Eat local: Gourmet Delights in Tasmania, Australia (2020)

We spent a very enjoyable day touring Tasmania’s “Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail” with a guide, starting along the coast (we were docked at Burnie) and then exploring inland in the rolling hills farm terrain

We spent a very enjoyable day touring Tasmania’s “Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail” with a guide, starting along the coast (we were docked at Burnie) and then exploring inland in the rolling hills farm terrain

 

A small group of us toured northern Tasmania, Australia, with a hired guide (and large van), to explore some of the local gourmet delights.  But first, we checked out the local fauna.  We began with a drive east alomg the coast from Burnie to Turners Beach, pausing at Penguin to spot several of the famously elusive native platypus (no photographs, as they were mostly underwater).  Our first gourmet delights stop was to enjoy, with some of the locals, morning tea/coffee and delicious fruit-based pastries at The Berry Patch, a popular café and berry farm.  We next drove south from the coast and headed into farm country.  The Bennet family has been raising sheep and dairy cows around Elizabeth Town since the late 1880s. We had a tour of their cheese factory at Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm and sampled some of the hand-crafted cheese.   Our next stop was to enjoy a sampling of the fragrant infused oils and olives at Wattle Hill Olives. Tasmanian enology entered the picture at Ghost Rock Wines.  Following a tasting of their wines, we enjoyed a rustic family-style lunch that featured locally sourced produce, seafood, meats, cheese, pâté, grilled and pickled veggies, and toasted bread from Pigeon Whole Bakers, accompanied by both red and white Ghost Rock wines.

After lunch, we continued our drive and were welcomed by Belgian-born chocolatier Igor Van Gerwen to House of Anvers, the confectionery company he founded in 1989.   We had an extensive tour of the factory and learned about the chocolate making process.  With a cup of coffee or tea, we had the opportunity to enjoy their decadent, chocolatey treats made with the finest cacao and rich Tasmanian butter and cream.  We ended the day with a tasting of bottle-fermented alcoholic beverages at Spreyton Cider Co.  Drawing on their years of experience producing fresh apple juice, Spreyton began brewing hard cider (7.5 – 8% ABV – alcohol by volume) in 2012.

 

We didn’t have time on our tour to do hand berry picking in the berry fields at The Berry Patch, but did enjoy some great pastries (see following photographs) and delicious coffees and teas; Tasmania, Australia

We didn’t have time on our tour to do hand berry picking in the berry fields at The Berry Patch, but did enjoy some great pastries (see following photographs) and delicious coffees and teas; Tasmania, Australia

 

The Berry Patch’s website description: “Just 10 minutes from Devonport in Tasmania’s North West, you can experience both culinary perfection from our cafe menu, and an authentic farm experience.  Dine at our restaurant and then hand-pick your own sweet and delicious berries in our ‘Pick Your Own’ fields. We also have a farm shop where you can purchase pre-picked fruit, and other house made and locally sourced goodies.  Enjoy gourmet pizzas from our authentic wood-fired oven, sit under our covered deck while the kids play on the hay bails, in the sandbox and at the ping pong tables, or enjoy time in the yurt listening to live music during a summer event.” – www.theberrypatch.com.au

 

A pastry from The Berry Patch made with chocolate cake rounds filled with fresh, local whipped cream and berries from the premises; Tasmania, Australia

A pastry from The Berry Patch made with chocolate cake rounds filled with fresh, local whipped cream and berries from the premises; Tasmania, Australia

 

A delicious blueberry muffin made with local ingredients at The Berry Patch, Tasmania, Australia

A delicious blueberry muffin made with local ingredients at The Berry Patch, Tasmania, Australia

 

Pavlova is an Australian creation – meringue topped with fresh fruit (a favorite at end of the year holidays celebrations); Tasmania, Australia

Pavlova is an Australian creation – meringue topped with fresh fruit (a favorite at end of the year holidays celebrations), enjoyed at The Berry Patch; Tasmania, Australia

 

Our intrepid traveler paused beside an Ashgrove Farms Cheese cow before entering the factory for a tour, including an explanation of the cheese-making process and then a tasting of the wide variety of award-winning cheeses; Tasmania, Australia

Our intrepid traveler paused beside an Ashgrove Farms Cheese cow before entering the factory for a tour, including an explanation of the cheese-making process and then a tasting of the wide variety of award-winning cheeses; Tasmania, Australia

 

“The Ashgrove milk and cheese factory is located at Elizabeth Town, in the heart of the dairying and cropping region in Northern Tasmania.  Several generations of Bennett families have been farming the land surrounding the milk and cheese factory since the 1880’s.  In the late 1980s a decision was made to further develop the dairy operations with the decline in wool prices and the stagnation of the vegetable industry.  John and Michael Bennett’s goal in establishing the cheese factory was to gain independence from the low commodity prices that dominated Tasmanian milk supply and to produce premium quality cheese by on-farm value adding using farm milk.  In preparation a significant investment was made in building a new 50-unit rotary dairy in 1990.  From an initial small factory built in 1993, the factory has grown in size over the years.  The factory store which opened in April 1994 has enabled our valued customers and tourists to learn how our cheese is made.

“By 2001, the cheese operation had grown sufficiently to enable the business to be separated from the Ashgrove Farms farming operation.  The Ashgrove Cheese company was established in 2001 by Michael and John Bennett and their respective wives Maureen and Connie.  Ashgrove Farms continues to be the main supplier of milk to the Ashgrove Cheese factory.  In 2012 Ashgrove Farm Milk won a number of awards including best Farm Light Milk at the Dairy Industry Association of Australia awards.” — www.ashgrovecheese.com.au/

 

The cheese aging room at the Ashgrove Farms Cheese factory in Elizabeth Town, in the heart of the dairying and cropping region in Northern Tasmania, Australia

The cheese aging room at the Ashgrove Farms Cheese factory in Elizabeth Town, in the heart of the dairying and cropping region in Northern Tasmania, Australia

 

Olive trees at Wattle Hill Olives, an award-winning producer of extra virgin olive oil in Tasmania, Australia

Olive trees at Wattle Hill Olives, an award-winning producer of extra virgin olive oil in Tasmania, Australia

 

“Wattle Hill Olives produces award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Wattle Hill has 2,000 trees with Spanish and French varieties.  The Tables Olives are nearing maturity and will be available in the next few years.  Wattle Hill also produces balsamic olive oil salad dressing/dipping sauces which are irresistible.  George and Veronica enjoy going to the markets and meeting people and giving them a taste of their oil.  The Oil can also be purchased at most Tasmanian IGA Stores, some restaurants and fruit markets.” — www.foodandbeveragetasmania.com/

 

In addition to plain extra virgin olive oil, Wattle Hill Olives produces a number of flavored oils, most of which we had a chance to sample and enjoy at their facility; Tasmania, Australia

In addition to plain extra virgin olive oil, Wattle Hill Olives produces a number of flavored oils, most of which we had a chance to sample and enjoy at their facility; Tasmania, Australia

 

The entrance to Ghost Rock Winery facility and tasting room and restaurant, across from some of their vineyards, has several large “ghost rocks”; Tasmania, Australia

The entrance to Ghost Rock Winery facility and tasting room and restaurant, across from some of their vineyards, has several large “ghost rocks”; Tasmania, Australia

 

“Nestled among the rolling patchwork fields of the beautiful coastline of Northern Tasmania, you’ll find Ghost Rock among some of god’s best country.  Just 10 minutes from where the Spirit of Tasmania docks and one hour from Cradle Mountain or Launceston, this is a must visit destination when exploring the central North coast of Tasmania or more fondly known as the Cradle Coast Region.  The modern and vibrant Cellar Door & Eatery – twice crowned Tourism Tasmania’s ‘Best Cellar Door’ – offers wine tastings of Ghost Rock’s entire range and a lunch/grazing menu featuring local artisan produce.  With striking views over its vineyards, rolling countryside and Bass Strait, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular hangout.  One of the coolest wine regions in the State (and most probably Australia), it’s one of the State’s most unique wine experiences.  We love living where we do and would love to share this part of the world with you. We look forward to welcoming you soon. — Ghost Rock Team” — www.ghostrock.com.au

 

Vineyards at Ghost Rock Winery overlooking (to the north) the ocean and, beyond that, mainland Australia; Tasmania, Australia

Vineyards at Ghost Rock Winery overlooking (to the north) the ocean and, beyond that, mainland Australia; Tasmania, Australia

 

At our wine tasting at Ghost Rock Winery (before lunch) we had the opportunity to taste some of their rose, white and red wines; Tasmania, Australia

At our wine tasting at Ghost Rock Winery (before lunch) we had the opportunity to taste some of their rose, white and red wines; Tasmania, Australia

 

The tasting room at Anvers Confectionery where we had the opportunity to taste the broad range of chocolates and confections made in the factory, across the parking lot; Tasmania, Australia

The tasting room at Anvers Confectionery where we had the opportunity to taste the broad range of chocolates and confections made in the factory, across the parking lot; Tasmania, Australia

 

“Anvers Confectionery was established as a cottage industry in November 1989, by Igor Van Gerwen, who came to Australia from Belgium.  During his six years as a student at the Institute of Foodstuffs in Antwerp, Belgium, and by working for some of the finest patisseries in the Flemish and Walloon regions, Igor learnt, amongst other culinary skills, the art of handling chocolate.  He was trained by Roger Geerts, world renowned confectioner and author of “Belgian Pralines”.  To guarantee the quality of his products, Igor not only has to painstakingly train his staff in the art of manipulating chocolate, but also to continuously source the finest ingredients.  Not only does he use fresh Tasmanian cream, pure butter, exquisite liquors and natural flavours, but also the world’s finest chocolate… Igor has found the Tasmanian cream and butter to be the richest in flavour of any in the world, ideally suited for truffles and fudge. He believes the reason for this is that the pastures in Tasmania’s pure environment stay green almost all year round, eliminating the need to feed the dairy cows on grains.” – www.anvers-chocolate.com.au/

 

We enjoyed a tour of the Anvers Confectionary factory given by its founder and chocolatier, Igor Van Gerwen, who came to Australia from Belgium decades ago, and enjoyed some hot chocolate and house-made pastries; Tasmania, Australia

We enjoyed a tour of the Anvers Confectionary factory given by its founder and chocolatier, Igor Van Gerwen, who came to Australia from Belgium decades ago, and enjoyed some hot chocolate and house-made pastries; Tasmania, Australia

 

Apples growing in one of many orchards at the Spreyton Cider Company’s manufacturing facility (and tasting room) for their award-winning Tasmanian ciders; Tasmania, Australia

Apples growing in one of many orchards at the Spreyton Cider Company’s manufacturing facility (and tasting room) for their award-winning Tasmanian ciders; Tasmania, Australia

 

“Spreyton has been home to our families since the mid 1800’s, and since 1908 we have been growing apples in this picturesque valley. For four generations we have grown the highest quality fruit for the people of Tasmania and the world.  When Spreyton Fresh – the parent of Spreyton Cider Co, was established in 1998 to begin making fresh apple juice, Spreyton also became synonymous with fantastic real apple juice that tasted like apples!  In 2011 it was time for the next step and Spreyton Fresh began experimenting with their first cider ferments and on the strength of those early experiments the Spreyton Cider Co. was launched.  The company made the decision to keep the entire cider production process in house as that was the only way to ensure that our products would be made with the quality and integrity that is central to everything we do.  So in 2012 we began construction of our cider manufacturing facility and cellar door, and employed a full-time cider maker.  Since inception, Spreyton Cider Company has won numerous awards for our cider in competitions all over Australia.  We have continued to develop the craft cider category by growing “cider specific” varieties of apples that will further improve the traditional ciders that we produce.  At Spreyton we are serious about real cider made from real apples and use both traditional and more contemporary techniques to ensure the quality of what we produce.  Spreyton is now not only home to great Tasmanian Apples and Fresh Apple juice it is also home for one of the few true tree-to-bottle cider producers in Australia.” — www.spreytonciderco.com.au

 

At our tasting at the Spreyton Cider Company, we had the opportunity to taste not only their delicious apple juice, but also their ciders and ginger beer – a nice ending to a full day of exploration and tastings; Tasmania, Australia

At our tasting at the Spreyton Cider Company, we had the opportunity to taste not only their delicious apple juice, but also their ciders and ginger beer – a nice ending to a full day of exploration and tastings; Tasmania, Australia

This blog post wraps up our two month journey aboard our ship from Hong Kong on New Years Day through our Raja Ampat expedition and then a semi-circumnavigation of Australia, from Darwin, through the Great Barrier Reef on to Sydney, and wrapping up in Tasmania.  Fortunately we flew back from Melbourne, Australia, just before the coronavirus pandemic shelter-in-place orders were mandated in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we live.  Until we catch up again, stay safe and stay healthy…

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2020 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

 

Eat local: Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud at the Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Exterior of the Merrion Hotel, one of the leading hotels in Europe, that occupies one of the finest, most beautifully restored and best located Georgian buildings in Dublin City Center, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Exterior of the Merrion Hotel, one of the leading hotels in Europe, that occupies one of the finest, most beautifully restored and best located Georgian buildings in Dublin City Center, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

One evening in Dublin we had the pleasure of joining a group from the ship for a tour of the Merrion Hotel, one of the leading hotels in Europe, followed by cocktails and a private dinner at Ireland’s only Michelin two-star restaurants (on the one night a week the restaurant is normally closed).  We were very fortunate to have had three leading Irish officials join the group and make presentations after dinner – offering very insightful perspectives on the current Irish political and economic situation, particularly with respect to the upcoming decisions in the United Kingdom regarding Brexit.

“The Merrion Hotel occupies one of the finest, most beautifully restored and best located Georgian buildings in Dublin City Center.  Our reputation is rooted in a happy marriage of effortless style and unparalleled service, making us one of the finest 5 star hotels Ireland has to offer.  Our 123 guest rooms and 19 suites are light and airy, decorated in colours selected from a subtle palette inspired by one of Paul Henry’s Irish landscape paintings which hangs in the Front Hall of the Hotel… During the spring and summer months, guests can enjoy the tranquillity of the Garden Terrace, while the Drawing Rooms, with their open log fires,  are perfect for Afternoon Tea at any time of the year.  The Tethra Spa’s calming interiors make it an ideal place to unwind, and to restore and invigorate both body and mind.  Whether on a business or a leisure trip why not unwind in our infinity swimming pool and steam room.  The Merrion is home to two bars and two restaurants, including Ireland’s only 2 star-Michelin Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.” – http://www.merrionhotel.com

 

Georgian Drawing Rooms, The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Georgian Drawing Rooms, The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

The Merrion Hotel’s 123 guest rooms and 19 suites are light and airy, decorated in colors selected from a subtle palette inspired by one of Paul Henry’s Irish landscape paintings which hangs in the Front Hall of the Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Merrion Hotel’s 123 guest rooms and 19 suites are light and airy, decorated in colors selected from a subtle palette inspired by one of Paul Henry’s Irish landscape paintings which hangs in the Front Hall of the Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

The Merrion Gardens, The Merrion Hotel – “As a city centre hotel, The Merrion is uniquely privileged to have two period gardens, designed by Jim Reynolds, the noted Irish landscape artist”, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Merrion Gardens, The Merrion Hotel – “As a city centre hotel, The Merrion is uniquely privileged to have two period gardens, designed by Jim Reynolds, the noted Irish landscape artist”, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

The Cellar Bar offers a casual gastro-pub menu in the basement of The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Cellar Bar offers a casual gastro-pub menu in the basement of The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Painting in the Merrion Hotel, “The Battle of The Boyne 1690” by Jan Van Huchtenbburg 1647 – 1733. King Janes II was defeated by William of Orange. After the Battle, James fled first to Dublin and then to France

Painting in the Merrion Hotel, “The Battle of The Boyne 1690” by Jan Van Huchtenbburg 1647 – 1733. King Janes II was defeated by William of Orange. After the Battle, James fled first to Dublin and then to France. William, King of England, Scotland & Ireland reigned until his death in 1702. The battle is remembered in Northern Ireland every year on July 12th. Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland- “A truly sumptuous restaurant in an elegant Georgian house; Patrick Guilbaud has run it for over 35 years

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland: “A truly sumptuous restaurant in an elegant Georgian house; Patrick Guilbaud has run it for over 35 years. Accomplished, original cooking uses luxurious ingredients and mixes classical French cooking with modern techniques. Dishes are well-crafted and visually stunning with a superb balance of textures and flavours” — The Michelin Guide, http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Restaurant/Dublin-D2-Patrick_Guilbaud-35n13bv

 

“Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud holds two Michelin stars, in addition to virtually all top national and international restaurant awards.  This bright, elegant restaurant, situated in an 18th Century Georgian townhouse, adjoins the five-star Merrion Hotel.  Patrick  Guilbaud created his restaurant in 1981, now established as a centre of fine dining for over thirty years… the cuisine is contemporary Irish with classical roots.  Patrick Guilbaud’s pursuit of excellence can be seen in the delicious, immaculately presented dishes, prepared from the finest Irish produce in season.  Service is equally meticulous, combining efficient French decorum with discreet Irish charm, ensuring the delivery of an impeccable dining experience.  Everything is made on the premises, from the wonderful selection of breads to the petit fours… signature dishes include lobster ravioli, roast challans duck for two and assiette gourmande au chocolat… Patrick Guilbauds has an extensive wine list, which includes many fine wines, to delight the most fastidious and discerning connoisseur.” — http://www.ireland.com/what-is-available/food-and-drink/restaurants/

 

A first course of Annagassan Blue Lobster Boudin with Green Apple Jus accompanied by 2017 Chablis, Domain Servin, Vielles Vignes, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A first course of Annagassan Blue Lobster Boudin with Green Apple Jus accompanied by 2017 Chablis, Domain Servin, Vielles Vignes, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A first course of Aubergine Baked with Mellow Spices, Cepe Biscuit, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, accompanied by 2017 Chablis, Domain Servin, Vielles Vignes, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A first course of Aubergine Baked with Mellow Spices, Cepe Biscuit, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, accompanied by 2017 Chablis, Domain Servin, Vielles Vignes, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Your blogger in the bar between courses at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Your blogger in the bar between courses at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A main course of Truffled Chicken “Tourte” with Foie Gras, Port, Périgord Truffle(a specialty of the chef, not on the regular menu) accompanied by 2014 Savigny-Les-Beaune “Ez Connardises”, Domaine Françoise Andre , Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

A main course of Truffled Chicken “Tourte” with Foie Gras, Port, Périgord Truffle (a specialty of the chef, not on the regular menu) accompanied by 2014 Savigny-Les-Beaune “Ez Connardises”, Domaine Françoise Andre , Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A main course of Grilled Wild Halibut, Violet Artichoke Fricassé, Roasted Bone Jus, accompanied by 2014 Savigny-Les-Beaune “Ez Connardises”, Domaine Françoise Andre , Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A main course of Grilled Wild Halibut, Violet Artichoke Fricassé, Roasted Bone Jus, accompanied by 2014 Savigny-Les-Beaune “Ez Connardises”, Domaine Françoise Andre , Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Drink local: Holy Vale Winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

Holy Vale Winery's vineyard was planted in the spring of 2009 by local resident and hotelier Robert Francis who wanted to pioneer the production of good quality wines on the Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

Holy Vale Winery’s vineyard was planted in the spring of 2009 by local resident and hotelier Robert Francis who wanted to pioneer the production of good quality wines on the Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

 

In the afternoon on St. Mary’s Island we joined a small group for a visit, tour and tasting at the Islands’ only winery, Holy Vale Winery.  The winery and local vineyards are a project of local hotelier (and chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly) Robert Francis, who knows wines from around the world and wanted to pioneer the production of good quality wines on the Isles of Scilly.  Because production of local wines is so difficult and there is very limited availability, the winery’s second goal is to select some fine wines from around the world and introduce them to winery visitors (in lieu of tasting only local wines).  The winery’s website notes: “Holy Vale Wines is a British family owned and run company, created to bring you a very special collection of some of the most exciting, delicious wines from around the world, featuring California [from the Francis Ford Coppola Family Winery, and others]. Our selection is driven by our passion for great wine that is ready to drink, offering exceptional value and quality.

“Holy Vale Vineyard was planted in the spring of 2009 after a couple of years trying to beg, borrow or steal redundant farm land on St Mary’s.  With co-operation from the Duchy of Cornwall and local farmers we were able to set about obtaining the land we had found that suited the planting of the vines, mostly sloping and facing south, to aid water drainage and aspect to the sun.  These parcels of land are situated in Holy Vale, Maypole, Silver Carn and Helvear.  It was not possible to obtain all the land together in one parcel, but that in some respects is an advantage because it will give diversity and different character to the wines.

 

The winery has several parcels of vineyards across St. Mary’s Island on the Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom; these are located at the winery where we visited and had a tour and tasting

The winery has several parcels of vineyards across St. Mary’s Island on the Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom; these are located at the winery where we visited and had a tour and tasting

 

“We carefully selected nurseries in Burgundy and Luxemburg to nurture the vines of our grape varieties grafted on to our rootstock. 7,000 vines were ordered of our selection, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  These were chosen instead of the normal, mostly German varieties that have traditionally been grown in the UK mainly for climatic reasons. Our choice reflected the commitment and quality that we wish to achieve, rather than quantity. Our resolve is to produce the most special wines, even though working with Pinot Noir is especially difficult.

“We are now producing, bottling and selling Holy Vale Wines, 2014 was our very first vintage. We offer tours of the vineyard and tastings of wines at the vineyard…”– http://www.holyvalewines.co.uk

 

The first vintage of Holy Vale Pinot Noir was 5 years after the vines were planted, in 2014; there was no wine made in the subsequent four years due to weather and loss of grapes to predators, so there are no tastings of recent vintages

The first vintage of Holy Vale Pinot Noir was 5 years after the vines were planted, in 2014; there was no wine made in the subsequent four years due to weather and loss of grapes to predators, so there are no tastings of recent vintages

 

Some of the wine making equipment at the Holy Vale Vineyard winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

Some of the wine making equipment at the Holy Vale Vineyard winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

 

The wines from around the world that we tasted with winemaker Robert Francis at Holy Vale Vineyard winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

The wines from around the world that we tasted with winemaker Robert Francis at Holy Vale Vineyard winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom. Note that Robert was very gracious and generous and pulled a couple of bottles of his 2014 Holy Vale Pinot Noir from the winery’s “library” to taste with us; at 11.5% ABV (alcohol) – due to the cool weather on the island — the Holy Vale Pinot Noir was lighter that we are used to on the West Coast of the United State, but refreshing with good acidity and fruit.

 

Winemaker Robert Francis at Holy Vale Vineyard winery in the vineyard with a bottle of his 2014 Holy Vale Pinot Noir, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

Winemaker Robert Francis at Holy Vale Vineyard winery in the vineyard with a bottle of his 2014 Holy Vale Pinot Noir, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Stellenbosch Winelands (near Cape Town), South Africa (2018)

After an excellent wine tasting in the Vergelegen Wine Estate wine tasting and information center, we had a tour of the property, beginning in the herb garden, Somerset West (Stellenbosc

After an excellent wine tasting in the Vergelegen Wine Estate wine tasting and information center, we had a tour of the property, beginning in the herb garden, Somerset West (Stellenbosch wine region), South Africa

 

Thanks to the expert guidance of our ship’s Head Sommelier, we planned a one day outing from the ship’s dock in the V&A Harbour in Cape Town, South Africa, to the Stellenbosch wine country – an area we have visited several times on previous trips, and always a joy to return to.  Madeline Puckette, a certified sommelier and writer (e.g., Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine) posted an excellent description of the area:

“Many of the photos we see of South African vineyards – positioned in front of striking granite mountains – are from the Stellenbosch area.  It contains the most developed winelands; it is home to an important wine University (University of Stellenbosch); and it is the center of wine tourism.  In short, Stellenbosch is to South African wine much like Napa is to Californian wine [emphasis added].  Of course, finding good wine from Stellenbosch can be challenging because there are so many producers.  However, there is a secret to exploring the area.  The highest rated wines tend come from vineyards that are on alluvial fans of the granite mountains.  The wines from these locations are often described as having a subtle mineral note which many believe is from the decomposed granite soils.  The granite mountains are approximately 600 million years old, over 3 times as old as the soil in Napa.” – http://www.winefolly.com/review/wines-south-africas-stellenbosch-district

Our first stop was at the Vergelegen Wine Estate in the Stellenbosch wine subregion of Somerset West.  “Vergelegen, meaning ‘situated far away’ [in Dutch], was granted to the Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, in 1700.  Since then, the estate has been crafted by some of the world’s greatest explorers and visionaries, who each in their own way, have helped shape Vergelegen to what it is today: a world-class Estate.  Vergelegen has been owned by the Anglo American plc group since 1987.

 

The Vergelegen homestead, well preserved and open to visitors, including many historical displays along with period furniture, Somerset West, South Africa

The Vergelegen homestead, well preserved and open to visitors, including many historical displays along with period furniture, Somerset West, South Africa

 

Classical 18th century Dutch South African architecture as seen in the back of the Vergelegen homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

Classical 18th century Dutch South African architecture as seen in the back of the Vergelegen homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

 

“Vergelegen has twice won the coveted Château Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse-de-Lalande Trophy for the best red blend and continues to achieve critical acclaim for its success in maintaining the delicate balance between wine production, the conservation of its rich heritage and the environment…  The philosophy of our award-winning gardens is to reflect the best from all of the historical periods of the past 300 years.  There are 17 unique gardens to explore and wander through, ranging from the only Camellia Garden of Excellence in South Africa, to the splendid Octagonal Garden.” — Vergelegen Wine Estate brochure

 

Flowers in the Octagonal Garden, leading up to the Homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

Flowers in the Octagonal Garden, leading up to the Homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

 

The Camphor Tree (Cinnamon Camphora) is a native of China and Japan was introduced to the Cape region about 1670 by the Dutch East Indies; these trees were planted by W.A. van der Stel b

The Camphor Tree (Cinnamon Camphora) is a native of China and Japan was introduced to the Cape region about 1670 by the Dutch East Indies; these trees were planted by W.A. van der Stel between 1700 and 1706 and were proclaimed a South African National Monument in 1942; Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa – note that commercial camphor is extracted from the camphor tree wood

 

We enjoyed a tasting of the olives and olive oils grown, processed and produced at the Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

We enjoyed a tasting of the olives and olive oils grown, processed and produced at the Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

 

A short drive away, on a parcel of land that was originally part of the old Vergelegen land grant, was Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate.  Breaking up our morning of wine tasting, we decided to just do an olive oil tasting – some of the finest in South Africa, with all of the olive trees having been imported from Italy over the years by the estate owner Giulio Bertrand.  “Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate in Somerset West, 35 minutes from Cape Town, is at the gateway to the Western Cape wine-growing region.  It is a thriving olive and wine farm dating back to 1711, producing internationally acclaimed Bordeaux-style wines and extra virgin olive oil of astounding quality.   The Morning Star within a scallop shell as depicted on the front gable of Morgenster’s beautiful manor house, the private home of owner Giulio Bertrand, is the Estate’s signature and features on the labels of its fine wines and olive products.  Visitors to the Estate’s stylish Revel Fox designed tasting room, which is set against the Schaapenberg and overlooks a reed lined dam and the Helderberg, can enjoy a wine tasting experience unique in South Africa.  The Estate’s philosophy is to release its red Bordeaux style blends only when they have developed and aged to potential and the cellar therefore houses highly awarded earlier vintages under its Morgenster and Lourens River Valley labels. ”www.morgenster.co.za   We enjoyed the olive oils in the tasting so much that we bought several bottles to take back to our kitchen aboard the ship – the award winning extra virgin olive oil and the lemon enhanced extra virgin olive oil.

 

Vineyards at DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Vineyards at DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

Heading north up towards the town of Stellenbosch, we then went a little to the west to our final winery visit of the morning, DeMorgenzon, founded in 1699.  “All wine estates in the Western Cape are beautiful and all have unique terroir.  However, we believe that DeMorgenzon is the most extraordinary of them all.  Our slopes rise from about 200 meters (656 feet) to nearly 400 meters (1,312 feet) above sea level and our vistas embrace Cape Town, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Cape Hangklip, the Hottentots Holland mountains, Helderberg and Simonsberg with the ocean as a backdrop.  While we could call ourselves ‘mountain vineyards’ we prefer to be known as ‘garden vineyards’.  In Spring specially chosen wildflowers flourish between our vines.  We have no doubt that a biodiverse and ecologically sensitive environment produces infinitely better grapes and the beauty of our gardens is captured in every bottle of our wine…  DeMorgenzon, ‘the morning sun,’ was so named as it is the first part of the Stellenboschkloof valley to see the sun because of its high altitude and aspects.  We cover the top southern and eastern slopes of Ribbokkop, overlooking the pinnacle of Kanonkop from where a cannon was fired to alert the farms in the region that a ship had put into Table Bay.  The first road from Cape Town to Stellenbosch ran through the Stellenbosch Kloof.” — www.demorgenzon.com

 

Chenin Blanc (the leading varietal of South African wineries) vineyards, DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa; we brought back some of the excellent Reserve Chenin Blanc to our apartm

Chenin Blanc (the leading varietal of South African wineries) vineyards, DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa; we brought back some of the excellent Reserve Chenin Blanc to our apartment on the ship, along with several other varietals from DeMorgenzon

 

The gardens at DeMorgenzon were stunning, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The gardens at DeMorgenzon were stunning, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

The spectacular planted landscape at DeMorgenzon includes the garden flowers, vineyards and olive groves, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The spectacular planted landscape at DeMorgenzon includes the garden flowers, vineyards and olive groves, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

TOKARA is the embodiment of GT Ferreira_s philosophy that good wine, good food and good art go together to make a good lifestyle; the magnificent installation art by Marco Cianfanelli,

TOKARA is the embodiment of GT Ferreira’s philosophy that good wine, good food and good art go together to make a good lifestyle; the magnificent private commission of installation art by Marco Cianfanelli, The Mind’s Vine, encapsulates the narrative of the creation of TOKARA and reflects the winery’s origins as a superlative wine growing environment — Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

For a late afternoon luncheon and wine tasting with the meal, we headed back to Stellenbosch and then drove east up towards the pass in the Simonsberg Mountains towards Paarl and Franschhoek.  Near the summit we pulled into Tokara Wine Estate for a mid-afternoon repast at the Tokara Restaurant.  We had an excellent multi-course South African cuisine meal with excellent wines from the estate.  We were very disappointed to learn that the delicious, off-menu 2015 Tokara Pinotage was sold out at the winery store.

A note about Pinotage — it is a red wine grape that is South Africa’s signature variety, originally bred there in 1925 as a cross between the French varietals Pinot Noir and Cinsaut.

 

One of several tapestries by a well known South African artist on display at the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

One of several tapestries by a well known South African artist on display at the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

The terrace room of the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate overlooks the vineyards on the Simonsberg Mountains, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The terrace room of the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate overlooks the vineyards on the Simonsberg Mountains, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

In 1994 GT Ferreira purchased the Tokara farm for residential purposes.  But that was until the wine-making potential of this land was discovered.  The cool air makes for great wine and soon classic varietals were planted along the slopes of the Helshoogte Pass.  From the estate, visitors are able to catch a glimpse of Idas Valley, False Bay and the Simonsberg Mountains.

 

Vineyards and olive grove on the Simonsberg Mountains, Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Vineyards and olive grove on the Simonsberg Mountains, Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat Local: Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta, Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands (Spain)

Restaurants line the street in Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria in the Canary Island

Restaurants line a street in Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria in the Canary Island

 

We embarked on this journey (heading down the west coast of Africa) in Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands (part of Spain) – our second visit there on the ship in 2018.  [See our previous blogs “Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands (2018)”, “Eat Local: Las 6 Calabazas (tapas), Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands”, and “Eat Local: Ô Soleil, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands”].  The capital of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, Las Palmas is a major warm weather and beach tourist destination from Europe, especially in the winter months as visitors escape the colder weather on the Continent.  Narrow cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and multiple architectural styles reflect centuries-old Atlantic and Latin American ties in Las Palmas’ oldest neighborhood, Vegueta (Old Town).  The old quarter offers much to visitors walking the streets — historic squares; Catedral de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Cathedral), the first church in the Canary Islands; tapas from outdoor cafés; shopping for fresh fish, meats, fruits and vegetables at Mercado de Vegueta; and dining and nightlife along Calle Mendizábal and Calle Pelota.

 

The restored entry-way to Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

The restored entry-way to Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

While we were perusing the menus, we were served the fixings for “bruschetta” – the garlic was rubbed onto the toasted bread, then some olive oil was poured on, then slices of toma

While we were perusing the menus, we were served the fixings for “bruschetta” – the garlic was rubbed onto the toasted bread, then some olive oil was poured on, then slices of tomato topped with sea salt and olive oil (delicious!) — Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

We took advantage of our short time in port to visit a well-stocked HiperDino superpmercado (supermarket) and the local central produce and meat and fish market, Mercado de Vegueta in the old quarter (Vegueta).  With good friends from the ship, we ventured back to the narrow streets of Vegueta to have our main meal of the day mid-afternoon at Restaurante Fabio Santana on Calle Montesdeoca.  Since the time we enjoyed a wonderful luncheon there several years ago (the restaurant then was named Casa Montesdeoca), the restaurant has new ownership and a talented new chef and we very much enjoyed the new menu and Spanish-fusion cuisine reflecting influences from France, Italy and Japan. Note that the four of us dined family style, sharing all the courses pictured below (except the goat taco which served just one).  We highly recommend a luncheon or dinner there!

 

The dining tables are under the balcony of the courtyard at Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

The dining tables are under the balcony of the courtyard at Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

An appetizer of croquettes (left-to-right- ham, spinach and fish), Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

An appetizer of croquettes (left-to-right: ham, spinach and fish), Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

An appetizer of a goat taco, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

An appetizer of a goat taco, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

An appetizer of octopus terrine with potato salad, to be eaten with a touch of the olive oil sorbet, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islan

An appetizer of octopus terrine with potato salad, to be eaten with a touch of the olive oil sorbet, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

An appetizer of warm prawn salad, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

An appetizer of warm prawn salad, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

An appetizer of crab raviolis with basil-lime sorbet, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

An appetizer of crab raviolis with basil-lime sorbet, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

Following a delicious Spanish white wine from the Rioja region with the appetizers, we enjoyed an excellent Ribera del Duero red wine with our main courses, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Ve

Following a delicious Spanish white wine from the Rioja region with the appetizers, we enjoyed an excellent Ribera del Duero red wine with our main courses, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

A main course of pureed potatoes, several kinds of fresh mushrooms, soft eggs and crumbles and chips of dried mushrooms – surprisingly the tastiest dish of the meal!; Restaurante Fabio

A main course of pureed potatoes, several kinds of fresh mushrooms, soft eggs and crumbles and chips of dried mushrooms – surprisingly the tastiest dish of the meal!; Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

A main course of smoked wreckfish on a bed of black (squid ink) noodles and slivered leeks with the sauce being poured on after the dome lid was removed releasing the smoke; Restaurante

A main course of smoked wreckfish on a bed of black (squid ink) noodles and slivered leeks with the sauce being poured on after the dome lid was removed releasing the smoke; Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

A main course of Iberian pork stuffed with Iberian ham and smoked cheese, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

A main course of Iberian pork stuffed with Iberian ham and smoked cheese, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

The chocolate lover_s dessert, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

The chocolate lover’s dessert, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

The Spanish rendition of the Italian Tiramisu with coffee sorbet, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

A Spanish rendition of the Italian Tiramisu with coffee sorbet, Restaurante Fabio Santana, Vegueta (Old Town), Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

The weather-beaten facade of an old Spanish-style building in the historic Vegueta district, Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

The weather-beaten facade of an old Spanish-style building in the historic Vegueta district, Las Palmas, Gran Cararia, Canary Islands

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Drink Local: Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

In 1981, Marchese Lodovico Antinori breathed new life into Tenuta dell' Ornellaia and planted the first French varietal grape vines in Bolgheri, which lies in the heart of Tuscany's coas

In 1981, Marchese Lodovico Antinori breathed new life into Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia and planted the first French varietal grape vines in Bolgheri, which lies in the heart of Tuscany’s coastal region, Maremma; today the estate yields some of the finest Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc in Tuscany, Italy

 

Following our visit to Azienda Agricole Le Macchiole (winery) in the Coastal Bolgheri region of Tuscany, Italy [see our previous blog post], we drove to the nearby winery estate of Ornellaia, where we had an extensive tour and tasting.  We wrapped up our afternoon with a visit to the region’s namesake town, Bolgheri.

 

The visitor center at the front of the Ornellaia winery building in Bolgheri, Italy, features a display of artist-designed labels for Ornellaia vintages and a fabulous collection of mode

The visitor center at the front of the Ornellaia winery building in Bolgheri, Italy, features a display of artist-designed labels for Ornellaia vintages and a fabulous collection of modern art

 

“In 1981, Marchese Lodovico Antinori breathed new life into Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia, an estate whose potential had been ignored for decades.  With the help of Andre Tchelistcheff, the famous agronomist, Antinori planted the first French vines in Bolgheri, which lies in the heart of Tuscany’s coastal region, Maremma.  The estate yields some of the finest Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc in Tuscany.“ –  www.wine.com

 

The production facility at Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, glistens with stainless steel tanks and equipment

The production facility at Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, glistens with stainless steel tanks and equipment

 

Even the barrel aging room features modern art at Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

Even the barrel aging room features modern art at Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

 

“Ornellaia was established by Marchese Lodovico Antinori of the Antinori family, behind one of Italy’s most historic negociant firms, with the help of winemaker Tibor Gál.  The property is adjacent to Tenuta San Guido, producer of Sassicaia which is considered the original “Super Tuscan”.  Ornellaia has been described as Lodovico Antinori’s competitive answer to his cousin Nicolò Incisa’s Sassicaia, and his older brother Piero Antinori’s Solaia.  The vineyards of the estate were planted in 1981, producing the first vintage in 1985.  A modern winery was built in 1987, and a second 56-hectare (140-acre) property was later added, Bellaria, situated north of Bolgheri.  The Robert Mondavi Winery took a minority interest in the estate in November 1999, and were full owners by 2002, while initiating a partnership with the Frescobaldi family.  In April 2005, Frescobaldi bought the remaining 50% shares of Ornellaia from Constellation Brands after their acquisition of Mondavi holdings, coming to own the whole estate.   Axel Heinz is the current winemaker with Michel Rolland, involved with the estate since its beginning, retained as consultant oenologist.” — Wikipedia

 

The Ornellaia vintage wines_ “Archivio Storico” (archival, or library, storage facility), Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

The Ornellaia vintage wines’ “Archivio Storico” (archival, or library, storage facility), Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

 

The South African artist William Kentridge designed a special label, “Il Carisma” for Ornellaia 2015; Ornellaia is a cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Petit Ver

The South African artist William Kentridge designed a special label, “Il Carisma” for Ornellaia 2015; “Ornellaia is a cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot and the faithful expression of unique terroir developed in harmony with nature” – http://www.Ornellaia.com/en/

 

“Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista celebrates the unique character of each new vintage of Ornellaia. Every year since the release of Ornellaia 2006 in May 2009, a contemporary artist creates a work of art and a series of limited edition labels drawing inspiration from the single word chosen by the Winemaker to describe the character of the new vintage. The Vendemmia d’Artista project includes a label created by the Artist for one bottle in each wooden case of Ornellaia (containing 6 x 750ml bottles) and a limited edition of 111 large size bottles (100 double magnums (3L), 10 Imperials (6L) and 1 Salmanazar (9L) each individually numbered and personally signed by the artist. Collectors around the world covet these bottles and the auction of some of them during an annual charity event raises money in support of the Arts. The Vendemmia d’Artista project culminates in a work of art created specifically for the Estate tying together the character of the vintage and the artist’s interpretation at the birthplace of Ornellaia.” — www.ornellaia.com/en/

 

The Berlin artist Rebecca Horn, in 2011, designed the art adorning the special large bottles of the 2008 vintage of Ornellaia – her artwork is titled l_Energia; Ornellaia (winery), B

The Berlin artist Rebecca Horn, in 2011, designed the art adorning the special large bottles of the 2008 vintage of Ornellaia – her artwork is titled l’Energia; Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

 

The lineup of wines for our wine tasting at Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

The lineup of wines for our wine tasting at Ornellaia (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

 

The old castle is famous as the landmark symbol of the town of Bolgheri, Italy

The old castle is famous as the landmark symbol of the town of Bolgheri, Italy

 

Classic Italian architecture in this façade in the town of Bolgheri, Italy_

Classic Italian architecture in this façade in the town of Bolgheri, Italy

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat and Drink Local: Azienda Agricola Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

Le Macchiole (winery) is in Bolgheri, Italy, on the Etruscan Coast -- “in this magical place, where rolling hills are blanketed by forest, where vineyards and olive trees meet with the

Le Macchiole (winery) is in Bolgheri, Italy, on the Etruscan Coast — “in this magical place, where rolling hills are blanketed by forest, where vineyards and olive trees meet with the Tyrrhenian Sea”

 

From our dock in the port of Livorno, a small group of us drove an hour south to the beautiful Bolgheri wine region on the west coast of Italy.  Bolgheri (also the name of the central town in the region) is the newest wine region in Italy and has become very successful over the past few decades, producing some excellent wines, usually in small quantities.  Our first stop was at Le Macchiole (winery) where we had a wonderful personal tour, wine tasting and luncheon.  Many thanks to our hostess, Veronica, and Chef Gionata d’Alessi of Io Cucion Restaurant in Bibbona (a municipality in the Province of Livorno and the chef’s birthplace) for an outstanding meal.

 

The vineyards of Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

The vineyards of Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

 

The winery production uses very contemporary, state-of-the-art equipment at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

The winery production uses very contemporary, state-of-the-art equipment at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

 

“A living legend, Le Macchiole is today recognized as one of Tuscany’s finest wine estates.  Indeed, Le Macchiole is lauded as much for the consistency and quality of its wines, as it is for opening doors and increasing the sex appeal of the once little known Bolgheri region.

It began with a dream of one very special couple – Eugenio Campolmi and his wife Cinzia Merli. Living a comfortable life running Eugenio’s parents’ retail business, they longed to make wine in Tuscany, and set about exploring the region to discover the perfect site for their ambitions.

In 1983, Eugenio and Cinzia came across a special piece of land in the then largely unheard-of Bolgheri region, just 5 miles from the coast.  It was love at first sight – they planted several hectares of international varieties and produced their first vintage in 1987.  Released in 1989, the inaugural Paleo Rosso was received to universal critical acclaim, validating the couple’s pioneering strategy of making varietal wines in the Bolgheri coastline.  Critics praised the power, elegance and above all the remarkable concentration inherent to their wines, which has only improved since the initial releases.

Sadly, however, Eugenio died in 2002, leaving his widow Cinzia and her brother Massimo to continue his pioneering work and forge a legacy worthy of the family name.  Understanding and enhancing their unique terroir has been the overriding aim, with a painstaking amount of work going into vineyard management and matching a particular variety of vine to a special place.

But, as anyone who has sampled these delicious wines will testify, the rewards have more than justified the team’s hard work.  Today, Le Macchiole continues to make some of the greatest wines in the region, characterized by their balance, finesse and yet intense aromas and complexity.  Accessible on release, the wines will age gracefully for many years.” — www.cellartours.com/italy/italian-wineries/le-macchiole

 

One of the Corten steel frames set up in the vineyards of Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, by the family owners as part of their “Messorio04Bolgheri” project

One of the Corten steel frames set up in the vineyards of Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, by the family owners as part of their “Messorio04Bolgheri” project: “We would like those who visit our winery, walk through the town’s streets, cycle or drive along Via Bolgherese, to feel the urge to stop, relax and take in the beauty of the landscape around them, through the frames showcasing [the Nobel Prize in Literature winning Italian poet] Giosuè Carducci’s [1835-1907] best-loved sites.  We would like them to feel part of a wonderful place, just even for a moment, recite the Poet’s verses, open their eyes and heart to beauty.  This is what we wish for, and this is why we donated the frames to the people of Castagneto and Bolgheri and to all those who would like to come and enjoy the beauty of our land.”

 

“It was 2012, and I had been working for Le Macchiole for barely a year when Cinzia told me that she had a project in mind that would help promote the town of Castagneto Carducci: forty-eight 6-liter Magnum bottles of Messorio 2004 — an extraordinary vintage, even unique in some respects — up for sale.  ‘How about doing something with the proceeds from the sale- she said- to help our area?’  I thought it over for a few days.  Then I suddenly remembered myself as a child going to markets with my uncle, a street vendor, in his white truck and driving along the road to Volterra.  Every single time, my eye was attracted to an old, empty billboard frame on the side of the road near Ponteginori.  It was somehow ugly and fascinating at the same time: it framed the landscape perfectly, and never the same landscape.  Always different views, depending on the angle of vision, the time of the day, the season of the year.  And so, a sunset sky was not only beautiful: all it took was a rusty frame to make it a beautiful, framed sunset sky.  Basically, a work of art.  So I said to myself: why shouldn’t we do the same thing?  After all, Carducci used to come to Bolgheri to observe the landscape.  Well, yes, his beloved grandmother was there, waiting for him, but he gained inspiration for his poetry by contemplating the natural beauty of our land.  Magnificent landscapes, sweet hills and sunsets.  I was thinking of maxi frames, framing some of the town’s loveliest views, made of Corten steel, a metal which has a rust-like appearance and, besides bringing me back to my childhood memories, oozes with history and tradition.  And then I came up with the idea of doing it in the 16:9 format, which is the international standard format for multimedia, allowing passers-by and tourists to take a picture and post it on social media with the hashtag #messorio04bolgheri.  No two photos of the same place will ever look the same, with the background constantly changing, whether because of a cloud, the sunlight, a nuance or the sky a different shade of blue.  And, who knows?  Maybe someone, though unaware of it, will be lucky enough to see exactly what the Poet saw.” — Antonio Sanna

 

Primo (first course) Raviolino di Pappa al Pomodoro e Burrata (small raviolis filled with tomato soup and Burrata cheese); luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, served with

Primo (first course) Raviolino di Pappa al Pomodoro e Burrata (small raviolis filled with tomato soup and Burrata cheese); luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, served with Bolgheri Rosso (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) 2016

 

Secondo (second course) Filettino de Agnello con Pancetta e Misticanza (pancetta-wrapped lamb fillet with Mesculin salad), luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, served with

Secondo (second course) Filettino de Agnello con Pancetta e Misticanza (pancetta-wrapped lamb fillet with Mesculin salad), luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, served with Paleo Rosso (100% Cabernet Franc) 2014 and Scrio (100% Syrah) 2009 and Messorio (100% Merlot) 2011

 

Cheese Selection with homemade bread, luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, served with Messorio (100% Merlot) 2002 (celebrating our ship_s launching year!)

Cheese Selection with homemade bread, luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy, served with Messorio (100% Merlot) 2002 (celebrating our ship’s launching year!)

 

A close up of the Messorio (100% Merlot) 2002 (celebrating our ship_s launching year!) and cheese at our luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy_

A close up of the Messorio (100% Merlot) 2002 (celebrating our ship’s launching year!) and cheese at our luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

 

Dolci (dessert) Crostatina con spuma al Mascarpone e fondente (Chocolate Mascarpone mousse tart), luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

Dolci (dessert) Crostatina con spuma al Mascarpone e fondente (Chocolate Mascarpone mousse tart), luncheon at Le Macchiole (winery), Bolgheri, Italy

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

 

Drink local, Eat local: The Wachau and Jamek Estate Winery, Vienna, Austria

We sailed on a river boat along the Danube River in the Wachau wine-growing region, Austria; this small town along the river has a beautiful church built under towering medieval ruins

We sailed on a river boat along the Danube River in the Wachau wine-growing region, Austria; this small town along the river has a beautiful church built under towering medieval ruins

 

From Vienna we spent one day exploring the region along the Danube River to the west. We drove to Dürstein in the Wachau wine-growing region — only 12 miles (19.3 km) long — and took a river cruise on one of the scheduled public boats to the west to Spitz, which marks the end of the Wachau.  We had arranged for a driver to pick us up there and take us back to the east to explore a little and then arrive at the Jamek estate in Joching for a wine tasting and luncheon on their beautiful terrace, overlooking the Jamek vineyards.  It is one of the leading estates in the Wachau region that now has 232 wineries in Austria’s smallest wine region.  Wines have been produced in the area since the Romans, and the monasteries at the beginning of the 10th century constructed many of the terraces used to plant the vineyards, making the Wachau an historic cultural landscape.

 

Each small town along the Danube had a church that dominated the skyline, Wachau wine-growing region, Austria

Each small town along the Danube had a church that dominated the skyline, Wachau wine-growing region, Austria

 

We ended our river cruise in the town of Spitz, Wachau wine-growing region, Austria

We ended our river cruise in the town of Spitz, Wachau wine-growing region, Austria

 

“The Wachua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and region of natural beauty, and lies in the Danube valley between the towns of Melk and Krems.  The wine grape varieties Grüner Veltliner and Riesling prevail on 1,344 hectares, partly on very steep-inclined terraces.  The best vineyard sites produce some of the best white wine in the world with decades of aging potential…  The Wachau is one of Austria’s most exciting and fascinating wine regions.  Over millions of years, the Danube has gorged its winding waterway through the consolidated gneiss and amphibolite.  The crystalline rock soils on steep terraces produce outstanding Rieslings.  During the Ice Age vegetation cover was poor and, prevailing winds carried drifting sand that settled in the lee of the east-facing crystalline hillsides, resulting in layers of loess.  This is where great, opulent and expressive Grüner Veltliner is cultivated.  The extremely diverse geological terrain, coupled with the construction of terraces in the best aspects, and the cultivation of vines on these steep inclines by the Bavarian monasteries during the Middle Ages, has resulted in a spectacular and unique Wachau landscape.” – www.austrianwine.com

 

Before setting off for the Jamek Estate Winery, we climbed a gentle walk up to the church in Spitz, Wachau wine-growing region, Austria

Before setting off for the Jamek Estate Winery, we climbed a gentle walk up to the church in Spitz, Wachau wine-growing region, Austria

 

The estate house at the Jamek Estate Winery, Joching, Austria, dating back over 100 years

The estate house at the Jamek Estate Winery, Joching, Austria, dating back over 100 years

 

“Embedded in the romantic landscape of the Wachau region [in Joching] and right next to the Danube [River], the classic Jamek estate is surrounded by vineyards and a few apricot trees.  A beautiful place, just perfect for enjoying. A competent team of committed people fulfills every culinary desire.  This is how the Jamek estate became an institution which enjoys great popularity in Austria and abroad – and for many years now…  Built under the name “Hotel Wachau” in 1912, this estate represents the epitome of successful hospitality.  Four generations, whose greatest desire has always been to please visitors to the Wachau region by offering the highest possible quality…  Delicious wines and fine food have a long tradition in the Jamek estate.  The family is committed to producing legendary wines such as the Riesling from the famous single vineyard Klaus.  Traditional practices are combined with modern methods in the winery.  Modern technology is a prerequisite for careful vinification, but the traditional ageing in wooden barrels makes the wines attractive…  Our main grape variety is Riesling, which is seconded by Grüner Veltliner.  We also cultivate some Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Chardonnay, and Gelber Muskateller, and naturally some red varieties as well: Zweigelt and Spätburgunder (Pinor Noir).  The three quality categories of the Wachau region: 1) Steinfeder: Light and fragrant – maximum of 11% alcohol, 2) Federspiel: Medium bodies Kabinett wines — maximum of 12.5% alcohol, and 3) Smaragd: The most full-bodied wines – at least 12.5% alcohol.” – Jamek estate brochure

 

Vineyards of Jamek Estate Winery, Joching, Austria

Vineyards of Jamek Estate Winery, Joching, Austria

 

New growth on the vineyards in spring at the Jamek Estate Winery, Joching, Austria

New growth on the vineyards in spring at the Jamek Estate Winery, Joching, Austria

 

The Jamek Estate Winery labels feature the estate house, Joching, Austria

The Jamek Estate Winery labels feature the estate house, Joching, Austria

 

Wine tasting of Jamek Estate Winery Grüner Veltliner and Riesling wines, Joching, Austria

Wine tasting of Jamek Estate Winery Grüner Veltliner and Riesling wines, Joching, Austria

 

A standout dish at our luncheon at the Jamek Estate Winery, Joching, Austria, was scallops with fresh spring green asparagus with a side of potatoes

A standout dish at our luncheon at the Jamek Estate Winery, Joching, Austria, was scallops with fresh spring green asparagus with a side of potatoes

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Drink Local, Eat Local: Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla wine region (near Cartagena), Spain

The entrance to the Juan Gil winery, which is the original site of the expanded Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

The entrance to the Juan Gil winery, which is the original site of the expanded Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

From Cartagena we ventured out to the Jumilla wine region to visit one of the flagship Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates) wineries – Juan Gil, the original winery of the now expanded family holdings across Spain.  We had an extensive tour of the winery, a tasting of some of their well made wines, and an outstanding multi-course luncheon nicely accompanied by some of their top-end wines (including a Tempranillo from another Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares estate winery in El Pego, Spain).

 

Vineyards of the Juan Gil winery, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

Vineyards of the Juan Gil winery, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

The main fermentation room at the Juan Gil winery, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

The main fermentation room at the Juan Gil winery, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

The barrel ageing room in the cellar of the Juan Gil winery, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

The barrel ageing room in the cellar of the Juan Gil winery, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

From the main Juan Gil winery buildings we drove over to a newer complex where they produce their top end red wine, Juan Gil Etiqueta Azul (Juan Gil Blue Label), made mostly from the ind

From the main Juan Gil winery buildings we drove over to a newer complex where they produce their top end red wine, Juan Gil Etiqueta Azul (Juan Gil Blue Label), made mostly from the indigenous Monastreli grapes with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blended in to make a complex wine that is aged 18 months in a selection of French and American oak barrels, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

“It’s impressive to see the progression of such a large wine group, considering its humble origins and the area where they started.  Aside from Jumilla, where they own Juan Gil and Bodegas El Nido, the Gil Family Estates is also present in Montsant (Can Blau), Priorat (Bluegrey), Calatayud (Ateca), Campo de Borja (Morca), Almansa (Atalaya), Castilla y León (Tridente and Shaya, the latter under the Rueda appellation) and Rías Baixas (Lagar de Condesa).  They have recently expanded to Rioja where they have built a winery called Rosario Vera after buying vineyards in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.

“The group comprises over 1,400 hectares of own vineyards with production exceeding 8 million bottles.  Up to 75% of the wines are exported to over 40 countries.  The fourth generation’s nine siblings all have a stake in the company headed by Miguel and Ángel Gil.

“The group’s strategy is based on offering best value wines and the creation of economies of scale to be more competitive…  Their wine portfolio usually includes an entry-level wine followed by a top value wine in the mid-range category and a premium wine.” — www.spanishwinelover.com

 

The fermentation tanks and ageing barrels for the Juan Gil Etiqueta Azul (Juan Gil Blue Label) wine, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

The fermentation tanks and ageing barrels for the Juan Gil Etiqueta Azul (Juan Gil Blue Label) wine, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

The winery_s dining room for visiting guests where we enjoyed a multi-course luncheon, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

The winery’s dining room for visiting guests where we enjoyed a multi-course luncheon, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

Juan Gil Silver Label wine – the grapes used to produce this wine came from old vineyards with chalky and stony soils, poor in nutrients, that are ideal for the growing of the Monastre

Juan Gil Silver Label wine – the grapes used to produce this wine came from old vineyards with chalky and stony soils, poor in nutrients, that are ideal for the growing of the Monastrell variety, with a low yield; the wine was aged in French oak barrels; Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

Our last savory course at the luncheon was this delicious paella cooked in a rather large pan for our small group, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

Our last savory course at the luncheon was this delicious paella cooked in a rather large pan for our small group, Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

Rejón is the Gil Family Estates_ best vineyard of Tempranillo located in the town of El Pego, Spain, with 130 year-old vines that are planted on a top layer of gravel over very sandy

Rejón is the Gil Family Estates’ best vineyard of Tempranillo located in the town of El Pego, Spain, with 130 year-old vines that are planted on a top layer of gravel over very sandy soils; the limited production wine retains the typicity and of the indigenous grapes coming from the unique terroir; the wine is fermented in small vats and aged in French oak barrels for 20 months before bottling — Juan Gil Bodegas Familiares (Gil Family Estates), Jumilla, Spain

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Waiheke Island, New Zealand

no-we-didnt-leave-auckland-and-suddenly-arrive-in-tuscany-although-it-looks-that-way-these-are-olive-trees-on-waiheke-island-new-zealand-belonging-to-the-initial-olive-oil-prod

No, we didn’t leave Auckland and suddenly arrive in Tuscany (although it looks that way) – these are olive trees on Waiheke Island, New Zealand, belonging to the initial olive oil producer there, Rangihoua Estate

 

Located one-half hour from Auckland by ferry, the “Wine Island” of Waiheke is far removed from the city’s bustling urban ambiance.  Rolling hills, abundant sunshine and the sea breeze off the Hauraki Gulf combine to create ideal growing conditions for grapes and olive trees.  An abundance of wineries produce a range of intensely flavored varietals, from elegant, floral syrahs and deeply colored Cabernet Sauvignons to refreshing Sauvignon Blancs and Viogniers.  We anchored off the Maitiatia Wharf on Matiatia Bay on the far western end of the island.

 

the-tasting-room-and-factory-on-the-ground-floor-for-the-world-class-evoo-extra-virgin-olive-oil-produced-by-rangihoua-estate-waiheke-island-new-zealand

The tasting room and factory (on the ground floor) for the world class EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) produced by Rangihoua Estate, Waiheke Island, New Zealand

 

We spent a day exploring several of the island’s wine and olive oil producers.  Our initial stop was at the first olive oil producer on Waiheke, Rangihoua Estate. Rangihoua manages 4,200 olive trees and produces internationally acclaimed extra virgin olive oil.  Our visit included a tour of the olive groves, presentations about harvesting and olive oil production techniques, and an olive oil tasting to appreciate their range of freshly produced EVOO (extra virgin olive oils).  Rangihoua took home gold and silver awards at the Royal Easter Show 2016, and was named in the Flos Olei 2017 guide book of the world’s best olive oils.  We liked the Waiheke Blend EVOO so much we bought some to bring back to our apartment’s kitchen on the ship

 

an-italian-made-olive-oil-press-which-is-at-the-heart-of-the-production-of-excellent-evoo-extra-virgin-olive-oil-at-rangihoua-estate-waiheke-island-new-zealand

An Italian-made olive oil press which is at the heart of the production of excellent EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) at Rangihoua Estate, Waiheke Island, New Zealand

we-liked-the-waiheke-blend-evoo-so-much-we-bought-some-to-bring-back-to-our-apartments-kitchen-on-the-ship-rangihoua-estate-waiheke-island-new-zealand

We liked the Waiheke Blend EVOO so much we bought some to bring back to our apartment’s kitchen on the ship, Rangihoua Estate, Waiheke Island, New Zealand

 

 

vineyards-at-stonyridge-vineyards-where-the-first-vines-were-planted-in-1982-and-1983-among-some-of-the-first-on-waiheke-island-new-zealand

Vineyards at Stonyridge Vineyards where the first vines were planted in 1982 and 1983, among some of the first on Waiheke Island, New Zealand

 

Our next stop was a tour and wasting with the winemaker at Stonyridge Vineyards.  Well-known for its Bordeaux-style cabernet blends, Stonyridge Vineyards has employed traditional French winemaking methods since its very first harvest in 1985.  Two years later, they drew international appeal with their top-rated Larose.  The on-site Veranda Café serves appetizers, salads, entrées and desserts accompanied by Stonyridge varietals

 

the-award-winning-stonyridge-vineyards-larose-was-the-best-bordeaux-style-red-wine-we-tasted-on-this-trip-around-new-zealand-its-price-now-about-us300-for-the-current-release-2014

The award winning Stonyridge Vineyards Larose was the best Bordeaux-style red wine we tasted on this trip around New Zealand – its price, now about US$300 for the current release (2014), reflects the wine’s ratings at the top of the country’s red wines, Waiheke Island, New Zealand

 

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The vines at Te Whau Vineyard overlook Hitapa Bay, Waiheke Island, New Zealand

 

Our final stop was at Te Whau Vineyard and their restaurant where we had a delicious lunch accompanied by several of their wines.  A recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence as “One of the Best Restaurants in the World for Wine Lovers,” Te Whau specializes in fresh New Zealand and Pacific Rim cuisine.  Located on the top level of the Te Whau winery, this award winning restaurant features first-rate New Zealand labels, a collection of contemporary wines to accompany meals and spectacular views of Hitapa Bay.

 

several-different-vintages-of-the-top-te-whau-vineyard-red-wine-the-point-is-served-at-the-winerys-namesake-restaurant-that-overlooks-hitapa-bay-waiheke-island-new-zealand

Several different vintages of the top Te Whau Vineyard red wine, The Point, is served at the winery’s namesake restaurant that overlooks Hitapa Bay, Waiheke Island, New Zealand