Friday, December 13, 2013

My 12 Wines of Christmas, penned from Melbourne, Australia

Enjoy my quick and easy food and wine matching, easy buying guide. Cheers!
Lady O's 12 Wines of Christmas:

1) Champagne! My tip for those who want a crowd-pleaser? Bolli, darling! Buy from Vintage Cellars

2) Savvy B. for fresh steamed prawns with lime, Chain of Ponds Black Thursday buy from Wine Selectors

3) Chardonnay for the shellfish, from Oakridge Wines Local Vineyard Series. Buy at

4) Riesling. Because it is Summer of Riesling. Dan Murphy's stock more than 200 via

5) Pinot Gris for drinks with friends. Try De Bortoli Wines La Boheme, buy from their Yarra Valley cellar door

6) Prosecco. For ALL the finger food. I cannot choose just one. Ask the reigning Prosecco Queen, GastronoMel for her top tips!

7) Pinot Noir for all the pork products. Check out the 400+ global range at Prince Wine Store

8) Moscato. For fun. I can't go past Innocent Bystander pink moscato. It even comes in a can.

9) Cabernet. Cullen Cabernet Merlot '12 from Rathdowne Cellars. Esteemed producer, wallet-friendly.

10) Shiraz. Langmeil Winery 2010 Orphan Bank. Seriously good value for super old vines in the Barossa.

11) Fortified. For the plum pudding. Try Penfolds Grandfather Rare Tawny from Cracker Wines

12) Sticky. Says Christmas. Try with cheese. Bass River Winery's Iced Riesling- a stunning choice.

*This post is about my #12WinesofChristmas. I have no commercial arrangements with any of these producers, they are all just good booze. As previously mentioned, I do sell wine for WineSelectors, however I get paid via direct sales and not from you clicking on a link.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Meet The Maker at Brooks of Melbourne

"The most stunning restaurant wine display, I have ever seen." overheard at the bar, Brooks of Melbourne
The picture above is of a bar that I intend to spend time at, three to four nights per week during the month of July. In the black and white sketch edit, the bottles of wine are lined up, like soldiers. Ready to do their duty in this up-scale restaurant at the smart end of town. That restaurant is, of course, Brooks of Melbourne. Old-fashioned customer service reigns supreme in the superbly decked out basement location. Named as a nod to a gentleman's club in London- you could easily guess that the wines on show are well-aged, high profile French beauties and other, sought after 'drinks'.

The fact is, on closer inspection, that is not the case at all. Sommelier extraordinaire, Matthew Brooke, has one of Melbourne's toughest gigs.. for it is up to Matt to select the wines that will match, and stand up to, chef Nic Poelaert's daring creations from the kitchen.

Fortunately, Matt excels at his task.

colourful labels
During the month of July, (and with a cheeky finale on August 1st), Matt has invited more than 30 wine producers to make a personal appearance at Brooks. Each wine maker will bring along a selection of their wines to sample, and each of the makers will have at least one of their wines available to buy by the glass on Matt's inspiring wine list.

This amazing opportunity is where the Brooks bar seen above, starts to fill with colour. Meeting the maker allows the wine drinker to hear the stories of how these wines came about, what drove the maker to create such wines, and you can even find out how a wine went from an idea- to being bottled- to being served at Brooks.

Mark in your diary at least one afternoon where you will come and sit at the bar, #MeetTheMaker and swap a yarn or two- all over a glass of wine, of course!

Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 1/8/2013.
4:30pm-7:00pm at the bar to meet the makers, stay longer and dine if you wish.
See the wine maker line up here:
Call +61 3 9001 8755 for dinner reservations or visit:

I will be there (almost) every day- so come and say hi. Feel free to share your pictures and stories of your #MeetTheMaker experience via twitter/instagram @LadyOenotria or email

fun at the bar, Brooks Melbourne

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A visit to Pizzini Wines, King Valley, Australia

Pizzini Wines, King Valley, Victoria, Australia
Recently I was very fortunate to be a part of a social media group which visited the King Valley wine region, a drive of about three hours from Melbourne. The trip was organised by Melissa Brauer from Squawk Media and this wine valet could not miss the opportunity to be a guest of the Pizzini family for a weekend.
my wine tasting was guided by wine maker, Joel Pizzini
The Pizzini family are most noted for making fine Italian wines, however you will also find a selection of classic French grapes being made into wines. Highlights for me were:
  • the 2012 Prosecco, $19.50 ~ a must drink during a King Valley trip
  • the 2012 White Roman, $18.50 ~ a blend of Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer and inspired by a wine Joel tasted at Melbourne hotspot, Chin Chin
  • the 2012 Verduzzo, $22 ~ which I would match with pork crackling
  • the 2012 Rosetta, $17.50 ~ a rosé made with the Sangiovese grape
  • the 2011 Sangiovese Shiraz, $17.50 ~ which I would match with a pepper crusted rare eye fillet
  • the 2011 Sangiovese, $25 which I would match with a Capricciosa  pizza
  • the 2005 ‘Rubacuori’ Sangiovese, $110 ~ this single vineyard drop is quite different to the regular Pizzini Sangiovese, it comes from only about 20 rows of vines of the Brunello, rather than Chianti, style of grape. Very small berries are oak fermented and the result is a rich, warm, beautiful wine
  • the 2005 ‘Coronamento’ Nebbiolo, $135 ~ translated, this single vineyard means “achieving a moment”. Fred and Joel Pizzini hand pick, and vine pick, only the perfectly formed, perfectly matured grapes for this stunning, special wine
  • the 2006 Per Gli Angeli, $65 ~ a sweetie that sees the Trebbiano grape made in the vin santo style. Stick your nose in and smell peanut brittle. Heaven. (for the angels)
April was such a perfect time to visit the King Valley
Apart from all the fabulous wines, there is so much more to Pizzini Wines cellar door. Katrina Pizzini runs A tavola! cooking school where you can learn all manner of foodie tricks and techniques, from classy vegetarian dishes to home cheese making! I was treated to the "Lunching Ladies and Lads" class. Katrina was patient, supportive and fun. Kitchen novices to the dinner party queen all learnt a trick or two.
Katrina Pizzini teaching us to cook

The best part of cooking school, was of course eating our creations for lunch! We were lucky enough to enjoy ours al fresco style, with a few Pizzini wines to match. The picnic area just outside the cellar door is a great place to let the kids run around or just recline in the sunshine with your glass of wine in hand, not a care in the world.
gnocchi and bolognaise made by us
enjoying Verduzzo in the sun
picnic area at Pizzini Wines

See Foodie Blogger - Gastronomel's mouthwatering review of the entire weekend here:
And keep your eye out for my post about Dal Zotto wines, coming soon.

Visit Pizzini Wines at: 175 King Valley Road, Whitfield, Victoria, Australia, 3678
Buy Pizzini Wines directly from:

A very special thank you goes out to Silverstone Volvo in Doncaster who kindly loaned us two shiny new Volvos for our trip, the XC60 R and the recently released V40 (my fave!)

For all your social media and event needs, contact Squawk Media via email:
To have Lady Oenotria create the matching wine list for your next dinner party, email: 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Brooks of Melbourne, wine and dine.

I have a confession to make: I like to "lunch". A lot. So much so that if you proposed a cushy nine to five job to me, you'd promptly the receive the 'don't be a fool' look. I like to lunch with gal pals, lovers, bosses and alone. Ideally, I'd allocate three hours, hence the no nine to five rule. These days, three hours for lunch is rarely realistic so I do mini-lunch or quickie-lunch.
stunning bar image courtesy of Brooks
I have been able to dine at Brooks of Melbourne a few times. Mostly at lunch. Please do not tell chef Nic Poelaert, but I was originally attracted to see what sommelier Matthew Brooke was doing. Always the wine with me. I really do enjoy a wide variety of wine and love having access to interesting wine lists at Melbourne restaurants. To enjoy wine at its best, however, great food is ideal and when I eat out, I like to order dishes I'd never make at home.

EVERYTHING on the menu at Brooks Melbourne is something I'd never make at home. For one, I don't think I have the right kitchen gadget to turn the humble garden pea into something resembling the foam on an early morning cappuccino. For another, Nic Poelaert and I seem to have taste buds that work in completely different ways. I will taste something (usually wine) and then try and determine each individual flavour that I can, across many layers. Brooks of Melbourne's head chef presents flavours, colours and textures under the guise of food.
assorted oysters, heirloom tomato consommé, meli of vegetables
I can't be certain, but I imagine that Mr Poelaert tastes something (like peas) and then tries to determine how he can bring out all the best nuances of the (pea) flavour. Being a regular diner, there are very few occasions when an entire menu will delight me. The menu at Brooks is such a pleasant surprise. Try these menu descriptions on for size:
  • "squid, lime leaf, black sausage, brussel sprout, leek, ash"
  • "Moreton Bay bug, seaweed, Yarra Valley roe"
  • "pumpkin nougatine, popcorn cream, frangipane, coconut"
  • "white chocolate ice cream, fig, olive meringue'
Are you swooning or totally curious? Find yourself a special occasion and get yourself to Brooks. The stark white walls are a fantastic juxtaposition to the dark-wood bar and its jaw-dropping bottled wine display. The pillar-box red sprinkler system and pipes remind me of wine drinking in older establishments along Lygon Street. The super-modern, industrial inspired lighting as well as the backlit transparency artwork, yolk-yellow napkins and smoky water glasses brings Brooks' décor into the now.

There is a bird's eye view of the kitchen from almost every seat in the house, showcasing the genius that is Nic Poelaert at work. The wait staff are fun, friendly and never intrusive. They know both menu and wine list inside out. If head sommelier Matthew Brooke is on duty.. please do yourself a favour and allow him to select all of your wines. He is a cut above.
dining room at Brooks of Melbourne (image from Brooks)
P.S. Did I mention that there is a Cheese Chariot??
make sure you leave room!
Have you dined at Brooks? What did you think?
Where else do you like to 'do lunch'?
I look forward to your tips.
tweet me @LadyOenotria

Summer of Riesling at Brooks Melbourne

Any time that my Visa card is up for it, I am up for a meal at Brooks Melbourne. So when head sommelier, Matthew Brookes, mentioned a Summer of Riesling tasting menu, my rubbery arm needed no twisting.
Eight Rieslings for Summer of Riesling at Brooks Melbourne
First up was a pre-dinner Gutswein (literal translation = house wine). A Riesling blend bottled by the litre and commonly used by local German restaurants as their house wine. You all know that I am not a professional wine critic- my notes say, "nice and dry with gorgeous flavours. As many different bits and pieces of grapes as a wine that Kathleen Quealy (Mornington Peninsula) may have crafted. Generous and delightful fruit. Light, playful and fun as a rizza gets.

The next wine gave me a hint of tomato. It could have been a carry over from the pre- pre-dinner Gin (Westwinds Cutlass) or the tomatoes in the first dish, but I'll swear it was in the wine. A superb match with the garlic flowers and heirloom tomato consommé. A total flavour explosion.

Next up was the Frankland Estate. The least floral nose so far, more minerality and if 'austere' had a fragrance, this would be it. Served alongside almost thirty vegetables and flowers that Chef Nic Poelaert forages for himself. I tasted pink to ruby grapefruit, the familiar bitterness quite morish and hunger-inducing! Matthew says the Frankland Estate is the benchmark Riesling in Australia, up there with Grosset and others. The grapes are grown in darker soils like at Bests, which is what pushes the citrus flavours into the red spectrum. It is also what helps the wine stand up to thirty different vegetable flavours.

Drum roll please.

The next wine was a super star from Mr Brooke's own personal cellar. A 1979 Trimach 'Clos St Hume' from Alsace. AKA the world's best Riesling. To be served alongside Moreton Bay Bug with seaweed, fresh water roe and pickled oysters. Very fishy. The '79 had the most minimal nose of petrol, with balancing florals and some musk. I noted a higher acidity lending itself to amazing freshness as well as a drier taste than the deep golden colour may have suggested. So, so good with the rich seafood and salt. The kind of flavour that creates a new memory.
1979 Trimach 'Clos St Hume' from Alsace
Although, I probably wasn't going to taste an equal wine on the same night, the show did indeed, go on. Lamb sweetbreads, with cherry purée and a pea mousse was up next on the menu and to match, a Paolo Gustav Riesling from the Clare Valley in South Australia. SSH- this is an "Orange Wine'. Brooks of Melbourne is the only place in town pouring this all natural wine. A cloudy, yellow colour, it breaks all the white wine-making rules. An unfiltered wine that spent three weeks on skins. Barrel fermented. Sommelier Matthew introduced this wine as "interesting and fun, the bruised- rather than fresh- apple flavour is to match the dominant smoked maple glaze of the sweetbreads." The Paolo Gustav was a perfect match.

Kicking on, I sampled a 2011 Velere, made by a David Bicknell apprentice with fruit from Dixon's Creek in the Yarra Valley. Fruity and fun, the ideal palate cleanser. Next up was a Peregrine, (Central Otago) Late Harvest Riesling served alongside white chocolate ice cream with fresh fig and olive meringue. A 2011 Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinet accompanied a sheep's milk blue vein cheese bringing my total Summer of Riesling indulgence to eight great wines.

Riesling can be, at times, an under-rated grape, but with talented wine makers and an experienced sommelier at the helm there is nothing left for the wine lover to do but drink- and enjoy! Let me know of some great Rieslings that you have tried lately.
images used in this post by
M. Brookes & C. Whelan

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wine List Lust: Maha Melbourne

I recently visited Maha Restaurant in Melbourne to explore their new wine list. I perched myself at the bar, opposite the Enomatic machine, just as dinner service was beginning. The plan was to try as many wines as possible. Thankfully, the new wine list coincided with the installation of an Enomatic machine and wines poured by the half-glass.

First up was a 2010 Robert Weil 'kiedricher' German Riesling in honour of the commencement of #summerofriesling. I moved in to a 2010 Tapanappa 'tiers vineyard' Chardonnay and by the time I was on the 2007 Alluviale 'dada 1'  Sauvignan Blanc/Chenin Blanc blend I decided to order some eats.

All manner of muddling, shaking, stirring, popping and pouring was going on beside me and I was mostly oblivious- despite my splendid attendant Darcy exclaiming, "ooh, Turkish Delight Martini! It is going to be a good night!" (after some particularly vigorous muddling.)

With my veggie dish going down a treat, I made my way through a 2005 Le Cinciole Chianti Classico (makes a great Sangiovese moustache if you stick your nose in too far!), a 2006 Marsovin 'Grand Maitre' (Malta's pride and joy- grown on the site where the Maltese fought off the Turkish invasion), a 2009 Santa Duc 'Gigondas' and a 2009 Chateau Musar 'jeune'. That ticks off wines from Germany, New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Malta and Lebanon. Not a bad effort for one night in a single venue!

As my evening came to a close with a 2002 Domaine Des Baumard Coteaux du Layon 'clos st catherine' which is a butterscotch-y Chenin Blanc sweetie. {My notes say there were tastes of crème caramel and honey-soaked raisins.. but blonde raisins. Is there such a thing? Maybe that's what unicorns eat? Perhaps, more simply, all that wine was going to my head and I meant to scribe 'dried apples' instead.}
butterscotchy Chenin Blanc sweetie
I perused the remainder of Maha's wine list and decided that I had an extreme case of wine list lust. There were all manner of varietals that I have yet to try; real Prosecco from Italy plus sparkling from Malta. My absolute dream wine on my 2013 wishlist was there, a 1996 Salon Champagne. Wines from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal adorned the list as well as a cheeky little Moscato from Mornington Peninsula.

I was enjoying a 1909 Domaine Sainte Crouix Rivesaltes by the time I noted dessert wines on the list from South Africa and Israel among others. It was about that time that I decided to tell you about the Fortified wines another day. Have you been to Maha? What wines did you try? Comment below or email

Tears of Wine or Wine Legs

Last night I finally was able to grasp the term, 'Tears of Wine'. I am not talking about getting all melancholy when you drink either. What I have always known as wine legs, other people call tears of wine. A bit like eggplant and aubergine. I was at Maha Restaurant in Melbourne to celebrate and embrace the installation of a brand spanking new Enomatic machine. This is a device which helps open bottles of wine keep fresher for longer, enabling establishments greater flexibility with their wines by the glass.
Maha Restaurant, 21 Bond St Melbourne
As I am not a professional wine reviewer or critic, (my notes for the 2005 Le Cinciole Chianti Classico say "berries and bark"), I'd rather highlight a couple of Wine Appreciation 101 points. Firstly, the flavours that any one individual can taste in wines are based on previous experience and memories. I have never tasted gooseberries, nor fresh mulberries, so I would not be able to pick those flavours out of a wine.
Berries & Bark
Along with the memory triggers, come thoughts, feelings and emotions. Sometimes, wine critics say that a wine "moves them". When this happens to me, the wine goes straight to the top of my favourites list. I now have a new favourite thanks to the fabulously innovative technology of the Enomatic machine at Maha. I was able to sample a wine that you could normally only buy by the bottle, for $420. A half-glass goes for $45, a much more affordable way to try wish-list wines. The 1909 Domaine Sainte Croix Rivesaltes. 16%.
Yes, that is the year, 1909
Here's my blurb:
Bright red, with rust-coloured edges. A bright, fresh nose of understated Christmas plus alcohol- but in a good way, not the beer-soaked pub-carpet kind of way.) Smells of sugar and spice and all things nice. I detect ginger, allspice, cinnamon, clove, sultana, raisin, currants, warmth and hugs. It has rippa legs and a lighter mouth feel than I expected. It tastes warm, fruity, spicy and yum.
{yum is THE most advanced wine tasting jargon on the planet}
A late harvest grenache, partially fortified and aged in large oak tanks for 98 years.

The next thing I tasted was boiled pineapple fruitcake which made me squeal on the inside. My most treasured recipe from my Grandfather- who was taken from this life far too soon, is for his boiled pineapple fruitcake. We used to make it together in the lead up to Christmas. As this truly fond memory came to me I held up the glass. I noticed that the wine legs were moving incredibly slowly. So slowly that the beginning of each leg formed the shape of a tear and then rolled off the Maha logo. I had to check that it wasn't me who was crying, then looked at the glass again. The tears of wine were forming and rolling steadily now. I finally understood where the term came from.

For interest's sake, Jancis Robinson, MW says the 1909 is one of the few wines that happily partners chocolate. [ Purple Pages] I would enjoy this with a mild to medium flavoured hard cheese or even some pressed pork belly!
Enomatic machine, top left of photo.

Monday, January 7, 2013

About Me

New World adventurer, boutique wineries advocate and personal wine shopper. May 'talk wine' at length with others.
I have a rather grand passion for wine, travel and writing. I am good at writing, better at travelling and best at wine tasting! For me, the wine industry is about people, places and stories. Drinking wine should be fun. It brings people together and is a key ingredient for laughter.

I do not wish to ever be a wine critic however I do like to find out the reasons why I like some wines more than others. I love Champagne. I believe every wine has a time and place. My biggest wish is to be able to share the world of wine with others in a fun and enjoyable way.

To fund my passions I act as a Private Wine Buyer, or Wine Valet, buying interesting wines in smallish quantities for a select few. Occasionally I am requested to put together wine lists or act a wine region tour guide. To keep my finger on the pulse of the Australian wine industry, I also moonlight as a Sales Agent for Australian Wine Selectors.

Feel free to join me on my adventures, comment on my ramblings or just drop an email to say G’Day.
Catherine A, aka Lady Oenotria

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Wine Century Club

A couple of years ago I attended my first Fed Square Wine Showcase, right in the city of Melbourne. Apart from being fortunate enough to try some 40+ quality Victorian wines, I happened to meet Darby Higgs from Vinodiversity. Darby has a passion for new and alternative grape varieties and wines, in Australia. I was awed by the knowledge that Darby had and sought to purchase his book:
click to purchase
I also learned that Darby Higgs is a Wine Centurion. The Wine Century Club is "the club for adventurous wine drinkers who've tried one hundred grape varieties or more." Being quite the adventurous type myself, I saw this as a challenge to accept. "The first fifty will be easy", Darby commented. I thought that he must be joking. Turns out, he was right. 50-55 really started to become tricky. So I went and bought myself a De Long's Wine Varietal Table to adorn my office wall.
click to purchase
De Long's Table showcases 184 wine grape varieties, really just the tip of the iceberg in drinkable grape variety land. I haven't been able to tick off 100 different tastes just yet, but I am sure the wait will not be too long. Each new variety is tasted and relished with a little sniff of victory.
Slowly, but surely!
Most recently I was able to try a Mac Forbes (Yarra Valley) Blaufränkisch and a Judge Rock (Central Otago) St Laurent to inch closer to my target. Once I reach the magical 100, I am sure something really special will be 'popped' open and enjoyed!

~Please note: I have not received payment nor compensation from suppliers of the above products, I simply intended to share wine tools that I have come across in my own personal wine journey.

I would love to hear about interesting, new or alternative grape varieties that you may have tried, post a comment below or send an email to

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

Here in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday was January 1st. Just like last year, I was house- and dog-sitting merely blocks from the beach. I like to greet the new year with a 5 day break from work, household duties and all other commitments. This way, I find that I can clear my mind fully and consider all that was good from the closing year. Then I start to contemplate how much better the coming year will be.
The stuff of dreams :-)
Successful people are quite often prepared, organised, diarists and great thinkers. They set goals, manage the processes required to achieve them and then evaluate reaching or completing them. 2012 was the first year that I had a genuine, grown-up attempt of goal-setting, monitoring and achievement. My natural tendencies of NOT keeping a diary, calendar or journal, coupled with my displeasure of anything that resembles paper work were challenged and overcome.

For a first 'real' attempt~ I achieved a lot in 2012. Almost all that I set out to. I lost 15kg of the 20kg I wanted to. I had no plan in the beginning, just liked the sound of 'twenty'. I started off well, then plateaued during Winter. As Spring came around I learned that the only way I was really going to reach my goal was with a very specific plan. The old me thought that specific plans were boring and tiresome. The new me realises that they are a foundation which fosters greatness.

My current BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) will require more than one year to achieve. A component of that BHAG is to communicate more with like-minded others. So even though it is the 2nd of Jan here today, I plan to post 365 times this year. I hope that you enjoy the read!