Viottolo Shiraz 2006

•06/04/2009 • Leave a Comment

Stumbled across this today as I put the usual challenge to a local bottle’o attendant. I asked “Can you find me a bold SA wine that can cut through a smoked chicken white-bean stew?”. I told him my general likes/dislikes, and he first suggested this McLaren Vale Shiraz – the Viottolo.

A very nice wine for $26 – no, a very good wine for the price. Definitely spoilt ourselves for Monday night! It’s not an earthy, big Shiraz per se, but it’s got a great dark cherry background with that round SA Shiraz boldness I love.

Can’t find a website, but I hope they have a cellar door in McLaren Vale itself.



Seppeltsfield Rare Rich Oloroso Vera Viola

•16/02/2009 • Leave a Comment

Another unexpected pleasant experience tonight.

Foodie and I were having a nice break from the Little Dictator (because Foodie’s mum is in town) and decided to avail ourselves of the fleeting freedom by booking a table at our newest favourite restaurant – Sparrow Kitchen and Bar.

The food was brilliant yet again, but even more satisfying was the amazing treatment by Dan, the sommelier. Yes, Dan, you nailed it again.

Of particular mention was a (gratis!) glass of the Seppeltsfield Rare – Rich – Oloroso (“odiferous”) ‘Vera Viola’ fortified (Sherry-esque) wine Dan treated us. I had never had this before and actually shun most Seppeltsfield wines due to some bad experiences in the past. But the Vera Viola was magnificent.

I’m not a Sherry connoisseur either, but this had a strong, alcoholic start, a round, fruity, sweet sultana middle and a crisp, toffee (sans sucre) finish that cut the sweetness exquisitely. In short, a fantastic finish to a rich meal.

If you’re a sticky fan, but don’t want to get laden with the heavy, sweet fruit of a port, try this. Highly recommended.


The Pawn, The Gambit Sangiovese 2007

•15/02/2009 • Leave a Comment

Just had this one for the first time at the National Wine Centre, and I have to say, I’m not terribly impressed. For $7.50 a glass, I was expecting a little more.

I don’t know Langhorne Creek wines very well, but this one (The Pawn, The Gambit Sangiovese 2007) did not sell me. Don’t get me wrong – I like Sangioveses a lot, but this one was missing something. A very alcoholic start with a light tobacco middle, but a non-existent finish. I reckon at the very least this will require a few more years to mature. Not sure what you’d eat this with either.

One little gripe – the Flash website is a little annoying. What’s wrong with html?


Zusammen Shiraz 2003

•14/02/2009 • 3 Comments

All I can say is – wow!

I’ve wanted to blog about this one for a while, but finally just got around to it. I’ve had this one pretty regularly now as a Saturday afternoon diversion at the National Wine Centre café for a couple of months.

The age of the vines comes out as a rich, soil-based, almost truffle-like flavour. This is a Barossa Shiraz of utmost boldness and smoothness. Although the age comes out as dominant, there’s a rich, blackberry, tobacco and coffee flavour just lingering underneath. Want a brilliant, classic, bold Australian Shiraz? This is the one to accompany that expensive piece of organic and hand-massaged meat you’ve been saving for just the right Sunday night.

Try as I might, I just can’t find a website. Shame. I can’t even find a photo.


Steam Exchange Steam Ale

•12/02/2009 • Leave a Comment

We just popped into The Colonist pub in Norwood at the suggestion of one of our readers (more on the pub itself in a subsequent review) and we wanted to comment on a beer we tried for the first time – the Steam Exchange (from Goolwa on the Fleurieu) Steam Ale.

The website describes the Steam Ale as:

Made in the fine tradition of an American classic. Brewed in small open fermenters, Steam Exchange Brewery Steam Ale is a special blend of three malts, and specially imported American hops. Flavours combine to yield a well-balanced beer, perfect for consumption all year round. The flagship of the Steam Exchange Brewery!

Well, we can see why it tastes so American – it’s the hops. It was a smooth beer, but if you know the American-style ales, then it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Not a bad beer and somewhat unique for Australia, but a little too hoppy for my tastes. In other words, drinkable, but nothing that will make the tongue sing with joy.

I am very keen to try the other three Steam Exchange beers (the IPA, dark ale and stout).


Restaurant Review: Art Gallery

•11/02/2009 • Leave a Comment

Those little triangular sandwiches. Yes, those little bundles of boring bread and some combination of ham, lettuce, chutney, tomatoes, tuna, egg or cucumbers (not necessarily together) seem to pervade every Australian catered function from Darwin to Hobart. I am a reasonably numerate person, but I think I would be challenged to count the number of times I’ve been served those little triangular sandwiches. I believe there must be a secret caterers’ society where you only get the special decoder ring and catering wizard certificate if you promise to make them for every event.

Of course, that little rant has something to do with the latest F & G review of the South Australian Art Gallery Restaurant on North Terrace in the city (but don’t go to the website – it’s a piddley single page updated last in 2004!).

When we first arrived in Adelaide we ate in there several times after cruising around the city, actually visiting the Art Gallery, or passing through the University of Adelaide grounds. It’s close to work and has a lovely back area and outdoor table dining. Of course, it’s in the Art Gallery itself, so it’s literally surrounded by beautiful things. All a good combination.

But it was the food that kept us coming back. The little dishes and sandwiches were tasty and not too pricey, the wine list was good, with an occasional winner (the Hans Heysen organic Shiraz, which unfortunately isn’t served any more, was brilliant), and the desserts were pleasing. The coffee was very ordinary, so don’t think you’ll be treated to anything like what we should get everywhere in Adelaide (see The Quest for Coffee).

The last few times we’ve eaten there, however, have been very disappointing. We’ve had the duck salad (not too great), and the Scottish baps (the chicken caesar was ok, but no longer available, and the salmon was fairly depressing) on a variety of occasions. So today, we decided to try a sandwich. And what do you think appeared before us? The dreaded triangular sandwich. I’m sorry to say that a few slabs of wholemeal bread bought at Coles or Woolies surrounding some tomatoes, unidentifiable cheese and a bit of green stuff FOR $10 (!) just won’t do.

I mean, really. With all the wonderful bakeries in town and seemingly every other decent restaurant baking its own bread these days, there’s really no excuse (did I mention they were $10 each?). Sure, the place is run by a caterer, but that doesn’t mean we should be served substandard food. I wonder who they’re trying to please? Maybe they are reaching out to the nice little old lady crowd who want to approximate a high-tea experience?

Our advice – give the place a miss if you are looking for a decently priced lunch and a reasonable coffee. You won’t find them here. But if you are in the Art Gallery anyway and just want a bite in a nice setting, go for it.

Groggy & Foodie

P.S. Are you a fan of the triangular sandwich? Is this a sub-culture we are missing out on? Please let us know!

Golding Francis John Pinot Noir 2004

•08/02/2009 • Leave a Comment

We had a very pleasant experience today.

With Foodie’s mum visiting to help with the Little Dictator, we decided to head out for a nice Sunday lunch at our new favourite beer venue, the Lobethal Bierhaus. After a nice morning feeding lazy roos at Cleland Wildlife Park on the first decent day for three weeks, we drove casually towards Lobethal, taking in the beautiful and quaint villages of the Adelaide Hills along the way. We had thought about doing a cellar door tasting on the way, and I had vaguely remembered someone telling us that there was a good winery just around Lenswood we should visit. I couldn’t remember the name, but as we approached Lobethal I suddenly saw the Golding sign and veered hard to the right. I was pretty sure that this was the one.

We drove up a long gravel road next to a vine-covered hillside to a barn that had been done up with new stonework and outside tables in a very creative and pleasing display. There were no signs pointing to any tasting room, so we were a bit apprehensive as we approached. I ducked inside just to check and was welcomed by an older couple who said that they were happy to receive us. Apparently they were still cleaning up from a huge wedding they had hosted the day before, which explained the lack of signage.

So, Foodie and I popped inside as Greg and Connie treated us to three types of Sauvignon Blanc (the Local 2007,  the Tourist 2007 and the Leap 2007 all @ $10 each!) and a Chardonnay (Billy Goat Hill 2005 @ $25). Greg was very friendly and spun more than one good yarn (we reluctantly had to tear ourselves away given the impending lunch reservation). The whites were all very nice, but a little cold so we hesitate to review them here (stay tuned). However, when we saw the label for the Francis John Pinot Noir, we knew we had had it before.

We racked our brains and then remembered we had tasted it at the National Wine Centre a few weeks before. At the time I remembered it being very pleasant, but I must have been more in a Shiraz mood because it didn’t make an impression on me. This time, however, I was fascinated with the smoothness and flavour. Greg told us their son and wine maker, Darren, did a whole-cluster fermentation that basically means they treat the grapes very gently during the wine-making process. The result is an extremely smooth and light-coloured Pinot Noir, but with a bursting flavour of fruit. We loved it. At $30 a bottle it’s not a steal, but I think for its age and complexity, it is worth the money.

I also think they have one of the more original descriptions on the back of the bottle (apparently ‘Francis John’, the scribbly face on the label, was Greg’s dad):

We’ve affectionately named this wine after our late and colourful grandfather – Francis John Golding. In one of life’s ironies he was raised as Peter Bennett, only to discover his true Golding identity upon enlisting in 1939. Although a beer lover at heart (bless him), our Pinot Noir shares many of his idiosyncrasies – it’s complex and irreverent with a warm and generous personality.

As un-wine-like as that sounds, it’s spot-on. It’s even more à propos considering that the Lobethal Bierhaus is only 2 minutes away by car. Try this mob – excellent Adelaide Hills’ wines, yet very unique.