Thursday, May 25, 2006

One from One - Red is Best!

Well, I had one taker! TWC guessed I went with the cab/merlot - he was absolutely correct!Although, he thought I might have actually emptied all three - not a bad thought - yummmmm! Alas, it was not to be.

You can see an extra label on the bottle that simply says "Frank & Bev". This label was stuck on some .... years ago on the occasion of my fortieth birthday. My fortieth was simply billed as "Mal's Big Red Fortieth" and the invitations made the gift suggestion of 'any bottle of red wine'. This particular bottle was a gift from Frank & Bev (the better-half's uncle and aunt) - thanks guys!! What a great night we had! We are still slowly making our way through the very kind gifts.

BTW, I finally had a call from Kitchener Wine Cabinets delivery guy - IT HAS ARRIVED!!!!!!!!!! It was delivered today. Unfortunately I was in Melbourne when it arrived and didn't get back to Brisbane until late in the evening. On Saturday we go away for a holiday, for a week, and then come back home for another week off. The better-half has spoken and I am banned from taking a computer with us away on the first week.

This will be my last post for a week or so, but I hope to return with photos of Burleigh Heads and my new wine cabinet.

Until Then
- drink well and live well! Life is too short to drink bad wine (obviously - not an original saying)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Which wine do you think we drank?

For those of you who have read my posts, see if you can guess which wine we drank with dinner on Saturday night.

I, and the rest of my staff, are still recovering from the last few weeks of trying to beat the last tax lodgement deadline of the year (May 15). I dragged myself through to the end of the week and decided that I was not going into the office on Saturday. The better-half thought I might be ill!

Realising I was too weak to fight and was going to spend the day at home, the better-half grasped her opportunity, bid me farewell, handed me the keys to our two kids and said "See ya!! Be back around lunch time. Try not to damage the children" - Ouch!

After waving goodbye to the wife I lay back down on the bed for a while. The two boys came in and jumped up and down on me for 45 minutes or so which led me to the conclusion that they were trying to get my attention! (I am really quick on my days off!). I got up, built the best train track in the universe to enable Thomas, Donald, Douglas, Percy, Gordon, Daisy, Diesel et al (expertly guided by the two boys - 4.5 and 1.5 years of age) to traverse the Island of Sodor in bliss and harmony - well, the harmony lasted about 3 minutes. So it was off downstairs to the sandpit and the swings.

When I got outside I realised it was a wonderful day! Autumn in Brisbane has to be the best time of year. Eventually the boys went off and did their own thing which allowed me to go back to the kitchen, find some books and start planning dinner. So I sat on the deck watching the kids run around the yard with the dog and planned afternoon tea, dinner and dessert (I was feeling hungry). I didn't sit down to plan all three - it just happened.

I started by looking for a chicken recipe for dinner but instead found a really good recipe for apple pie (not just any semi-flat apple pie) but one that ends up looking like a cake and stands around 12-13cm (5-6 inches) tall. I love hot apple pie (and NO not because of that movie)! Please forgive me! The pie turned out great but the top and the edges look like the moon's surface (see photo) - hey! give me a break! I am an amateur and it was my first attempt. Making the pastry almost drove me insane!!! I did have one good idea though, which wasn't in the book. Once I had cooked down the 8 green apples (skinned, quartered and sliced - yes part of me wishes I had listened to my better-half and simply bought tins of pie apple, but that takes away part of the fun) with a cup of water and half a cup of brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon, the recipe said to drain the apple and add in sultanas - which I did. However, I kept the liquid that I drained off (it was a great mixture of green apple tartness and the sweetness of the sugar and apple juice and slight cinnamon fragrance). Later on I reduced it slightly and stirred in some cornflour to thicken and it made a wonderful pouring sauce over the pie and ice-cream.

In my rummaging around the pantry to see what ingredients we had I noticed a packet of dates and couldn't remember the last time we had eaten some. So I came up with an idea for a date and walnut loaf for afternoon tea. This turned out great (no photos because we ate most of it warm with some butter). The boys enjoyed licking the spoon on that one!

I eventually found a chicken recipe - herb and parmesan encrusted chicken thighs. This was made by mixing butter, some chopped dill, chives and mint with a small amount of grated lemon rind and a teaspoon or two of lemon juice and then stuffing the herb butter under the skin of each thigh. The thigh was 're-sealed' with toothpicks. It was cooked in a moderate oven with the grill on for about 10 minutes each side. The last two minutes being skin side up and sprinkled grated parmesan cheese on top. The result is a very crispy top.

To go with this I made up a mixed gratin with potato, zucchini, onion and garlic (and seasoned with just a little oregano, salt and pepper in around the second zucchini layer) and topped with some shaved parmesan. Add some cream and milk almost to the top layer and bake in oven at 150C for an hour.

Now, what wine to have?A Penfold's 2001 Yattarna, a Tyrrell's Stevens 1995 Semillon, or a Knappstein 1999 Cab Merlot? Which do you think?

Friday, May 19, 2006


Has anyone noticed that Dan Murphy's is celebrating their 50th store opening? This has led to some incredible discounts. You can check out their catalogue online.

Whilst not guzzlers I noted that the Lindeman's Limestone Ridge and Lindemand's St George were on sale for $29.90. I have never seen them below $35-38.

Also 2002 Jacob's Creek St Hugo at $27.90 (or $25.90 as part of a mixed or straight dozen). See! This is what happens when you change your name! I know the oversupply problem has caused a lot of these tremendous reductions however, am I the only one who doesn't like the name change on this wine? Orlando's St Hugo was always a great cab sav label in Australia and it is somewhat sad to see it go.

The first St Hugo that I ever drank was the 1996 (and it was around $37 per bottle then). I was out to dinner with my wine buddy (Lynton) and a few others and we ordered a bottle. I don't know whether it was the wine, the atmosphere, or the company, or possible all three, but I have the strongest memory of the taste of that wine. It was like drinking liquid gold. We got through 2 or 3 bottles of it and when I arrived home late that night I announced, to my freshly woken wife, that we would name our first child Hugo - and we did!

Grant Burge's 2004 Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon for $39.90 per bottle (or $37.90 as part of a mixed or straight dozen). This is a fantastic wine - although I haven't tried a 2004 - and I can't recal/ ever purchasing it for less than $50-60 per bottle.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Wine Cabinet Update!

Those of you who have been around for a while will remember my ravings about the new wine cabinet I ordered from Kitchener Wine Cabinets and the various delays etc etc.

The deadline came today and I called them, only to discover it has already been despatched to their Brisbane depot and should arrive at our place around Wednesday next week. Just in time for my vacation! I will be able to devote some time to installing it and stocking it and updating my records of my collection (?).

Kitchener says "Each cabinet loses capacity for four bottles on the top shelf to make space for the condenser unit. For example, the KG252 bottle number is derived from: (32 bottles X 6 shelves) + 64 base shelf - 4 for condenser = 252 bottles." Let's hope they are right!

I don't know whether I have bought a big enough cabinet. I have just used their wine storage calculator and I am a bit worried. Oh well, I can always get another!

Monday, May 15, 2006


When I first started my blog I believed I would be able to write one article per day. For the first couple of months this was no problem however, over the last week, work and family commitments have prevented me from 'blogging on'. My apologies to all! The 'insane' period at the office is almost over and shortly I will be leaving on two weeks holiday. I will not be able to update the blog in the first week as I will be nowhere near a computer however hope to rectify that in the second week.

Just because I was not blogging doesn't mean that I was drinking wine or cooking. We had a fantastic Mother's Day and I cooked lunch for the better-half and her mother (an extended family).

All this leads me to some catching up to do. June means a couple of things. Firstly, holidays for me and a decision as to which wines to take. Secondly, I believe the balance of my small order of the 2003 Bordeaux en-primeur should arrive and thirdly, the better half and I are undertaking an introductory
wine course.

I am looking forward to the next few months and bringing you updates on our wonderful world of wine.

PS. TWC - thanks for the comments!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Pinot and the Treasurer (or 'Pinot & Pete')

It was Budget night. I sent the staff home earlier than usual, locked up the office, went home played with the kids for half an hour before their bedtime and then sat down to a lovely veal in a wholegrain mustard sauce dish that the better half prepared.

We tried a bottle of the
Tyrrell's Vat 6 1999 Pinot Noir (I only have two bottles left now) with the meal. Usually we forego alcohol mid-week but, as it was Budget night, my wife suggested we open a bottle. I was in a good mood so I said "sure" although I suspect she simply wanted any alcohol (as long as it was in sufficient quantities) to try and help her get through the night with me watching the Federal Treasurer (Peter Costello) strut his stuff in Parliament, then the ABC and other shows.

We both enjoyed the intense rasberry aromas (along with the familiar mouldy? type smell of pinot). There were rasberry flavours as well. Although I am just an amateur I don't believe there could be much improvement left in this wine. It was dinking beautifully and I will make sure that I don't let the other two lie around too much longer.

Anyway, here we were enjoying the wine, until the Budget speech. How much money did they have to throw around? It was a huge Budget - and an election is still at least 18 months away! There was so much money being thrown around by the government in tax cuts, access to superannuation lump sums (now 100% tax free), an unlimited number of funded child care places etc that I cannot remember my second glass of Pinot. In some ways I feel that Pete stole it from me when I wasn't looking - just like a politician!!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Chateau Reynella 1997 Basket Pressed Cabernet Sauvignon

With all this talk about the Wine Society recently I recalled that I had a bottle stashed away somewhere that I had received from them in one of my two cases per year deal of mixed reds. When I receive a dozen bottles from the Wine Society it is usually two bottles each of 6 different wines. This is a good way of doing things because occasionally you get a real 'cracker' in the case. When you do, you usually go straight back downstairs and put the other bottle away somewhere. This is what happened and I remembered it on Sunday.

On a couple of occasions I have received a couple of bottles of the Wine Society's labelled wines in this case. These are ones that the Society believe are worthy to carry their name and have negotiated a special price with the producer. The one I was looking for was the Chateau Reynella 1997 Basket Pressed Cabernet Sauvignon.

I did some research on Chateau Reynella because the use of the word "Chateau" is not all that common in Australia. I found out that
Chateau Reynella was the birthplace of the wine industry in South Australia.

To go with the wine, my 'better half' (you remember her? I used to call her the Leader of the Opposition until she found my blog and began to read it) and I shared the culinary duties and produced a lamb roast with roast veggies. Very simple, but wonderful.

The wine was superb! I think it could have withstood another couple of years of bottle age but I prefer to drink them on the young-ish side. Remember, it is always better to drink a wine too early and appreciate its potential than to drink it too late and lament its demise. There were plumb and chocolate aromas and again on the palate with a touch of smokiness (may have something to do with the charred barrels). I could drink this any day of the week!

I recall attempting to buy more at the time I drank the first bottle. However, it is apparently a member favourite and sold out quite quickly. I will now have to try and find some more.

Both the Chateau Reynella and the Laughing Magpie we have had this weekend rated relatively well with me (I don't have an objective measure, although I can start to see the need for one) and I would quite happily purchase them again. I must also add, for Rob's benefit, that yes both bottles passed
Robbie's Rule of Thumb test.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Weekend Wine! Laughing Magpie!

As mentioned on Friday, I worked yesterday and did not have much time to prepare for dinner. I had a bottle of 2003 D'Arenberg 'Laughing Magpie' Shiraz Viognier that I wanted to try. So I went the quick and easy option. I bought a small standing rib roast (2 ribs only) from Zone Fresh, took it home and cut it in two to make two thick rib on the bone steaks.

I also fried some garlic, onion and mushrooms added some wine, reduced slightly and then cream (extra light) for a lovely creamy sauce. I also prepared a potato gratin variant with some onion and instead of using cream I simply used chicken stock - fantastic!

The "Laughing Magpie" (from McLaren Vale - where else?) was very good. We really enjoyed it. The tannins appeared to be well balanced (really? what would I know). You could tell there were tannins and you had that dry taste but it was not overpowering and there was no "pucker" factor (I have learned a little about that from
one of the Wine Girl's blogs. It certainly doesn't seem as vibrant (if that's a good description) as a straight McLaren Vale shiraz but there a complexity to the taste that is extremely enjoyable. Will definitely keep for a while yet (I have another 4 bottles left - yippee!)

By the way, I better make it clear that I do NOT come from the McLaren Vale region! The way I rave about the wines from there, one would be excused for making that assumption.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Weekend wine or wine weekend?

Hey, did you join the Wine Society and try to win a trip to France? I'd love to know if you did.

I can’t decide whether to have a weekend wine or have a wine weekend. I think I have had a few too many wine weekends of late, so I need to enjoy a quieter weekend and have just one or two nice wines…..I sound so sensible and rational, don’t I? Well it sounds good anyway! However, the truth of the matter is that, as I am a little snowed under at the office, I will be working most of Saturday.

Shock, horror! The first thing my better-half said was ‘you poor dear, is there something I can do to make things better for you?’ – yeeeeeeeeah riiiiight!!! – and then I woke up. Actually the first thing my wife said, caring soul that she is, was ‘Oh no, does this mean you won’t be able to cook for us on Saturday?’. Always thinking about me!

All of which brings me to my plans for dinner on the weekend! I have promised that I will once again chain myself to the stove and slave for hours preparing some gourmet delight! (If I can do that, it may be a first). In all honesty I love cooking (I have only really been doing it for a couple of months)! I think there really is something soothing about playing with sharp knives and with fire (yes, I will seek help!). I have no idea what to cook. I will have to ‘surf’ to find some new recipe and then head to Zone Fresh or Rode Road butchers on the way home tomorrow.

What wine to have?? My two cartons (24 bottles) of the 2004 Oomoo McLaren Vale Shiraz (see Guzzler Update #2) arrived at the office this morning. By lunchtime I had already lost 3 bottles to snooping staff members. I will have to have another bottle either tonight or Sunday night and then plan for a special wine to go with dinner on Saturday. (TWC, are you coming this weekend?)

I will let you know tomorrow about the Saturday dinner menu. Do you have any favourite recipes or suggestions? Let me know, and give me the wine suggestion as well. Yeah, I know, I am getting lazy and expecting you to do all the work, aren’t I? Yep!

Win a trip for two to France??

In an earlier, critically acclaimed (at least by my family - hey! they count too!) post titled "7 Effective Habits of Highly Successful Guzzler Locaters", at tip #2, I mention subscribing to emails and snail mail etc. I also mentioned considering joining some organisation like the Wine Society.

I have found the Wine Society to be beneficial. I am not a particularly active member, but apart from keeping you updated on wines and providing monthly specials etc, they do source some wines (directly from the producers) that are just not available in retail outlets. Additionally they provide various tastings and other events around the country and even some recipes to go with various wines.

The Wine Society currently are having a membership drive and it is possible you can win a trip for two to France by signing up new members. Each new member you sign up is another entry in the competition. Additonally, when you join you go in to the draw as well. It is well worth a look. At the moment they will also refund you the $50 joining fee.

Sounds great! What's the catch? I am not sure, however I imagine it would be taking at least two cases of wine a year for two years (I think that is what I did when I joined). I have kept the two cases a year going for the last 4 or 5 years. It is like a pressent that turns up unannounced every six months - a dozen mixed wines for me to try - damn!!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

More of Bordeaux 2005 Vintage

I found the following on Langton's site and found it immensley interesting (as I love Bordeaux reds):

Langton's will be offering a selection of 2005 en primeur wines in the forthcoming weeks. It is likely that the top wines will be very limited in supply. It will be a question of first in best dressed. You can be assured that this is a tip top vintage at every level. Andrew Caillard MW, Langton’s Sydney director, is recently returned from Bordeaux sampling the wines and making selections for Langton’s en primeur offer. These are his diary and tasting notes from the frontline in Bordeaux.

"I don't remember the 1947 vintage, but this is the best vintage of my lifetime." Christian Moueix, Chateau Petrus

"The sheer quality and definition of the wines perhaps eclipse the hugely hyped 2000 and 1982 vintages. Certainly old-timers are suggesting the wines are as brilliant as the legendary 1961s and 1947s. " Andrew Caillard MW

First entry: 10.30pm Wednesday 5th April, Saint-Emilion "I don't remember the 1947 vintage, but this is the best vintage of my lifetime." Christian Moueix, Chateaux Petrus

There is an extraordinary buzz happening in the annual primeur tastings in Bordeaux at the moment. The 2005 vintage is being compared to the great 1961 by the Bordelais. Merchants from all around the world are being treated to museum examples of the vintage to prove a point. I have already seen the First Growth 1961 Margaux (en magnum) and the Fifth Growth 1961 Batailley. These, and other same vintage bottles of exquisitely aged wine, are no doubt weapons of mass persuasion. The world wine trade is bracing itself for the opening prices of the 2005 vintage. There is talk that some first growth Chateau will offer wines at over 300 euros a bottle. If that's true, it will be a great pity.

For the rest of this article see Langton's

Bordeaux 2005 en primeur tasting notes

Andrew Caillard, MW - April 2006

The following tasting reviews are gleaned from over 450 samples tasted at various locations over a seven day period. In some cases I may have tried a wine up to four times. All the wines are of course barrel samples and essentially unfinished wines. All the 2005s will spend more time in barrel.

For the rest of this article and all the tasting notes see Langton's


You have heard of the Great Barrier Reef. Now we are having the Great Barrier Feast! It is in its 5th year and is being billed as the 'ultimate food and wine weekend in the ultimate tropical location' - Hamilton Island (just off the Queensland coast, Australia).

It is 3 days (from 9 - 12 June) of indulgence and it looks like a chance to rub shoulders with some of the influential people in the food and wine industry in Australia and attend cooking and wine tasting classes. There are banquets on two of the evenings prepared by the guest chefs. Check out the

Sounds great! I have not investigated the price of the event but, it may be what keeps me from going - Oh that and the fact that I have already booked to take my family away to Burleigh Heads for a week at that time AND booked in for a wine course that I mentioned in
Wine Course. Maybe YOU can go!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

How do you store your wine?

In this morning's blog Wine Cabinet - STILL NOT HERE!! I discussed the wine cabinet I am purchasing and what I looked at. I live in a sub-tropical climate where heat is a problem and there are vast changes in temperature in the one day (at different times of the year).

How do you overcome the problems of temperature, temperature fluctuation, vibration and light if you don't have a wine cabinet or a purpose built cellar? I would be interested to know people's ideas.

One reason for this is the fact that I have only ordered a 252 bottle wine cabinet and I have a lot more wines than that. I am hoping to keep just my premium wines in there.

Let me know what you do?

Wine Cabinet - STILL NOT HERE!!!!!!

For those who have been reading from near the beginning will recall that in a previous post I mentioned how excited I was to have ordered a 252 bottle wine cabinet on 16 February 2006. It was supposed to take eight weeks because they are manufactured to order.

After 8 weeks I contacted them and was told it would be another 3-4 weeks. Well I contacted them again yesterday and was told another 2 weeks, at least. Well, I have the razor ready and it is approaching my wrist. Not really! However I am mildly frustrated.

I think there must be an accountant behind their method of operation (ie only manufacturing to order). It makes sense, from their point of view, not to be carrying (and have money tied up in) unwanted completed units and raw materials. I think accountants call this the JIT approach with JIT supposedly standing for Just In Time. However this can only work if things are done ON TIME. In this case JIT may as well stand for Just In Trouble.

When I was looking at wine cabinets I looked at a number of options. There are some very good units on the market and the prices range dramatically. When looking for a larger storage unit I tried to steer away from the wine 'fridge' (of which I currently have two working) that is available via K-Mart or Big W.

I looked at Transtherm & Vintec as they were recommended by the Wine Society of which I am a very casual member. I also checked out Liebherr who appear to have one of the biggest ranges. Liebherr and Transtherm appear to be at the more expensive end of freestanding cabinets. You can get you cellar custom-built if you have the room by someone like Wine Cellar Innovations.

This is a photo of my cellar! IN MY DREAMS! Not only do I think I could not afford this one, I am sure my "better-half" (I have to stop calling her the 'Leader of the Opposition' because she has discovered my blog and has been reading it) would not allow me to take up this much room for a wine cellar.

If you are in the same boat a better alternative might be, if you want a wine cellar, rather than simply a free-standing cabinet, to try Centaur Cellars or Wine Ark (who have both options available) and from memory were somewhat less expensive than Liebherr and Transtherm (at least I am sure Centaur was - at around $16 per bottle capacity).

In the end I went with Kitchener Wine Cabinets for three reasons. First of all they are made in Australia (I am sure of this) from components readily available here (supposedly) by an Australian owned business. Secondly was the cost. The Kitchener Wine Cabinet works out to be just over $10 per bottle capacity (eg a 252 bottle unit costs $2800) as compared to anywhere from $16-$35 per bottle for some of the others. Thirdly, their smallest size was the 252 bottle and their standard unit holds 410. Whilst the units may not have the aesthetics of some of the more expensive brands I am not concerned as it will be kept under our house. By the way, these units are lockable!! Important for keeping any teenagers out when you are away.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Wine Auctions

I have devoted a reasonable amount of time in past blogs talking about 'guzzlers'. For those who love finer wines (now that is not to say you can't find some fine wines under $20) there are a number of places to go. One of the places I like to check out are the Langton's Wine Auctions.

Langton's Sydney Wine auction is now open for bidding. An outstanding offering of 3564 lots of fine Australian and imported wine.

Check out the
link to the sale;

Have a run through some of them. I don't know about you but I salivate at the thought of all those fine wines. I checked out some of the Bordeauxs and there are some 'guzzlers' amongst them but I am not knowledgeable enough and I don't know where you can fdind tasting notes on the Cru Bourgeois or even the Cru Bourgeois Superieur. Robert Parker's book on Bordeaux covers a few of the better ones but doesn't really venture down to the 'guzzler' level.

If anyone can point to reliable tasting notes on some of these wines, please let us know. In the mean time enjoy browsing (or maybe even purchasing) at the Lanton's auction.

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