Canberra Trip 13-14 September 2015
Around 40 members, friends and companions travelled to Canberra for this wonderful function, organised and conducted by James Hill, with wines sourced and presented by Paul Ferman. There is no truth to the rumour that our arrival precipitated certain political events in the city; but certainly we had more fun than the pollies.
The tour got under way at 12:30pm on Sunday 13, when our bus left the tour hotel for lunch in the Grazing restaurant at the Royal Hotel, Gundaroo. After an introductory fizz, alternate entrees of smoked trout croquettes or Manchego custard moulds (both terrific) were matched with a 2015 Eden Road "Long Road" pinot gris, and a 2014 "The Senator" chardonnay from Capital Wines, attached to the Hotel. Then followed a choice of baby chicken done 2 ways, or lamb rump, washed down with a 2013 pinot noir Lerida Estate Lake George, and a 2014 Capital Wines "The Ambassador" tempranillo. Dual desserts of strawberry and vanilla cream tarts, and caramel and salted hazelnut custard brought proceedings to a satisfactory finish.
It was back to the magic bus for our next appointment, a wine tasting at Mt Majura Vineyard, where a range of wines, with an emphasis on Italian varieties, were tasted. The noise level on the bus back to the hotel dropped considerably.
Dinner in the evening was at the Cupping Room, as the name suggests a café with an emphasis on coffee and blessed by having on the staff Caity, daughter of Nick Reynolds. We were treated to a tasting of 3 quite different coffees, culminating in a lovely bright bean selling at $200 a kilo, with olives, local breads and an oil/vinegar dip. Then it was into the main event, starting with carpaccio of hiramasa kingfish and accompaniments (including sliced jalapeno peppers) matched with a 2010 Eden Road Riesling and an interesting Ravensworth marsanne/roussanne blend of 2011. The first main course featured 5-spice rubbed duck breast with root vegetables, rhubarb and chestnut puree accompanied not by the expected pinot but by a spritzy 2015 Ravensworth Charlie Foxtrot gamay and a 2008 The Long Road Hilltops barbera/nebbiolo. Showing our mettle, we then moved on to some rare seared kangaroo with beetroot, red grapes, crumbled chevre and rocket, this time matched with 2014 Ravensworth Hilltops nebbiolo and, at last, a shiraz, the 2010 Eden Road , again from Hilltops grapes. Cheese replaced dessert, a plate of Dutch Reypanaer semi-hard cows' milk, a rich Berry's Creek blue made from Buffalo milk and a French Delice de Bourgogne, supported by a 2007 Ravensworth sangiovese. The restaurant was a short walk, or wander, back to the hotel, affording some settling down.
The morrow dawned fine and still, and after breakfast the challenge began with a trip out to Helm Wines at Murrumbateman for a tasting of some seriously good rieslings and cabernets. All back on the bus for the short trip to The Poacher's Pantry, a country café specialising in smoked and preserved meats and fish with a nearby Wily Trout winery. An opening board of mixed smoked and dried meats with vegetable pastes, beads and lavosh went well with a rose and a chardonnay from the Wily Trout, a choice of pinot and shiraz from the same source accompanying the mains of a choice of smoked duck breast and confit leg, barramundi and vegetable lasagne with crumbled haloumi and polenta. A refreshing dessert of pistachio panna cotta, and raspberry sorbet and coulis brought proceedings to a close. Then back to the magic bus for the anticipated tasting at Clonakilla. The wines did not disappoint, the whites delicate and elegant and the reds living up to their reputation, especially the hallmark shiraz/viognier and straight syrah.
Exhausted digestive systems received a brief respite at the hotel before the bus pulled out once again, this time bound for a lengthy trip to Lark Hill Wines at Lake George for the evening meal. The dinner, with both wine and food from the winery, was enlivened by the unfolding leadership bout at Parliament House, but this did nothing to spoil a great meal, starting with a welcoming glass of bubbles before an entree of either (or both if you shared) blowtorched scallops, cauliflower pure and scattered prosciutto, or meaty field mushrooms, polenta and parmesan. With them a young but promising 2015 riesling and a bigger but still elegant 2014 viognier. The main course saw a choice of medium-rare porterhouse steak, leek, potato dauphinoise and red wine jus, or pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and heirloom carrots, both great and well matched with a 2014 shiraz viognier and, as a special treat, a fully mature, spicy but restrained 2003 merlot. After that, a dessert choice of panna cotta strawberry sorbet and meringue, or pear poached in red wine with condensed milk ice cream and pistachios, balanced by an off-dry 2013 "Eliza" Riesling, provided the last wee morsel before a coffee and a quiet drive home to the hotel.
The tour concluded after breakfast the following morning, as participants went their separate ways, some back to Sydney and some to see the sights before returning the next day. No serious complaints were heard, and special tribute must be paid to James Hill, who put it all together and brought it off with elan.