Monday, January 30, 2006

Wine Pairings
There has been a lot of discussion recently about what pairs with wine, specifically whether cheese is a good match for red wine. I have a pairing that I think goes remarkably well – poodles and wine. No, I haven’t yet done an exhaustive investigation on the subject; although I don’t see why that should matter because all the armchair experts will just come out of their closets and poo-poo the idea anyway.

But the evidence is mounting. Moorooduc Estate (Mornington Peninsula) has two poodles; although they don't feature on the web site. Abercorn (Mudgee) has one. And there must be more in Wine Dogs. The Basic Juice blog has one. And Shiraz has three – we don’t do anything by halves.

There is the beautiful 12 year old Mercy, with a little bit of breakfast on her bottom lip - old age must be setting in! Then there is the lovely white princess Arwen Evenstar (0r Winnie), who just turned two - Happy Birthday Poo!

And finally there is the four year old Strider AKA Aragorn Elessar Son of Arathorn, Heir of Isildur and King of the Reunited Kingdom of the Dúnedain. Called by Gandalf 'the greatest traveller and huntsman in this age of the world', AKA Strides.
On the Wild Side at Moorooduc Estate (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia)
Continuing with our December 2005 visit to Mornington Peninsula and its wineries.

All the hospitality we received at Stonier Wines left us with only a small amount of time to make our 1pm lunch reservation at Jill's at Moorooduc Estate. I’d set up the lunch reservation and some wine tasting with Kate McIntyre, daughter of Moorooduc Estate owners Richard and Jill McIntyre. In one of her emails Kate had written “Give us a call if you have any problems finding us!”

That was, of course, well before we had even boarded the plane to Oz, let alone actually being in the process of motoring down Frankston Road after leaving Stonier. “OK, so we just turn left onto Balnarring Road and then right onto Derril Road.” That sounds simple. And as long as you don’t drive past Derril Road, it is! Once you go past Foxys Road you will be able to figure it – Derril Road is behind you. Have I mentioned the narrow roads yet? Or the undulations that hide oncoming cars? Thought not. How about Derils Road being dirt. No? Oh well, never mind. The drive past Devilbend Reservoir has a calming influence. More importantly Moorooduc Estate is worth the effort.

We actually arrived slightly early and so dropped into the tasting room to see if we could find Kate before heading to Jill’s restaurant for lunch. “Is Kate McIntyre about?” “Oh you must be her American visitors. I think she’s in the main building.” She was indeed, and she wasn’t alone. Samwise and Pedro were with her, and while they turned out to be a little more cautious in their greeting than Kate we were very happy to meet them. Miranda was particularly happy; she hadn’t seen a Poodle for at least two days.

The main building at Moorooduc Estate is very impressive, certainly the most beautiful of the wineries we visited on the Peninsula. Its rammed earth construction is both rustic and modern, and most certainly spacious. Jill’s, their restaurant, overlooks vineyards and the Moorooduc Valley. My first impression of Moorooduc wines was the 2001 The Moorooduc Pinot Noir (French oak) that I had with lunch. Cherry red in color with an orange tinged edge, my glass gave waves and waves of spicy Pinot Noir notes over stewed quince and an appealing earthy, meaty bouquet. Medium to full bodied it was beautifully soft and supple with a backbone of juicy acidity and very fine tannins supporting a lengthy finish. 2, 2, 4.5, 10.3 = 18.8/20, 94/100. It was a brilliant accompaniment to the excellent food served at Jill’s. Moorrooduc also offers accommodation for those who might want to spend some quality time among the vines and away from everything else.

Similar to many Mornington Peninsula wineries Moorooduc Estate is a relative newcomer. It was founded in 1982. The vineyards total about 12 acres and are in a warmer and more elevated area than Stonier. Production is relatively small, about 2,500 to 3,000 cases per year. What is unique to Moorooduc is that the wines are fermented using yeasts present in the vineyards. Wild yeast fermentation was begun in 1996 at Moorooduc and within five years (2001 vintage) all the Estate wines were being produced using wild yeast fermentation. The yeast strains have not been identified and so it is not known if the same strains are active in the annual fermentations, or indeed if the yeasts are truly wild; they may have originated from commercial yeast used in the earliest vintages. In any case wild fermentation is a clear sign that Richard McIntyre has considerable confidence in his abilities as a winemaker.

Moorooduc Estate makes three levels of wine, all of which will be under screwcap with the 2004 vintage. The Devil Bend wines are made with fruit sourced from viticulturally different parts of Mornington Peninsula. The Estate wines reflect the Moorooduc subregion and include fruit from the Estate’s Derril Road vineyard. The top of the line are the wines labeled The Moorooduc. Sourced from the best of the Derril Road fruit, these wines are made in very limited quantities.

My notes are in the order the wines were tasted. First up was the 2004 Pinot Gris (Screwcap) (French oak). Light straw yellow in color it gave a fresh, yeasty aroma backed up by lemon and anise. Those flavors as well as some herbaceousness carry onto the palate. The feel of the wine in the mouth is soft and round (malolactic?). It’s a fruit driven wine that gives the impression of slight sweetness. There is nice length to the finish. 2, 2, 3.6, 9.8 = 17.4/20, 87/100. 14% alcohol. Next was the 2002 Devils Bend Creek Chardonnay (French oak). Light straw yellow in color, I detected a slight reductive character. Pleasant fruit without great complexity. Appealingly soft in the mouth (from malolactic fermentation), there is just a touch of oak evident. 2, 2, 3.6, 9.8 = 17.4/20, 87/100. 13.5% alcohol. The 2003 Moorooduc Estate Chardonnay (French oak – 35% new) (100% barrel ferment) was light straw in color with opulent aromatics. Its a mouth pleasing wine with no sharp edges, impressive balance and a lengthy finish. 2, 2, 4.1, 10.2 = 18.3/20, 92/100. 13.5% alcohol. Surprisingly I found the 2003 The Moorooduc Chardonnay (French Oak – 40% new) only (very) slightly better than its little sister at this stage of its life. Others will certainly disagree with my assessment. But I found this light straw yellow wine just a little too influenced by oak characters at present. But its quality is clearly evident once the wine hits your mouth. Wonderfully soft and graceful on the palate, beautifully balanced and with great length to the finish, it is a wine that will take 3 to 5 years to show its real class. 2, 2, 4.0, 10.4 = 18.4/20, 92/100.

The first of the red wines tasted was the 2003 Devils Bend Creek Pinot Noir (French oak – 10% or less new oak). Light cherry with pink edge. Very nice spicy Pinot Noir character with notes of stewed quince, strawberry, and just a little nail polish. Medium to full bodied with juicy acidity and excellent presence of flavors on the palate. 2, 2, 3.9, 9.8 = 17.7/20, 88/100. 14% alcohol. The 2003 Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir (French Oak) is light cherry with pink edge. At this stage more restrained than the Devils Bend Pinot with notes of pepper and sawdust. This wine really comes alive in the mouth with a burst of spiciness. Excellent mouthfeel, nice balance, and great length to the finish mark a very attractive wine. 2, 2, 4.0, 10.0= 18.0, 90/100. 14% alcohol. The top of the line 2003 The Moorooduc Pinot Noir (Screwcap) (French Oak) is light cherry with pink edge in color. Beautiful complex savoury earth notes backed up by slight pepper over spicy Pinot. Simply excellent. Medium to full bodied it is soft and supple in the mouth with excellent presence of flavors on the palate, and juicy acidity to the end of the lengthy finish. 2, 2, 4.4, 10.2 = 18.6/20, 93/100. 14% alcohol.

The 2004 Moorooduc Shiraz (Screwcap) (French Oak) (Not released at time of tasting) was cherry red with pink edge. Pleasantly complex with black pepper turning to a slight herbaceousness. There are also bright dark fruits notes that evolve into attractive jammy characters. Nice mouthfeel with excellent carry of flavors onto the palate. Impressive balance with the juicy acidity marrying well with firm but not overdone astringency. 2, 2, 4.1, 10.1 = 18.2/20, 91/100. 14% alcohol. Next was the 2000 Moorooduc Cabernet Sauvignon (French Oak) (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, rest Merlot and Cabernet Franc). Light cherry red with a faint orange tinge to the edge to indicate some age. The aromas come in waves of spearmint and menthol over cedar. In the mouth its medium bodied but soft, almost Pinot Noir-like, as it caresses the palate. Nice carry of flavors onto the palate. Not great cabernet, but an interesting attempt. 2, 2, 3.8, 9.8 = 17.6/20, 88/100. 13% alcohol. Last was the 2001 Moorooduc Shiraz (French Oak). Cherry red with very faint orange tinge to the edge. Very attractive cool climate pepper and savory notes with just a touch of nail polish. To most Barossa Shiraz drinkers this wine will probably seem thin but for me there was a softness and elegance that was both appealing and distinctive. 2, 2, 4.1, 10.2 = 18.3/20, 92/100. 13.5% alcohol.

It is unlikely that much Moorooduc wine ever finds its way to the USA, the production is simply too small. So as we were leaving I purchased a mixed 6-pack to savor during the rest of our visit downunder. After our goodbyes to Kate, Samwise and Pedro, we headed off in the direction of Port Phillip Estate. I’ve already said that you need a really good map to find wineries in Mornington Peninsula, haven’t I?

Disclaimer: In the interests of full disclosure I have to note that our meal at Jill’s was provided gratis by Kate McIntyre.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Naked Wine – Not another wine movie!
Wine movies are really going down hill if this little gem is the future.

I quite like the concept of viewers being able to participate in the plot, choose alternate endings and even have friends help solve the mystery. And the prize, a personal wine tasting hosted by the winemaker, could be an interesting experience. As advertising the project is quite innovative, but the soap-opera acting was too much for me.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Oh Those Naughty Scientists, Can’t They Just Let Us Enjoy Life!
Recent articles on a study of how cheese influences sensory assessment of wine have resulted in a flurry of comments on wine boards worldwide. And as I can’t resist the temptation to comment on some of them I will be devoting a future post to the subject. But right now I want to comment on another piece of research that is sure to generate its own share of inspired criticisms.

A study published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on January 20, 2006 has concluded that “Wine buyers made more purchases of healthy food items than people who buy beer.” Why is this important? Well a number of studies have shown differential effects of beer and wine consumption on morbidity and mortality. The resulting hypothesis suggested that components other than ethanol may be responsible. However studies have also found that wine drinkers have a healthier diet than beer or spirit drinkers. This suggests that variation in diet associated with the preferred drink may explain the beneficial effect of wine drinking on health. A complicating factor in many lifestyle studies is that self reporting may influence the study outcome. For example there may be under or over reporting depending upon how study subjects think their answers may be perceived. A group of Danish investigators has attempted to exclude self reporting by comparing the relationship between beer and/or wine purchases against food purchased at the same time. They examined some 3.5 million transactions chosen at random from 98 outlets of two large Danish supermarket chains over a six month period (September 2002 to February 2003). Their results?

“Wine buyers bought more olives, fruit and vegetables, poultry, cooking oil, and low fat cheese, milk, and meat than beer buyers. Beer buyers bought more ready cooked dishes, sugar, cold cuts, chips, pork, butter or margarine, sausages, lamb, and soft drinks than wine buyers.”

Sausages and lamb are favorites of beer drinkers! This has got to be a sham. I drink very little beer but I’ll eat lamb and sausages whenever I can. I’ll even eat lamb sausages. Of course that’s not what the study shows. It simply indicates that those who purchased beer (and presumably consumed it) are more likely to purchase certain food items. And as the investigators are quick to point out the results are by no means conclusive as there are a number of strengths and weaknesses in their study. What they have done is add a little more information to our understanding of what may explain the health effects of alcohol consumption.

The final paragraph of their paper, read from my point of view as a scientist, indicates just how much more work needs to be done before we can explain the health effects of wine. But I’ll bet there are a lot of beer drinkers out there who won’t see it that way.

Possible explanation of the health benefits of drinking wine.
The additional beneficial effect of drinking wine, rather than other alcoholic drinks, on mortality and morbidity from coronary heart disease and certain cancers may be due to specific substances in wine or to different characteristics of people who drink other types of alcohol. Drinking habits - how much alcohol is ingested, whether alcohol is consumed with food, and which type of alcohol is consumed - probably depend on social and cultural factors, lifestyle, and diet. Wine tends to be drunk with meals, in modest amounts, which may have metabolic advantages; in contrast, spirits are often consumed at times other than mealtime. In Denmark wine drinkers have a higher level of education, higher income, better psychological functioning, and better subjective health than people who do not drink wine. Similar results have been found in a Californian population: people who prefer wine tend to be educated, healthy, lean, young or middle aged women with a moderate alcohol intake, whereas those who prefer beer tend to be less educated, healthy young men with a higher alcohol intake. Thus, the influence of type of alcoholic drink on mortality could be due to insufficient adjustment for lifestyle factors such as diet, drinking patterns, smoking, physical activity, education, or income.”
Food buying habits of people who buy wine or beer: cross sectional Study. Ditte Johansen, Karina Friis, Erik Skovenborg, Morten Grønbæk BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38694.568981.80 (published 20 January 2006).

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Big Gun Burgundy from 2002 and 2003
First Third Thursday Tasting for 2006 at Vintage Wines of San Diego. Held on January 19th, 2006 6:30pm.

These tastings are conducted using a single blind format with the wines poured several hours before. My tasting notes are in the order the wines were served

1) 2002 Charlopin, Cote de Nuits ($NA USD)
Light cherry red with a faint tinge of orange/brown (lightest colored wine in the group). Nice clean Pinot Noir character, with spices and just a touch of ripe banana. A light bodied, pleasant wine with nice balance across the palate, finishing with considerable acidity. 2, 2, 4.2, 9.6 = 17.8/20, 89/100.

2) 2002 Guy Dufouleur, Nuits St Georges Clos des Perrieres ($44.99USD)
Light cherry with a faint tinge of orange/brown. Initially closed with only faint note of spices, opening to dried earth, leather, and ripe banana. Light body (almost thin) with sharp acidity and mouth drying tannins. Leather and rotten apple flavors on the palate. 2, 2, 3.8, 9.6 = 17.4/20, 87.

3) 2003 Louis Jadot, Gevrey Chambertin Les Petite Chapelle ($61.99USD)
Light cherry red with pink edge. Smells of earth, dusty oak, violets and spice. Additional aromas of pepper, smoke and tea developed during the tasting. Medium weight with excellent balance and very firm tannins. Very appealing. 2, 2, 4.0, 10.3 = 18.3/20, 92/100.

4) 2002 Joseph Roty, Gevrey Chambertin Les Fontenys ($77.99USD)
Light cherry red with pink edge. Very open with excellent ripe Pinot characters. Soft entry with great presence of flavors on the palate; although the occasional hint of a vegetal character was a bit worrying.. Very well balanced with attractive juicy acidity and excellent length to the finish. 2, 2, 4.2, 10.4 = 18.4/20, 92/100.

5) 2003 Louis Jadot, Latricieres-Chambertin ($129.99USD)
Light cherry fed with pink edge. Slightly closed with spices and pepper and then dried tea leaves. Medium weight. Soft and supple with excellent balance and nice length to the finish. 2, 2, 4.1, 10.3 = 18.4/, 92/100.

6) 2003 Frederic Esmonin, Chambertin Clos de Beze ($89.99USD)
Light cherry red with a faint tinge of orange/brown to the edge. Nice Pinot Noir aromas. Very earthy and spicy. Medium weight with a soft and supple entry and firm tannins. Beautifully balanced with wonderful mouthfeel. Excellent carry of flavors onto the palate. Although the aromas tended to close down with time, this is a very, very nice wine. 2, 2, 4.2, 19.5 = 18.7/20, 94/100.

7) 2002 Xavier Liger-Belair, Clos Vougeot ($89.99USD)
Light cherry red with pink edge. Slightly closed, giving up smells of dusty oak, earth and mushrooms. Medium weight with a super soft (elegant) caress on the palate backed up by attractive juicy acidity. Nicely structured, well balance wine. 2, 2, 3.9, 10.1 = 18.0/20, 90/100.

8) 2002 Xavier Liger-Belair, Richebourg ($174.99USD)
Light cherry red with faint brownish tinge to the edge. Graphite, licorice and ripe banana turning to spices. Medium weight with soft entry followed by moth drying astringency and bright acidity. Well balanced with nice expression of flavors across the palate. 2, 2, 4.0, 10.2 = 18.2/20, 91/100.

9) 2003 Faiveley, Corton Clos des Corton ($119.99USD)
Dark cherry red with red edge, clearly the most extracted color of allthe wines. Uncharacteristic of Pinot Noir with rich, deep aromas of cocoa, plumb and smoke turning to fruit cake and coconut. This is powerful stuff. Full bodied with overwhelming astringency on the palate and nice bright acidity just struggling to the surface on a finish that fades. Almost too aggressive to assess, and will need decades to soften. 2, 2, 4.2, 9.6 = 17.8/20, 89/100.

Before the identities were revealed votes for the top three wines were taken. The top scoring wine was the 2003 Louis Jadot, Latricieres-Chambertin, followed by the 2002 Joseph Roty, Gevrey Chambertin Les Fontenys, and then came the 2002 Xavier Liger-Belair, Clos Vougeot. I scored the 2003 Frederic Esmonin, Chambertin Clos de Beze as the top wine followed by the 2003 Louis Jadot, Latricieres-Chambertin and then the 2002 Joseph Roty, Gevrey Chambertin Les Fontenys.

After a couple of hours of nursing the wines (and stealing pours from glasses at seats that were unoccupied) the Esmonin began to shut down. So I may have been a bit too generous in scoring it, but it has a wonderful mouthfeel that completely seduced me. I thought it the surprise of the night. Well at least a pleasant surprise, the real surprise was the Faiveley. I’ve never had one before and I’m certainly only ever likely to taste them in the future under this format as I’m pretty sure they have more longevity than I do. The one staff member at Vintage Wines who has experience with more mature examples is of the opinion that you really shouldn’t look at the wine for between one to decades.

Given my recent experiences its reasonable to ask how these wines compare with Pinot from the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria, Australia. Once I’ve put up the notes on all those wines you will probably be able to decide for yourself. And it would certainly be instructive to taste them side-by-side because the differences should be obvious. The Aussies tend to be more forward and appealing in their spicy aromas but usually lack the depth and complexity of the Burgundies on the palate. I’d certainly prefer the Aussies (something like The Moorooduc) with a few years of bottle age, but they are unlikely to last the distance of decades. Although, as we will see Yabby Lake might be something to wait on.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wine and Cheese - Not a Match
I just love this stuff! There is so much dogma associated with wine appreciation, very little of which is supported by peer reviewed research. A report in the New Scientist comments on the dogma breaking work of Bernice Madrigal-Galan and Hildegarde Heymann of the University of California at Davis. Madrigal-Galan and Heymann had trained wine tasters evaluate the strength of various flavors and aromas in cheap and expensive versions of four different varieties of wine either alone and when preceded by eight different cheeses. The result was that the cheese suppressed many flavors, including berry and oak, and taste and tactile perception of sourness and astringency. “Heymann suggests that proteins in the cheese may bind to flavour molecules in the wine, or that fat from the cheese may coat the mouth, deadening the tasters' perception of the wines' flavours.” The research will appear online in March in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture.

While most of us appreciate that wine and food can be a great mix, a little thought should make anyone realize that adding additional flavors, like food, into tasting a wine will affect the perception of what is actually in the bottle. I'm off to a big gun Burgundy tasting tonight – I wonder if they will serve any cheese? I’ll have to take a copy of this along. Oh yes, there will be a lot of huffing and puffing about it. EDIT: Why am I not surprised that the huffing and puffing has started already?

Thanks to Dave at Vinosense for posting a commentary on the link to this research.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Stonier Wines (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia)
The good thing about finding Merricks General Store and a welcome cup of coffee was that we were on time for the opening of Stonier Wines. The emails between me and the people at Stonier had been a little confusing and so I wasn’t too sure what the welcome would be. But I had finally emailed them that we would arrive at 11am. Once Miranda started talking the young lady behind the tasting counter asked if we were the “American visitors”? Well yes I had sent some emails some time back, so I guess we are. She poured us a little bubbly and went to get the weekend manager, Noella Thornton. Have I said how helpful Australian wine folk are? Not rude, not pushy, not trying to force their idea of their wines down your throat. Noella let us taste through the line-up and then, with a glass of what we preferred in hand, she showed us the winery and barrel room and provided a great amount of information. Much more than I could note down, but here is some of it.

Described (in their own advertising) as “Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Specialists” Stonier was established in 1978 by the Stonier Family. History has it that Brian Stonier purchased acreage at Merricks because he wanted to plant Champagne vines to make wine for his daughter’s wedding. A rather inauspicious start for the winery considered by James Halliday to be “the pre-eminent winery in the Mornington Peninsula”.

A working winery was opened in 1991 and the barrel room was built in 2000. During those years Stonier was sold to Petaluma, and then adsorbed into the Lion Nathan Group in 2001. Stonier currently makes 30,000 cases of wine with about 15% being exported. The biggest overseas market is the UK; the wines are not distributed in the USA. The current winemaker is Geraldine McFaul who began working full time in 1997. The grapes come from between 150-200 acres of vineyards of the Mornington Peninsula as well the vineyards at Stonier.

Unfortunately we did not get to taste any of the single vineyard Pinots but the wines we did taste were impressive although a little restrained. This probably hints more at the influence of Burgundy on the winemaker. The 2004 Chardonnay (French Oak) (Screwcap) $23AUD, was light straw yellow in color with herbal/fruity notes and nice clean bright acidity. Well structured with the soft roundness of malolactic fermentation. 2, 2, 3.8, 10.2 = 18.0/20, 90/100. 13.5% alcohol. (80% barrel fermented, 20% stainless steel). The 2003 Reserve Chardonnay (Cork) (French Oak, 30% new) $39AUD, was another light straw yellow wine but had more buttery and yeasty flavors over smokey oak. On the palate is was again more aromatic with notes of citrus and peach. It has nice clean, bright acidity, and is well structured. 2, 2, 4.1, 10.1 = 18.2/20, 91/100. 14% alcohol. (100% barrel fermented). The top of the line 2003 KBS Chardonnay (Cork) (French Oak) $55AUD, is a single vineyard wine. Light straw yellow in color it gave muted notes of lemon and nuts. There is nice bright acidity and toasted oak, but the wine is still a little too tight and will need some time to open. 2, 2, 3.8, 10.2 = 18.0/20, 90/100. 14% alcohol. Fruit was whole bunch pressed, and fermented in 75% new Vosges oak.

The entry level 2004 Pinot Noir (Screwcap) (French oak) $24AUD, was light cherry in color with a pink edge. Very spicy with dusty oak. Light to medium bodied with a soft, silky entry and excellent carry of flavors onto the palate. The acidity is a little sharp. Austere is a good description for this wine. 2, 2, 4.1, 9.6, = 17.7/20, 89/100. 13.5% alcohol. Malolactic fermentation allowed in barrel. Next was the 2004 Reserve Pinot Noir (Screwcap) (French oak - 30% new oak, rest 1-2 year old.) $45AUD. Light cherry in color with a lighter edge. This wine has pure Pinot Noir character, with notes of smoky oak. It is marred by a slight bitterness. Light to medium bodied, it has a soft and appealing mouthfeel, nice length and balance with nicely handled oak. Another austere wine. 2, 2, 3.9, 9.8 = 17.7/20, 89/100. 13.5% alcohol. Malolactic fermentation allowed in barrel. The last wine we tasted was the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon (Cork) (French Oak) $19AUD. This is the last vintage of Cabernet made by Stonier. Light in color with notes of menthol, cedar and anise it is medium bodied with good mouthfeel, and firm tannins. The flavors carry well onto the palate, but the structure is not impressive. 2, 2, 3.6, 9.5 = 17.1/20, 85/100. 13% alcohol.

Having never tasted anything from Stonier before I came away quite impressed with their wines. In general they are a little too high in acidity for my palate. But they certainly represent a more austere style that is a good counterpoint to the fruit laden, high alcohol wines from warmer regions of Australia.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Short Guide to Visiting Wineries of Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
It shouldn’t be difficult to get to a specific Mornington Peninsula winery, after all its almost too easy to get to the Peninsula from Melbourne. The Nepean Highway will take you right there. But how do you locate individual wineries? All the tourist guides we obtained from the airport and hotel as well as on the MPVA site are almost completely useless in terms of detailed maps; the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association does print a map but its the same one as on their site. If you are going to be looking for specific wineries then make a list of their addresses from the MPVA site and get yourself a good street map; fortunately our hire car had one. Your first stop should probably be the Merricks General Store, but not for wine tasting. Most wineries, if they take visitors, open at 11am, so the Merricks General Store is a great place to find for a late breakfast and a read of the newspaper. I spent most of my time trying to figure out just where our first winery of the day was located. We had been trying to find it, Miranda being literally covered in tourist maps, when we happened on the MGS. Coffee, croissants and directions time!

I had planned this trip from California which had meant emails to wineries that I thought would provide a good overview of the Pinot Noir made in the area. As I had only started to take a serious interest in wine in the mid-1970s and had then left for the USA in 1982 I had missed all of the progress that had occurred. Plus Mornington Peninsula wines are virtually unknown in the USA. So I relied heavily on an article in the June/July 2005 issue of Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine to select the Pinot producers. Most of the wineries contacted were very helpful, with several going above and beyond my requirements. There were a few who did not reply, and I thought it prudent not to annoy them any further by visiting.

Our first winery was to be Stonier Wines. But where was it? It wasn’t until we walked out of the MGS that we figured it out. The entrance to Stonier Wines was less than 100 feet away. In other words next door! OK, that’s the first one down. This is easy. Wrong!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Vineyards and Wines of Mornington Peninsula – A Short History?
The importance of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula to the history of wine in Australia may seen quite insignificant. After all the region does not rate a mention in the indexes of W S Benwell’s Journey to Wine in Victoria or David Dunstan’s Better than Pommard: A History of Wine in Victoria. But like many regions near the capital cities of most states of Australia there is a long association with vines and wines. Dunstan notes on page 73 that at a meeting of the Melbourne Vine Grower’s Association in August 1867 wines were exhibited from Dromana. However the modern era of wine history of the Morington Peninsula began in the 1950’s when experimental planting were made at, where else, Dromana. This small planting was purchased by the brother-in-law of wine merchant Doug Seabrook, and Seabrook experimented with plantings of Rhine Riesling until the vineyard was destroyed by bushfire in 1967 (see John Beeston, A Concise History of Australian Wine). In the 1970’s business man Baillieu Myer planted cabernet and riesling at the family property Elgee Park. Myer was followed by Nat White who planted at Main Ridge in 1975, and the Kefford’s planted Merricks North in 1976 (see John Beeston, The Wine regions of Australia).

The Mornington Peninsula wine region is about 60 km south and south east of Melbourne (see map). The region has a maritime climate which is heavily influenced by the wet and windy weather of Bass Strait. Altitude ranges from sea level to 250 meters. These features produce cool climate vineyard country with grape ripening depending upon both altitude and wind exposure. The most successful varieties are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. However Shiraz has been successful in the warmer areas. Cabernet has been produced but has fallen from favor. Pinot Gris is thought to have a future on the Peninsula.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Blogging Downunder 2005
As I’ve noted in a previous post Miranda and I visited Australia in December, 2005. These annual excursions to Oz are a combination of work and vacation but always include a visit to nearby wine regions. In future posts I’ll be detailing all the wine related activities that were part of the trip. The first series of posts will be on the wineries visited on the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria. There will be separate posts (with tasting notes) on Stonier, Moorooduc, Port Phillip, Kooyong, and Paringa. I’ll also be posting on our meeting with Tod Dexter, the winemaker for Yabby Lake (Mornington Pen.) and Heathcote Estate. There will also be individual posts on our visits to several wineries/vineyards in the Barossa. This will include a visit to Seppeltsfield to taste their dessert wines, a very enjoyable visit to Dutschke Wines and the Lyndoch block party, and an equally enjoyable afternoon spent with David and Pam Cross of Winter Creek. To finish there will be some notes on the excellent wines tasted at an Offline in Sydney, and some comments on a few other intriguing wines that passed our lips.