Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

Does anything get Melbourne foodies as excited as the annual food and wine festival? Probably not. But as I sit on a plane flying to Brisbane, in the process missing the much-hyped hawker street market, I can't help but feel on the outer.

Every year my full-time job, the one that funds this food obsession, seems to get in the way. This festival sees me travel to Sydney from 13-14 March for a friend's wedding, followed by a work trip from 16-17 March. I get a quick respite over the weekend then it's off to a week-long, residential management course.

Shouldn't the entire world stop during Melbourne's food and wine fest?

Melbourne hardly leads by example, packing a multitude of festivals into one little March. We've seen the madness of Moomba parade past and launch into the yarra and we're currently enjoying worldly flavours and washing it all down with wine. Some of you may even be wishing you hadn't indulged quite so much as you squeeze into the latest trend to attend the concurrent Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Once those obsessions wrap-up we can laugh our abs back into shape at the Melbourne comedy festival. But wait, want to know how to grow all the fabulous produce you enjoyed? If you miss the Metlink Edible Garden you can head along to the International Flower & Garden show or, in stark contrast, continue your decadence at the Australian Grand Prix.

Its no wonder we're all go, go, go. Its a callenge to juggle day-to-day commitments for some, throw a "what's on" calendar at people and the city is upside down with sensory overload. The Victorian Government's attempts to bring people to Melbourne yield polarised opinions due to taxpayer funding but there's no doubt such events add to the diversity of our city. I wonder if we'd have such a vibrant food scene without the help of festivals, events and celebrations which make the city such a popular place. I'm sure it'd have some impact.

So, I have 3 days to enjoy the festival and I'd better pack as much in as possible. I sometimes find the plethora of available options overwhelming and I always miss out on tickets to hot features. It certainly doesn't help that I'm reluctant to buy tickets too far out incase I need to travel. Although that attitude is clearly justified.

To all of you who are going to many events, right down to those attending just one, enjoy!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Tamar Valley Tasmania

Seven days in Tasmania. So much to eat and drink yet so little time. Planning a wedding didn't leave much time for planning a holiday in Tassie and scoping out scrumptious dining destinations. Still, one can achieve a lot with help from a tourist information centre and an iPhone, right? Wrong. Launceston's tourist centre boasted a few brochures about the Tamar Valley Wine route and that's it. What's more, mobile reception, and therefore iPhone internet access, deserted us mid way through day one. Oh!

Still, S-bo and I bravely ventured forward with our wine route brochure in hand. Our first destination was Velo, a great little winery that I have previously mentioned. What I didn't know back in 2009 was that the vineyard was originally planted in 1966 by Graham Wiltshire, who is not just a pioneer of wine in the Tamar Valley, but in the whole of Tasmania. Velo's reserve shiraz was a standout with rich flavours yet none of the brashness found in shiraz from hotter regions.

With longing eyes we bypassed Ninth Island. I knew we could taste the Ninth Island Wines just across the river at Pipers Brook (and at your local Victorian bottleshop) and we were far too early to enjoy lunch with Daniel Alps at Strathlynn. Poor timing became a feature of our trip, missing the much-hyped Angasi at Binalong Bay, new star Granite at Bicheno and Gourmet Traveller favourite Piermont at Swansea, despite staying at the resort. I guess chefs need days off too.

Instead we continued on to Rotherhythe, not a cellar door I would recommend due to their limited range, but we did have a rather interesting conversation about the importance of marriage, the local's reaction to the proposed Pulp Mill and other such meaning-of-life-musings. S-bo and I had decided not to visit any Gunns Ltd Wineries whilst in Tassie, as a stand against the pulp mill, but I'm still not sure if that was the right thing to say at Rotherythe.

To get back onto the topic of wine we aimed for Stoney Rise, which was actually the site of Rotherhythe's vines until Joe Holyman bought it and pulled out the existing cabernet savignon, planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay instead. Two labels, Stoney Rise and Holyman, deliver wine made in two different ways. Stoney Rise presents easy drinking wines with the Pinot fermented in old oak and the chardonnay bottled early. On the other hand, the Holyman label aims to produce wines for cellaring, with more complex structures. I will be seeking out a bottle of the 08 Holyman Pinot Noir from Prince Wine Store here in South Melbourne. The only problem will be finding the discipline to cellar it for a few years (or more).

Many wineries from the Tamar have limited distribution on the mainland but developing a collection of your favourites isn't a problem, despite the baggage restrictions of cheaper airlines. Tasmanian Wineries will happily send mixed cases (or part thereof) for merely the cost of freight. Leaving a case at the last cellar door you visit will be met with a smile and "no problem". It cost us just $16 to freight our case back to Melbourne.

Fortunately we had prepared ourselves a picnic lunch before leaving Launceston, because enticing providores and delis were hard to come by, something I found surprising in a wine region. A quick trip to Goaty Hill, another of my stops from last year, revealed that the Clover Hill cellar door may have been open, a very rare event. Across the river into the Piper's River region, three wrong turns and lost mobile reception later we found the rumour to be untrue.

Still, we weren't too poorly done by when our consolation price was a visit to Jansz Jansz and a bottle to enjoy with our dinner.