Archives for October, 2009

Dining in San Francisco – Piperade

As Spanish cuisines have been such hot items in the last five years I was not surprised to locate Piperade (meaning Basque sauce) not far from the tourist Mecca on the wharves. But even more so to discover essentially Basque style food in an establishment run by a Frenchman from Biarritz. Even with memories of Paradour resort dishes such as suckling lamb and the Spanish never-ending romance with peppers, Piperade is a refreshing reminder of a special northern Spanish cuisine.

The menu has traditionalism in a Californian style – small plates (tipiak) and big plates (handiak) with a Bacalao salad small plate chosen. As the white wine of Rias Baixas, albarino is so heavily mis-introduced to Australia and is rapidly being re-named savagnin, and in the absence of a Californian I chose Vina Cartin 2008 (AUD 10.35 / glass). The wine is quite oily and a little dull (skin shows which accelerates browning/aging) but the salt cod was brilliant, served rolled out carpaccio-style with four plump but small local oysters, finished in an amazing mayo using special egg ingredients. The albarino paired well texturally by balancing the mayo consistency with its chewiness – which was relieving.

Next was lamb chop; three quite large bone-in loin pieces, defatted, served rare with lamb sausage and a moorish relish (a pun on the original inhabitants of Spain really); of course it was based on red peppers which are adorable. Wine came from Parador Cellars Tempranillo 2004, Rancho Chimiles Vineyard in Napa (AUD 65.50), 14.5%, unfiltered but not bretty, medium colour, robust but correct for the tempranillo palate, French oak but not too much, (90).

Piperade gets a tick with its Iberian accent in a part of the world which very much understands its language and aspirations in life. Score 15/20, fair value, AUD 140 px, a different Basque classic dish is served each night, ribs, shellfish soup etc; 1015 Battery Street.

Trophy Winners-Australian Smallmakers Show Stanthorpe

Best White and Best Red from the Australian Smallmakers’ Show have been announced with a Margaret River Chardonnay and a Hunter River Shiraz trumping the field of over a thousand entries.

Forester Estate Chardonnay 2007 (about $30) from Yallingup in the northern tip of Margaret River took the trophy for National Champion White while one the company’s owners and viticulturist Michael Langridge has won the Travel Award for being responsible for the Forester Estate grape growing. Part owner Ken McKay says “This wine is due for further accolades as it has won high silver in previous shows. The current release from the property is 2006 and this award shows how our wines track as 3 year release propositions. This 2007 will be released in a month.” Forester chardonnays are consistent winners in Best of the West awards in Scoop Magazine and I guess this is good reinforcement.

Wines which Forester Estate Chardonnay surpassed included 2009s from Swings and Roundabouts (Margaret River, WA) and Windrush (Mount Barker WA), 2008s from Heafod Glen (Perth Hills, WA), Seville Estate (Yarra, Vic) and Tassell Park (Margaret River, WA), and 2007s from Mount Cathedral (Central Vic) and Rockfield (Margaret River, WA). This is an interesting result given all the hype of how good the 2008 Margaret River whites are-maybe they need another year to star.

Hunter producer Briar Ridge won national Champion Red with its single vineyard Daisy Hill Shiraz 2007 ($48, 15%) so that winemaker Mark Wood collected the Travel Prize. Brian Ridge have grown shiraz in the Mount View area for over forty years since the property was established by the feisty Murray Robson, and had previous luminaries Karl Stockhausen and Neil McGuigan (encumbent International White Winemaker of the Year-International Wine Challenge UK) as past winemakers.

Most successful National Exhibitor goes to Harewood Wines (Great Southern, WA), Most successful Queensland Exhibitor goes to Robert Channon Wines (Granite Belt) and National Champion Fortified Trophy goes to Rutherglen producer Stanton and Killeen for Grand Muscat.

The Dick DeLuca Trophy for best Queensland Shiraz is awarded to Lucas Estate’s Estate Shiraz 2008 ($25) made by the all girl crew headed by Louise Samuel from Severnlea. Louise says “I was simply stunned by this award and dedicate it to my late husband Colin Sellers who passed on in June 2008, and from whom I have now taken winemaking responsibilities. Sounds like Col is having a toast up there.

More results

Devastating frosts in Northern Tablelands

Stories are coming out that the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales and Southern Queensland suffered a black frost on the morning of October 17. Loose estimates are that both table and wine grapes grown in this highland strip between the two states were affected with up to 20% crop loss. And the curious aspect of this natural disaster is parts of the regions which normally don’t frost have succumbed. Grape growing in marginal, high country areas has both the positive spin from the greater flavour delicacies but also the added liability of crop loss.

Near Armidale Savannah Estate owner Colin Peterson reports, “I have lost 20% of my sauvignon blanc. This is strange because we prune late, when the tips are shooting. Then grab another week before bud-burst trying to avoid this in the low-lying part of the vineyard growing riesling and sauvignon. My alarms are set to 3°C to set off our smoke pots and heating cables (developed in conjunction with the nearby University of New England). The alarm did not ring until 5:00 am when we were caught unawares and did not take the precautions.” It appears this was a white frost in this area.

Further north the vineyards Deetswood, Richfields, Wellington Vale and Splitters Swamp have 100% shoot loss.

Symphony Hill winemaker Mike Hayes says, “The frost completely wiped the shiraz block, cabernet was hit 50-60%. However, I feel we will make a cracker if nothing else goes wrong as the crop level could be as low as 0.5 tonne per hectare. Viognier and verdelho were also hit but not to a great extent. My holy grail pinot noir was spared. Bald Mountain was also wiped out but I feel it will recover and possibly produce outstanding grapes.”

Ridgemill have a frost line halfway through their vineyard which is low-lying. Manager Peter McGlashan says, “We have lost all our tempranillo – the oldest in the area, chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet – and will have to start again to rejuvenate vines for a second and lower crop. It is early enough in spring to grow a second time but we have no idea of the result.”

Ballandean Estate winemaker Dylan Rhymer reports, “We lost 80% on the home block here while the Jacobsen vineyard is unscathed.” Nearby the largest grower, Sirromet’s chief winemaker Adam Chapman reports two vineyards are untouched (Seven Scenes and St Judes) while Night Sky has 25% damage.”

As many of these vineyards normally miss frost, industry consensus is a black frost of immense cold air was blown by the prevailing breezes. The normal frost-free easily air-drained sites were struck due to the height of the air mass-possibly 100-200 metres.

Spare a thought for five star producer Peter Stark of Boireann: “I have to report that we have frost losses again-this was October 10, a week prior to the main one. I had sprinklers but to no avail. The first chill was -2.6°C and all went to plan. Ice formed on the shoots but no damage. Next morning the minimum was -3.5°C and the ice must have cooled. The ice on the shiraz by my winery was so heavy that some shoots fell off! That block had slight damage but other parts of my vineyard have great losses.” The following week Stark was able to secure contracts to supply his shortfall. Then the October 17 frost came along and frosted his contract vineyards.

Grape growing can be cruel.

Drinking in San Francisco: Perry’s for lunch

I am told this place is an institution so it became a must to visit. But for what I discovered was not just a venerable food joint but also the memorabilia – a mounted poster of the Beatles’ last concert for instance. In fact, the place is a hall of old posters, chronicling the notable events of San Francisco city. I sat below a piece of signed white fence paling obviously ripped away after the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium in December 28, 1958.

Going locovore I selected Dungeness crab cakes and a glass of J Vineyards and Winery Pinot Gris 2007 (AUD 12.60/50) from Russian River-pale green yet the big super-ripe style, 14.5%, the typical pear fruit gris with loads of texture and acid to match, under cork, very acceptable; . Entree was Petrale sole; oh so sweet and delicate, sautéed, heaps of tiny capers and tarragon splashed around, and diminished by a glass of Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir 2006 (AUD 11.50/50), from Carneros, big, sappy, rounded, 14.3%, losing brightness and definition compared with its pinot brothers in the next state – the Willamette Valley-honest pinot, not great,

If you go to Perry’s plan on arriving half an hour early to browse the walls. Union Street is the new chic shopping street often not discovered by tourists – clothing and furnishings mainly though quite a shop few vacancies suggested the impact of the GFC. Perry’s, celebrating 40 years of business, 1944 Union Street,; 14/20; go for lunch, AUD 37.80 px, in this very green city where the toilet towels are unbleached paper and sparingly-dispensed to reduce tree-felling. And I walked out yearning to watch a ball game, not back to ’58 and thought about who donated the paling when the place opened in 1969.

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