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Smashable Stuff in SA!

Since returning home to Australia it has been nice to remove my sommelier hat for the first time in a decade and really just be a true consumer for a moment. Drinking wine without thinking about which restaurant it would go well in, what the consumer perception of it would be and at what price point it would be listed. Ive always believed that the golden rule of being a good sommelier is to never write a list with only wine you like to drink on it, you certainly don’t list wines you dislike, but you have to curb your own personal preference to a certain extent and look at wine with an unbiased eye, appreciate it for exactly what it is and understand that every consumer is different, whilst staying true to your own personal philosophies and knowing that there needs to be something on your list for everyone. I have always said that if I was going to write a wine list just for me it would be full of just Riesling and Pinot and that would be it, one day I secretly hope I get the opportunity to write that list…
After 10 years overseas, one of the most exciting things about being back in Australia is getting to try the wines of the producers that have emerged during this time, many of them producing such small quantities that they are not available outside the state they are made in let alone overseas.

Tom : Shobrook Wines

Tom : Shobrook Wines

I recently spent the weekend in South Australia, where there are some seriously exciting wines being produced. From Shobrook’s Tommy Ruff, a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre from the Barossa that wine maker Tom suggests is the perfect thing to drink whilst riding your bike home. To James Erskine of Jauma’s various incarnations of Grenache from McLaren Vale and a Chenin that I could deadest drink for the rest of my days and not complain.

Photo Credit: Julian Kingma

James : Jauma Photo Credit: Julian Kingma

Yes, these wines can be classified as natural and receive all of the adoration and or wrath that ensues, but for me, when considering the final product and what is in the glass first and foremost, before how it is made, these are wines I simply just want to drink. Guzzle in fact. They make me thirsty just thinking about them, and they are kind of wines I can’t wait to show and share with my friends. If that is not the purpose of good wine then I don’t know what is.

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Gareth – Gentle Folk

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From the Basket Ranges enclave I am also loving the wines of Gentle Folk, who whilst at dinner I found myself reaching for time and time again. At less than a 1000 cases in total production, good luck getting your hands on some…its first in best dressed at there. The one producer of this special collection of humans that I did encounter towards the end of my time in Asia, were the wines of Lucy Margaux in Tokyo, where Anton the wine maker is seen as a demi-god to the natural wine drinking community with bottles of his wine selling faster than tickets to an ACDC concert in Adelaide. With their anime inspired labels, drawn by Anton’s daughter Lucy, their Japanese importer – Wine Diamonds – says they could sell 10 times the small allocation they receive, as I am sure could most sommeliers in Australia.

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Anton : Lucy Margaux

 

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Speaking of wines idolized in Japan, just down the road from Lucy Margaux we also visited Ochota Barrels who make my favourite Gewurztraminer in the country and seriously good Pinot Noir amongst many other delicious treats.

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Tarras : Ochota Barrels

 

Wine maker Tarras is such a legend that when the Rolling Stones came to town there was only one place they wanted to go after their ‘gig’, his place! Mick Jagger playing the piano in the winery…is next level. And that’s exactly what the wines being made from this awesome group of individuals are – next level.

I want to drink them all day, everyday and that’s that.

Cheers!

Kx

To buy these wines online (if you there is any left) head to their various websites:

http://www.shobbrookwines.com.au/

http://www.jauma.com/

https://gentlefolk.com.au/

http://www.lucymargauxvineyards.com/

http://ochotabarrels.com/

Tsukiji

On the final day of my last visit to Tokyo I had the amazing opportunity to visit Tokyo’s famed fish market – Tsukiji. The world’s largest and busiest fish market it has long been a popular destination for tourists, however recently it has been closed to the public and hence even though I had been in Japan for 6 weeks, I hadn’t managed to find a way to visit. That is of course until I met 3 Michelin star chef Ishikawa-san. After an amazing meal at his restaurant by the same name, where of course phenomenal seafood was served, our conversation led to Tsukiji, I mentioned that I hadn’t had a chance to visit and with only a few days left in town, it was an experience that would have to wait till my next visit. Totally unsatisfied with my ‘ill see it next time attitude’, Ishikawa-san offered to personally take me. How could I refuse?

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Two days later I found myself standing on the corner of the outer market (jōgai-shijō) ready to head into the inner market (jōnai-shijō) and see what all this fish hype was about. Within moments of walking inside and almost being hit by a 300kg frozen tuna on fork lift being driven by a Japanese Schumacher, I understood immediately why they attempted to limit the number of tourists allowed inside. This is serious business. More than 700,000 metric tones of seafood pass through Tsukiji, with a total value in excess of 600 billion yen (approximately 5.9 billion US dollars). Ishikawa-san tells me that he rarely visits the market himself, as prefers to leave it to the professionals. Surely, I thought, as one of only twelve 3 Michelin Starred chefs in Japan, he would be regarded as a pro, but in Japan of course there is someone who specializes in everything at every level and at Tsukiji this would be the realm of the wholesalers and distributors.

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The market opens most mornings (except Sundays and holidays) at 3:00 a.m. with the arrival of the produce by ship, truck and plane from all over the world. The auction houses (wholesalers known in Japanese as oroshi gyōsha) then estimate the value and prepare the incoming individual items for the auctions. The buyers (whom must be licensed to participate in the auctions) also inspect the fish to estimate what they would like to bid for and at which price.

The auctions start around 5:20 a.m. Bidding can only be done by licensed participants. These bidders include intermediate wholesalers (nakaoroshi gyōsha) who operate stalls in the marketplace and other licensed buyers who are agents for restaurants, food processing companies, and large retailers.

The auctions usually end around 7:00 a.m. Afterward, the purchased fish is either loaded onto trucks to be shipped to the next destination or on small carts and moved to the many shops inside the market. We arrived at about this time and let me tell you, the energy inside was frenetic. We walked the aisles of the market – which was a maze of styrofoam boxes each brimming with every kind of seafood imaginable – you name it, if it had gills, fins or scales and could live underwater it was there in abundance. It was mid-December, so being winter the items in abundance were Yellowfin Tuna, which is more fatty and particularily good in over the colder months, snow crab, scallops but more interestingly monkfish liver known as ‘Ankimo’ and sperm ‘Shirako’ of puffer fish ‘Fugu’ and Cod ‘Tara’ both regarded as delicacies in Japan – I’ll leave you to make your own mind up on the last two ingredients!

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The activity declines significantly around 8am and the shops start to close at 11am. It’s been said that no visit to Tsukiji is complete without a sushi breakfast and hence it was time to eat some of this delicious seafood we had been gawking at all morning There are plenty of sushi counters, but to find the best ones, you need to wind your way to the restaurant area near the wholesale fruit and vegetable market, just inside the main gate off Shin-Ohashi Street. Look for the lines, this will immediately tell you what sushi is worth waiting for. I have to say the memory of eating sushi and sashimi whilst drinking sake and beer for breakfast with Ishikawa-san, two of his restaurant team and one of my good friends is one that I wont forget soon. The owner of the restaurant we went to was an elderly woman reminiscent of the soup-nazi from Seinfeld, but I guess when you are serving fish that fresh and good, there’s no need to be nice.

Our final stop before I had to head back to the hotel to pack my bags was right on the outer edge of the market for a bowl of steaming hot udon noodles with the most delicious tempura I had ever had, the perfect end to our winter morning at Tsukiji.

Oishii!

Oishii!

I later learnt it was lucky that Ishikawa–san did insist I visit on this trip, as there are plans to relocate the market to Toyosu in 2015. Apparently a retail market, roughly a quarter of the current operation will still be maintained ay Tsukiji, however the remaining area of the market will be redeveloped as it currently occupies some of the most valuable real estate in central Tokyo. The market has already survived one move, 1923, post The Great Kantö earthquake when it was relocated from its original Nihonbashi location to the Tsukiji district, I am positive it will endure the next and I look forward to visiting again.

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Arigato Ishikawa-san and your awesome team, for gifting me with one of my most amazing Japanese experiences.

Kanpai!

Kx

To book a table at Ishikawa in Tokyo go to www.kagurazaka-ishikawa.co.jp

Worth Celebrating!

In October last year, I was very fortunate to attend the events Rippon winery had planned to celebrate ‘100 years on the land and 30 years of wine growing’ in Wanaka, Central Otago. The long history of this momentous anniversary can be summarized by knowing that in 1912 Sir Percy Sargood purchased a vast tract of land that encompassed much of the Wanaka township as it is today and in 1982 Percy’s grandson Rolfe Mills realized his dream of wine growing on the family land and planted the first commercial vines at Rippon with his wife Lois. Rolfe had returned from the war and recognized similarities in the soil of the 5 vineyards still planted today and the schist of the Douro. Currently there are just under 2000 hectares of vines planted throughout Central Otago and the region is known globally for producing some of the world’s best Pinot Noir.

100 years on the land, 30 years of wine growing.

100 years on the land, 30 years of wine growing.

“We started celebrating back in 2012, the centenary of Percy’s purchase of the land,” explains Nick Mills, Rippon’s winemaker and Percy’s great grandson, “but we have been waiting until the release of the 2012 Pinot Noirs to get the party really started. It’s only fitting that we should toast these achievements with the wines from that landmark year.”

This is where the journey of my magical experience begins. The tasting was held at Rippon Hall where I sat just behind Lois (Lolo) who precedes Rolfe, with him having sadly passed away in 2000. Just the thought of being in the same room as one of the people who pioneered a wine region that is so highly regarded today blows my mind. It’s the equivalent to meeting the people who first planted vines in Tuscany and Burgundy centuries ago. Its one of the reasons I love visiting New Zealand, that as a sommelier today you can still meet the founders of the whole country’s wine industry – the people that decided we should plant vines on this very land and that within 30 years they have been able to establish themselves as a wine making nation and some of the most well-known producers on the planet, just meeting them makes you feel as though you are a part of history.

A religious experience in progress.

A religious experience in progress.

The historic significance of attending a tasting that stretches back to the first vintage of a winery that is the same age as me was almost overwhelming. I have known the wines of Rippon for over a decade and have been friends with the Mills family for the last 5 years, the emotions are hard to describe, but in my tasting notes I wrote ‘Its like becoming great friends with someone when they are 30 and being given the opportunity to travel back in time with them through all of their significant life events or achievements. I feel viscerally connected to them and understand exactly why the wines being produced today are the way they are – all the pieces fit together.’ I have to applaud the Mills family in bearing all, every vintage from 1989 to 2012, except 1996 and 2002, because there simply wasn’t any in the cellar, were shown. Those in great, good and average condition were poured, which only further developed my connection to the wines. Just like a person’s history, not every year can be stellar, and we saw the wines go through their tumultuous adolescent phase and come out the other side as grown men – complex, layered and cohesive. I cant imagine how rewarding the tasting must have been for Lois, the matriarch of Rippon, having the opportunity to see the last 30 years of her life in the glasses in front of her. Similarily for several of the wine makers in the room, 4 out of the 7 wine makers who have made Rippon over the last 3 decades were there. All of whom today make some of Central Otago’s other great Pinot Noirs – Blair Walter from Felton Road, Rudi Bauer from Quartz Reef, Dean Shaw from Two Paddocks and Russell Lake a consultant to several Otago wineries, who along with Lolo told us about the vintages they contributed to, their connection to the winery and how their time at Rippon framed the wines they make today. Perhaps the most emotional sentiment came from Duncan Forsyth of Mt Edward, usually the joker, it made his words so much poignant as he whole-heartedly spoke about how pivotal Rippon is to all the producers of Central Otago and how hopes that one day, he too will be able to sit surrounded by friends and family at an equally momentous tasting of his own. Each one of them were in agreeance however, that under Nick’s careful watch from 2003 the wines are more cohesive than ever with an unmistakable mineral energy.

Lois and the boys!

Lois and the boys!

Nick Mills, the current caretaker of the family’s legacy spoke of his time in Burgundy and how it draws you into the ground with its earth bound energy and how the introduction of biodynamics to the Wanaka vineyards helped them to focus down and achieve this at Rippon.

As we sat in the sun drenched Rippon Hall, looking out over what is arguably the world’s most beautiful vineyard, there was something very special about the light in the room, the wines glistened in their glasses and I have no doubt that Rolfe was there in spirit, very proud of what he and his family had achieved and all that they plan to do in the future.

Here’s to the next 30 years of wine making Rippon, the thought of being at the 60th anniversary tasting makes me giddy with excitement.

Cheers!

Kx

What a line up!

What a line up!

To learn more about Rippon and their amazing wines visit their website www.rippon.co.nz

To find out where you can buy Rippon wines near you, drop me an email and ill point you in the right direction kavita@voyageurselections.com.

Photos by Mickey http://www.micimage.com/