Monday, July 27, 2015

Australian Vintage 2015 Report

The Winemakers' Federation of Australia has released its 2015 Vintage report.
In summary:  
2015 Winegrape Crush
The 2015 Australian grape crush is 1.67 million tonnes, just a 0.4% increase from last year’s crush of 1.66 million tonnes.
This figure is just below the 8-year average of 1.70 million tonnes.
The slight increase in overall crush is attributable to Riverina’s increase in yields, offset by lower yields in Murray Darling and most cooler temperate regions.
Crush by Variety
The 2015 red crush stands at 835,500 tonnes and the white crush stands at 834,000 tonnes.
Compared to last vintage, the 2015 red crush has decreased by 4% or 30,751 tonnes and the white crush has increased by 5% or 37,524 tonnes.

The top three red varieties by crush were Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, together accounting for 85% of the total red crush. Shiraz continues to dominate with 47% of the total red crush though with a 6% decrease from last year.
In the whites, Chardonnay still dominates the white crush at 45%, an increase of 28,726 tonnes from last year. Sauvignon Blanc remains in second place with 11%, followed by Pinot Gris/Grigio.
Crush by State and Region
Looking at the raw crush data by state/regions, Murray Darling-Swan Hill accounted for 382,000 tonnes or 25% of the total crush, New South Wales at 332,000 tonnes or 22%, Victoria at 60,000 or 4%, South Australia at 717,000 tonnes or 47%, Western Australia at 30,000 or 2%
ACT, Queensland and Tasmania contribute under 1% of the total crush.
Full report here.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Trip to Canberra

As mentioned previously, we needed to go to Canberra for the co driver's citizenship business.
To make the trip more relaxed we went the day before and stayed at our favourite hotel, the Aria, in Ainslie.
On the way up we stopped in the historic town of Braidwood and had lunch at The Albion. This is an old country pub that has been converted to a cafe/restaurant.
The food here is 'modern' Australian and is always good. Very popular for a family Sunday lunch judging from the crowd.
Ainslie is next to the suburb of Dickson. This is a well known Asian restaurant hub in Canberra and there are multiple choices.
We selected Rasa Sayang which is a bit of an institution having been around for almost 30 years.
They specialize in Malaysian cuisine and it did not disappoint.
The Beef Rendang and Kung Po chicken together with coconut rice were delicious.
We also snuck in a shared steamed dim sum starter.
Next morning we headed into the CBD (downtown) and had our usual great breakfast at Debacle.
They had moved a few doors down the same street into new modern premises and have maintained the same high standard. It is basically a bar and while it apparently 'rocks' in the evening, it caters to the breakfast and coffee crowd in the morning.
While the co driver was at the Department of Immigration, I drove up to the top of Mount Ainslie to once again enjoy the view across Lake Burley Griffin with many of Canberra's national attractions (Australian War Memorial, Anzac Parade, the new and old Parliament Houses) and the mountain ranges (some with a touch of snow) surrounding the city in the background.
I wasn't alone.
Two bus tours full of noisy school kids must have also had an early start to their day.
Then on the way home, after some yarn shopping in Manuka, we again stopped in Braidwood for lunch at the famous bakery. What else would the 'new' Australian want to celebrate her recently acquired status with other than a meat pie and then lamingtons for dessert.
What you notice when you have driven up the winding Clyde Mountain pass from the coast onto the Great Diving Range in winter is the significant drop in temperature. Canberra was -4°C in the morning. We have had a particularly cold winter this year with snow falls in places where it usually doesn't. Major roads have been closed for significant periods (no one has snow clearing equipment) and many schools have had 'snow days'.
This has made the news all over the world. The picture below was in a German newspaper (thanks Dieter) and is of a vineyard in the Orange District of New South Wales. Orange is no stranger to snow however. I studied horticulture at the University there and was snowed on a few times doing pruning practicals in the apple orchards.
Photo: Bill Shrapnel, Colmar Estate, Orange

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Co-Driver Becomes an Aussie

The co driver first came to Australia in 2001 and visited quite often after that.
Deciding to stay for longer periods she had to negotiate the tricky business of extending the limited stay tourist visas mainly by paying for an extension or, when that option was no longer available, flying from Australia to New Zealand and back.
Then an application for permanent residency saw both of us involved in extended 'negotiations' with the Department of Immigration which finally, after a long and sometimes frustrating struggle, resulted in a temporary then permanent residency visa. The latter has to be renewed every five years.
The next step was obviously citizenship which the Australian government encourages all qualifying permanent residents to apply for.

Being seasoned veterans of the Department of Immigration form maze (this one only had 22 pages!), we submitted all the necessary paperwork and information.
We must have done everything right as we very quickly got acknowledgement back.
On Sunday we drove to Canberra, the nation's capital, for her interview and citizenship test early the next day.
All went well with the former and she passed the latter with flying colours.
She was in!
The final step is to attended the citizenship ceremony organized by the local council (county) where she will take the pledge and receive her certificate from the Lord Mayor. A date has yet to be finalized.
Then she will officially be an Aussie.
Next step will be obtaining an Australian passport. This will make travel in and out of the country a lot easier.
She also will need to register to vote as voting is compulsory in Australia.
Both the Australian and USA governments recognize dual citizenship so she also remains a citizen of the latter.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Reviews / July 2015

Every now and again I trawl through Amazon's free Kindle book listings. It can take some time selecting what may be of interest and can be a hit and miss affair. Seeing we were going to spend many hours in planes in June and, needing some lightweight reading distraction, I went through the exercise.
Below are some of the results of the search.
Adventures in Spain introduces us to a young Scottish lady who leaves her teaching position in Glasgow to pursue a lifetime ambition of living in a foreign country and becoming immersed in its culture and language.
She moves to Spain during the Franco years and teaches in a bilingual school as well as tutoring English privately.

As is typical of this genre, you will get a chuckle and perhaps even a laugh out loud moment as you read about her inevitable language problems, the memorable and sometimes quirky people she encounters and the situations she gets herself into.
Travel along with Sandra as she becomes a married woman and mother during the turbulent years of Franco's regime and the Spanish transition to democracy (La Transición) following his demise.
Normally I am not 'into' murder mysteries but Rosemary for Remembrance came with lots of positive feedback.
It is the story of a young attorney investigating the death of her elderly client's sister in what appeared to be a hit and run.
The thing is it happened more than 50 years before and the inquest then listed the death as misadventure.
The client is convinced it was murder and wants the matter cleared up before she dies.
From initial inquiries it is obvious that there has been some sort of cover up. Many of the dead woman's contemporaries are still alive and the attorney's investigations stir up a hornet's nest to a point where she is in danger.
I have to say I really liked this book with all its twists and turns, some great characters and a good blend of present and past narrative.
Sometimes you should really take note of an Amazon category when deciding on books but, after looking through 30 or so web pages, the brain tends to numb. I found out half way through that The Art of Falling fell under 'Women's Romance'  (I know, in hindsight, the cover says it all) so it is what it says on the label.

Entertaining, light and fluffy. A feel good read with all the usual cliches of the genre.
Back in September 2013 I reviewed the first book in the Ben Hood series by Australian author Drew Lindsay. Black Mountain Affair is the second book and written in the same style. Again a bit of reality suspension is needed but the characters are larger than life, the dialogue and humour genuinely Australian as is the North Queensland setting.

The plot may be a bit contrived to include an Aboriginal Australian theme but who cares.
An entertaining and worthwhile read if you have a few hours to spare.
I grew up with The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis on the big screen. They were standard fare at the Saturday matinees. And Laurel and Hardy re runs were on TV.

This book covers all their careers and personal lives and is an interesting insight into these legends of comedy.
One for the fans.
Bridget  is the story of  the author's great grandmother Bridget Vaughn Wilson who left Ireland penniless in 1851 to escape starvation during the potato famine.
She spent most of her subsequent life in Savannah GA, where she faced many tragedies and experienced many events we now read about in history books eg. The Civil War. Despite being labeled an historic novel this story is true and is the result of many years of research by the author.

Although a relative short book, I found the background to the great surge of Irish emigration to the USA, the horrific conditions endured during the journey and the struggle to begin a new life in a foreign country fascinating.
Flowers in the Snow is a story of the racial divide in 'the South' during the 1960s through the eyes of a young girl with a social conscience. But living in a small segregated town with her KKK father and subjugated mother not only puts her in conflict with her parents but also with the rest of the white residents especially after she defends an elderly black man who is beaten for drinking out of a whites only water fountain.

This is the time of the Civil Rights Movement where those who felt threatened by this wave of change employed the Jim Crow system of "terror as a means of social control".
Despite being a fictional work, a great many of the reviews from readers who had lived through this ugly period of USA history complimented the book on its authentic content.
It is at times violent and confronting but it is also a love story about those thrust together at a time of conflict.
And the unexpected twist at the end is a bonus.
An excellent book and incentive to read the following two in the series.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Some of the Daughter's Honeymoon Photos





Wednesday, July 08, 2015

A Winter Date Day

We had been advised that our power would be off from 8am to 4pm on Wednesday due to power line relocation brought about by the major roadworks on the highway at the end of our road.
We decided to do a date day in town.
So it was into Milton for breakfast.
We often go to Brown Sugar in this village where we get good coffee, a breakfast roll (egg plus bacon plus tomato sauce) for me and a breakfast bowl (scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, quinoa and grilled mushrooms on a bed of fresh spinach) for the co driver. The place was crowded and we needed to sit outside on a beautiful but unseasonably cold winter's morning. But the sun was shining and we were out of the breeze and it turned out to be quite cosy.
Next I took the co driver up to local retirement home where she visited our neighbour, Norma who is now in care. She is the owner of the race horses on the property behind us we sometimes help feed.
Then it was into Ulladulla where we spent a few hours in the new library. It is part of the reconstructed civic centre that had its first birthday last week. All very modern with all the latest gizmos. Gone are the days when libraries were quiet stuffy places.

We both had a hankering for Thai food and went to one of our favourite eateries, Yes I Am (get it?) for lunch. I had stir fried chicken and fried rice and the co driver, stir fried chicken with basil and chili. Excellent as always.
After lunch we drove down to Bawley Point where one of our acquaintances runs very swish holiday cabins. She also makes cheese and bakes bread as a sideline. Her feta with various added fresh herbs is great. We like the chili and garlic as well as the rosemary. We asked her to make chili and lime this time round as an experiment. This with a slice of fresh multi grain soda bread with a glass of cold Riesling would make a nice pre dinner snack (although on this day we didn't need one).
We were home a little before the power came back on which gave us time to stoke up the fire in preparation for another cold evening.
Another successful date day.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Dan the Man

Living in a rural area limits the ability to purchase a wide range of good wine locally.
The supermarket wine shops and those attached to the pubs have a limited and pretty much a run of the mill range.
So we usually source our wine during our trips away or order it on line from specific wineries or specialist wine shops.
One of the latter is Dan Murphy's.
They belong to the Woolworths chain of supermarkets and have a huge selection from around the world at very competitive prices.
Their shops are a pleasure to browse through.

Founded by Daniel Francis Murphy, son of a wine merchant in 1952, there are now over 140 stores Australia wide and are known affectionately by wine people as "Dan the Man".
The nearest stores to us were a few hours drive away, either in Canberra or Wollongong, so we relied on their on line service which, for the most, was reliable and quick.
But I like to browse physically not virtually.
Woolworths applied for a Dan Murphy's licence in Nowra an hour's drive north of us.
There were plenty of objections from the local community who didn't want another source of cheap liquor in the town and from the established liquor retailers who were afraid their businesses would come under pressure from this aggressive competitor. This from a town of 35,000 who will soon have three McDonalds outlets!

The approval was held up for some years but eventually granted under some strict conditions.
Work started on the stand alone store early this year.
And now it is open!!!!!
We stopped by on our way home from Sydney on Monday.
An oenophile heaven. 
Now I know how the co driver feels in a quilt shop. And here she has to wait for me rather than the other way around.
I bought a selection of Pinot Noir (Australian and New Zealand) in my on going quest to find the best under $20 (there are 86 in this category at Murphy's) as well as some unkown Rioja reds of various classification (Rioja, Crianza, Reserva).
The results of these purchases will eventually turn up on "Our 2015 Wine List" on the blog side bar.