All week I have been receiving photographs from friends doing harvest in Burgundy, France and the weather looks absolutely amazing (thanks toLauren McPhate for this picture of Pommard, Burgundy). This week I have been in Melbourne, Australia and my view has been rather more wintry in nature.
But in the Yarra Valley, where it is often a bit cooler than Melbourne, it is encouraging to see winter slowly coming to an end with the odd bud or two starting to make an appearance on the vines.
View from Soumah Cellar Door
So what is a person to do with all this cold and wintry weather? Fortunately Melbourne and its surrounds have an endless supply of excellent restaurants and bars to distract oneself from the plummeting temperatures.
To start the day the Melbourne CBD (Central Business District) has a plethora of good coffee options …
Market Lane Coffee, Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
For lunch (or dinner), one of the standout options is Supernormal, which can be booked using OpenTable. From a menu of Asian inspired sharing plates three of us elected to go with the chef’s lunch menu, a very reasonably priced seven course (read, very long lunch) selection of dishes with a nod to Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisines.
The restaurant is from Andrew McConnell of, among others, Cutler & Co., Cumulus Inc. and the earlier Golden Fields, in fact the delicious lobster rolls from Golden Fields made a very welcome appearance during our lunch – packed full of succulent lobster and paired with an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. Satisfaction levels were high, that was until dessert arrived, at which point they were off the charts; place chocolate, caramel and peanut butter in front of me and you have a friend for life!
Other scrumptious dishes included tuna, avocado, saltbush and kombu, spicy prawn and chicken dumplings in chilli and vinegar sauce and the mouthwatering slow cooked Szechwan lamb with spring onion pancake and coriander paste.
The service was impeccable and the wine list creative and engaging. We enjoyed a number of different wines by the glass which allowed us to experiment with different pairings over a number of courses rather than being saddled with a bottle or two.
Next stop for food was the following day at the newly opened Ezard @ Levantine Hill in the Yarra Valley with the chef himself, Teage Ezard, in attendance that day. The food at Levantine Hill’s signature restaurant did not disappoint and was beautifully presented. We opted for the five course degustation and the timing between courses and portion sizes worked perfectly. If one eats with one’s eyes then we were in heaven and fortunately the food was just as delicious as it was beautiful.
Before leaving the Yarra we headed just down the road to Soumah of Yarra Valley for a tasting. This lovely winery is well worth a visit. Located at the end of the road, the cellar door is surrounded by vines and houses a small trattoria in addition to a tasting room should you wish to have something to eat.
The tasting, lead by Managing Director & Vigneron Brett Butcher, presented a mixture of well known grape varieties and lesser known Italian varieties. Personal favourites included the 2015 Savarro which is a crisp white wine showing lemon and lime notes sitting alongside yeasty notes reflecting a period of lees contact. There were characteristics of Muscadet-sur-lie that came to mind and I could easily imagine enjoying a glass or two of this wine on a summer’s evening with a plate of oysters! And as an added bonus for wine geeks like me, the mapping of this ancient grape’s genetic lineage was laid out on a nearby board.
Another wine that caught my attention was the 2012 Shiraz which looks to the northern Rhone for stylistic inspiration. Red and black fruits, dried herbs and fresh earth entwined with subtle use of oak produced an elegant and balanced wine.
To finish we had the 2015 Brachetto d’Soumah, another Italian grape variety from Piemonte but instead of the fizzante style which is common in Italy this was a still version. It is a sweet wine but with high acidity which cleanses the palate and the residual sugar is not particularly high resulting in a comparatively lighter style. Notes of rose water and turkish delight together with stone fruit created a delightful drop to conclude our visit.
Before heading back to Melbourne we stopped by the new Four Pillars Gin Distillery to see how renovations are going. They are due to open officially in early November and from what we saw, the site is going to be spectacular. Wilma, the main still, stands pride of place in the distillery at the moment awaiting two more additions in the coming months.
Baby juniper plants are growing outside the distillery door and young citrus trees line the courtyard to the side of the tasting area. Exciting times are ahead and I cannot wait to return when it is up and running!
What have you been up to this week? Have you been enjoying the sun or wrapping up warm and staying out of wintry weather? Either way, I hope you have enjoyed a glass or two of something fantastic!