Sunday, August 9, 2009

Brindabella Hills Winery

I wasn’t in the best mood for wine tasting the day we visited Brindabella Hills Winery. It was a bitter Canberra winter’s day and Our Man and I had a wide-ranging argument discussion about the best way to spend the afternoon.

Brindabella Hills was on our list but didn’t offer food, so he suggested taking along a picnic. I pointed to the level of the mercury cringing in the thermometer bulb and hastily threw a few items together, thinking that I’d be able to persuade him into going somewhere with tablecloths and waiters.

Upon arrival, however, things started looking better. I like parrots and when I spotted a small posse of Crimson Rosellas as we rolled up to the cellar door, I took it as a sign that the afternoon was about to improve.

Brindabella Hills is a family owned winery established in 1986 by Roger and Faye Harris. Roger is an ex-scientist turned winemaker/scientist who not only makes good wines but also likes a bit of a chat. We learned they had selected the site because it had a similar climate to other premium wine growing areas, mostly in Europe but also the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. We also found out they were planning to open a new cellar door - currently under construction – that would provide snacks and light meals and, thanks to a recent change in liquor regulations, they could now sell thirsty travellers wine by the glass.

There were several wines available for tasting including some unusual styles – a 2008 sangiovese shiraz ($18) and the 2007 Aureus ($25), a 50, 50 mix of chardonnay and viognier. We took home a bottle of both varieties as well as a 2008 sauvignon blanc ($18) and a 2005 shiraz cabernet franc ($15).

The mel* didn’t last long. We drank it the same evening with some plump winter Clyde River rock oysters, bought at EPIC. A delicate, fragrant wine with restrained tropical fruit flavours, it was a fine match for the oysters with no trace of the Passiona king tide that has swamped this variety.

The 2007 Aureus was a minor revelation. I’m a bit particular when it comes to chardonnay, so I wasn’t expecting to like it. My first impression was of viognier (apricot and white nectarines) on the nose with the chardonnay giving it body. Continuing our theme of ad hoc food pairings we drank it with a homemade chicken satay pizza**, which tended to highlight more of the chardonnay characteristics. I had some more the next day with pork pie and salad and found apricot flavours coming to the fore. It’s a versatile wine and one that I’ve added to my growing list of favourites.

In contrast, I found it difficult to get a handle on the sangiovese shiraz – according to the label, the blend is 66% sangiovese and 33% shiraz (and if anyone finds the last 1% missing from the label please email). Very drinkable but hard to pin down.

Likewise, the 2005 shiraz cabernet franc was juicy with restrained tannins but wasn’t particularly distinctive. An enjoyable quaffer that did a perfectly adequate job of accompanying our rare steak with blue cheese sauce. I’d have no qualms about taking either to a neighbour’s barbeque.

We’re also determined to grab a bottle of Roger’s shiraz at some stage for further research.

You can purchase Brindabella Hills wines from several wine retailers and restaurants in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, or you can order them direct from the winery. As this post was being written, the latest edition of the King James Wine Bible hit the shelves. Brindabella Hills Winery scored a note about being consistently impressive and a five star rating (which on my scale is equivalent to about four Crimson Rosellas).

As for the picnic, the Jindy triple cream and pain de champagne from Croissant Dor were barely finished, and photos hurriedly snapped, before a familiar voice noted with a touch of surprise: “Christ, it’s cold this afternoon.” Time to go home.

* Yes it’s one of those annoying codes couples do. Sauvignon blanc = Mel Blanc. Our man = old Warner Bros cartoon fan (Dame MP = patience of a frickin’ saint).

** No correspondence will be entered into as to whether chicken satay is a ‘real’ pizza. There’s a time and a place for such questions i.e. not now, not here, (and preferably with someone who cares).

Brindabella Hills Winery
156 Woodgrove Close, via Wallaroo Road
Via Hall ACT 2618
10 am to 5 pm weekends and public holidays
(02) 6230 2583

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