Archive for the 'Wine' Category

Home Alone

Tina gets all the fun blogging about food.

She’s out tonight, though, so it’s my turn. I’ve been reading the Julie/Julia blog, on the back of seeing the movie, so I felt inspired to do something French. Or, failing that, something French-inspired. Or, failing that, something involving butter.

I must admit, I’ve done very little cooking in the last year or two. Having a professional foodie in the house means that, at the best of times, the greatest benefit comes from Tina in the kitchen instead of me. Add to that the fact that our kitchen isn’t really big enough for two people at once; that she knows where everything is kept, and has the occasional desire to re-arrange things meaning that I, at any given time, usually don’t; and the general human tendency to start barking orders when someone else is doing something one believes one can do better oneself (thinking of Tina and cooking, of course, but I’m sure she feels the same about me and computers) and we have a self-reinforcing cycle whereby Tina exercises her tremendous cooking talents and I make sure to thank her profusely in between mouthsful.

But, as stated, tonight it’s my turn.

One of my fallback recipes, a step or two behind the ubiquitous stir-fry, is steak with mushroom sauce. If memory serves, Tina taught me to make mushroom sauce soon after we started dating. It seemed like it could be passed off as vaguely French and would benefit from butter, so it seemed like a good idea.

It occurred to me – and a quick Google search confirmed this – that a slosh of red wine would work well in such a sauce. Our wine collection is showing a bias from buying red and white wine in equal quantities but having a strong preference to drinking red – that is, we only had a few bottles of red, none of which I’d be sloshing around in a sauce without anyone to share it with – so I went down to Dan Murphy’s to pick up some cleanskins.

A quick aside about Dan Murphy’s. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with them. Apparently they put the screws on wine suppliers in regard to price and only deal in large quantities, which is fine for the big wineries but tends to work against small producers, and having a close relationship with at least one boutique winery I can’t, in good conscience, say that I support their business model. On the other hand, as a consumer, the fact that they’re cheaper than most other places, and that they stock cleanskins that go against the usual trend of tasting like vinegar diluted with kerosene, means that I usually end up buying booze from there anyway. Plus they’re a few minutes down the road.

So, armed with a 2008 “Reserve” Shiraz from “South Eastern Australia” and a sirloin from our (excellent) local butcher, I took a rare excursion into our kitchen.

Cooking off the red wine from the mushrooms

It turned out pretty well. I cooked the sirloin in butter (heh), then used the juices as a base for the sauce, adding the mushrooms and more butter (heh heh), some sage (of which we have an infinite supply), then the red wine, then after the wine boiled off, some cream. There were about a bazillion green beans in the fridge, which worked well with more butter (heh heh heh) and the overflow of the sauce.

The finished meal.

So there we have it. Sirloin in a creamy mushroom and cleanskin red wine sauce, with green beans and a glass of said wine.

I can do this food-blogging shit. Nothing to it.

(Oh, and the post title wasn’t just a cry of loneliness; Home Alone 2 was on TV while I was cooking. It’s actually better than I remember it. Which isn’t saying a lot.)


When choosing between two equivalent wines, pick the one with the cool name.

This caught my eye in Dan Murphy’s and I felt oddly compelled to buy one.

Occam's Razor Shiraz 2006

Sometimes you just gotta reward a well-named wine. Especially a Shiraz.

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Wine tasting

It only occurred to me this morning what good marketing wine tasting is…

“Here, try some free samples of our inhibition-reducing drug. Now… how many cases would you like to buy?”


McLeish Estate

My uncle’s winery has been raking in a few awards lately, particularly for their 2005 Semillon. Quick bit of publicity – if you happen to find yourself in Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley for whatever reason, drop into McLeish Estate on DeBeyers Road. Tell ‘em I sent you.

McLeish Estate Jessica's Botrytis Semillon awards

Here endeth the plug.

Tina and I drove up yesterday to see them (and their wine, of course) on a bit of a whim. Virtually no planning went into it. The first thing I find out after saying hello to my aunt is that the family Christmas party was happening back in Sydney. They weren’t there because the cellar door was too busy. I wasn’t there because Dad hadn’t bothered to tell me about it.

Yeah, November is a bit early for a Christmas party. My family’s like that.

Now, admittedly I haven’t called Dad for a while, but in my defence he’s pretty deaf and his hearing aid doesn’t play well with the phone, so calling him “just to say hi” tends to be a bit futile. We had dinner with him sometime around Fathers’ Day, and if I remember correctly, we were planning to do it again when he came down to Sydney again in December. In hindsight, this seems like it would have been an opportune moment to mention that there’d be a Christmas party in between. Dad’s my main source of information for his side of the family, so if I was going to hear about it from anyone, it would be him.

Although, come to think of it, my brother didn’t tell me either. Hmm.

I’m not particularly annoyed, but it’s amusing. You sort of expect your parents to be on top of things. I’ll call him in a couple of days and laugh at him.

Oh, one more thing, before leaving the topic of wine. Iron Gate Sweet Shiraz. I’m not going to say anything else.


Barossa Valley

Back in the June long weekend, four of us took a trip to the Barossa Valley (and one day up to the Clare Valley) in South Australia. I’ve been meaning to post something about it ever since. At this rate I’m never going to get around to writing anything, so here’s our trip in pictures and links. Enjoy.

Precious Memories Cottage Precious Memories Cottage
Henschke Henschke
Saltram Saltram
Maggie Beer Maggie Beer
Torbreck Torbreck
Seppelt Seppelt
Taylors Taylors
Annie's Lane Annie's Lane
Tim Adams Tim Adams
Sevenhill Sevenhill
Skillogalee Skillogalee
House of Olives House of Olives
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Lovedale Long Lunch

Tina and I have a tradition of going to the Lovedale Long Lunch in the Hunter Valley. (That is to say, we went for the second time this year. How many times do you have to do something to make it a tradition?) Basically you buy a wine glass, and at each of seven participating wineries you can buy your choice of two meals and get your glass filled up. Or you can get dessert, or you can just do some wine tasting and listen to the entertainment that most of the wineries provide for the day. To be honest, the queues are long, the meals are expensive, and you struggle to find somewhere to sit; but there’s something indulgent about it that makes it worthwhile. And if you’re driving (as I was), you have to take your time and stay at each place for an hour or so just to be able to get around legally.

We just went up for the Saturday, and more or less made up our route as we went.


Not actually one of the participating wineries, but Tina loves their Dessert Style Gewurztraminer, a very light lychee-like affair. We got four bottles of that and a 2004 Ceilidh Shiraz.


The same place we started last year. We both had the “Persian style lamb shank, on caramelised onion and potato mash” – normally we try to do the couple thing of getting different meals and sharing, but this was too much for either of us to resist. This went with their 2003 Shiraz, which I scribbled down as “coffee, dark berries, white pepper”.

Wandin Valley

I doubt anyone who grew up with Australian television manages to resist humming the theme to A Country Practice when visiting Wandin Valley Estate. We were originally going to try to get some profiteroles, but the food queue was too long so we just did some tastings, and bought a bottle of their Muscat.

Emma’s Cottage

I was massively torn between the two meals here – “Steaming noodle bowl with sticky BBQ pork, prawn meat and poached chicken, Asian leaves, chilli jam and crisp shallot”, and “Twice cooked lamb shank char-grilled with African spices on slow cooked ragout of tomatoes, chickpeas, dressed with lemon labna and pappadam flakes”. Eventually I settled on the lamb, despite the similarity to Allandale. Tina had a dessert, a “Three cheese Pashka with toasted lavosh and candied fruits”. The 1997 Shiraz was definitely showing its age, and tasted mouldy. We tasted a few of the other wines but nothing really stood out.


By the time we got to Cooper it was starting to rain. Finding a dry seat while keeping the umbrella over both of us was an exercise in relationship dynamics. We got some desserts, a “Chocolate, caramello cheescake with vanilla bean creme anglaise” and “Jindi brie, crusty bread, tomato and fig relish and crackers”. Both were good, but between the previous meals and trying to balance the umbrella we didn’t finish either of them. It’s a bit of a shame, we finished at Cooper last year as well, and you don’t really appreciate the last stop as much. Maybe we’ll try it first next year.

Stay tuned for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend trip to the Barossa…

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