Chalone Australia Tour
Sunday, February 23
Luigi and Manly, 1997
103 Spring Street
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:
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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;
As there were no corresponding instructions for shark bite, Luigi and I did
not go swimming there.
Assess consciousness by shaking and giving simple commands;
Conscious: make comfortable
Unconscious: place on left side
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
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
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
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 (http://www.lindemans.com.au) 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
11:23 - Lindemans Still Room 1992 Hunter River Shiraz (astringent, medium
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
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
Black Marlin, (white, painted label. Yuk!); we were told that they ship a lot of this
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 (http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/factfile/ships/), 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.