In Search of the Perfect Pinot G!
Australia's Mornington Peninsula
I’m a card-carrying member of Club ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). Given the amount grown and sold, though, I’m obviously in the minority.
Perhaps, I’m just an old-fashioned gal and think that if a wine’s going to be aged in wood, it should be red, the richer and more complex the better. If I’m hanging around, waiting for my turn at the tennis courts at night, or in a restaurant where the lights glint in the facets of the crystal glasses, a full-bodied Margaret River Merlot, or a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, really hits the spot.
However, if I’m out with friends in the middle of the day, the sun is shining, and on my plate is a perfectlybaked quiche, nothing but a white wine will do. One that cleans my palate as I drink, and soothes my throat on the way down, helping me hold up my end of the animated conversation.
After years of scanning wine lists, and saying “no, no, no” to all the Chardonnays offered, sometimes the only thing left for me is an unpredictable Riesling, or the occasional Sauvignon Blanc. At times, I’ve been so desperate I’ve ordered a sparkling wine. Thankfully, a friend introduced me to Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio (or Griggio, as it’s sometimes spelled), and I was immediately hooked. At last, here was a white wine I liked. Not too sweet and not too dry. But tracking down Pinot G’s isn’t easy, and finding good ones is even harder— like trying to find a good man.
Pinot G’s, in particular, and wine, in general, continued to interest me so much that I decided to put wine at the central core of a book whose plot-line
would revolve around a hero in northern California who wanted to convert his grandparents’ vineyard from their traditional Zinfandel over to the Pinot gris variety grapes.
Most people have heard of the Pinot noir variety, but the white wines made from its hybrid variant are less well known.
To make my story authentic, I had to include details about the grape and how it’s grown. Then, I had a brain wave; a U.S. author I’d been in contact with, William Maltese, internationally best-selling author of over 180-published books, was actually writing a WILLIAM MALTESE’S WINE TASTER’S DIARY series about wineries world-wide. Maybe he could give me some information about Pinot G’s made in California.
William got back to me, saying: “Yes, there are some great wineries in California, some producing exceptional Pinot G’s, but why don’t you look closer to home? Having visited Australia, while writing my novel DARE TO LOVE IN OZ, I suggest you start in your own backyard, especially along the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria where Pinots seem to love the cold-weather growing conditions.”
In all our travels around Australia, my husband and I had visited a lot of “Cellar Doors”. In our twenties, we’d slept in the HR Holden a few nights to save on accommodation during a memorable trip to the Barossa Valley, returning with as much wine as we could carry without damaging the suspension. So, I started by checking out the Mornington Peninsula with its “pristine beaches and spectacular cliff tops, where you can catch a wave, paddle a sea kayak, tackle the fairway at Cape Schanck, or sip a seductive Pinot Noir; a special place where vines thrive in sheltered undulating valleys nurtured by a maritime cool climate that together create elegant, personality-packed awardwinning wines.”
We packed our golf clubs, tied our double Mirage sea kayak to the roof racks, and headed off.
First, we stopped in Melbourne. Being Sydney residents, we’d always been aware of the inter-city rivalry between these two major Australian cities. Sydney might be the larger, but Melbourne prides itself on being “the cultural capital of the continent”. It’s famed for its shopping and restaurants, and our brief stopover allowed us to check out its boutiques on Chapel Street, spend one pleasantly sunny Sunday morning meeting up with friends in St Kilda, and fi nalize our selection of which Peninsula wineries we’d be visiting.
As regards the latter, there was no way we’d be able to visit them all in one go, nearly sixty with cellar doors. Since only some of them grow, or make, Pinot G’s, which was what this wine diary is all about, that narrowed our selection considerably. Our itinerary became even more manageable when we eliminated those Cellar Doors not open to the public during our time there; although the selection expanded, somewhat, when many owners, not officially open, invited us to stop by via special appointment.
Early next morning, armed with a full appointment book, Global Positioning System (GPS), and a guidebook to the area, we headed southward from
Melbourne, along the Nepean Highway.
Out now from Wildside/Borgo Press our book describes my visits to:
An Identity Crisis Exposed - Underground Wines -
It Starts with the Soil - Seaforth Estate
The Alternative Approach - Foxeys Hangout
Co-operation: The MPVA - Main Ridge Estate
A Regional Issue - Port Phillip/Kooyong Estate
A Culinary Delight - Vines at Red Hill
The Feminine Touch - Darling Park Winery
The Importance of Temperature - Ten Minutes by Tractor
Sculpture - Montalto Winery and Olive Grove
The Past and the Future - Balnarring Vineyard/Quealy Wines
The Elephant in the Room - T'Gallant
Wining and Fine Dining - Red Hill Estate
True Pinotphiles - Rahona Valley Vineyard
The Legend - Paradigm Hill
Aided on my way by information provided by the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association,
we investigated the differences between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio and with Kevin McCarthy's help
explored the concept of the Pinot G! Style Spectrum.
The book ends with tasting comments from guests at a four course banquet and recipes for:
Baked cauliflower with a tahini dipping sauce served with torn Lebanese bread;
Baked tofu and brown rice patties;
Ricotta and feta cheese puffs made from a traditional Greek recipe (served hot);
Chicken, grape, and asparagus salad
Crab and camembert quiche
Gado Gado, a traditional vegetarian dish from Indonesia with a spicy peanut sauce
Smoked ham and veal terrine
Chicken and spinach pasta bake
Spicy Malaysian vegetable curry puffs
Sweet potato and bacon frittata
Baked chocolate cheesecake with a hint of orange