Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Grand Pairing - Ferrari & Octavius

Vancouver's just awash in divas lately - Madonna, Streisand, Gaga and now Jane Ferrari. At least that's how Yalumba's Winemaker - Communications was introduced to us at our Australian Wine Appreciation Society dinner.  Having met and listened to Jane on other stops during her past travels, I'm willing to grant her the intriguing personality of a diva - after all who else would title a presentation seminar, "The Viognier Monologues?"  She was quick to point out to this evening's crowd though that we definitely weren't going to find her sporting any tin cone bras or arriving decked out in nothing but meat.

If nothing else, Jane Ferrari has the gift of the gab - but she's far more than that - and, despite the fact that she advised us that "the more you've had to drink, the funnier you'll find me," she had us hanging on everything she was saying from "word one." Having been raised in Alice Springs (no doubt the source of many stories of their own), she moved on to winemaking.  After starting with Yalumba, she left to work with big names in the Barossa like Glaetzer and Rockford, only to return to Yalumba in 1997 - where she's remained ever since.

Nowadays, she travels the world spreading the good word on Yalumba and Aussie wines in general.  She's a natural and, earlier this year, while  traversing snow-covered Ontario roads, Jane was advised that the Wine Communicators of Australia had named her the group's 2012 Communicator of the Year.

It was a real treat to have her walk us through an ever-so-tasty flight that showed the breadth of Yalumba's wines.  We tasted nine wines that included a Tassie sparkler, Eden Valley Riesling, Coonawarra Cab and even botrytis affected Viognier - but my favourite of the night was one of Yalumba's hallmark wines, The Octavius Shiraz.  This is not a wine that I get to enjoy unless someone is pouring it at a special occasion like this.  It's been referred to as "quintessential" and "big ticket" in the wine press; so, I'm adding it to The List.

1254.  2006 Yalumba The Octavius (Barossa - Australia)

Jane likened The Octavius to a Barossan take on a Côte-Rôtie Syrah from the Rhône.  The wine gets its name from the fact that it's matured in "octaves" - 100 litre capacity barrels.  Yalumba's website states that The Octavius is the "only red wine in the world that is matured in such small barrels."  Jane further expounded that, in the wine's early years, those small barrels almost got the best of the wine - especially since the wine is aged for 8-10 years.  She mentioned that it was often referred to as "Oak-tavius."  The barrel program has been redesigned so that it now incorporates both French and American oak (rather that strictly American) and the staves are aged prior to the assembly of the barrels.  It certainly helps that those barrels are crafted at Yalumba's own on-site cooperage - not many wineries have that luxury.

There were a number of descriptors thrown about while tasting this wine, but whether your take on this wine was "metrosexual," "velvety," restrained or robust, it's still a stunner - with dark fruit and "chocolate" jumping out of the glass.

The wine was paired with Roast Elk, Preserved Cherries and Spiced Chocolate Jus.  I don't know if the Aussies have much opportunity to pair Shiraz with Elk back home, but they should try!  No doubt, The Octavius would have been just as tasty with the Smoked Braised Shortrib that we had earlier.  Hell, I'd've happily knocked it back with the Lime Cured Tuna that we had as a first course if there was no other way to taste it.  But, pairing it with the elk was delicious.

I think it's fair to say that Jane is just as delicious.  I'd also venture that this was one of the most enjoyable AWAS dinners I've ever attended.  I heartily suggest you take advantage of any opportunity you can to meet up with Ms. Ferrari,  I don't think you'll regret it and, indeed, you don't have to wait for her to come to you.  You can follow her adventures and hear the odd story or two on Jane's blog.  I know I look forward to our next encounter.

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