Viva Verdelho 2013 in the Swan Valley

World-renowned Master of Wine, Jancis Robinson once said that the Swan Valley makes the best Verdelho in the world. I completely agree!

Viva Verdelho is the annual Swan Valley celebration of the Verdelho grape variety. Originally from Portugal the Verdelho grape thrives in the warm weather of the Swan Valley. It is a realitively straight forward grape to grow however it can be prone to diease in the vineyard. It produces a full-bodied white wine which can be bone-dry or sweet, drank young or aged and typically has notes of lime and honeysuckle.

What I loved about Viva Verdelho 2013 is that you are focusing all your attention on this one grape variety. We were able to taste Verdelho’s from 15 different Swan Valley producers and it was amazing how the wine styles differed between one winery to the next.

The majority of the Verdelho’s on show were dry 2013s. However Garbin Estate, Sittella & Lancaster also had off-dry to medium sweet Verdelho’s to taste, Lamont’s had a backlog of Verdelho’s to try including a 2005, 2007, 2012 and their 2013 which was incredibly interesting to see how the wines age and Talijancich and Harris Organic had fortified Verdelho’s to taste.

While we were tasting our way through these delectable tipples, a panel of 4 critics were judging the wines. The panel consisted of; Ray Jordan wine reviewer for the Western Australian newspaper, David Prestipino wine reviewer for the Sunday Times, Paul Murray journalist and radio broadcaster, and Fleur Bainger from White Noise Media. The judges evaluated the wines by themselves and then with 3 dishes created by head chef Jamie Skinner from Stewart’s at Brookleigh.

The food was AMAZING! Literally the dishes were a work of art and every morsel on those plates melted in your mouth.  All the ingredients were carefully chosen to compliment the flavours of the Swan Valley Verdelho’s. Please click on the image to the right to see the mouth-watering menu. I can’t decide which was my favourite dish, both the tortellini and the quail were heavenly. Mr. Spittoon couldn’t stop gushing over the pork belly, he even declared it to be the best pork belly he has ever had! Big words!

During the afternoon raffles to win packs of Swan Valley wines were up for grabs and we, the consumers, were also asked to vote for our top 3 wines which would ultimately determine the ‘Peoples Choice Award’.

After the 3rd course I was well and truly in wino-foodie heaven. Thank goodness for wearing stretchy pants!! It was also great how in-between the courses we had the opportunity to get up and try more wines and speak to the winemarkers/winery representatives. Mr. Spittoon and I had some fascinating conversations – it’s safe to say we now know a a lot more about Verdelho and the Valley. So it wasn’t just an afternoon of eating and drinking, it was educational!

So who did the critics and the people deem to have the best 2013 Verdelho in the Swan Valley you ask??

The Critics Choice Award:
1st = Chester’s Restaurant & Heafod Glen Winery
2nd = Faber Vineyard
3rd = Lamont’s

The People’s Choice Award:
1st = Lamont’s
2nd = Sittella Winery
3rd = Olive Farm Wines

The day ended perfectly with cheese from the The Cheese Barrel and nougat and chocolate from Mondo Nougat as well as fortified Verdelho’s to taste and new release reds from the Valley. I have to mention that the stilton blue cheese went amazingly well with the Harris Organic Fortified Verdelho, it truly was cheesey-wino heaven! Want to see more delectable photos? Check out my Viva Verdelho Facebook album here.

A big thank-you to the Swan Valley Winemakers Association for inviting me along to this great event. Bring on Viva Verdelho 2014! For more details on other Swan Valley events please click here.

Here are a selection of Swan Valley Verdelho’s I have tasted this year, please click the links for full tasting notes:

Over 300 wines tasted in 2013 – My favourites so far…

I set out on an epic mission this year. The mission: to try and document 365 different wines during 2013. I am on the downhill slope now having over 300 tucked under my belt and less than 65 to go.

Is it challenging you ask? I would have to say, no not really. My aim is not to drink everyday but to try as many wines as I can to expand my drinking spectrum and to keep up my skills in writing tasting notes. Whether this be a glass at a restaurant, a tasting at a winery or on occasion sharing a bottle or two with Mr. Spittoon.

Everyone has different taste buds and it’s these glorious little creatures which tell us which wines we do and don’t like.  Don’t let pretentious snobs tell you that your Two Buck Chuck is rubbish, if you like it then it’s the best wine for you! Some wines can be made to perfection, but I don’t like them. It’s not a strike against my wine knowledge, it is simply me saying that yes it’s a great wine but not for me. Don’t ever be afraid to voice your opinion.

So here are a handful of my favourites this year…

  • MyattsField 2011 Methode Champenoise from the Perth Hills, Western Australia – I literally fell in love with this gorgeous sparkling wine at first sip. Having spent 6 weeks in the Penedes in Spain studying the Spanish sparkling wine of Cava and having travelled through the Champagne region in France I do have a bit of a love affair going on with bubbles. This is good and bad as I have come to be a bit fussy! However this MyattsField bubbles literally made me take a second, a third and a final gulp before I could actually believe how good it was. Made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir it is just so smooth and silky with the loveliest delicate flavours. I am going to say it – currently this is my favourite New World bubbles! Click here to read my full tasting note.
  • El Porvenir Laborum 2012 Torrontes from Salta, Argentina, AU$35 – I tried this as part of the Wine Century Club and I had honestly forgotten how great Torrontes is. I went through a Torrontes phase when living in Dubai, it just seemed to be the perfect wine for the 50 degree heat over there. It has such a lovely crisp, fresh and fruity personality that it’s just so darn refreshing. This is a summertime pleaser. Click here to read my full tasting note.
  • Talijancich Julian James Reserve Muscat 1961 Solera from the Swan Valley, Western Australia. AU$16 a glass in restaurants approximately – I’m not really into my sweeties, I struggle through them and find them sickly. However this Reserve Muscat had me nearly licking the glass to get every last drop. Mr. Spittoon and I will always treat ourselves to a glass of this to finish a meal if we go to the Rose & Crown or Stewart’s at Brookleigh. Click here to read my full tasting note.
  • Cake Wines 2013 Pinot Grigio from the Adelaide Hills, South Australia – A recommendation on Twitter, the Cake range of wines are a boutique independent wine business producing super palatable wines by up and coming young winemakers. They currently have 2 ranges: The Artist Series, a light to medium bodied approachable range of wines from the Adelaide Hills and the premium short-run release, the Young Wine Maker Series. Read my tastsing note of the Pinot Grigio here and read my Shiraz tasting note here.
  • Talijancich 2006 Reserve Verdelho from the Swan Valley, Western Australia – Verdelho is the pride and joy of the Swan Valley. The grape thrives in the area and when handled correctly it can produce fabulous wines. There are actually quite a few I really enjoy however I have to say the Tali 06 really stands out for me. It is aged, yet still fresh on the palate. It’s a wine that can quite easily be drank by itself or with food. Read my full tasting note here.

Click here to see my full 365 wines in 2013 dedicated blog page.

If you think there are any wines that I must try before the end of the year – please comment below. I am also considering doing a similar challenge in 2014 however sticking to only Western Australian wines, what do you think?

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My top 10 wine festival essentials

Sunset Wine 2014 festival Perth in Scarborough

Being a seasoned wine festival goer I have picked up on some handy tips and tricks along the way to make sure a day out at a wine festival is fantastic (and that I can still stand at the end of it!). Here’s my guide to surviving and wine festival:

  1. Water! It goes without saying really. But if you’re drinking alcohol then you MUST drink water otherwise you won’t know your mouth from your lovely white shirt which is now covered in red wine (not a good look!). All good festivals will have water stations however I do normally take a bottle with me to refill when needed.
  2. Eat! Again another relatively common-sense essential. Eat a nice big filling meal before the event and make sure you graze throughout the day as it’ll help soak up all that delicious wine nectar!
  3. Dress for comfort! Comfy shoes are a must as you will spend a lot of time on your feet. If it is an outside festival in summer make sure you have the essential sun protectors; hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Don’t bank on there being shade everywhere.
  4. Wine glass neck holder! You’ll never forget your glass again and you’ll be able to free your hands to instagram, tweet, facebook, take photos or whatever floats your boat.
  5. Utilise the “Notes” function and camera on your phone! If you like a wine, write it down! I hate those stories about trying the most amazing wine ever, and then they can’t remember what exactly that wine was!
  6. A designated driver or plan to take public transport! This is essential, drink driving is in no way cool. Actually it makes you a complete ******. Entice someone to be a sober driver, take public transport or a taxi – it’s that easy.
  7. Have a plan of attack! I always have a list of my ‘must-visits’ which I go to first and then proceed to visit the others. I also double check timings of demonstrations and seminars beforehand so I know where to be at what time.
  8. Spit! It’s not rude, trust me – nor will the exhibitors be offended if you spit or throw out some of your wine. The tastings may seem small, but they do add up much quicker than you realise. I am not saying spit everything, find a happy balance and try match all wine consumed with the amount of water you consume – or even better drink more water!
  9. Be inquisitive! If you want to learn about wine in general or about a particular exhibitors range, just ask. Wine should not be looked at as a snobby topic, it’s fun and by goodness it is truly enjoyable. I have asked many questions in my time and that’s possibly one of the reasons my wine knowledge is just growing and growing!
  10. And my all-time can’t live without’ essential – a pull along bag or someone with strong arms. This is where I have the lovely Mr. Spittoon – without him I wouldn’t nearly be able to spoil myself (and him!) with so many goodies to take home.

Hopefully the above list will be a good start in preparing you for an amazing day of drinking and eating (uhhh.. it’s the good life!). If you are keen to follow my wine festival experience make sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest updates. Cheers everyone! If you live in Western Australia, there are plenty of fab wine festivals to attend, here’s a taste:

Asparagus Master Class at Edgecombe Brothers Winery

Edgecombe Bros Asparagus Masterclass - with cheeseThree hours devoted to asparagus? It may sound a little weird or a little crazy but it can be done and it’s actually very enjoyable or should I say it’s a big green thumbs up!

I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in an Asparagus Master Class last Friday by the lovely folk at Edgecombe Brothers Winery who are known for their tasty green spears throughout the area. My parents, lovers of gardening and eating came along as well as Mr. Spittoon. Their tickets were $48.50 each.

The adventure began at Edgecombe Brothers winery in Henley Brook in the Swan Valley around 10:30am for a 11am start. We were instructed to wear decent footwear however a couple of the men in our group did only have jandals/thongs on and they were fine. Thankfully it wasn’t raining or muddy!

We started out with coffee/tea and freshly made ANZAC biscuits which went down a treat. We then sat around a big table with our group of 8 for the presentation. We were introduced to Alf Edgecombe our fearless asparagus leader who we would spend the following 3 hours (11am-2pm) with. Alf is extremely knowledgeable not only on the cultivation of asparagus but on the area and the history of the Swan Valley.

After finishing our coffees and chatting, Alf then took us over to one of the asparagus fields on the property. We were armed with big yellow buckets and Ikea knives, ready to muck in and collect some asparagus.

After a short demonstration by Alf, we were let loose on the asparagus and before we knew it we had filled up most of the buckets and had worked up a bit of an appetite. The brave out of the group munched on a few spears of fresh asparagus which I must say were delightful – they tasted rather like peas in a pod!

We then made our way back to the winery to sit under the beautiful purple and white wisteria to enjoy a wine tasting of 3 white wines with freshly baked bread, olives, cheese, dukkah, olive oil, balsamic and some ultra delicious tapenade. Yes I have to admit the wine and food tasting was more my thing!

After snacking and getting into full relaxation mode we then proceeded to learn how to prepare and cook asparagus to perfection. I’m not much of a Masterchef but Alf made it so easy and delicious that I’ve been living off asparagus for the last 2 nights!

As we enjoyed our freshly cooked asparagus topped with Parmesan we enjoyed another wine tasting of 3 red wines. The table went silent. You know the food and wine are good when all you can hear is everyone munching and slurping.

Once we were finished we were then brought more wine (3 fortifieds), coffee and chocolate covered figs! Here I was preparing for a light lunch and I think I spent most of the time eating. I’m not complaining though!!

Overall our group of 4 had a great time. It was nice to do something different for a change and I definitely have taken new knowledge away with me. At the end of the class we were given a 250 gram pack of asparagus each and a bunch of recipes to take home and put our new skills to use.

At just under $50 for a midweek class and just under $60 for a weekend class I think you’re getting bang for your buck. A great class for foodies, winos, green thumbs and anyone up for a delicious taste of craziness!

For more information on the Asparagus Master Class click here and for more details on Edgecombe Brothers Winery click here.

Harris Organic Wines in the Swan Valley

Harris Organic Wines in the Swan ValleyTo be honest I have never been a fan of organic wine. There is no particular reason for this, I just simply haven’t found many that I like.

As part of my ‘research’ for my post Why does white wine affect me more than red wine? I decided to make a trip to the small family owned Harris Organic Wines winery in the Swan Valley.

Duncan, the owner and winemaker was actually out the back disgorging (removing the dead yeast cells called lees) sparkling Shiraz when I arrived and he invited me out the back to see this process first hand.

Duncan from Harris Organic Wines in the Swan ValleyI thought this was great and I definitely wasn’t expecting this added bonus to my visit. The last time I saw this was at the Cava producer – Rimarts when I spent time in the Penedés in 2011.

Everything at Harris Organic Wines is done by hand, including the disgorging. Duncan was dressed in a long plastic blue apron and was literally covered in red wine from head to toe. The wine surgeon!

Hand disgorging will leave no yeast in the bottle however it is a very time consuming method. Machine disgorging involves the bottle necks being frozen by machines to remove the lees sitting at the top of the bottle after settling there over the previous months. Machine disgorging can cause a tiny amount of dead yeast cells and ice in the final product, which is why hand disgorging is the preferred method.

Harris Organic Wines Chardonay from the Swan ValleyNext minute there was a loud pop and Duncan had removed the crown cap from the bottle, shot out the dead yeast and was topping up the bottle with a little bit of extra wine and capping it again. The process was complete in a mere 30 seconds. I thankfully got a couple of photos in – next time I will be sure to video it for you all!

What an awesome way to start my tasting, it’s not everyday you get to be part of the action. I then popped back into the cellar door to taste through the range with some other visitors. We tasted about 6 wines (Verdelho, Chardonnay, a couple of Shiraz’s, Tokay, Liqueur Shiraz) while Duncan chatted away happily about his wines and the area.

Harris Organic Wines Swan Valley, Duncan disgorging wineHarris Organic use no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilisers in the vineyard which makes them a green vineyard. Simply put, “organic wine is better for you and the environment” stated Duncan.

My verdict? I’ve found not one but a handful of organic wines that I like! Enough to buy a few bottles of the:

And my other purchase was a bottle of their organic vodka for $59. This is not any old vodka this is the only Australian certified organic vodka and guess what, it’s made of grapes!!

Harris Organic Vodka - Australia's only organic vodkaI’ve drank my fair share of cranberry and vodkas however I am no connoisseur when it comes to vodka. This one was crystal clear on the eye, which is a good thing. It actually has a rather pleasant aroma on it like grape hubba bubba with a warming alcohol kick. On the palate, well it definitely warms the throat however it has a very clean and silky mouth feel with notes of anise and I do believe it had a grapey flavour. I’m not one to sip my vodka straight but this one is not bad. Would I buy it again? For sure.

There is also an organic brandy and eau de vie (grappa) available to buy alongside some organic cleanskin wines and herbal tea at the cellar door.

Plus I got 18 freshly laid eggs for $6. I was one happy chappy that’s for sure! All up I found the Harris Organic wines absolutely lovely to drink, visiting the winery is a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to going back again to try their sparklings next time. It is also great to see they have a loyalty card – 1 free bottle for every 12 bought.

For more information please visit the Harris Organic Wines website, or join them on Facebook or Twitter. Or check out more photos in my Facebook album here.

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Harris Organic Wines Swan Valley vineyard