April 2012 E-Newsletter Mother Nature dishes out one of the toughest seasons ever This season has some of the Hunter Valley’s older statesmen proclaiming that 2012 will go down as one of the toughest seasons ever. Late spring and the entire season of summer were characterised by very cool conditions (an average of 2 degrees Celsius below the mean), and unrelenting rainfall. Over the critical ripening and harvest months of December through to March, we received no less than 300mm of rain and 3 significant hail events. The result being immense disease pressure, and constant dilution of acid, flavour and sugar in the berries. In the end, a reluctant decision was made not to pick any Hunter Valley Shiraz this year. Fortunately, as is often the case with early-ripening Hunter Semillon, we managed to pick smaller quantities of excellent quality fruit, and we are very pleased with the resulting wines.
state at this critical time. The following images are of flood waters in Sunraysia and Bilbul, near Griffith, serve to highlight the extent of the damage caused. Fingers crossed this is a once-in-a-lifetime vintage... MB
So as we get our latest vintage of Hunter Semillon off to bottle, Canberra faces conditions disturbingly similar to those experienced here in the Hunter. Fortunately the rain has fallen some weeks before harvest, and providing we get some warm, sunny weather, we are still hopefully for excellent red grapes including our Cabernet Sauvignon from Gundaroo and Shiraz from Murrumbateman. Our thoughts are, however, with the many growers and winemakers who have lost crops and entire vintages to the rainfall and subsequent flood waters that swamped the
Gundog Member’s Lunch—Pony at the Rocks! We are delighted to invite Cellar Club Members to our first function for the year. On Sunday the 22nd of April, we will be hosting a lunch at Pony Lounge and Dining, at The Rocks Sydney. This is a great venue and Chef Damien Heads has consistently delivered fantastic food over the years we have visited. The style of food is casual and fresh, focussing on fantastic produce, and should compliment our latest batch of new releases including three 2012 Hunter Semillons and our 2011 Hunter’s Shiraz.
We have organised seating at one long table outside on the terrace area. Seating here is strictly limited to 40 guests, so please RSVP as soon as possible so you don’t miss out! Tickets are $120 per person. To book your spot, please email email@example.com.
GUNDOG 2010 MARKSMAN’S SHIRAZ GUNDOG 2011 WILD SEMILLON Limited release from a vineyard in Murrumbateman – Canberra District. 14 months in French oak. Another beautiful Canberra shiraz. Trademark flavours: dark cherry, sweet blackberry, roasted nuts and a general, tangy, boysenberried fruit note. Five-spice rather than pepper. A bit of oomph but lively and refreshing. Chains of tannin. Acid needs time to integrate but wouldn’t be surprised if this warrants a higher rating in time. Excellent.
The “wild” refers to wild yeast, time on skins and some residual sugar. None of which are the norm for Hunter Valley Semillon. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it but it sure is flavoursome. It’s a river of sweet, red applelike flavour. It smells too of dried tobacco and lemon though the palate has a slatey, chalky feel. The word “feel” is operative; there’s real texture to this wine. It’s bright and pure in the glass but it almost tastes cloudy. Its sweetness is obvious but not overpowering. Reckoned, in the end, this is both interesting and delicious.
Friday 16th March 2012, by Campbell Mattinson
Thursday Dec 8, 2011 by Campbell Mattinson
Illawarra Mercury Gundog Estate 2010 Marksman’s Shiraz $50 With vineyards in the Hunter Valley and Canberra region the Gundog star continues to rise under the winemaking skills of the prodigiously talented Matt Burton. The Marksman is Gundog’s first top-shelf shiraz and it’s a beauty. Crafted from Murrumbateman shiraz it’s bold and powerful, yet nicely poised, with layers of berry fruit, integrated spice, clever oaking and silky tannins. Stick it in the cellar for a few years.
Kerry Skinner, 2012 Huon Hooke, Tuesday, 21 Feb 2012
N e w Re l e a s e s . . .
2012 WILD SEMILLON One of our biggest releases for the year, the 2012 Wild Semillon picks up where the 2011 vintage left off. Sold out in just 2 months and acclaimed by wine critics throughout the country, the 2011 Wild Semillon was a runaway hit. With the Wild Semillon, we push the boundaries of conventional winemaking by fermenting a portion of the wine on skins (like a red wine) using natural or “indigenous” yeast. The aim is to create a very textural and complex style of Semillon that showcases another side of this great wine grape.
The 2012 Wild Semillon is very aromatic, offering lemongrass, peach and some herbal tea notes. The palate is bright and fleshy with some residual sweetness there to offset phenolics (tannin) and acidity. Because the wine is so textural and carries some residual sweetness, the Wild Semillon is an interesting proposition with food matching. The wine should hold up well to spicy, Thai-style dishes where acidity, saltiness and chilli are often offset by barely noticeable sweetness. It also partners well to roast pork or lighter poultry dishes. MB
2011 HUNTER’S SHIRAZ I believe the days of the old-school “sweaty saddle” Hunter Shiraz are long gone; the modern style instead focuses on preserving fruit flavour and shows off the fact that the Hunter Valley, just like Canberra, is able to produce full-flavoured, complex reds, that are only medium bodied and rarely over 14% alcohol. As such, they are We sourced the grapes from two Hunter Vineyards. Hand incredibly food friendly and often long-lived wines. picked fruit was fermented in open top tanks and plunged by hand twice daily for 10 days. The wine was then Game meats and lighter lamb or beef dishes partner well pressed off to barrel for 10 month’s maturation. We used to Hunter Shiraz as do cheeses and charcuterie. I think a combination of barriques and larger puncheon style the wine will drink well while young, though I do suggest barrels to add complexity and enhance oak integration. decanting before serving. The oxygen will do a world of Through the carefully managed oak regime, and shorter good, and really help it to “open up” in the glass. The than usual maturation period, we have managed to bottle cellaring potential should also be good. I would think 5 to 10 years. MB a wine showing really nice fruit purity. This is the first release of our Hunter Valley sourced Shiraz. With the full compliment of Hunter Valley Semillons we thought it would be great to add a local Shiraz into the mix, and the 2011 vintage provided ideal conditions to do so.
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G e o f f’s L e t t e r F r o m t h e Vi n e y a r d 2 4 t h M a r c h The skies are clear over the Yass River Valley and the prevailing northwesterly blows for most of the daylight hours. We are in a critical stage of the vintage as the red grapes move towards full ripeness; by this time next week we should have our cabernet sauvignon and shiraz crops picked and safely in the winery. Our planned picking days are speculative at this stage, based on daily readings of the Baume (sugar content) of the berries and what levels Matt requires for his planned wines, but are subject to sudden changes caused by a cold front passing through or an unexpected low overnight temperature. Mostly we fear rain at this time and sudden and damaging storms. Another indicator of fruit ripeness, which can also prove devastating to the crop, is the increasing interest shown in the vineyard by flocks of native birds intent on a sweet and lavish free lunch. In fact my major activity during the last weeks of veraison is to conduct a war of deterrence against our feathered friends. Bird strike in a vineyard, like locusts in the wheat belt, can wipe out a crop in one sitting if the flock is large enough. In the Canberra District the preferred, and traditional, method of controlling birds is to cover the entire vineyard with netting at the onset of veraison. I have always thought this an inefficient and costly method of dealing with the bird problem and when we set up Gundog Estate I decided to take on the birds with other deterrents. Over the past five vintages I have developed the following arsenal, which I gradually apply when the birds first appear and I can start to identify the breeds, as they all have different appetites and hours of dining. By this time, with only days to go until harvest, I have everything firing. Six hawk shaped kites made from sailcloth that fly from lines attached to six metre high posts scattered through the vineyard. A “sonic fence” contructed from weatherproof speakers placed amongst the grapes that broadcast shrill electronic sounds simulating particular breeds of distressed birdcalls. A gas air-cannon sounding like a mortar that is programmed to go off at various times, especially at bird breakfast and dinner times. “Disco strips” of silver foil on spinners that mark out particularly vulnerable areas. Ten Chinese mirror balls that randomly flash incredibly bright slashes of sunlight across the vines and interfere with bird navigation. My last defence is me wandering through the vineyard firing a shotgun into the air, although the poorly described gundog Karl Marx really disapproves of this one. This year we have decided not to pick our chardonnay grapes so my current tactic is to shepherd the native birds away from the reds and into the chardonnay where they can eat as much as they like. Avian ability to learn seems to me to be in direct relationship to body size – the large Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and the various breeds of parrots get the message quickly whilst the tiny pesky Silvery Eyes are the hardest to influence – or maybe they just prefer reds. **** I was contacted recently by a journalist writing a piece about “vine huggers”, his expression for people who take on grape growing/wine making as a second career. I said I thought it was a misnomer, inferring a principal interest in conservation, as in “tree hugger”, whereas most grape growers would consider themselves as simple farmers, conservationists or not. His point of course is that quite a lot of people do choose grapes and wine as second careers and more often than not include the desire for a rural land based lifestyle amongst their reasons for making such a choice. It is also true that a significant number of people making the change come from the film and television industries, and this is the case in Europe and the USA as well as Australia...CONTINUED NEXT PAGE
G e o f f’s L e t t e r F r o m t h e Vi n e y a r d 2 4 t h M a r c h Two film industry colleagues of mine, Sally Ayre-Smith and Marcus Skipper, recently resettled themselves on a farm on the mid-north coast of NSW and proceeded to plant garlic that they planned to cultivate under organic principles. Sally by the way was the producer of the formative and highly successful SEACHANGE television drama series. A couple of weeks ago a box appeared on my doorstep containing kilos of the most beautiful looking plump, firm garlic heads that I have ever seen. I love cooking with garlic and also believe, as many do, that there are healthsupporting qualities in fresh garlic, so I was delighted to receive this package from Sally and Marcus. Garlic, like the newly cultivated truffles from the Canberra region, possess enticing and exotic flavours of their own but are traditionally used in conjunction with other foods to enhance those flavours. What to do to exploit and sample this bountiful gift? My first experiment in the farm kitchen was to combine two favourite tastes: garlic and anchovies. In a moderate oven I baked a few heads of the garlic by just removing the outer skin and sitting them on a rack for about 30 minutes or until the flesh is quite soft. In the same oven a few thin slices of baguette are dried out and slightly crisped. The warm flesh of the garlic is spread generously on the toasts and then topped with drained strips of anchovy filets. I know they are expensive but one really has to use Ortiz brand tinned Spanish anchovies to give this simple dish a touch of class. Enjoy a plate of these in the autumn sun along with a glass of GUNDOG ESTATE Rosé, to achieve complete contentment! Continuing the garlic feast last weekend Sharon and I cooked an old Provence favourite, Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, and what a triumph it was, especially enhanced by the fresh organic garlic. Check further down the newsletter for the recipe. Sally and Marcus’ garlic is grown at Sweet Water Farm and can be purchased from About Life in Rozelle or Bondi Junction or ordered for postal delivery via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s all from the vineyard for now, and bon appétit. Geoff Burton
Chicken cooked with 40 cloves of garlic This traditional Provençal recipe might seem to be a bit heavy handed with the garlic but the method of cooking produces a tender and aromatic chicken with no garlic aftertaste. It is important to have fresh and flavourful garlic, such as Sweet Water Farm’s, and the really best free range chook you can obtain, around 1.8 kilos. Sealing the cookpot and leaving it that way during the cooking period is also important.
2 chopped celery stalks
1 large free range chicken
2 chopped capsicums
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
40 cloves of unpeeled garlic
1 cup chicken stock
A sprig or two of fresh thyme
A few sage leaves
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground pepper
Enough flour and water to make ½ cup paste
Add the chicken to the pot and rotate it to ensure all sides Rub the chicken with salt and place bay leaf inside are coated in the cooking liquid. cavity. Cover the pot and seal the edges with a flour and water Heat the oil in a large heavy casserole with close fitting paste. lid. Add garlic, celery, capsicum, thyme, sage and pepper and gently sauté for a few minutes. Add wine and stock and simmer for a few minutes.
Cook in a 180 degree pre-heated oven for 90 minutes. Break the seal and serve the chicken on a platter with some juices from the pot and surrounded by the cooked garlic cloves.
Fine Food & Gundog Estate Wines Slow-roasted lamb with buttered parsnip and braised borlotti beans With two great reviews of the 2010 Marksman’s Shiraz featured in this newsletter, we thought why not celebrate by cooking a dish that marries beautifully with this wine! I recently discovered this recipe for Slow Roasted lamb in the March 2012 edition of Gourmet Traveller, and can happily confirm it is an ideal companion to the 2010 Marksman’s Shiraz...though a second bottle was required just to be sure. Enjoy! MB
Ingredients Serves 6
2 tbsp currants
1 kg parsnip, core removed, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 kg swede, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
60g butter, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 rosemary sprigs
1/4 cup rosemary, coarsely chopped
120g coarse sourdough breadcrumbs
60g parmesan, finely grated
1 garlic clove, halved horizontally BRAISED BORLOTTI BEANS 2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
120 ml pouring cream
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1.5 kg boned lamb leg
125 ml dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
500g podded borlotti beans (about 1kg unpodded)
Method Soak currants in vinegar in a bowl (30 minutes). Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add onion and garlic, stir occasionally until tender (7-8 minutes), add rosemary, stir until fragrant (1-2 minutes), set aside to cool. Add breadcrumbs, parmesan and pine nuts, stir to combine, season to taste. Preheat oven to 150C. Place lamb leg on a work surface, press stuffing over lamb, season to taste and roll to enclose stuffing. Tie with kitchen string, place in a casserole, add wine, cover and roast until tender (4-5 hours). Meanwhile, for buttered parsnip, steam parsnip and swede until tender (25-30 minutes). Stir cream, butter, rosemary and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat until warm. Strain into parsnip mixture (discard rosemary and garlic), mash to combine, season to taste and keep warm. For braised borlotti beans, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add garlic and stir occasionally until tender (3-4 minutes). Add borlotti beans and stock, season to taste and simmer until beans are tender (10-12 minutes). Add chicory, cook until tender (4-6 minutes) and season to taste. Serve hot with buttered parsnip and slow-roasted lamb.