Friday, September 28, 2012

An AWAS & Tyrrell's Wine Dinner

Some bottles of wine definitely become more of an archived memory than others and not necessarily because they're wildly extravagant or expensive.  One bottle that I have a particular fondness for was a simple Tyrrell's Long Flat Red that I pretty much polished off on my own one night, back in 1996, as I spent the evening writing away at postcards in an Alice Springs restaurant.  As you might imagine, the postcards became more and more interesting as the night progressed and the Long Flat Red disappeared.  If memory serves (and it will be highly suspect), the last card was to Boo - whom I had only just met the month before I left for Australia - consisting of a poem that revolved around words like "Boo," "Roo," "Blue" and "You."

I'm sure you get the picture.  

Well, Tyrrell's no longer makes Long Flat Red.  They sold the Long Flat brand back in 2003 but, like my memories of Oz, the winery carries on and it continues to be a force in Australian winemaking.  One of the twelve family owned wineries that make up Australia's First Families of Wine, a multi-generational group of leading winemakers, Tyrrell's is also the focus of an Australian Wine Appreciation Society dinner tonight.

As much as I love a good drop of Aussie wine - and despite the aforementioned evening with that Long Flat Red - I know very little about Tyrrell's.  There don't appear to be many of their wines available locally.  As such, I was quite looking forward to this AWAS Dinner, particularly since it was being held at the Fish House - one of those well-established Vancouver restaurants that I just never seem to make it to.   Unfortunately for Boo, he got called into work; so, my Dad had to fill in as a last minute replacement.  Lucky for Dad; sad for Boo.

Bruce Tyrrell was our special guest of the evening and, like most of the Aussie winemakers that visit AWAS, he was good for more than a few bracing stories.  One of the best was Bruce's recounting of how Tyrrell's obtained their first Chardonnay vines.  Bruce's father was an admirer of Burgundian Chardonnays but, back in the 60's, there wasn't much Chardonnay to be found in Australia.  The Tyrrell's asked the Penfold's gang, just down the road, if they would give them some cuttings.  After years of refusals, Bruce's dad simply snuck into the Penfold's vineyard one night and liberated some.  Ultimately, Tyrrell's bought the whole vineyard.

The winery's history of stories goes well back as well as it was established in the Hunter Valley, an hour and a half out of Sydney, in 1858.  It was named Australia's Winery of the Year in the 2010 James Halliday Wine Companion - one of the country's foremost wine references - and now has vineyards in McLaren Vale, the Limestone Coast (both in South Australia) and Heathcote (Victoria state) regions as well the original Hunter Valley estate.  Tyrrell's Semillons and Chardonnays are considered to be "pacesetters" and we got to try lovely examples of both.

As enjoyable as the whites were, however, I was far more taken with the four Shiraz wines we tried.  I don't generally add a wine to The List from these winery dinners, but I am tonight.  Since it's my blog, it's my rules and I'm not likely to see another bottle of some of these wines ever again.  It only makes sense to me.

1251. 2006 Tyrrell's - Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz (Heathcote - Victoria - Australia)

I don't see Victorian Shiraz nearly as often as I see the varietal grown in other regions; so, the Heathcote seemed to be a good choice to add to The List.  That and the fact that the cooler growing conditions in the region help retain a nice level of acidity to match the typical dark Aussie fruit.
I could have easily picked either of the more robust, higher end Vat 9 or 4 Acres Hunter Shiraz wines that we enjoyed but I happened to take a picture of the Rufus Stone; so, Heathcote it is.  Regardless of the bottle that was chosen, our dinner of sablefish, two-way lamb, duck breast and confit risotto and the Tyrrell's line up was a far cry from my days of Long Flat Red and a 4'n'20 meat pie of old.  Definitely no complaints on my part.

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