Monday, May 14, 2012

Wild Warrnambool

We've known Merlot Boy for almost 16 years now and we'd have a tough time counting the number of times the metropolis of Warrnambool has been mentioned. It was a great little coincidence that the city is pretty much found at the far end of the Great Ocean Road and was a natural stop on our journey to South Australia's wine country.

We managed to check in about half an hour before Merlot Boy and Mother Theresa knocked at our door. The plan was to take a bit of wander over and take in the view at Flagstaff Hill and the historical Maritime Village. Dinner followed at Pippie's with its panoramic view; however, our first impression was that "Whoa, geriatric city." The restaurant was packed, but I doubt there was anyone there under 70. Turned out that a bus tour of seniors from Sydney had made the same restaurant arrangements that Merlot Boy had.

After all the jokes of trying to set up Mother Theresa on a hot date with one of our fellow diners, we settled in for a great little evening of family stories and continuous laughs.

The basic wine list was fairly tame; so, I checked with our server about a reserve list. There was no list; however, there was a little side cellar where they contained a nice little assortment of premium wines - most of which I'd never run across before. A lighter red was the best way to match up with our varied dinners and I' hoped to try a local wine. We don't see many wines from Victoria state back in Vancouver. Considering the fact that tomorrow would find us leaving Victoria for South Australia, this might be one of our last opportunities to taste Victoria.

I gather they don't get all that many folks perusing the cellar; so, I was joined by Pippie's manager/sommelier and I was more than happy to let him steer me towards our evening libation - particularly when the sommelier says he's so sure that we'll like the wine that he'll refund the cost of the bottle if we don't like it. After all, if meeting one of your great bud's mom doesn't call for a bit of a splurge, what does?

1113. 2006 Best's Great Western - Old Clone Pinot Noir (Grampians - Victoria - Australia)

I can't say that I knew anything about either Best's Great Western or the Grampians region before this bottle. Luckily, a little Googling goes a long way. The area is named for the Grampians Mountains found to the North of Warrnambool. Best's is one of the most established wineries in the region and it has some of the oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in the world. Their old "Millers Burgundy" vineyard dates back to 1867.

Over the years, these grapes were primarily blended with fruit from other vineyards; however, during the 1960's the winery began to look at making a single vineyard Burgundy-styled wine. In the mid-1980's, the bulk of the Millers Burgundy vines were identified as Pinot Meunier; however, there was a small block of Pinot Noir as well. Two distinct clones were discovered - one French, one Swiss - and, as the French clone was "deemed superior," a further eleven rows were planted next to the original plantings. There is some discussion as to whether those original 1867 vines might be the oldest surviving Pinot Noir in the world.

A new winemaker, Adam Wadewitz, started with the winery in 2005 and, with his first vintage in 2006, he oversaw Best's Great Western release their first wine under the Old Clone label. The wine is now a single block, single clone wine that is produced entirely from vine cuttings that date from those original Pinot Noir plantings. It's the winery's goal to capture "a true reflection of the Concongella vineyard and its purity of fruit expression" and it is now introduced as one of the winery's icon wines.

The wine didn't last long enough but the sommelier didn't quite believe us when we said that the wine was terrible and we wanted a different bottle. Seriously, I don't think he had any reason to question us just because there was only about a quarter of an inch of wine left in the bottle when we called him over to "complain." Having been shut down, we opted to behave and save ourselves for the dessert and cocktails that Mother Theresa graciously offered us back at her home.

There's little doubt that we'll see Merlot Boy join us again as a drinking buddy on this little Odyssey, but I'm not so sure that we'll meet up with Mother Theresa any time in the near future - unless, of course, she comes to visit us in Canada. Without a doubt, the darling has an open invitation despite the fact that she never really spilled any embarrassing stories about her little boy. Either he was a gem of a child or he was really good at hiding his shenanigans. I'm opting for the latter.

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