I woke feeling pretty (relatively) fresh to the sound of bacon and eggs sizzling, NickOs working his magic on the pans. After a well decent bacon and egg sarnie, we hit the road.
Fortunately, we’d found a sweet little deli at Red Hill and a cafe nearby to keep us going throughout the weekend. The kitty didn’t last long, but it was worth it. This morning it was coffees.
I’d heard a lot about David Lloyd, his reputation as one of the good guys preceded him. He was mowing between rows of vines as we rolled into the carpark and spilled out of the car. He turned the tractor back towards to the cellar door where we were greeted with a firm handshake and a very sharp wit.
I won’t go into detail about the vineyard and how it’s managed which feels somewhat disrespectful considering David spent a good hour doing just that. Suffice to say, he knows this vineyard intimately and my mind was blown by just how much goes into making a great wine well before it even makes it to the winery. If ever there was a grape whisperer…
David Lloyd of Eldridge Estate
“Have I covered enough background about the vineyard guys?” He was only warming up. A generous man and a great story teller.
“Right then, I’ll show you the winery, then we should taste some shit.”
He pulls no punches and by his own admission, “Is not the world’s greatest sales person, cause I don’t tend to bullshit. I call a spade a shovel.” And calls his own sauvignon blanc, cat’s piss. “I have a problem, I’m so uncool it’s daggy.”
I was surpsied to see just how small the winery is. His persnality and reputation for quality had me assuming it was a far bigger operation. ’From little things big things grow’ was sung and not for the last time this weekend. Only 20 cases of some pinots and one of the chardonnays are produced, 25 of the sparkling and around 100 cases of the rest.
The ‘Bat Cave’ was where we ended up after a quick look at the processing equipment. This is where the barrels are stored as well as some of his own museum stock and a wall of “benchmark wines and some burgundy shit.”
Wide-eyed with wonder we wove our way back through the garden to the cellar door to taste some shit.
The Bat Cave
’05 Chardonnay – gorgeous peach, oh so pretty. It’s his wife Wendy’s favourite. Easy to see why. So linear and powerful and will continue to evolve, a cellar dweller. Amazing wine and a pleasure to drink. Thank you wine gods and grape whisperer, you did good.
’08 Chardonnay – similar year to ’05, rounder, fuller. A little more meat on the bone, but don’t be fooled, its layered. Meat, bone, then marrow – get sucking.
’11 Chardonnay - “It’s definitely what you’d call a cool season” is one of way to describe the 2011 vintage. Certainly a lighter wine, lacking in the intensity of the ’08 and ’05 but not without a little razzle dazzle to keep you on your toes.
’11 Chardonnay Clone 96 (20 cases) – a woody, nutty character. It feels warm, like a well fitting cardigan. A fuller, rounder wine. Savoury. Not pretty but neither is a cardigan. It just feels good.
The Man, The Wines
’03 Pinot Noir – wow, still so much structure and acid. It’s dry and screaming for little birds – “little birds and sticky sauce” was Peter’s go-to food match for much of the pinot we tasted. He knows his stuff.
’08 Pinot Noir – more raspberry fruit character. It’s so light, nimble and fresh. A really pure and delicate wine. Amazing. A tap dancer, who whistles a sweet melody with a twinkle in his eye.
’10 Pinot Noir – beefed up aromas, a step up in savoury intensity. This is deep in the pocket – singing, baritone. More muscular than 08. Will go well over next 5 years. Not in my house though, this one was aded to the hand luggage stash and will be lucky to even make it to the plane back to Vegas. It belongs in belly, not bottle.
’11 Pinot Noir – spicy, savoury, drying, chalky. Drink younger. Like now.
’12 Gamay – juicy, intene, tannic and dry. “Why Gamay?” I asked. ”We like gamay, let’s plant that,” David responded. Why not?
’13 PTG – soft, fresh, juicy, light and so smashable. The ideal ‘session wine’ and an ideal introduction into red wine – I challenge anyone who’s not a red wine drinker to not enjoy a glass of this. I’ll drink the rest. Win / win.
We didn’t get a chance to taste any of the ’13 vintage but David reckons, “It’ll be one of the best pinots i’ve made, if I don’t stuff it up before bottling.” If his track record is anything to go by, they’ll be spectacular.
David’s wife Wendy is unwell. He spent a couple of hours showing us through his property and wines with such a positive, honest outlook laced with a wicked sense of self-deprecating humour. It was a highlight of my weekend. Grateful.
Givin' it some!
None of us had been here before despite it being highly recommended. It’s run by brothers Michael and Tony Lee – winemakers and restauranteurs who upped-stumps from the restaurant game in Melbourne to move to the Peninsula. There was a huge team of staff running around when we arrived at 11am, I didn’t understand why as we were the only ones there. Later, it was clear that these guys are onto something special, the place was heaving and the well-drilled staff were all over it.
We began with a demonstration of how sparkling wine is made. From the racking, disgorgement then adding of various amounts of sugar to labelling the final product. We tasted a few examples – dry, 5g, 10g, 15g. It was a great experience and being a kinaesthetic learner, I got more out of this experience than I ever did reading about the process.
The finished product we made had 8% of pinot noir added to it. The corking machine did its thing before a label and sleeve was applied. We watched a sparkling rosé being made, blended and labelled before our eyes. It’s a great experience and something they do every day they’re open, at 11am. You might want to check and see if bookings are required. I highly reccomend it.
Michael finished the process with a handwritten note to Peter’s wife, to whom the wine was to be presented. A nice touch.
How to make a sparkling rosé, and a wife happy
The question I had about the name Foxeys Hangout was answered as we descended the stairs from the winery to the restaurant. There was an old picture of a tree, a metal hoop around it and dead foxes hanging from it.
The following is taken from the Foxeys Hangout website:
In the 1930s, two fox trappers used the tree as their scorecard, hanging the corpses of their day’s shooting from opposite branches. In 1946 one of the trappers, Old Jack, was found murdered at his home near Foxeys Hangout. Locals continued the practice of hanging fox corpses for decades but eventually it petered out. From the early 1990s wooden effigies of foxes hung from the tree, reminding passersby of its grisly past.
In 2011 the tree, long dead, was moved to the side of the road. A healthy new sapling now grows in its place.
What did the fox say? Fuck this! I reckon. Apparently as the school bus drove past the boys would hang out the window and try to grab one. Boys.
I reckon the original Foxeys Hangout was “that stupid fucking intersection” we kept circling. Some haunted vixen vortex voodoo shit going on there for sure. For the record, it’s Balnarring Rd at the Junction of Tubbarubba Road. Yep, Tubbarubba. You can imagine the mileage we got out of that one over the weekend. Boys.
Graciously, Tony took us onto the deck to taste through the wines. Normally you’d do this at the counter but things were starting to pick up. It wasn’t long before he was called away to man the pans. Not before he decanted a bottle of their award winning shiraz – the best Victorian red wine in the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. The decanter was pretty cool, the wine a belter.
We tasted some of the ’13 Pinot Gris and decide its ‘giggle juice’ qualities were just what we were looking for over a few share plates for lunch. The estate vineyards have been biodynamic since 2007, it’s clear Michael and Tony have an affinity with their produce – both food and wine.
’12 Chardonnay – blend of two vineyards. Soft and delicate, a nice balance. Subtle acidity makes for a nice easy drinking lunch wine. Full solids, straight into barrel = texture.
’12 Shiraz – red and black fruits with a white pepper finish. There’s a lot going – on a cacophony of spices says Peter, like hanging at the Souk in Morrocco suggested Stu.
For those of you following along at home on Instagram you’ll remember I got a little carried away with the gratuitous food shots from lunch. For those of you who weren’t, here they are again. This place is only open on weekends for lunch, get there if you can.
All the food. Minus one Marchant had nicked
Dem meatballs. Amazing.
It was quite the contrast arriving at Main Ridge from Foxeys. This place is reminiscent of your Grandparents’ house – a garden well tended, the radio tuned to a easy listening jazz station, clippings of newspapers framed and pictures of the grandkids taking pride of place behind the tasting bench. It was cozy.
Nat and Rosalie White have been here since ’75. Pioneers. Nat told a good story about how they travelled to France in the ’60s and discovered Burgundy. He thought the climate on the Peninsula was pretty similar. He “Did a rough comparison, it looked near enough and we had a go.” And so began the legend of Main Ridge and the marriage of Mornington and Burgundy.
We saddled up at the tasting bench. I must admit I was a little hesitant and didn’t really know what to expect. This was a man who’s been making benchmark Mornington Peninsula wines since ever. Quiet and softly spoken, he warmed up and the stories started to flow a little more comfortably when he realised we understood and appreciated the significance and provenance of these wines.
Quality is foremost, no compromise. They dumped all of the pinot from 2011, I can’t say for sure whether this had happened before but I do remember Nat saying this was the only time he’s done this in 30 years. A big call and testament to their commitment to maintaining integrity that has been so important in maintaining brand integrity. It breaks my heart to think of so much pinot flowing out into Port Phillip bay, but that’s where it belonged according to Nat. I wouldn’t have minded tasting a barrel or two just to be sure.
The Main Man at Main Ridge
1’1 Chardonnay – a very softly spoken wine, much like its maker. Fresh and clean. It’s very pretty, very pretty. Swoon. Glad this one didn’t go down the sink.
’09 Chardonnay – now that’s my kinda chardonnay. It’s lemon butter, nougat and cashew. Aroma-rama. Amazing texture, so soft and pretty. Creamy but not fat. It’s like the inside of a woman’s thigh, or that flesh that comes from a fish’s cheek – sweet, soft and precious.
’12 Pinot – only been bottled a few months, from the acre block. That’s a manly kinda wine, it made me sit up straight, shoulders back. Savoury raspberries, not pretty but beautiful and a little rough still. Johnny Depp style. Without too much eyeliner, keep the tatts.
’12 Pinot – from the half acre block. Unlike everyone else I found this to be a softer, wine. Smooth as a you like. Subtle. Johnny Depp in his 21 Jump St. days. You know it’ll age well, will go long and everyone lives happily ever after.
Nat asked if we’d like to go down into the cellar. Umm, yes! It’s like we earned our ‘wine tasting’ scout badge and were given a visitor’s pass into the barrel hall of fame. We tasted the 2013 pinot meunier and both the acre and half acre block pinots.
I had a moment. That’s all I’m going to say here. It was special, and If I could go back in time I’d father as many children as I could last year to justify buying all of them a dozen bottles of this, for me to drink every year until they were 12 just to be able to tell them how good it was. Unbelievable. One of those epiphanies you hear wine people talk about. 2013 Acre Pinot Noir – I’ll chalk that one up as one of mine. I’m saving all my monies for this.
We each walked back to the car in silent reverence for what we had just experienced. We knew it was special. Again, we were all so grateful.
Kath Quealy was another winemaker whose reputation preceded her. Peter spoke of her quirky nature. I remember a visit to the Peninsula back in ’98 and visiting T’Gallant – the winery she launched with her husband Kevin McCarthy who’s still there. Together they were a driving force behind gris and grigio being planted on the Peninsula.
Quealy Cellar Door
We went for a wander around the winery and were shown some recent additions (the roof) and not so recent additions (the row boat that should seem out of place, but isn’t – its a family heirloom). Afer spending some time with Kath, nothing seemed out of place regardless of how eccentric it may have appeared. From dogs shagging during our vineyard interview, the names of her wines (see below) to the varieties she works with, it’s like heading down the rabbit hole with Alice. Expect the unexpected and expect it to be fabulous.
’11 Pobblebonk - amazing aromas, smells sweeter than it its, great acid crispness. Amazing musk and so lively. Zippy, tangy. 300 cases. Friulano, pinot grigio , riesling, chardonnay an moscato giallo. Pobblebonk is the sound frogs make – if you hear pobblebonking amongst the reeds you have a healthy vineyard. We got great mileage out of that name too. Boys.
’13 Turble Friulano – made in barrell, 7 days skin contact, needs oak. First year ’12 was a small expriemental batch. This one harder to manage on a larger scale, the cap and ferment wants to heat up and go (winemaker talk for those who’re into ferments). Amazing texture, bread and lees. Really toasty, warm croutons in your pumpkin soup. With a swirl of sour cream. Tasty.
’13 Pinot Grigio / Friulano – musk,strawberries n cream. Honeyed texture. Back deck belter. This one’s coming home with me.
’13 Tuzzie Muzzie Pinot Gris – a lot more sweetness on the front palate, it’s a palate coater. Heavy going but balanced. Honeyed texture, pink fruits. Did someone mention texture? It’s a lush.
I asked Kath why no chardonnay? ”Chardonnay is fantatic but not as distintive as pinot gris.” I learned a lot about pinot gris and grigio from this visit. I like it.
Together with wines of Friuli, Kath and Kevin are champions of muscat.
’13 Late Harvest Muscat Blanc - so fresh, it’s sherbet. Sweet and clean, cleansing. Like those sherbet lollies we used to get as kids from the Rutherfords service station in Roleystone. Back in the day when a petrol station was a service station. Anyway, sherbet.
’13 Muscat Rose ‘East’ – again a super slurpy wine. Serve over icecream. Super chilled. And be happy.
’12 Seventeen Rows Pinot - this is more anglular and lean. Aromatic, not as pretty as the Must Creek, a bit of a monster. Brawn n balls. Might be more bark than bite but I’m not hanging around to find out. Not when there are more friendly dogs out in the vineyard.
Kath had to bail and left us in the capable hands of Danny, who’s been working with Kath for long enough to not bat an eyelid as she ran up the driveway, towel in hand. She was going for a swim.
Kath is not afraid to experiment with wines and styles and the Peninsula is all the better for it. I can’t imagine her standing still. “As soon as I hit my 60s I’m hitting the piss.” She says. ” But I’m not doing that at the moment cause I’ve got too much work to do.”
We spotted a Koala on the driveway of Quealy, another box ticked.
There was one more stop before we headed home to put our ‘big boy pants’ on for a night out. We’d arranged to head back to Avani for a taste of Shashi Singh’s syrah (try saying that after a bottle of Pobblebonk). I’d enjoyed chatting to her over lunch yesterday and resonated with her philosophy. It’s clear, having tasted the wine that her philosophy is woven throughout the vineyard, her wine and her lifestyle.
Our shoes were washed to avoid any potential spread of phylloxera. Shashi likened this to an Indian tradition of washing feet before entering a home. It gave our visit to her winery under the house that much more meaning, a little ceremony.
Like a pedicure. With your shoes on.
The first syrah to come off the Estate vineyard is the 2012 and it was stunning. We were fortunate enough to taste through some earlier vintages too.
I began taking notes for these wines but it felt better to simply enjoy them. Typing away on an iPad in Shashi’s company as she explained her affinity with these wines and the vineyard seemed out of place. These are wines to experience and I can assure you the syrah is quite special indeed.
We were all a little amped at the prospect of dining at 10x Tractor and everyone had bought their ‘going out clothes’ with them. Pity the iron was MIA. Crinkled shirts and party pants on, we were ready. Or so we thought….
To be continued…