Allow me to set the scene – it’s twilight (11pm daylight saving time) on the deck of The Vines at Red Hill – the place run by Sam Cloverdale of Polperro and Even Keel wines, our home for the next few days. The restaurant and cellar door is currently being renovated and will be open soon. Keep an eye out for it, I had a quick tour through the joint and it’s going to be spectacular.
From the deck of our accommodation, life was good. The tomahawks (those Brontosaurus ribs in the pic at the bottom of this post) are resting their heaving, bulking masses of meat-selves on the bench. The BBQ is warming up, not knowing what’s about to hit it and there’s a beer in hand.
The view is pretty. Pretty amazing. Bees are floating around the lavender that borders the edge of the lawn. Vineyards are lined up amongst grey gums. It’s absolutely stunning. And very manly.
I’m here with 4 mates; we’re ready to tuck into some meat and wines so I won’t bang on too much about how amazing this place is for there’s beer to be drunk and I’m no Thoreau.
The day began at Batch in Melbourne with a cameo from Dan Sims. The amount of bacon on his plate, red eyes and last night’s Instagram posts of monster rum pours were clues to how he was feeling.
Unlike Grandmaster Flash there was no such drama for the Furious Five – we were pumped. Like U12s anxiously waiting in the sheds ready to run onto the ground for the first game of the season.
I decided it might be best to have some fruit for breakfast. It turned out to be the last healthy thing I ate for three days. Before we set off, we were presented with our TMNT (yes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) pencil case care packages with the essentials required for such a weekend. I thought it was a thoughtful and funny gesture. I came to appreciate the contents of that over the coming days and realized this was not for fun and games. It was a matter of survival.
Stu and I were lucky to squeeze into the back seat of the NickOs express with Steve’s massive quads taking up the majority of seat space. Had they not been clean-shaven we would’ve had even more significant comfort issues.
So, I know the Mornington Peninsula is South-East of Melbourne as did our designated navigator Peter, but that’s about as close as either of us would get to familiarising ourselves with the region’s road network.
First mistake – Peter on map (cracked iPhone with dodgy reception) duties. The first fork in the road, we missed. “What a fuckin’ stupid intersection that is!” “Is that a crack or a road.” It wasn’t the last time we heard either of those comments. Stu (Siri) took over from the back seat after we passed that “fuckin’ stupid intersection, is it even an interesction what do you call that?” from each direction a few more times.
We made it to Avani and the pop-up restaurant Gertrude St. Enoteca have, popped up, for the month. Aperol upon arrival and a look around the gorgeous property was followed by a bottle of the 07 Wildcroft Chardonnay, the last vintage before Avani took over the vineyard with their Syrah.
Lunch was excellent. Peter quoted Coco Chanel with regards to Brigitte Hafner’s cooking. “Once you’ve dressed, and before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.” Her cooking is simple and precise – great produce cooked perfectly. It was nice to see her mum helping out in the kitchen too.
What a beautiful spot. We met Richard McIntyre before he took us to the top of the tower that overlooks the McIntyre vineyards. A spectacular panoramic view of the northern part of the Peninsula with views of Mt Eliza, beyond Port Phillip Bay to the You Yangs and the Dandenong Ranges in the distance.
Richard McIntyre bought the property in ’82. There was a fence running through it with a dead tree holding fort. Nothing else on it. He had a dream of making wine since he was a med student. Like most students he didn’t have much money but a taste for wine.
He was perhaps a little more committed to both wine and his studies than most, at one stage spending a couple of weeks’ wages on a bottle of Grange and eventually working in England as a surgeon.
There he discovered the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Upon returning to Australia, the urge to pursue wine became insatiable. To work as an on-call doctor and be within reach of the city and live on a vineyard left few options. The Peninsula was an obvious one and after Garry Crittenden gave him the inside word on a property too good to refuse, the seed (and vine) was planted.
Meanwhile, Richard’s daughter Kate (McIntyre, MW) was at school in Melbourne. Rather than excel at ballet like her siblings and spend weekends working on pointing her toes, she spent weekends on road trips to the ‘farm’ with dad.
Despite the fact a tennis court was built to appease her teenage desire to have some ‘fun’, Moorooduc was a long way from the parties and socialising in Melbourne. In hindsight she reflects, you spend enough time in a place and it becomes part of you. That sense of place and belonging is clear today.
Kate took off overseas after school, worked in a wine shop and for an Italian importer before studying her MW (Master of Wine). She returned to the family business eventually, realising just how special this place is.
Age and experience helps give you perspective and from having spent enough time doing her own thing it became apparent that home was back on the Peninsula with mum and dad and that vineyard they’d worked so hard to establish – the place of her youth.
She immersed herself in the business, learning as much as possible about the operations and putting that theoretical MW knowledge into practice.
“Eventually dad will slow down she says”, despite that passion and fire still burning strong in his eyes. Her intent is to ensure that his “desire to never retire” is realised. ”I need to know to make the wine but what I do best is talk to people about the wine.” And so she did. As well as introduce us to Reggie.
Reggie the peacock has made himself home at Moorooduc over the past few years despite being frequently chased by Oscar, one of the dogs mooching around. There’s a good story about how Reg got his name. I’ll let you ask Kate about that. It’s a happy, ‘Love Boat’ style ending.
(Disclaimer: all tasting notes were scribbled hastily and have not been edited)
’11 Pinot Gris – rich and textual. Spicy apple and fresh, it’s more of a lingering kiss than a dirty pash. Difficult vintage but they were happy with the whites. Chill and quaff. Far from slippery, a more lean and fresh style which will sit well on the back deck. $35.
A conversation about texture began which continued for the next three days. According to Kate, “Texture is something we don’t talk about enough in Australia. We prefer a dry style, and are looking at making wines with food in mind.” And oak? “We use it like a chef uses salt,” not as a feature but to subtly enhance the wine.
‘11 Devil Bend Creek Chardonnay – predominantly fermented in old oak, smells like the veggie crisper. Kate reckons its “A Wednesday night wine.” Hump day just got a whole lot better with a bottle of this on coffee table. 28 bucks retail. I saw green, herbal characters, Peter spoke of olive brine and tasting talk turned to dirty martinis. Kate’s no Negroni fan but by her own admission would happily smash a few dirty martinis. Now that’s a Wednesday night!
‘11 Estate Chardonnay – little bit of fruit from the Robinson vineyard, 25% new oak in the mix, the rest being a combo of 1-3 years old. Gorgeous texture and light. Plenty of power with a great finish. A lovely example of what 2011 can produce.
‘11 Single Vineyard Robinson Chardonnay – more melon and fruit forward, floral and pretty. Fresh and zippy, it’s tense and will relax nicely over the next 5 years. Put some away and watch it unwind, then pounce.
‘11 Single Vineyard ‘The Moorooduc’ McIntyre Chardonnay – a bit of fuzzy fruit here, more nectarine and peach from the 30-year-old vineyard. Opulent, a mouthfeel that leaves you speechless with extraordinary texture that demands attention. One to introduce your mum to – a keeper.
‘10 Single Vineyard ‘The Moorooduc’ McIntyre Chardonnay – it’s had enough time to settle down, more nougat. Generous, it splurges and would pick up the tab at dinner. Awesome wine. Love the intensity and balance. Befriend this wine, it’s one to keep close.
‘11 Devil Bend Pinot Noir – it’s got the lippy on. Darker cherry, raspberry, violets. Light and slurpable. Not without texture and fruit sweetness though. $28 well spent.
‘11 Estate Pinot Noir – declassified ‘duc fruit. 14% whole bunch. Good balance of texture and fruit, it’s got an orange twist with minerals. Negroni ‘esque’ perhaps Kate? $35
‘11 Robinson Pinot Noir – more savoury, twigs and dried herbs. Spicy and lacking the same finish as the Estate. Less fruit sweetness, more acid and tannin to the fore with dark fruit lurking somewhere. Like a very dark chocolate if you’re a milk chocolate kinda person.
‘09 McIntyre Vineyard Pinot Noir – year of bushfires with no smoke taint on these vineyards. Yarra Valley got smashed. Some very hot days however, they lost half of the fruit. What was left were bunches with mixed berries – ripe, overripe and cooked. They tried to sort but some of the more wrinkly ones made it through to the fermenter. A small crop, the warmth showing in a powerful wine. Silky texture, a juicy mouthfeel. A more linear wine that goes deep rather than wide. $55
‘10 Estate Pinot Noir – dark cherry and such intense fruit sweetness. It’s a massive bear hug for your mouth, a long, lingering one. Absolutely delicious wine.
‘08 The Moorooduc Pinot Noir – more lean and tannic. It’s a ‘serious’ wine and I’m not so serious. Some sharp edges that will round out with well matched dish. Small birds and sweet berries perhaps?
‘12 The Garden Vineyard Pinot Noir – flinty and green, herbal, menthol nose suggests it’s a bit mean. It’s angular and a little temperamental. Super fine tannin will see it through, give it time and see if it hasn’t mellowed after 5 years. $55
Richard did a little shiraz experiment in 2010. They did half / half – one batch 100% whole bunch, the other de-stemmed.
‘10 McIntyre Shiraz – the way we used to make shiraz. It’s a well-worn pair of trackies style of wine. Very comfortable.
’12 McIntyre Shiraz – all whole bunch. Alienating. Takes shiraz to the next level for Moorooduc. A conscious decision to up the interest and create something that’ll evolve over a longer period of time. Time will tell, I’m more of a trackies kinda shiraz drinker however.
After a few ‘tastes’ and several failed attempts to pronounce Moorooduc, Kate stepped in to help. “Just think of cow, kangaroo, and duck.” Cows -moo, roo, duc. Moorooduc. I practiced all weekend and still managed to stuff it up, every time.
Apparently it’s the local indigenous word for ‘swampy ground, place where water lies’. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Kate suggested it could also mean ‘great place to grow pinot noir’. Crittenden and her dad were right.
We eventually made it home after a few more passes of that intersection. There was smack talk all day of how tough we each were, how we were going to murder those tomahawk steaks. Until the physical reality of meat to stomach size ratio was acknowledged. A few beers threw the calculations out and it was settled that we cook three of ‘em and see how we go.
I was almost kicked off the team for suggesting we might pick up some salad greens to mix it up a bit. Fair call. So we cooked and ate, Flintstones style – with our hands. There wasn’t much cutlery at our disposal and we didn’t need it.
Wagon wheels and wine from tumblers was how the night ended. I slept like a baby. Not before wondering how I was going to keep up this drinking for the next couple of days, for we had only just begun.
Oh, and if anyone has seen Peter’s glasses, please let him know. It appears they’ve gone missing, along with any sense of direction…