New wines, new gins and a milestone of romance

It feels like springtime has been a long time coming here in Sydney. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to go outside and be warm – let along wear shorts again.

Thankfully though, the sun’s back and warmer weather awaits. As does me complaining about how hot I am no doubt!

In this Edition, we’re looking at a couple of exciting new Aussie wine ranges we’re enjoying plus an oh so very springtime gin. We’ve also got recipes, restaurant reviews and a big anniversary celebration to tell you about.

We hope you enjoy this Edition as much as we have creating it.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

My plan has worked a treat.

While we’ve been in semi lock-down, Christina’s been looking for new places to walk to around Sydney.

Today I’ve suggested walking to the Sydney Fish Market where we can pick up some fresh seafood and get our steps up at the same time.

By the time we arrive at the Fish Market we’re both hungry, so we do our level best to undo all the hard work of walking here with a couple of beers and some chilli squid, salt and pepper school prawns and far too many chips.

The seating around the Fish Market has been rearranged to make it Covid-safe – now there are probably half the tables available, but somehow we still manage to score a coveted waterside spot.

This is dinner the following day – we bought a kilo of fresh mussels from the Fish Markets and I cooked up a pot of beautifully rich spicy tomato sauce to go with them. 

I also hand cut chips to make a proper moulles frite dinner (1tbs sunflower oil in a roasting tin and cook at about 180ºC for 35 mins or until crisp).

The Group Grower-Owned Collective wines

Tonight is very exciting for me. It’s the first media event either of us has been to since February! And what a way to do it.

I’m at Matt Moran’s famed Chiswick in Woollahra to learn about a brand new wine collective called The Group

This newly-established brand represents the Collective – a co-op of South Australian farmers growing grapes for many of the big wine companies.

Often they don’t have enough of a crop to be able to make whole vintages, or they don’t have the equipment, marketing power or cellar doors to make it worth their while.

The Group is now giving the growers in the Grower-Owned Collective a platform, and with the help of genius wine-maker Marnie Roberts the wines coming out of this brand is excellent.

The Group Grower-Owned Collective wines - Matt Moran at The Chiswick

We’re lucky enough to hear from Matt Moran himself as he talks us through The Group’s aims and background, as well as the food we’re eating, which is delicious as you’d expect.

Dinner is a five-course affair, with a guided tasting of five new wines from The Group to match. We also hear from Marnie, who’s joined us via Zoom.

The Group Grower-Owned Collective wines - dinner at the Chiswick

Dinner starts with crudités and a delicious smooth white bean hummus.

Entrees follow – wood-fired flatbread with confit garlic and rosemary. Then asparagus and globe artichokes fresh from the garden and a Berkshire pork terrine with preserved vegetables that is truly superb.

The wines with this are The Shadow Pinot Noir from Adelaide Hills and The Quiver Grenache from McLaren Vale.

Bold and bright, the Pinot is an elegant example of the varietal. Matt recommends baked salmon with a red wine butter sauce to pair with this.

As for the Grenache – one of my favourite wine varieties – it’s a deep, rich wine with cherry notes and a bit of spice and heat at the end thanks to its impressive 15%ABV.

Matt’s pairing recommendation is a lamb ratatouille with plenty of vegetables.

Mains are served – a whole roasted chicken that’s first been brined so it has retained plenty of moisture and flavour, and the Chiswick slow-roast lamb shoulder with an amazing roast eggplant I can’t get enough of.

The wine to go with these main course dishes is The Fever Grower Blend from McLaren Vale.

It’s an unusual blend with 70% Merlot, which is high, and the other 30% shared between Mourvèdre and Cabernet. It’s my favourite of the wines this evening.

Matt suggests a sirloin steak and red wine jus with mash as the perfect accompaniment.

For dessert, we’re served Matt Moran’s favourite cheese: a Pyengana cheddar with kumquat chutney and crostini. 

And with dessert comes The Murder Shiraz from McLaren Vale. This is a classic McLaren Shiraz – inky yet bright with excellent length of flavour.

Matt says a game meat like venison would be the perfect match here.

At this point, indulgent petit four of dark chocolate truffles come out, and with them the The Siege Shiraz from McLaren Vale. 

This is a rare wine coming from a low-yield biodynamic farm and makes a beautiful Shiraz. 

Apart from chocolate treats, Matt recommends smoked brisket or beef cheek to go with this tremendous wine.

The Group Grower-Owned Collective - four wines

I’m really impressed with these wines. The four you see here are all priced at $34.00 RRP (the Siege is $70.00 RRP if you can find it!) and they’re definitely worth seeking out. All are available from selective Liquorland stores.

All of these wines come from husband-and-wife farms – companies much like ours, so there’s definitely an affinity we feel. 

The linguist in me also loves the names for these wines. To match the idea of a wine collective and a name like The Group, these have been given collective nouns for animals:

A shadow of panthers, a quiver of snakes, a fever of rays, a murder of crows and a siege of cranes. Love it.

We’re on another walk today. From Piermont, we’ve come all the way round to Barangaroo – not a bad stroll for those of you that know the city.

It’s interesting to see how Barangaroo, the buildings and the parkland here have all developed. We came here when it first opened, which is about the same time as when we moved to Balmain. 

Things have definitely changed.

But one place that hasn’t changed that much since the convict days is The Rocks. This is our next stop on our walk through the oldest part of Sydney.

The Russell Hotel is in fact the most haunted pub in New South Wales, with the ghost of a sailor regularly visiting room three. He’s said to bang the door of the wardrobe late at night and stomp around the hallway.

L'Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic eye roll-on

I was recently sent some samples from L’Oréal’s Men range to try out. I think it’s great that big companies are finally seeing men as a worthy target for skin care.

I don’t mind using women’s cosmetics – though I don’t know if Christina’s all that happy about it, but It’s great to have products that cater specifically to men.

Here are three of my favourites from the L’Oréal Men Hydra  Energetic and Barber Club line:

L'Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic face wash

Hydra Energetic wake-up effect face wash

It’s amazing how much zing you get from this face wash. It really does wake you up. Plenty of foam and a bright citrusy smell make this the perfect way to start the day.

It does strip your skin back to zero though, so a good moisturiser is important after your shower.

L'Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic anti-fatigue icy eye roll-on

Hydra Energetic Anti-fatigue icy eye roll-on

Menthol and peppermint extracts – along with guarana and vitamin C – in the Anti-fatigue icy eye roll-on help to lift your eyes and remove puffiness. And the cold metal ball applicator is a bit like those cold spoons they use on boxers at the end of each round.

I like to keep mine in the fridge for a bit of extra coolness. I just roll it under my eyes while I’m waiting for my toast each morning.

L'Oreal Men Expert BarberClub face wash

Barber Club Beard+Face+Hair 3-in-1 wash

Another face, beard and hair wash I love – and probably my favourite product in the L’Oréal men’s range – is this Barber Club 3-in-1.

It’s a bit gentler than the wake-up effect one and the cedarwood smells elegantly masculine. This soothing face wash leaves my beard feeling and smelling great too – the perfect post-cigar remedy.

Bunny chow

Tonight, we’re trying to travel back to Durban with a meal we had there. This is bunny chow – an Indian influenced dish where you cut a loaf of bread in half, hollow it out and fill it with curry.

There are recipes for the specific curry out there – we actually found a bunny chow spice blend from a shop in Newcastle – but any Indian curry will do at a pinch. 

The side is a carrot and spring onion salad that brings the whole thing a bit of freshness. So tasty and a lot of fun to break into the bread and basically eat your bowl!

Here are some other iconic South African dishes and foods we miss.

St Hallett

St Hallett has been a favourite winery of mine for years. The first time we flew down to Adelaide, we were served St Hallett on our Qantas flight.

It was an incredible trip and we really fell in love with the state. We also made it a mission to visit the St Hallett cellar door, which was wonderful too.

It’s those memorable moments when we travel that can make such a difference to our experiences. 

Today, we’re lucky to be travelling to South Australia without moving – in fact St Hallett is coming to us!

St Hallett tasting 2020 release

We are having an online tasting of three of the five wines from St Hallett’s 2020 release. 

Because St Hallett doesn’t trust us – and rightly so – they’ve aged their wine before releasing it to make sure we’re drinking their wine at its best.

For that reason, 2020 is seeing the 2018 Blackwell Shiraz and the 2016 Old Block for the first time, and for the first time ever a Syrah. 

These wines will be available nationally from November 12th 2020.

Helen McCarthy St Hallett tasting 2020 release

And this is the lady who’s taking us through these three wine wonders: Helen McCarthy, who joined St Hallett in 2019.

She’s worked in wine for over 20 years and her expertise in South Australian wine and viticulture is going to be a fascinating element to the tasting.

St Hallett tasting 2020 release Higher Earth Shiraz

We start with tasting the brand new Higher Ground Syrah 2018. This is the first time St Hallett have released a Syrah – a lighter, softer, more European  version of the big Aussie Shiraz.

It still has that dark cherry and pepper notes of a Shiraz, but is more nuanced. The Higher Earth is $60.00 RRP.

Next is the Blackwell Shiraz 2018. This is a spectacular wine and one we always reach for. At $54.99 RRP, it punches high above its price range and this vintage is no different.

Full-bodied and rich in texture, this is Barossa Shiraz at its very heart.

St Hallett tasting 2020 release Old Block 2016

Finally, the Old Block Shiraz – a wine I’ve wanted to try for so long. This 2016 vintage doesn’t disappoint. Silky, smooth, beautifully structured – it’s a wine that embodies South Australian Shiraz.

It’s been worth the wait. 

You can pick up a bottle of Old Block 2016 for $159.00 RRP.

The other wines in this release sound extraordinary – but we understand why they’re being kept safe elsewhere away from us:

The Mighty Ox Shiraz 2018 – brand new to the St Hallett portfolio – is sold in a magnum bottle! It’s a wine that’s not only full bodied but intense and powerful too, hence the name. RRP $210.00.

Planted 1919 is an impressive wine made from ancient vines that match 100 years to date of release.

This is a rare wine indeed with only 360 bottles in Australia and 1,200 globally. The combination of scarcity and a superbly crafted wine give this the auspicious price tag of $450 RRP… if you can find any!

Annoyed Thyroid walnut slice

You may remember we published a recipe for a salted caramel peanut slice recently – an incredibly indulgent creature with over a block of butter, a tin of condensed milk, sugar, syrup, peanut butter… basically all the things my doctor hides behind her desk from.

But this an oat walnut slice – a new recipe I’ve adapted from our friend Sammy at The Annoyed Thyroid and not only is it far less calorific (I think), it’s also tastier and easier to make.

Here’s what you need:

For the base

– 60g melted butter
– 75g self-raising flour
– 60g caster sugar
– 30g desiccated coconut
– 20g rolled oats

For the topping

– 2 eggs – beaten
– 1 tsp vanilla essence
– 85g desiccated coconut
– 90g raw walnuts, chopped
– 150g brown sugar
– 50g raw cane sugar
– ½ tsp baking powder
– pinch of salt

Here’s what you do:

1. Mix all the ingredients for the base in a bowl then press to no more than 1cm deep into a greased and lined baking tin and bake at 175ºC for 10mins until the top is golden brown.

2. Add the vanilla to the beaten eggs then the rest of the topping ingredients, mix well then spread the mix over the top of the base. Bake for 15-17 mins or until the top no longer wobbles when you shift the pan.

3. Allow to cool in the pan then remove and cut into squares.

I also added a sugar syrup (1:1 caster sugar and hot water) over the top and used a blowtorch to crisp up the surface a bit and added a pinch of salt crystal to the top.

This is absolutely delicious – there’s a gooeyness to the centre that I don’t understand and the base is crunchy yet tender. The walnuts add that beautiful texture and flavour – the only downside is I eat it all too fast!

Underground Spirits Floriade Re-imaGINned gin

A sure sign that spring is in the air here in Australia is when Floriade begins in Canberra. 

This is the biggest flower festival in the Southern Hemisphere and has been going for over 30 years. It was started by a Dutch landscape architect, which is why you’ll see a lot of tulips during Floriade.

This year – of course – Floriade has had to be a little different and so the flower displays are spread throughout the city with a few online events people who can’t make it to the nation’s capital to enjoy.

For the drinkers among us, we can relish Floriade in another way: through gin!

Underground Spirits – a craft distillery in the ACT – have created a gin that celebrates this flower festival perfectly. I present Underground Spirits’ limited edition Floriade: ReimaGINed.

You can watch our IGTV tasting of this gin here.

Underground Spirits Floriade Re-imaGINned gin

This is a pink gin, though it looks almost red in the bottle. The colour comes from fresh local raspberries added during the gin-making process. It creates a profound aroma and flavour that gets even better with a drop of good quality tonic.

This is the flavour of spring (and summer) for sure – beautifully balanced and refreshing. This is clearly a grown-up drink, but one that’s fun and very easy to sip.

Most of the other Underground Spirits products are available from good bottle shops nationally, but this limited edition gin is only at the distillery online shop

Zushi lunch

Today is a very special day: it’s our anniversary of when we got together!

September 15th 2000. That’s right, we’ve been together for 20 years!!

You might ask how we know the date so specifically. Well, that’s because it all happened at a party for the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics.

To celebrate today, we’re having a rare lunch out away from the safety of our office at Zushi in Barangaroo. We love this modern Japanese restaurant right on the water. Service is awesome and the food is on point.

These gyoza make us want to be back in Japan more than anything.


Zushi lunch Barangaroo

We look through the a la carte menu, but in the end we both opt for bento boxes. These little individual buffets have all the good bits of multiple Japanese dishes all in one place. 

I’ve gone for the chicken katsu bento, which comes with sashimi, a salmon and avocado nori roll, seaweed and rice. By crispy chicken also comes with a little bowl of dip. I have no idea what it is, but I want more!

Christina’s barra bento is almost the same but with a beautiful piece of grilled barramundi topped with a red quinoa crust. We celebrate further with a cheeky cocktail and a bottle of Riesling.   

Happy anniversary - Jim & Christina

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Edition. Hope you’re safe and well during these difficult times.

Jim & Christina xx

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