Friday, March 11, 2011

A taste of Margaret

There's something special about places that open up their doors and let you go and drink or eat their produce for free. Some places do it kind of begrudgingly just because they feel that they have to. They are just located in a region where it is expected of them, so they dish up the tiniest of portions and make people feel guilty for asking for the next sample. Others embrace it as a way of introducing their produce to a wider audience with a belief that it will eventually come back to them. A little like the karmic wheel of what goes around comes around. Or the biblical give and you shall receive. Or in the case of wineries, just get the taster drunk enough so that they will be more likely to purchase your wares. Whichever theory they are going with, I love the wineries that are happy to pour out good quantities of wine into your tasting glass, tell you great stories about the process and encourage you to try the next wine. I'm becoming more adept now at the bogus winery speak of "this one needs to open up a bit more" and "you can really taste the citrus in this one" which is all basically banter meaning "maybe I'm interested enough to buy some of your wine but just fill up my glass now because I want a drink". Invariably if the people are nice and the wines are good, I will leave with some purchased wine in my hands. I'm obviously only there in the first place because I like the stuff, so give me something I like and I'm a good chance to become a customer. In Denmark we went to the local cheese factory. An elderly woman who may have been a prison guard in an earlier career, or perhaps a relative of the soup nazi from Seinfeld, watched over the cheese samples like a hawk ensuring that nobody took more than one miniscule morcel of each cheese. The portions were so small that when you stuck a toothpick in, the cheese barely covered the point. Finn and Jaz both experienced her wrath. "No more cheese for you"! We left without purchasing anything. Just down the road was the toffee factory. They had all sorts of toffee wares out for the tasting and were a lot more encouraging in just letting people hoe in. We left with some peanut brittle, toffeed brazil nuts, a couple of jars of their jam and fond memories of the place.

The wines of Margaret River are very different to those of the Barossa. I don't really know a whole lot about the stuff other than what I think tastes good, but in general their shiraz is much lighter both in colour and flavour. A bit more like the Californian reds I've had in the past. With the occasional exception, such as at Juniper, I prefer the Barossa shiraz. But the cabernet sauvignons were consistently sensational. A couple of late harvest rieslings weren't too shabby either. Probably the most enjoyable winery that we visited was the Peacetree Estate. This was a small boutique winery that dealt purely in organic wines of high quality. The amiable owner was happy to slosh good quantities of delicious liquids into my glass and regale me with her stories of wine production and the shenanigans that their Frenchwoman winemaker had been getting up to on her annual return journeys to Bordeaux. This little winery is a gem that I am glad we stumbled across and that I definitely stumbled out of.

Margaret River
In total we went to four wineries, the cheese company and the Margaret River chocolate factory. Tori had the keys thrown to her very early in proceedings. A good advantage to me of her being pregnant. It's fair to say that we took full advantage of the wares, no more so than at the chocolate factory. They were incredibly generous having tubs of milk, white and dark chocolate buds that visitors were able to help themselves to by the handful. The kids thought they were in heaven. With a few wines in me I was scoffing them down too. There was no obligation to buy anything. The girls serving didn't actually seem like they could care less. But we picked out a number of their quality truffles just the same. So by the end of the day, we were loaded up with 8 or 9 bottles of purchased wine, a number of cheeses and some chocolate. A pretty good booty and a good result for the establishments that we'd visited. I'd probably also consumed a bottle worth of various wines, a decent slab of cheese and a small bucket of chocolate along the way. Everyone was a winner.

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