Yarra Valley Wine Tasting: Week 206

St Ronan's Cider

One of my friends pushed me forward. “Excuse me,” she said to the vendor, “could you please explain to my American friend where the Yarra Valley is? I can’t believe she doesn’t know.”

“Sure.” The guy replied. “We’re about 60 km northeast of Melbourne.”

“Ah, ok.” I shook my head knowingly as I reached for my glass of pinot noir. “I kind of know that area.”

As soon as we turned away, my friend leaned in. “I didn’t know where the Yarra Valley was either- but I couldn’t admit it because I’m Australian.” I don’t know why my friend was so worried because the question really wasn’t as stupid as it sounded. My friends and I weren’t in the Yarra Valley, we were actually at a tasting exhibition in downtown Sydney.

Although the event was dominated by wine vendors, there were representatives for Yarra Valley ciders, beers, and gin too.

St Ronan’s Cider was my first stop and I tried both their apple and pear ‘Methode Traditionelle’ cider. Both were very good, but anyone interested in more detail than that would be disappointed- my notes simply say, “sparkling apple & pear.” No beating around the bush for me.

Seville Estate Yarra Valley

My next stop was the delicious Yarra Valley Dairy. Of all their cheeses, my favorite was the Black Savourine. I was too busy scraping the soft cheese off the plate to compile my thoughts on paper, but luckily I did pick up a brochure description which sounds a bit naughty (as all good food descriptions should). Semi-mature, aged white mould goat’s milk cheese. A complex plate of full flavours. Roast nuts, cooked cream, hint of blue, full length.

From there I visited TarraWarra Estate (my notes say “very tannic pinot”), another vineyard who had one of their wines chosen for Qantas first class (can’t remember the name-lost that note), and Seville Estate (my notes show a picture of a smiley face).Payten & Jones

Of all the wine that I tasted, and I did enjoy most of it, the vendor that stood out the most was from Payten & Jones. His name was Troy and I noticed that he not only had the most casual shirt of the lot but he also had working hands- as in the kind of hands that are actually out in the vineyard picking grapes.

The reason that stuck out in my mind was that after having picked kiwifruit in New Zealand, I know how much it sucks to be in the field. So for someone to be so passionate about their product that they wouldn’t avoid the back-breaking work when they still have to do the marketing and all the other stuff that comes along with running a vineyard, I think that says something good about the product.

Of course the wine speaks for itself too and in this case it’s saying, “buy me- I’m tasty.”

About: The Yarra Valley

About: Payton and Jones

About: Yarra Valley Dairy

About: St Ronan’s Cider

Homebrewing: Week 192

Equipment for bottling homebrews

This is what I know about homebrewing: not much.

It’s a hobby that interests Barret a lot, but I find myself drawn more to food preserving (although I’m no expert). Several months ago we bought some mystery fruit just because it was on sale. Before I could do some googling, Barret decided the best way to unravel the mystery would be to bite one of the hard, green fruits. Unfortunately for him, it was a raw olive.

After the bitter taste test, I looked up a way to cure the olives. I found a process that seemed simple enough, but after a while I noticed the olive oil brine kept overflowing and that glued moths to the sides of the jar.

Eventually I threw the jars out and decided I’d only try it again in the presence of someone more knowledgeable. That’s also kind of how I feel about homebrewing; it’s good to build off of other people’s experience. So when friends of ours invited us to their house to bottle apple cider and brew some hops, we headed over with willing hands and cheese and crackers.

Bottle sanitizer for homebrewing

Apple cider is much less fussy to make, especially when the first round of fermentation is already done and all you have to do is bottle it. Once the bottles were sterilized and filled, we dropped in a sugar tab for a secondary fermentation and hammered on the lids. Easy.

Although I did find out later that all the cider was dumped down the drain. Maybe the process isn’t as easy as I first thought.

Manual process for bottling homebrews

When that was out of the way Barret and John washed out the plastic fermentation tank and began to brew the hops. I won’t pretend I really paid attention to this part. It involved boiling a ‘sock’ filled with hops and grains until the kitchen smelled like a grassy pasture.

Because I am allergic to beer (and probably because I’d rather lounge around eating cheese and crackers), I just can’t get too excited about spending a few hours in the kitchen boiling a sock of hops. I’ll leave this one to the boys.

A good store to help you start brewing in Sydney: The Hop and Grain

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