Saturday, May 12, 2012

Melbourne Walkabout -In Search of Hockey

By the time Boo and I had pushed forth into our day's journey, it had become all too apparent that our little Aussie walkabout was going to fly by far too quickly. Here we were, just kicking into our second full day in Melbourne, and it was already half-way through our stay in one of our favourite cities in the world.

And then, if time wasn't flying by fast enough already, there was a small added pressure of trying to fit in some playoff hockey. The NHL playoffs had started just as Boo and I boarded the plane to make our way Down Under - and, despite having finished first overall in the league's seasonal play, the Canucks were down two games to none to the LA Kings. Today's was a do-or-die game for our boys and I badly wanted to try and find a way to watch the game.

Despite the fact that your average Aussie - as sports mad as they might be - knows as much about ice hockey as I do about raising kangaroos, I thought I had a lead on a pub that regularly shows NHL games. I worked out that, with all the time differences, the game was starting around noon. After traipsing city streets throughout the morning, we arrived at the pub - only to find out that our game wasn't to be found on any of the cable or satellite stations. We ran into some other ex-pat Vancouverites, in Canucks gear, on the street as well but they'd had no better luck than us in coming up with a place to catch the game. Bugger.

We gave it the old college try by finding a pub with WiFi in the hope that we might pick something up on the iPad. We managed a whole minute of action before the app we were using gave up the ghost. Despite our most valiant efforts, we couldn't come up with any way to find a live feed. So, we finished off our fish and chips, while it was still 0-0 in the 2nd period, and went back to touring the streets. In retrospect, it might be best that we missed the game's feed. The boys lost 1-0 and following it live would have just made the result all the tougher to take. This was some deep hole the old Canucks now found themselves in. They'd have to win four straight games, having already lost three. Double bugger.

Having learned the final score, Boo and I were fully primed to drown a few sorrows when we joined up with Merlot Boy and made our way out to Sheila and Bruce's for dinner. I'd figured we might get a little consolation from Sheila since she's an old Vancouver girl herself. Good luck with that. She pointed out that she's lived in Oz as long as she ever had in Canada and, nowadays, hockey's just another "s"-word (read "sports related"). No magic for her. No stirrings at the thought of a Stanley Cup. She simply pointed out that being a "footy widow" is about all she's capable of putting up with when it comes to men and their sports.

It took no time for Sheila to offer up a glass of wine though as we settled in to find out what she and Bruce had been up to since we last visited - in addition to bringing up Bruce Jr. and Bruce III that is.

1108. 2009 Eden Road - The Seedling Shiraz (Canberra/Hilltops - Australia)

This is the first wine that I can recall having that featured fruit from the Canberra region. It's not an area that we (read, "I") hear about in Vancouver. A relatively new wine region, Canberra's first vineyards were only planted in the early 1970's. This vintage saw a blend of the Canberra fruit with Hilltops grapes. I'm not familiar with the Hilltops region either but it's located 160km NorthWest of Canberra and it appears to have a more storied past with grape growing but much of that history relates to the provision of "grog to diggers on the surrounding goldfields" in the 1860's.

Eden Road, itself, was only established in 2006, but it's quickly putting its name and that of Canberra on the wine map. It has already garnered a five-star rating from James Halliday - the highest rating given by perhaps Australia's pre-eminent wine scribe - and I just learned that one of this wine's big brothers, the 2008 The Long Road Hilltops Shiraz, won the 2009 Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for the best one year old red wine in Australia.

We certainly didn't know any of this while dining on Sheila's lamb and quinoa. Nor did I know anything of note about the next winery when I grabbed this bottle on the way over for dinner.

1109. 2009 Balnaves - The Blend (Coonawarra - Australia)

Turns out that Balnaves has made quite a name for itself in its twenty years of operation. The previously mentioned James Halliday named Balnaves Winery of the Year in 2008. I simply grabbed the bottle because Boo and I would be passing through Coonawarra in a couple of days and I thought a blend might be nice. A classic Bordeaux or Meritage blend, the wine was Cab Sauv dominant (72%) with Merlot and Cab Franc making up the balance (with 22% and 6% respectively).

The wine might have been a tad big for Sheila's trademark Pavlova (hasn't she become the true blue Aussie, serving lamb and Pavlova?) but we'd done most of the damage back during the lamb - and by the time we'd retired to the living room, it didn't matter much. Indeed, tasting notes were far from the forefront of tonight's escapades.

1110. 2009 Argyle Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra - Australia)

I can't recall whether it was Merlot Boy or Sheila and Bruce that provided the third wine of the night, but it was yet another new discovery for me. I know that Coonawarra is probably best known for its Cab Sauv but Argyle isn't a brand that I've heard of before - and I haven't been able to find about the wine since. It might be a secondary label or a virtual winery but I can't find any reference to the winery online. There's an Argyle Estate in Adelaide Hills and an Argyle in Oregon but neither of them appear to have anything to do with this bottle.

All I know is that this was such a rare opportunity to share an evening - on the other side of the world - with marvellous friends that it wouldn't have mattered what we had to quaff back. I don't even think the Canucks' woes came up or crossed my mind after the first glass or two. Discussions of Aussie Rules - and the merits of Bruce's Collingwood Magpies vs. Merlot Boy's Hawthorn Hawks - however, were legion. Not that Merlot Boy had much of a chance - what with all three Bruce's being solid Pies men.

When in Oz....

The evening came to an end so much earlier than desired. I think we barely scratched the surface. Something tells me this is becoming a bit of theme.

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