces ashore. In a secondary role, using AV-8B Harrier aircraft and anti-submarine warfare helicopters, these ships perform sea control and limited power projection missions.

There were also two Australian corvettes and other men of war.

Bays and inlets along the harbor were lined with expensive apartment buildings and extravagant houses as we proceeded from the Opera House past Darling Point and Point Piper eastward. Rose Bay and other bays furnished anchorage and slips for pleasure boats. More trees lined the shore as we got further out toward the mouth of the long, serpentine harbor. From a seaplane station a single engine pontoon plane taxied into Rose Bay and took off over our starboard quarter. Rocky beaches appeared at the northeast end of the bay. So did a sandy beach with a shark net. We cruised to the harbor entrance at South Head, then turned around at North Head and passed Manly Point, and Middle Head military base. The vessel's narrator pointed out bunkers that had been built, to repel invasion, he said, in World War I. This brought a laugh from those of us who well remembered WWII, when Australia was threatened, even though we did not remember the earlier war when it was not.

We also passed westward under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and into Darling Harbor with hectare after hectare of entertainment facilities. A nearby maritime museum displayed a Russian submarine next to Australian destroyer. Walsh Bay held piers full of sheds and is becoming a redevelopment area just west of the bridge. Then we returned to the vessel's landing point near the Opera House.

Luigi went to the Power House Museum by taxi to discuss museum affairs relating to collections of architectural drawings with member of that museum's staff. I stopped at the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar on the way from the opera house to the hotel. It is on the water with waves breaking on rocks underneath the outdoor dining area. A schooner of Sydney Bitter and 12 Sydney Natural Oysters and bread salved what hunger I had left after the snacks on the cruise. After a nap at the hotel, I took the Rocket Express ferry to Darling Harbor where I saw the city aquarium. An underwater glass-enclosed passage enabled me to see various fish, including sharks and rays, swimming beside and over me.

Our Farewell Dinner was in the hotel private dining room and was joined by Phil and Diane Woodward. Phil, President of Chalone, talked about the very profitable year just past and about trying to make contact with Australian winemakers to discuss reciprocal marketing and other arrangements in recognition of the world-wide business that wine is becoming.

Lenswood Sauvignon Blanc (fruity, light) was served as a cocktail; Lindemans 1983 Hunter Valley Shiraz Bin 6600 (unique aroma, full body, unusual and good flavor, good tannin proper color, long aftertaste) was served with char-grilled beef tenderloin and creamy onion compote and shiraz wine jus. Good match! Then came the Penfolds Grange Bin 95, Vintage 1982 bottled in 1984 (unique, splendid, strong aroma, very intense, great tannin yet smooth), followed by Penfolds Grandfather Port (tawny, smooth, and well flavored, as it should be.

Saturday, March 8
Sydney -- Chicago

Most of the group were awakened at 4:30 AM to take a flight to New Zealand; Luigi and I and a few others stayed asleep until we awoke naturally, had breakfast and made ready for checking out of the hotel at 11:00. I walked over to the Opera House which I was told was open to public. The concourses and foyers were open, but not the performance halls (opera, concert, theater). We took the 3:45 Qantas 12.5 hour flight to Los Angeles (arriving before 2:00 PM that same day) and then Luigi and I caught a United flight to Chicago.