Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Goaty Hill Tasmania

A trip to Tassie last month saw The Foges and I spending a leisurely Saturday puttering around the Tamar Valley performing the delicate balancing act of wine tasting and hire car driving. Tamar Valley (north of Launceston) may well be known for Pinot Noir, with Ninth Island being the label you're most likely to see in your local bottleshop. However, as is so often the case in wine regions, it was the much smaller producers I enjoyed visiting the most. The passion that is evident in small cellar doors immediately generates a real enthusiasm for the wine.

Goaty Hill was our pick for lunch and you'd wonder why I've decided to rave about it on my blog when our cheese platter, although lovely, was reasonably run of the mill and there were only two wines on taste. No, I'm not raving because it's a sponsored post (it's not), I'm raving because this little Billie Goat is streaking ahead despite being reasonably young. Their riesling has won a swag of awards, including a gold medal for the 2008 vintage at the 2009 International Cool Climate Wine Show (Redhill). And their 2007 Pinot Noir vintage was sold out after taking home best Pinot from The Taste of Tasmania 08/09 Festival.

We got to taste the award winning 2008 Riesling which really left a crisp clean taste in the mouth. Not being so hot on "wine speak", I had to consult their website to tell you that this wine has grapefruit characters and hints of citrus.

What I don't need to read from the website is that the 2008 Pinot Noir had earthy flavours that took me right back to the first Pinot I ever tasted, which happened to be on the Mornington Penninsula (Stoniers I think...although there were a few by the end of the day). I really like the complex smokey, earthy flavours that the Mornington is so good at. Whilst I probably won't be cracking open the 08 Pinot I brought home for at least another year, there's definitely some great flavours even at this young age.

Goaty Hill has also just advertised to mailing list members their 2006 Museum Release Riesling. Again, more awards (incl. The International Riesling Challenge). How can you get your hands on this one? Well with only 50 cases released you'll just have to be on the mailing list (see their website). For interest's sake the 2008 Riesling and Pinot Noir are $19.95 and $27.95 respectively, and they do deliver to Victoria.

A brief mention also should go to Velo Wines who had a great Unwooded Chardonnay and sensational Reserve Shiraz. At the time of our visit they had just begun supplying Vue De Monde so, whilst they're not currently distributing anywhere else in Victoria, it's another label to keep your eye out for.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eating in Perth. Part III

My last post from Perth is definitely worth writing up, despite the events taking place so many weeks ago. The final instalment starts with S-bo and I tripping out to Rottnest Island for the obligatory bike ride and snorkel. Not long before our trip I’d read a travel write-up of Rottnest, depicting it as a place where life moves slowly and effortlessly ambling is the way to go. Well they got the slow bit right. However we moved slow because of the endless hills to be cycled up, not because we were absorbed by any external pace. Armed with only a few pieces of fruit we thought it best to stop in Settlement for a quick coffee before setting out. I was shocked to see amongst the tiny cluster of shops a Red Rooster and a Subway. Call me idealistic but it just didn’t sit well with my idea of a grassroots holiday village. Consequently S-bo and I were keen to leave the fast food, and half of our average $4 coffees, behind us.

Fast forward 5 hours and we limped back to Settlement, our sore butts barely supporting the body’s quest for food. Enter the Quokka Arms Hotel. Newly refurbished, this pub is part family friendly leisure and, I would imagine as the evening creeps in, part Frat Beach Party, especially during the infamous leavers’ week. Whatever’s going on, the broad beach frontage allows you to choose a group whose vibe you approve and sit near. S-bo and I kicked back with beer, chips and pizza. Rottnest heaven (and the pizza wasn’t bad either).

The following day was my chance to finally chase down some of the places recommended to me. S-bo was playing golf and I realised time was too short to put a dent in the essay Matt (Abstract Gourmet) had emailed. Still, I thought I’d treat myself to a great lunch, and from the email it seemed like Balthazar or Must Wine Bar were the places for me. It was a toss up but I chose Must Wine Bar for two reasons. First, I got the impression it was a little more laid back and that appealed to me. Secondly, I have a friend who used to live in Mt Lawley and I wanted to check it out. I took a cursory glance at the street directory and thought “surely it’s not that far to walk from the station”. I should’ve taken a bus, but all of a sudden I was alone and could’ve been overseas for all I knew. I’d got the trains, I’d figured them out and knew how to buy tickets, when to get off etc etc.

I did not know how to walk from the station to Beaufort st. Which side of the station should I exit? Do I go left or right? Am I heading in the right direction? Where the hell are the people that live in this suburb, I need to ask directions. Phew. All on my own I eventually limped onto Beaufort st, my smart little lunching attire not suited to neighbourhood walking in Perth humidity. And yet where was the wine bar? I had forgotten to record the street number so I just walked some more. I walked and walked and nearly gave up. Sadly, when I finally got there I did. It was quite a large venue and it was completely empty. Now I trust Matt’s judgement and I knew the food would be good, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat alone when I was outnumbered by the waiters. Every cloud has a silver lining however and my blistered feet headed back up to Cantina.

Cantina was recommended a few times and I was a little surprised when I first walked past it. Perched on the edge of a shopping arcade it looked nothing more than a suburban sandwich café. However, stepping inside I was greeted by warm timber and distressed walls, an effortless rustic feel that really worked. Limited menu choices typed onto plain white paper suggest, although I’m guessing here, the menu changes often, making use of whatever produce is best at the time.

Ham and cheese ciabatta seemed a little plain for my lunching expedition and whilst the three panini’s on offer sounded delicious I reasoned there were plenty of good sandwiches in Melbourne. Clearly a venue that relies heavily on its char grill plate, the choice of three mains included a salad of char grilled local prawns or char grilled veal tongue in a green sauce. Despite these delectable offerings, how I could resist prosciutto that was labelled “the best from Italy”? Teamed with char grilled bread I agreed, until about half way through my generous serve. I realised that a whole plate of prosciutto to myself was a little over the top, and whilst it broke my heart, I did leave a few slices behind. Not to worry, extra bread and an olive oil that had more floral notes than bitey grasses helped the meal pass, as did the glass of 07 Bollini Pinot Grigio.

Bravo to Cantina for its laid back feel and service to match. And bonus points for pouring my wine at the table, just a small thing that showed this little Cantina is punching well above its neighbourhood café appearance. I was tempted to stay for coffee but I was determined to try at least one more of Matt’s recommendations. Enter Spring Espresso in Subiaco.

Why Spring when I was in Mt Lawley? Well I was keen for a wander through Subiaco and I certainly wasted some time in Simon Johnson’s along the way, although I had forgotten the trend of price tags there. Is it really expensive or am I spoilt by Melbourne’s food accessibility? Spring Espresso wasn’t quite what I had in mind for a mid afternoon coffee and cake but I liked it. Bright yellow walls scream “Wake Up”, and it’s all down to the business of getting coffee and moving on. I could see that this was many people’s ideal barista fix as they dashed to work each morning. So I grabbed a takeaway and ambled back to the station.

Thank you Matt, and everyone else who made suggestions, for helping me to find some of Perth’s gems. Even if I didn’t get to try many. Despite early eating times and higher-than-Melbourne prices it really is easy to make any meal enjoyable in a city as laid back as Perth.