Entries from November 2009 ↓
November 26th, 2009 — Canberra Wine and Wineries
It’s been some time since we visited Dionysus, so I’m going to have to rely on my
crap scant notes and even crappier less than perfect memory. The mere suggestion that we should revisit the cellar door (and the thought of having to pay for more wine) had Our Man idly speculating whether the national library would accept wallets as part of their delayed release document program.
Which is pretty much
bullshit bollocks because Dionysus ticks most of the boxes when it comes to good value local wine. It also ticks the try hard obvious name box* but I came away with a few of their bottles in hand, feeling well disposed towards this pleasant, family-owned winery.
It was an execrable late winter’s afternoon when we trundled out to Patemans Lane in Murrumbateman and they hadn’t long finished bottling for the year. Owners Michael and Wendy O’Dea were away for the weekend and their daughter Lizzie was on duty at the cellar door. Her enthusiasm for the family business was genuine and something of an antidote to the ‘lazy, self-absorbed Gen Y’ meme that seems to be on high rotation these days.
Lizzie was particularly proud of the May Riesling, made in honour of her grandmother who had planted the first vines about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available for tasting but if I was looking for a dessert wine, I’d be tempted to buy it for the backstory alone.
As mentioned, the wines were reasonably priced, ranging from a very affordable $10 for the 2008 chardonnay (a little restrained and not too much oak) to $25 for an 08 pinot noir (delicate savoury notes with a bit of grip). Some of the wines available for tasting were from the new vintage and were still a little tight in the glass but there were no seriously bum notes that I can recall.
We brought home a very smooth 08 Merlot ($22) – all silk, with hints of violets on the nose**. It was very drinkable but hard to pin down with a food match. We flipped a coin and tried it with lasagne but this made the fruit taste a little stewed and in the end we decided it stood up best on its own – all the better to bring out the violets.
We also tried a peppery 06 Shiraz ($22) that worked a treat with steak. Did I mention it was peppery? Think white pepper on the nose, a crack of black pepper on the palate and restrained tannins for structure. There were also some enjoyable juicy fruit notes (red berries?) present. I don’t remember much else, other than there was nothing left in the bottle to double check the next day. I also suspect that this style of shiraz could be a love or loathe proposition for some folk and thus the perfect BBQ wine.
There’s still a bottle of 09 Maenads Rosé ($18) on the shelf at home – waiting for the right dish, perfect weather and a moment of weakness on OMIC’s part***. Made with shiraz, it’s a delicate pink colour and smells of Turkish delight, rose water and macerated strawberries. It’s a delightful balance between sweet and savoury –– a very pleasant wine with or without food.
For those interested in other things than wine, Dionysus Winery also sells a selection of locally made foodsuffs – nuts, oils, bush herbs etc – as well as a range of wine accessories. Wish I could tell you more but that’s where the notes (and my memory) fade.
* A bit like calling a boatyard Poseidon’s or a courier service Mercury.
** It’s quite possible I just imagined this. I was working pretty hard at willing spring to arrive.
*** Pattie loves rosé. She loved it when it wasn’t kewl and will still love it when (once again) it slips off the wine radar. OMIC finds rosé less than inspiring and believes it exists chiefly so Max Allen has a regular, easy get column every summer (cf. sparkling shiraz, Italian wine, Spanish wine, topics wine writers routinely flog).
1 Patemans Lane, Murrumbateman, NSW, 2582
10 am to 5 pm weekends and public holidays
(02) 6227 0208
These posts are cross posted from Our Notional Capital, where Dame Pattie blogs with her partner, our man in Canberra. The progressive list of Canberra and region wineries is here.
November 23rd, 2009 — Dinner, Events, Feasting, Not Safe for Vegans
I have the good fortune to have married into a Balkan family – Montenegrin and Serbian, to be precise. One of the many great things about getting to know another culture intimately is the extra excuses for excessive eating. It was my in-laws’ Slava today, which, traditionally speaking, now makes it my Slava too. Slava is part of the Orthodox tradition and is a family’s saint day. Every family has a different saint day, although there are more families than saints so there’s a fair bit of cross over. Back in the day, Slava was a serious religious occasion, celebrated with a visit to church and the priest calling on the family and giving them a blessing. Traditionally, a bread decorated with the sign of the cross and other religious symbols was served along with “koljivo”, which is boiled wheat with nuts and spices.
Celebrating Slava was not generally encouraged in socialist Yugoslavia, although many people did still observe it. These days Slava seems to be celebrated as an occasion to get the family together and eat pork. I am very enthusiastic about both family get togethers and roast pig, so today I did sticky pork ribs with rum glaze (thanks Nigella) and homemade coleslaw, plus smashed potatoes (thanks Jill Dupleix) and rye bread – minus the family bit, seeing as we’re on the other side of the world. I have to admit, it was a bit off piste with the rum glaze – a whole pig on a spit would probably have been more authentic – but it was in keeping with the two Balkan mainstays of pork and cabbage. And, anyway, the other thing I’ve learnt about Balkan culture is that they really know how to have a good time and these ribs were really, really finger licking good.
November 12th, 2009 — Dinner, Ingredients, Not Safe for Vegans, Provedores
I haven’t been blogging, but of course I have been eating. Rather well, actually. And although twitter often provides a distraction from actually writing something on the blog, occasionally it fuels it too.
A couple of weeks ago, I won a twitter competition held by Tim Elwin of posh wholesale delivery firm Urban Food Market (he’s @urbanfoodmarket). If the words “twitter competition” make you think of winning a lollipop or nice warm feeling, think again – I scored a $150 box of Bultarra saltbush lamb.
I’ve only had saltbush lamb once before, and was disappointed. I bought it from a person at the Farmer’s Markets in Canberra who was an agent, not the producer, and there was nothing about it to justify the extra cost. I’ve since found out from friend-of-a-friend Graham Strong who runs Arcadia Saltbush Lamb that many producers don’t graze their flocks on Old Man Saltbush for the extended period that’s necessary to really ramp up the flavour. As always, it pays to investigate your food, particularly if you’re buying a premium product.
Still, I was eager to try it because I’d read very high praise for Bultarra lamb from Neil of At My Table, whose blog has happily come back to life. It’s free range, naturally grazed, doesn’t have any nasty shit in it and the lambs aren’t mulesed. And, according to Neil, “the salt bush confers a concentrated lamb taste, not gamey in any way, just full on, robust, flavour; it was almost like eating lamb for the first time“.
When Tim announced he’d be giving some away, I sat glued to the computer. I whizzed in superfast with the answer to his question (about his site) and did a little happy dance when I found out I was in luck, because I am always
greedy keen to try new artisanal Australian produce.
Urban Food Market is a Sydney-based business, but Tim arranged delivery to the in-laws when we were passing through town for family visits and packed it in an esky to bring home. As it lasts well refrigerated for a couple of weeks in its packaging we decided to not freeze any and have a lamb-fest instead.
The pack included a couple of rib racks. I’ve only encountered lamb ribs once before, and it wasn’t a happy experience. We’d bought a whole beast from my sister in law’s farm, Coolumbooka, in Southern NSW. It’d been butchered down there, and they’d bagged up the ribs in some vile sweet gunk that was no doubt purchased in an industrial drum.
With meat this good, I wanted to keep it fairly simple and focus on its inherent flavour. Serendipitously, the November Gourmet Traveller has a recipe for lamb ribs that looked perfect. You make a paste of lemon zest, dried oregano and mint, a tiny bit of chilli and EVOO. Fortunately oregano and mint are the only dried herbs I believe in, and it all was on hand to marinate overnight.
I copped the 34 degree heat today to bake them at 150 degrees. You need to use a rack in a baking dish to drain the fattiness, and cover the trays with foil to keep them moist. Then a rest until dinner time.
You finish the racks over a hot chargrill, which leaches out any last too-fatty bits, and crisps and colours them. I decided against the GT salad, but made one with watercress, cos and fennel from the garden. I had some fresh borlotti beans, and some broad beans from my friend Lyn’s garden, so used the GT’s thyme and mustard dressing on them. I also made a tiny bowl of cherry tomatoes with chilli and lemon juice and some fritters of corn and our own asparagus, adapting a recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s brilliant cookbook Ratio.
Owy started eating first (I was still pouring the wine) and he made some very odd noises. I asked him if it was OK, but he kept chewing and didn’t say anything. He finally answered in two words, the second of which was “Yeah!” and first one of which was rude. Very rude, in fact. Then he said “Spectacular”.
The meat had the depth of flavour and rich intensity that I was hoping for, but the real blowout was the incredible melting texture. I finally get why people rave about Saltbush lamb – and I’m very excited about the other cuts still waiting. A big fat thank you to Tim and Urban Food Market. Any suggestions or recommendations for particularly delicious ways of cooking the other cuts (a beautiful rack, shanks and an easy-carve leg roast) are welcome.
15 November – updated to add: we’ve just had the second meal of the lamb, this time a rack seared quickly and finished in the oven on top served with a saute of dutch cream potatoes, asparagus and broad bean and a rocket salad. It is now officially Best Lamb Eva.
November 6th, 2009 — Notices and Announcements
Following a holiday mishap, I am awaiting the return of my cook’s knife. I blame my blogging absence on this, which I have been calling “knife block”. One day I’ll think of something to write (and then actually write it) but in the meantime, you should know about Streetsmart.
They’re a small Australian nonprofit organisation focussing on homelessness. From Monday 9 November until Christmas Eve, they’re asking diners in participating restaurants to make a $2 donation, 100% of which will be used to assist people who really need help – see the grants they made in NSW/ACT after last year’s campaign.
Two Canberra restaurants are participating, Flint Dining Room and Bar in New Acton and Mecca Bah in Manuka. You can find a participating restaurant in your area here. and suggest to your favourite cafes and restaurants that they get involved, too. Don’t forget to leave your tip, too. That would be stingy.
If if doesn’t suit you to do it they way, they suggest other ways to get involved and have an online donation facility. They’re on Facebook and Twitter, and there’s a great deal more info at their site.
How very fucked it would be to not have a safe place to lay your head at night.