November 30, 2009

the Parisien’s visit

Pierre and Jem sent us a couple of pictures from their stay here earlier in the month… I’ve posted this one, because the other was taken while we were in the surf at 7am on a Sunday morning at Bondi and there is no way a picture of me in a swimming costume is going onto this site…. Never. Ever.


This is part of our backyard, with the stairs leading up to the private guest accommodation…

filles at 8:53 am

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Paint Job

We had a great weekend in Newcastle this weekend. Up to visit Mad, Dave & Lillian we offered our services as painters. I’m not sure I’d win any awards for my painting ability, but I’m good with primer, first coats and Michelle makes up for any faults of mine with stamina (and skill of course!). I think we managed to get a lot more done than expected, the beer was good, so was the lunch at the local and conversation flowed without a break.

Lillian had her friend over and late Saturday afternoon we heard the 3 year old Arlo inviting 2 year old Lillian to the pub for a glass of wine. The flicker of a smile I had turned into a belly laugh when Lillian readily agreed, even offering to drive.

Now I wonder where/who they picked that up from?

filles at 7:51 am

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November 25, 2009


I’m two assignments behind at school.

The first is a wine production assignment where I have to make my own wine on paper. I’ve done all the research, I know what I’m going to write, I’ve picked the varietal (Gewürztraminer), the style and thought out the marketing blurb – now all that’s left to do is write the damn paper.

Today. It’s going to happen today.

Really, I have no choice, the semester finishes next week for the summer holidays and I have another paper due then, and a presentation to prepare and I can’t leave everything to the last minute.. can I?

For the last paper I chose to present Chenin Blanc. It’s my favorite varietal, I love the wines from the Loire in France, Savennieres, Anjou et al, and it’s not very popular here in Australia and I have no idea why. I’ve been collecting bottles of Chenin Blanc for weeks now, tasting a few here and there, but generally just storing them waiting for the moment to do a proper tasting together.

Last night, we set up 1 French, 1 South African and 1 Australian, paired them with a plate of pork in a cream sauce with prunes & tarragon and invited Leanne along to help us taste them. It was fun, and the results were impressive, although the Australian was definitely the lighter weight of the three, they all demonstrated clearly the characteristics of the varietal and were all quite impressive in their own way. The wine-making process was different throughout, definitely the French Montlouis was a truly artisan wine, it needed a lot more attention to preparation (I carafe’d the wine 5 hours before drinking) but it was also the most complex wine, and will outlive the others by about 20 years I imagine. But the South African was very close, and the Australian was a very nice substitute, perfect to drink young while you wait for the French one to age.

Thursday night we have another line up, with another French, Australian, and this time a New Zealand Chenin to try. The menu is set, mussels in a cream and prosciutto sauce, and if we have room, followed by pasta with a creamy truffle sauce. Leanne has kindly volunteered her services again to be a taste tester… anyone else?

Wines we tried last night: Domaine de la Taille aux Loups 2006 Rémus Plus, Tukulu Chenin Blanc 2008 and the Paul Conti Tuart Vineyards 2009 Chenin Blanc

filles at 8:54 am

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November 22, 2009

bushfires, wine, and heat


We’re back from Mudgee. Hot, hot, hot Mudgee. We arrived up there on Friday and were told that it was 47 degrees at 1.30pm…. it felt 47 degrees. We were going to go wine tasting, but instead we went to the brewery, tasted a few beers, then headed back to our lovely b&b to plonk ourselves in the pool for the afternoon. Lovely. Dinner was a homestyle affair at Deebs Kitchen, nice, but unusual, then we headed to the local hotspot, Roth’s wine bar with all the local wine-makers. Most of them had been there since around 6pm, drinking whites and beers trying to cool down, they were way way ahead of us in the drinks department so when ice throwing and buckets of water started going down the back of shirts, we slipped away, determined not to be hungover for our Saturday classes.

Saturday morning it was 35 degrees by 9am, we arrived at Lowe wines late, and were led down to the winery in the searing heat, David having not been one of the wine-makers out the night before, was bright eyed and bushy tailed and he led us on a tour of the vines, a tour of the compost heap and his political convictions. I really enjoyed myself, apart from the heat and the hot sun, he was interesting and passionate and most importantly his wines we tasted were good. Very good.

Next stop di Lusso. Now Rob was one of the night-owls and it was fairly obvious on our tour of his estate, we tasted some wines, sat down for a great lunch of woodfired pizza and lamented the 44 degree heat burning outside. We were carrying our esky in and out of the winery’s since the temperature in the car was at least 55 degrees and our purchases would never have survived….

Next stop Mudgee Wines which again was very interesting. Wine-maker Luciano is young, Italian and gorgeous and most of us just sat and stared, barely hearing a thing he said, just smiling when he smiled, following when he led us out into the sun, and nodding our head when we were tasting his 2009 shiraz straight from the barrel. Sadly for them, luckily for us, the stock held at Mudgee Wines was from the previous owners, and none of Lucianos handiwork, so purchases were minimal.

The last stop of the day around 4.30pm was Robert Stein. We were all exhausted and suffering from heat-stroke and taste bud shut down from so many wines but Jacob the wine-maker was one step ahead of us. He cut down his winery tour and instead led us out by the billabong where we just sat in the breeze and did a vertical tasting of their 2007, 2008, and 2009 Gewürztraminers and the same with their award winning Rieslings. All chilled to the perfect temperatures and all perfectly balanced it was actually a pleasure. A great plan, and fantastic wines, all led by the most enthusiastic of the young Mudgee wine-makers. Jacob would have to be my new hero.

We hung out in the pool till our body temperatures were bought back to something reasonable, a pub dinner, another bottle at Roths with Luciano and then to bed we went. Exhausted. I don’t think the temperature dipped below 38 overnight and the eerie skyline and the smell of fire in the air was haunting.

This morning it was another scorcher. We started by buying ice for our esky and our wines, then went on a tour of Andrew Harris by the winemaker Lisa. I liked her style of minimalism, the tour was quick, to the point, it was her day off, and we were all hungover. Perfect. For some reason the cellar door was closed so we were spared the tasting at that hour until arriving at the next stop of Broombee Wines.

Here the wines are all organic, hand picked, hand managed, blended and bottled all by Barry who’s been doing it on his own for years. The wines are good, surprisingly so considering the size of the operation. They sell only at the cellar door or by phone orders and word of mouth – quite amazing considering the competition here in Australia, even Mudgee itself.

Last stop was Logan wines which was a magnificent building, view over the valley, a whole lot of floor to ceiling windows and clean lines, cheese plates and riedel glasses. The sparkling was fabulous, so were a few of the whites, we favoured the premium range (of course!) made with grapes bought from Orange, but the reds were a little disappointing, nevermind, by this stage our esky was bursting at the seams, the car was full and it was time to head home before the bushfires blocked the route home.

There are 160 bushfires already burning in NSW and it’s still only November. The four hour drive home was hot and smoky but we made it safe and sound and arrived home to a house that had been closed up in the Sydney temperatures of 42 degrees today. It’s too hot to do anything, not even sleep and the humidity is high, we had thai outside at the local restaurant with a bottle we bought from our fridge at home and I’m sitting here in the dark with the fan blowing on my face directly while Michelle is flat out watching some program on Islam and Science, which requires too much brainpower on my behalf.

Tomorrow the forecast is for rain and 21 degrees. I’ll believe it when I see it. My plan is to empty our bags and file away all our new wine and reflect on our wonderful weekend away in the country. Very strenuous. Better I get to bed now for an early start tomorrow.

filles at 10:22 pm

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November 17, 2009


We’ve got another wine weekend away coming up in Mudgee. My aunt will be house-sitting for us, feeding the fish, watering the garden and generally looking after the place while we’re away. Definitely one of the inconveniences of having a garden and pond full of fish. We haven’t had to worry about that for such a long time, and in Paris there was no end of people happy to house-sit our apartment in the first arrondisement whenever we went away. Anyone out there want to come and house-sit for us? anytime, let us know…

Actually I received a flyer in the mail last week from a young english couple who were looking to do just that. They had friends in Erskineville and they were hoping to do some house-sitting in the area so they could stay all summer. I was going to send them an email and suggest we meet so I could get to know them before we opened the house up to them, but then I chickened out. How much do you need to know someone to hand over the keys to your life? Jury’s still out on that one. I wish I could just go with it. It was brave of them to do a mailing in the area, and I think they should be rewarded for their tenacity, but…

Anyway, back to Mudgee. Another jam packed weekend, I’m desperately trying to arrange the wine we have at home. I bought a nice new big and fairly quiet cellar last weekend – so there is wine all over the place being sorted into drink now, drink later, and drink only on very very very special occasions. I have to finish before we come home with more cases of tried tested and liked wine from Mudgee. I’m going to be booking restaurants for the weekend, there are so many to try, so many great reviews, I think it’s going to be one of those places we keep going back to. So if you’re planning a visit, chances are we’ll be heading to Mudgee at some point. With any luck it won’t be in summer, this weekend the forecast is for 41 degrees in the shade, thank god I arranged a b&b with a pool. Good thinking considering it was winter when I booked. The only thing I didn’t manage was air-conditioning, but since Michelle won’t sleep with air-con on it doesn’t really matter. I’ll spend the days in the cellar drinking the wine, afternoons in the pool and evenings in air-conditioned restaurants. Sorted.

filles at 7:49 am

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November 11, 2009

… to get moving, or not….

I have so much to do, I can’t do any of it. Racked with stress to get stuff done, I start something, and never finish it. My desk is just building up and up and up. It’s time for some action. I’m going to finish this, then tackle my desk. Michelle tells me that I should write a list since she sees me doing this once in awhile and it seems to work. Little does she know I have lists all over the house. I keep trying, they’re not working…. not this time anyway.

Apart from my inability to get the things done that need to be done, we’ve been busy out enjoying ourselves. We’ve started a little ritual of swimming at Bondi Beach at 6.30am on a Sunday. This week we dragged our two guests from Paris with us, they were sceptical at first, but once they were in the surf, getting dumped with half of Sydney, we won out. It will probably be the highlight of their trip. We then wandered into our neighbours backyard who were holding a champagne breakfast before the Newtown Festival was due to start. The champagne breakfast turned into a champagne lunch, and champagne afternoon – we were home around 4.30pm in time for a nap before lighting the bbq and preparing a good aussie bbq for our guests. Sausages all round.

So the Parisians have left, the sun has come out, and here I am procrastinating again. Right, I’m off, have a lovely sunny Wednesday. I’m going to sort out this desk.

filles at 9:30 am

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November 3, 2009

Melbourne Cup Day

I had forgotten how important the first Tuesday in November is in Australia. It’s a public holiday in Melbourne, but here in Sydney it’s 38 degrees, and most people are sitting in a pub, a club or a bar eyes glued to the the telly at 3pm to watch the race. If I had have followed Michelle’s instructions to bet on the jockey that’s wearing orange we could have been a bit richer this afternoon. Sadly I scoffed at her measure of who will be a good jockey (based on colour) and decided not to waste our money. More fool me.

Nevermind, with any luck she would have done ok on a sweep at work…

filles at 3:26 pm

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