Thursday, April 19, 2018

Melbourne is........

Federation Square
St.Pauls Cathedral
Flinders Street Station
Tree Lined Downtown Streets
Shrine of Remembrance
The Yarra River


Street and Laneway Art

Victorian Era Arcades

Gardens and Fountains

Unique Buildings

and trams

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Trip to Melbourne \ Activities Day 2

Early morning start to visit a specific fabric shop which happened to be in an area of the city famed for its laneway art.
Some of it is spectacular.

Other stuff is just graffiti.

Then we trammed it down to the National Gallery of Victoria to see its Triennial Exhibition.
The NGV describe this as cutting edge technologies, architecture, animation, performance, film, painting, drawing, fashion design, tapestry and sculpture.
The venue was very crowded and the work was just not our scene. We did a few rooms but gave up.

The co driver headed back to the quilt show and I decided to have a look around Chinatown.
Melbourne's Chinatown dates back to the gold rush days of the 1850s and is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world.

Unfortunately there were lots of roadworks going on and it was dusty, noisy and pretty uninviting so no lunch there.
How to rescue the day's activities?
Back at Federation Square I knew that the Ian Potter Centre of the NGV houses an extensive Australian art collection so headed there.

To my pleasant surprise there was also a Colony: Australia 1770–1861 exhibition which brings together the most important examples of art and design produced during this period and surveys the key settlements and development of life and culture in the colonies. Importantly, the exhibition acknowledges the impact of European settlement on Indigenous communities, so I 'did' both, with a snack in between, during the afternoon.
Day rescued!
Meeting up with the co driver we made it back to our apartment for a well earned rest. She was a bit disappointed that two sewing machine companies (looking at you Bernina and Janome!) seemed little interested in promoting their wares. Pfaff on the other hand was quite helpful.
For dinner we chose Rice, Paper, Scissors an Asian fusion restaurant we had noticed just around the corner and always had queues waiting (they don't take bookings).
What a great place!
We got there early and were immediately seated.
Five shared dishes (seafood, meat, vegetarian) and a bottle of Pinot Gris was a great way to end our visit.
Their menu is here.
Back to the room to pack and watch some Commonwealth Games on TV and get ready for the trip home.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Trip to Melbourne / Activities Day 1

The trip into Melbourne city from the freeway was uneventful and we were soon checked into our usual accommodation in the inner city suburb of Fitzroy.
Fitzroy used to be a bit dodgy but now it's regarded as lively suburb with a bit of a bohemian reputation. Its many eclectic bars and restaurants are popular with students, weekenders and young professionals. Brunswick Street, a short walk from our apartment, is a trendy retail and nightlife strip. There were at least 30 restaurants and bars within walking distance.
We went out on a limb and chose an Ethiopian restaurant for our evening meal. The food was interesting. No utensils so the food was 'scooped up' from a communal bowl using pieces of  traditional Injera flat bread. I liked the food eg. slow cooked goat in berbere (spicy!) but the bread was too sour for my taste.
I don't think we will be trying that cuisine again.

 Next day we geared up for the major reason for the Melbourne visit ie. the Australasian Quilt Convention.
After breakfast at a great Vietnamese bakery (we ate there the three mornings!) it was a reasonably short stroll to the Royal Exhibition Building venue for the AQC.
Standing in Carlton Gardens, this building is as beautiful inside as out.
It is the oldest surviving building from the Great Exhibition era that is still operating as an exhibition hall and continues after 135 years to bring dozens of trade fairs and public expos to the city annually. It's also home to gala dinners, fashion shows and community events.
It was the first World Heritage listed building in Australia.

I spent the morning there (quilt pics in separate post) but left the co driver 'to it' while I headed into town to explore some old haunts of my hometown.

From Federation Square I walked past Flinders Street Station and St Pauls Cathedral, around the main city blocks, down tree lined Collins Street which is known for its grand Victorian architecture, prestigious boutiques and high-end retailers. The street has served as Melbourne's traditional main street since 1837.

The eastern end is known colloquially as the 'Paris End' due to its numerous heritage buildings, shopping boutiques and alfresco dining while western end of the street is increasingly referred to as the 'New York End' due its modern glass skyscrapers and history as the financial heart of Melbourne, home to various banks and insurance companies.
I really see no comparison to either of these great cities but that's Melbourne for you!
Then I took in some of the old arcades and rode a tram along Swanson Street before eating an Asian inspired lunch of gyoza and nori fries.

Then it was time to meet up with the co driver, discuss her purchases and plan our next day's activities over a much earned coffee.
She wanted to road test a few sewing machines as her current ones are showing their age and might be heading for 'toes up' territory.
All the major brands are at the show.

That night it was drinks at a trendy bar and simple burgers and fries with a beer at Mr. Burger.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Trip to Melbourne / Getting There

It was an early morning departure as we headed up over the Great Dividing Range, skirting the nation's capital Canberra, towards Yass to meet up with the Hume Highway (M31) which is the main inland route from Sydney to Melbourne. But we were taking things easy this trip so our destination was Albury, just over half way.
After a fuel stop (for us and the car) at Yass, we detoured off the freeway to Jugiong for lunch where we had heard there was a nice restaurant called The Long Track Pantry. And indeed it was very good.

Jugiong sits on the banks of what was once the mighty Murrumbidgee River (the second longest in Australia) but damming at its source as part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme (a vast hydroelectricity and irrigation complex constructed in south-east Australia between 1949 and 1974) and other flood mitigating dams ie. the Burrinjuck, has reduced it to 10% of its original flow.
But it has so many tributaries that occasionally it gets its revenge and floods well downstream.
Next stop was Holbrook, as we were following the two hour rest, revive, survive road safety program.
Here we found a submarine in a park. Why? It's an interesting story.

Albury sits on the banks of the Murray River which forms the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria. After a quilt shop visit in its sister town, Wodonga, across the border we checked into our motel then 'hopped' a few bars before a nice Thai meal.

Next morning we realized we had half a day to spare as we couldn't check into our Melbourne accommodation (3 hours away) until mid afternoon.
What to do?
About 30 minutes drive from Albury is the Rutherglen wine region.
Vines came to Rutherglen along with the Gold Rush of the 1850s and today is the unchallenged capital of fortified wines in Australia.
Just as an aside, Australia was forced to change its generic terms for many of its fortified wines under pressure from the EU who are very protective of their regional names....with good reason.
Sherry is now Apera
Tokay is Topaque
Port is Fortified with categories Vintage, Tawny and Ruby.
Today crisp whites and rich reds in addition to the world-famous fortified wines are produced with a unique regional character by fourth, fifth and sixth generation wine makers.
I did a little research the night before and picked out three wineries that looked interesting from a table wine point of view (we are not into fortifieds) and which also produce wines made from Tempranillo and Gamay grapes.
They were Pfeiffers, Stanton and Killeen and Cofields.

None of the wineries were busy and we had the tasting rooms and the servers to ourselves.
We got to taste some interesting versions of Tempranillo and the latest release of Pfeiffer's Gamay was stunning. We also ended up being convinced to buy some Pinto Gris, Riesling and Sangiovese.

Fully expecting to get a call from my bank asking whether I still had possession of my credit card, we high tailed it to Melbourne before any more financial damage could be done.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Vintage 2018 Climate Data

Below are graphs with basic climate data for the seven months of the 2018 vintage.
The data comes from our local AWS and there seems to be some anomaly between the rainfall recorded there in March and what we actually received ie. a lot more, 20km to the south.
But we have had this before where rain can be extremely localised.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Vintage 2018 Finishes (Cabernet Sauvignon Harvest)

In late February the drought finally broke.
We received 126mm over two days.
Our creek was running a banker and the dams started filling.
So it was a rush to get the Cabernet Sauvignon sprayed before more forecasted rain over the next weeks came (and it did on a regular basis).
We were lucky enough to get a warm sunny dry day in between the showery ones to get this task completed.
Mid March we had a sudden scorching day with temperatures hitting 38C, (causing devastating bushfires just to the south of us) then it turned cool with a week of substantial rain.
This weather pattern is so typical of February\March (see graph) in the Shoalhaven and is the bane of the grape growers here who have late maturing varieties eg. Cabernet Sauvignon.
Average Monthly Rainfall/Rain Days Ulladulla AWS

While the vine foliage can be protected from fungus by well timed spraying, too much rain dilutes the juice in the nearly ripe fruit. Lower sugar equals lower alcohol!
Worse, it can cause the berries to split which alters the flavour profile of the grape. Resultant decomposition can produce compounds like ethyl acetate and acetic acid which are undesirable for wine making.
Splitting also provides a breeding ground for fungus, particularly botrytis, which can spread rapidly.
This all happened last year.
We ended up dumping the wine made.
There is a very detailed article on grape splitting from CSU here.
But this year we wanted to avoid any problems and picked the crop on 24th March.
It was probably a little early going by the Baume reading.
The fruit was in reasonable condition but with some botrytis evident and we didn't want it spreading.
We ended up with a yield about two thirds normal due to the kangaroo "attack" early in the season.
Baume: 12.0° (a little bit low)
pH: 3.5 (good)
Grapes were crushed and destemmed and an excess yeast culture and DAP added to the must.
After fermentation is finished, we will transfer the wine plus skins to a stainless steel tank which will be sealed to allow more colour to be extracted and for MLF to take place.
After a week of maceration, it will be pressed and the wine returned to the tank, pH adjusted and sulphured.
The pomace will be returned to the vineyard rows.
Pomace left after pressing

After racking the wine off the fermentation lees it will be returned to the tank where egg white is added to start the clarification process.

Then, after another racking off the settled solids, French oak chips will be immersed in the wine to give it the desired amount of oakiness. This mimics, to some extent, maturation in an oak cask but is really no substitute for the real thing. But with the cost of barrels and their restricted size plus relatively limited life span, it is ok for this Vin de Garage operation whose wines are meant for early consumption.
French oak 225L barriques are around $1000 and up, Hungarian oak $700 and up, American oak $500 and up.
Oak is used in wine making to vary the colour, flavour, tannin profile and texture of wine
The use of oak in wine is described here in detail.
Then it is just a matter of keeping the sulphur at the right level and waiting until flavours have suitably melded before bottling ie. about a year.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Vintage 2018 Continues (Tempranillo Harvest)

The Tempranillo was harvested on a cool sunny day with 99.9% of the fruit in excellent condition.
We also added in the minuscule crop of Pinot Noir which wasn't worth processing by itself.
After crushing and destemming, we ended up with 110L of must.
Baume: 12.5°
pH: 3.5
We added DAP and an excess amount of yeast culture. Wild yeast fermentation was evident soon after crushing finished so we added the extra yeast to overcome any problems associated with that.
Wild yeast fermentation is a legitimate process in wine making but we were not willing to risk it this time around. More on this in a later post.

We have quite a range of insects in the vineyard, the majority of which are 'good guys' who feed on and keep the 'bad guys' away. Therefore we have never sprayed insecticide in any of the blocks.
The colony includes many spiders of different types which spin their webs across the rows. We have to clear the rows of these before working down them. This causes the residents to retreat to the vine foliage.
I must have caught one spider between my head and the netting while picking as I felt a searing sting and brushed a big one onto the ground.
Funnel Web Spider

Was it a nasty or not? We do have the lethal funnel web spider here but they live in the ground. If you get bitten by one of these it is a rush to the hospital for anti venom.
But the culprit was light brown not black and I wasn't feeling unwell so decided I was going to live.
But it did leave an itchy lump.
Back in 'the winery', rapid fermentation began within 12 hours and we are now in the process of punching the cap down every four hours or so.

When fermentation is finished we will let the wine sit on the skins for another week to extract as much colour as possible and hopefully go through malolactic fermentation before pressing.