Food and some brief wine memories by James Tinslay and wine review by Richard Gibson

Hal Epstein – 6 April 2021

Hal Epstein was once again in the kitchen but this week he was scheduled in the traditional black spot of the Tuesday after the Easter weekend. He was assisted by our Foodmaster, Bill Alexiou-Hucker.


We were treated to three starters which all looked and tasted terrific.

First off was a simple dish of very deep coloured tomatoes, sliced lengthways with Hal’s garden-fresh basil leaves and dark anchovy inserted in the cut. Simple and fresh. Next off were wonderfully fresh and tender figs (well done to Harris Farm) wrapped in prosciutto. A classic dish. Lastly, frittata/mini muffins a la Stephanie Alexander with grated zucchini, olive oil, chopped chilli, salt, pepper, mozzarella cheese, flour and eggs. A touch of tomato on the top before cooking. These looked so visually appealing it could have been the ’eat me’ scene from Alice in Wonderland. And they tasted terrific.

Main course

Today’s plan was a Middle Eastern style dish. It’s a style that can apparently polarise our membership palate. Being a fan of this type of food I understand the large array of spices that contribute to making often simple ingredients so flavourful.

The protein part of the meal was lamb backstrap which had been quickly panfried before going into the oven to reach serving doneness. The centrepiece, literally, of the meal, was cauliflower surrounded by the portions of lamb. The cauliflower looked and tasted a treat. The main treatment was the use of harissa which gave it some heat with chilly, paprika, coriander, cumin, cayenne, garlic mixed with olive oil. This paste was painted onto the cauliflower and it was then baked until it reached a medium softness.

The marinade for the lamb was cumin, sweet paprika, garlic, coriander, parsley, oil and lemon juice and the lamb absorbed those flavours for 24 hours.

Not to be outdone by the preceding treatment there was a yoghurt mix to top off the meal with onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, birdseye chillies, tomato paste, olive oil, pepper, salt and orange zest. Whew!

The plating looked brilliant (see the photo) and all of the above was topped with walnuts, pomegranate seeds (it added visually as well as taste) and locally sourced fetta cheese.

Such a well done, appealing and tasty main. It covered all bases.


James took us back to a member's favourite cheese, Osso Iraty from the Pyrenees. This ewes milk cheese from the Basque region dates back more than four thousand years. It is made for nine months of the year using the milk of black or red-faced Manech ewes. It contains finely ground Espelette peppers to form a natural barrier to moulds. Our example of this semi-hard cheese was buttery with fruity, herbaceous and nutty overtones. In excellent condition and a pleasure to taste


The wines featured two rieslings with the starters and four cool-climate Aussie Shiraz with the main and cheese.

Robert Stein Riesling 2019

The Stein Riesling is made from Mudgee sourced fruit, handpicked, whole bunch pressed and fermented in stainless steel.   The wine showed aromas of lime and citrus, was lean and linear on the palate with a crisp, racy (acid) dry finish – a very good young Riesling out of the drought-affected 2019 vintage.

Holm Creek – Tamar Riesling 2015

The wine is a blend of 2 separate estate-grown clones, separately fermented. 

The wine had attractive lime and aromatic floral characters (reflecting the different clones). On the palate, it was lively and vibrant (showing some aged characters) with attractive mineralization and a long finish with plenty of acidity.

Seppelt Chalambar Shiraz – 2012

The Chalambar is a multi-regional blend made from Victorian cool climate great western region (Grampian mainly).

On the nose, we saw fragrant blue fruits (mulberry/raspberry) and some pleasant violet characters (typical of the region) with savoury spicy notes.  The palate exhibited a spicy fruit richness, was medium-bodied with well-integrated soft tannins (reflecting the use of old 300 L oak barrels).

Pleasant drinking but not complex Victorian shiraz – popular on the day and went well with Hal’s middle eastern food.  Alc 14%

Bests Shiraz 2012

A classic cool-climate Shiraz from Greta Western vines – in part made from hand-picked fruit and whole berry fermentation (some whole bunch).

The nose displayed aged blackberry and violets with savoury pepper and aniseed notes. On the palate, it was medium-bodied with a generosity of aged fruit flavour (perhaps a little over-extracted). Well-integrated fine tannins and reasonable length.

An attractive drinking wine, focused and elegant.  Alc 14.5%

Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz 2009

A stalwart cool climate (entry-level) shiraz produced by Wynns since 1952.

Dense purple in colour, it showed blackberry and spice on the nose with some floral notes.

It was medium-bodied on the palate, displaying a blackberry and plummy richness plus spice and cedar characters; fine, well-integrated, very dry tannins with decent length.

An attractive drinking, balanced wine.

There was considerable bottle variation around the room – the better examples showing more complexity and length.  Alc 13.5%

Cherubino Franklin River Shiraz 2009

Made by well-credentialled winemaker Larry Cherubino from vines in the Franklin River region of WA.

The grapes are sourced from multiple estate vineyards and clones - the first release of this wine was in circa 2007.  The grapes are handpicked, individually berry sorted, see 3 weeks maceration and then aged for 9 months (new and old oak).

The nose displayed an intense blue/blackberry richness, spice and pepper and gravelly oak.

The palate was disappointing – high alcohol, over-extracted, dense, rich jammy fruit dominated. The tannins were very firm and not yet in balance – the style was more reminiscent of a big, over-extracted Barossa shiraz. The wine was not popular in the room - hopefully, the winemaker’s later vintages showed some improvement.    Alc 14.9%