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Victory Hotel Dinner 28th April 2012

This post is a reply to a summary of the blog post by Shane Barker on

McLaren Vale Wine Functions – Unearthing Grandfathers (DeadReds) Wine Dinner

held at the Victory Hotel, Aldinga, South Australia on Saturday 28th April, 2012.

Victory1

Ready set eat

Thirty members of the Dead Reds Wine Group, convened by Charlie Robinson, descended on the venue via a hired bus driven by the long-suffering Ron Corso. We were treated to a fantastic mini-degustation menu of

Starters: Chicken, Lime Leaf & Coriander Spring Rolls with Chili Sambal &

Myponga Beach salt & pepper Squid with Lemon Aioli accompanied by an Eden Valley Riesling from Karra Yerta 2008 (NOT local);

Entree: Springdale Farm Rabbit Pie with sauteed Brussels Sprouts, speck & jus

Mains: Scotch Fillet Steak on a Potato & Thyme Galette or;

Pork Rib, Accompanied by a Kay Brothers Dry Red Mataro [lately Mourverdre] and a Rudderless Grenache (made from grapes grown around the Victory Hotel) or;

Coopers Beer-Battered Kangaroo Island King George Whiting & chips.

followed by a cheese course: Mature Cheddar with home made lavosh, muscatels, quince paste & apple slices. Accompanied by a 2010 Vintage Shiraz from Graham Stevens Wines.

All courses were accompanied by interesting and appropriate wines, presented by Shane Barker, with a short wine options game between main and cheese courses. Everyone concluded they would gladly do the whole thing again in a month or two’s time.

Shane holds forth

Shane holds forth

I really enjoyed the whole affair and would love to do it again! However, there was one big surprise [to me a little disappointment]; I thought we were going to be TASTING some McLaren Vale grandfathers, ie. old wines. The much more recent offerings presented were pleasant enough, but to me not exactly characteristic of the traditional McLaren Vale we know & love. I guess it was not what I expected because I didn’t plan it or own it! Thank you Charlie & Shane for making it the dinner it was.

My favourite “thing” of the evening was the presence of Colin Kay– an iconic McLaren Vale Grandfather! I would love to sit next to him at dinner and extract some more tales related to establishing the vineyards and evolving the wine styles that led to such gems as Kay’s Amery Shiraz. I was also pleasantly surprised that a winemaker at 72 was in such fine mental and physical shape, as some I have known have been just the opposite! It is encouraging when I think of my friend’s son, Chris Thomas [Thommo], who is not of huge physical stature, but seems to be heading towards a long life in the winemaking business! He’s currently maker at Dowie Dooleand I was worried that all the alcohol was going to ruin his liver before forty, but Colin Kay has reassured me there’s hope for the little guys yet! [Sorry Chris- you’ve always been slapped in the face with the fact you’re no Brendan in the size department!].

The venerable Colin Kay

The venerable Colin Kay

As for the food- perfect choices by the planners & chef. I want the rabbit pie recipe, please chef! Apart from the choices, there may have been a little under catering with the spring rolls and the cheese. Several (four at least) didn’t get any spring roll, although others were sharing out plenty of remaining baby octopus at the end of entrees. When the cheese came along, there was plenty of accompaniment (yummy quince paste, muscatels and delicate apple slices) but the cheese itself disappeared far too quickly compared with the generous second glasses of port! My partner is still suffering from the second port (it’s Monday morning & he has that reflux thing).

The wine options game was a lot of fun BUT, Mr Tasting McLaren Vale…most of the attendees were NOT sophisticated nor experienced wine buffs- more enthusiasts. Therefore, demonstrating that two different years of Zinfandel from the same (small, as yet not widely known) maker, was a bit beyond us. Sure, some people who had visited the Vale recently knew about Inkwell, but some of the older, less regular visitors had never heard of it, let alone appreciated their Zinfandel. Let’s face it, Zinfandel is not something we are expert at consuming from McLaren Vale. Maybe 3 of us knew that Cambrai had done some Zinfandel many years ago. But there is a sharp division in the ages of people at the dinner- oldies who are 50 or more and maybe have had good personal cellars in the past but may have eased back now & youngsters who are either experts on new wines or who drink mainly for pleasure, not enlightenment! Most of us know McLaren Vale for its Shiraz and more recently for GSMs. The older peeps like me also still love the old ports, whether Tawny or Vintage, but youngsters may have never tried them! There are also some lovely young whites happening that people might like to explore as well!

Treasure chest of wines

Treasure chest of wines

Finally, if I was doing another wine dinner for Unearthing [whether it was featuring grandfathers human or vinified], I would feature wines more generally agreed as characteristic of the region at the core of the tasting line-up, perhaps provide some tastes (not full glasses) of contrasting/educational wines and I would tell people about why each wine has it’s particular characteristics. For instance: what about the seasons or earth in the vineyard produced the differences? Guide people to where the taste might be happening, eg. can they taste the difference in length of palate, acidity, tannins, as well as the colours you pointed out.

Vigorous discussion

Vigorous discussion

So, having done the full crit, I must now prepare myself for a visit to the Vale to get re-educated about what it’s doing these days; (apart from drowning myself every Wednesday & Saturday in wines made by Chris Thomas from his time at Fox Creek, Serafino, Boars Rock & Dowie Doole)!
Are you up for it, Shane?

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