2016 Hoddles Creek Yarra Valley Chardonnay

The talk around town is that Riesling seems not to be getting the attention it deserves.  I think I read where it was referred to as the ‘noble white grape’…which is fine,  I get that.  However, I think there needs to be a platform for other varieties to slide alongside those dubbed a ‘noble white grape’.  This Hoddles Creek Chardonnay presses this point even more so.

Fresh and lively it awakens you with the immediate, tell-tale and recognisable Chardonnay aroma and it doesn’t go away in a hurry.  This caused a pause before I tasted it because I wanted to take it all in, and so should you.

There was even more enjoyment when I tasted, or should I say started drinking this wine.  It simply gave everything in spades and, when you consider the price, it is truly astonishing.

The often used and ideal descriptor is stone fruit.  Throw in flinty, minerally and textural, even almondy (I know that’s not a word) and it got me thinking how it has some complexity too.  The acidity sat perfectly with this wine and it threw me a bit.  It made me wonder if it was built to tuck in and enjoy or be patient and let it show more of what it obviously has to offer.  Nicely done Franco d’Anna.  I’ll leave the other 4 bottles I have to answer that question over time.


Region: Yarra Valley, Vic.     Price: $22     Source: Online purchase.



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2016 Irvine The Estate Merlot Cabernet Franc

A Merlot based red blend?  Not something that springs to mind if someone asked me for an Aussie red blend recommendation.  Even the people at Irvine Wines would not be at all surprised at this outcome.  For this reason, I applaud them.  They have taken the plunge into the vast sea of blended reds and come to the surface with this Merlot Cabernet Franc in a life jacket.  The wine has been made so well, it was always destined to survive.

It definitely looks like a young buck in the glass thanks to the purple tinge at the edges but it is quite deep in colour.

On the nose it is not dark fruits but it’s not red fruits either.  From what I have read about mulberries (I’ve only ever tasted two), it seems as though that, and dark cherries, are what you’ll get here.

Now, here’s a thing.  Tasting this wine gives some pretty cool, very delicious and moreish characters.  As much as Merlot is 66 parts per hundred of the blend, the expected plum characteristics are but a bit player.  The Merlot must be a damn fine clone because it provides darker fruits than would normally be expected of the variety.  The Cab Franc adds some weight, width and length so well, you’d be mistaken for thinking it added more to the make-up than 34%.

This wine is all about the fruit.  French oak has been used but seems happy to carry the abundant fruit while the tannins support the Cab Franc at the finish.  It gives the punter plenty without a huge investment at the bottleshop.  Very nice work indeed.


Region: Eden Valley, South Australia     Price: $30     Source: Swap


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Levantine Hill – Ezard at Levantine

My wife and I are big advocates of the degustation menu with matching wines.  Getting the balance of enough food coupled with the right amount of wine and matching the textures as well as the flavours can be a chefs and sommeliers nightmare.

Cue Ezard at Levantine.  Here is the exception and I say that having experienced it for myself.

Let me start at the beginning;  Teage Ezard has come up with an exquisite menu that works so well with the quality Levantine Hill wines you are bound to walk away thinking like I did.  There has been a lot of thought, care and planning gone into this.


Ora King salmon, squid ink, tapioca dust, Yarra Valley Dairy Persian fetta, chervil, salmon roe, yuzu pearls, burdock root, and finished with various succulents.

The dishes are not a meal, let me make that clear from the start but, this is a good thing.  When selecting the degustation menu of your choice, whether it be the five course (with the option of an extra wagyu beef inclusion) or the eight course, there is enough food to satisfy even the most robust of eaters.  The menus are so well structured and thought out.  I just realised how (almost) boring that sounds.  What I mean is, the dishes are served in a sequence that highlights the hero of the dish starting with lighter foods through to heavier meats, culminating in dessert.

LH Ezard

Top: Pork belly, green pea, garlic, red wine

Bottom: Wagyu beef, ox tongue, onion, pickled shiitake, potato terrine

Another treat awaiting the taste buds is how delicately and beautifully the flavours are matched.  Nothing is overpowering or dominant.  Everything seems to just meld together effortlessly.  I’ve only ever used this word when I’ve described a wine but, ‘balanced’ is appropriate for all of the dishes.

LH Ezard2 - Copy

Apple, black sesame, fromage frais

Another aspect of their ‘way’ is the timing of presenting each course.  Nothing is rushed, each course seems to appear in a timely manner and with a clear, concise verbal description of what you’re about to experience.  Not in a way that is pretentious or boastful but informative and in a proud way.  Gee they do a good job of this!

The whole experience is exactly that, an experience (it’s not a process like some places).    You certainly feel special but you don’t feel exclusive.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean this in a bad way.  It’s just that the Ezard team make you feel so relaxed and comfortable it is like they are bringing you your meal at your own dining table.

I know it is not within everyone’s reach but, if you get the chance to visit and eat at  Ezard at Levantine Hill, special occasion or not, do so.  When you leave, it will be remembered as a special occasion regardless.  I have no doubt.

Ezard at Levantine Hill

Region: Yarra Valley, Victoria     Price: (from) $135     Source: Invitation

Next time: Levantine Hill – The Wines


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2017 Mérite Merlot Rosé

I have been really enjoying drinking rosé lately.  The same can be said for the other person that lives under the same roof as me, my wife.  Out of the two of us, she can be the thorn in your rosé if you serve up a dud.  I have no hesitation in saying that no rosé coloured glasses were needed for this one.

It’s quite a pretty colour.  Sits between the pink-ish colour that’s not unexpected for a rosé to a coppery colour of a skinsy pinot gris.  Aromas are all red fruits with a hint of sweetness but are subtle, delicate and inviting.

When you taste this rosé, you are going to be more than surprised for one that is merlot based.  It has all the bright red fruits like strawberries, ripe cranberries and juicy plums but there’s depth on the palate and texture too.  Tannins play a part that you wouldn’t expect in a rosé yet they are nicely played here.  It’s delicious, no two ways about it.  Well priced too.

We are really enjoying riding on the Rosé Revolution train that’s selling heaps of tickets and stopping at many stations around Australia.

Merite Wines

Region: Wrattonbully, SA     Price: $24     Source: Online purchase


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2016 Sandergrove Estate ‘Chaste’ Shiraz

A long, long time ago, I can still remember when big alcoholic red wines were being churned out at alarming rates because of an influential wine writer in the US of A who had ‘Jnr’ at the end of his name.  I bought and still have some of those wines.  How times, palates and views have changed.

How good is it that someone, a small producer (hats off, high fives and handshakes), is able to produce a wine with quality fruit, pack it with as much flavour as possible yet keep it real, balanced and damn drinkable at a very, very good price unlike those wines I referred to in the last paragraph.

Everything about this Shiraz spells, smells, tastes and talks…young!  No doubt about it.  The colour is where it all begins.  The colour purple is all that needs to be said.  On the nose, purple and blue fruits, fresh and rich but not overdone.  Mirrored on the palate but here, there is the added flavours of darker fruits piggy-backing lighter coloured fruits all the way to the long, long finish.  For me the oak and tannins are a bit obvious at the moment but, coupled with the excellent fruit, this is not going to pose a problem if you can be patient, put some in the cellar and let it collect dust.

Purely out of interest, I left some and tried this wine two days after opening it and it had hardly moved.  The oak had definitely softened but the fruit hadn’t budged.  I reckon this has a long and prosperous future.


Region: Mount Lofty Ranges, SA     Price: $25     Source: Gift courtesy of Sandergrove Estate

Sandergrove Chaste Shiraz

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2017 Mitchell Wines Watervale Riesling

It took me what seemed like ages to get started on this review.  I didn’t know where to start.  The issue was, it is such a beautiful, delicious Riesling that I wanted to make sure I did it justice in words.  Here goes.

It starts off with mouth-watering, floral and citrusy aromas.  Plenty of lemons and limes then grapefruity acidity touches down on the palate.  Subtly powerful and fresh, rich and juicy with a long dry finish.  Probably the shortest description I have ever written, but it seems appropriate to be so precise…just like this Riesling.

As much as Mitchell Rieslings are known to age without a hiccup, this is also a mighty good wine at such a young stage of its life and at this price, it should be a cellar staple.


Region: Watervale, Clare Valley     Price: $24     Source: Sample courtesy of Mitchell Wines


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Levantine Hill – The Place

Levantine Hill is an extraordinary place.  From the moment you drive onto the property, situated in the beautiful Yarra Valley, there is a sense of class and sophistication but it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what car you drive or the clothes you wear (within reason of course), everyone is welcome.  Besides, we are all there for the exact same reason.  For the sumptuous food prepared by Teage Ezard and his kitchen crew or the neatly handcrafted wines by Paul Bridgeman or a combination of both.

The building is quite striking but understated just the same.  Inside, there is a sense of plenty going on but everything is so orderly.  By that I don’t mean structured or regimental, it’s more that the team know how to do their thing without fuss or bother.

Levantine-Hill-Estate-Cellar Door

The tasting bench is nice and high with stools that perch you up at the ideal level to prepare yourself for a tasting of their exquisite, handcrafted wines.

Separated from the tasting bench, the All Day Dining area is set up to make things so easy for the diner as it is for the staff.  Neatly put into rows, tables for two (or four) are such that they are easily put together should a larger party arrive.  This is not a problem for the helpful and courteous team.


There are also Barrel Booths, a unique spot for more of a quiet, intimate lunch for two or a bigger group that has so much to catch up on, the chatter is constant, frivolity endures and memories are relived and made in one afternoon.

Moving into the more elegant dining area, Ezard at Levantine, the tables are positioned so privacy is provided without feeling isolated from the other diners which also allows you to speak to your partner or group normally without feeling as though your every word could be everyone else’s business.

signature restaurant

The areas are separated by displays showcasing products and produce from Levantine Hill and others but not to coax you into buying something.  They are more a mosaic of wine, foods and homewares that attracts your interest rather than demanding of your money.

Levantine Hill may seem like a big, shiny, new cellar door and it is, don’t get me wrong but that’s what you see from the outside.  Walk up to the door, wander inside and you’ll feel the welcome not just hear a greeting.

Visit the Yarra Valley, visit Levantine Hill and you’ll leave having experienced something rather than having just done something.  What are you waiting for?!


Next time:  Levantine Hill – Ezard at Levantine

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