The Wines of Margaret River

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Are good. As a group of good friends and I discovered this past weekend at a birthday weekender down in this glorious little wine region with such a big reputation. Of course I’ve liked Margaret River wines for a long time, but perhaps didn’t have a full appreciation for the beauty and finesse of good Cabernet and Chardonnay.

Specifically the Cabernet from Moss Wood, where we were given a great tour by wine maker Josh Bahen (cheers Max!) and had a chance to try some of the blended 07 Cabernet, and unblended batches of the 08 Cabernet Sauvignon. A great experience and also a learning opportunity for most of us (well some of us, who weren’t trying to get drunk by 11am).

Of course, it is hard to maintain an air of sophisticated wine appreciation when you are being chauffeured around the place in a limousine while wearing novelty hats… but I think we almost managed to pull it off.

Other stand outs were the Grenache from Moss Brothers, the 07 Chardonnay and 05 Cabernet from Hay Shed Hill, 07 Riesling from Clairault, 04 Cape Grace Cabernet, and 07 Lenton Brae Semillon Sauvignon Blanc.

Of course the region is not just about Cabernet and Chardonnay. It’s increasingly becoming know for producing excellent Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc blends, and there are many a great drinking Shiraz to be found as well.

If you haven’t been for a tour and you live in W.A… shame on you :)

Europe Bound

London skyline
Photo used courtesy of Vemma

The adventures of Matt & Sharon continue. This time internationally.

So my lovely eldest sister recently announced that she was getting married. She’s been living in the UK for the past 6 years now, and despite the fact that she’s developed a terrible generic Southern pommy accent, we still love her dearly and were very excited when the news came through.

What that means of course, is that it necessitates us flying over there. Something that has long been on the agenda, but has perhaps needed a kick up the bum like this to initiate. I am of course, the king of procrastination.

So the date is set for the 20th of September. We’ll be flying over a little beforehand and are going to dip our toes in the cultural sea that is Europe (specifically France and a little of my ancestral homeland Ireland), before livin it large in London for as long as our money holds out (not long).

I’m also charged with the job of being the wedding photographer on the day, and helping to coordinate the reception dinner menu (and I’m thinking of taking a marriage celebrants short course in case I need to step in for the priest on the day).

This henceforth is the post for anyone with knowledge of London, Paris, Dublin, and the greater European / British land mass, to share and inform me of the absolutely must go to places, restaurants, markets, pubs, bistros, schlocky tourist spots, and ridiculously overpriced celebrity filled cocktail bars.

Also if anyone on the other side of planet can give me an idea of what is fresh and seasonal in the UK in September, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Melbourne: Liar Liar – Hawthorn

Clover coffee's @ Liar Liar

I really didn’t get very far with these Melbourne posts did I ? Well now that things are settling down a little I’ll at least try and catch up with the photos I’ve already uploaded.

Liar, Liar in Hawthorn in the latest venture of former Perth coffee dignitary and 2007 WA barista champion Nolan Hirte. Nolan and his partners have set up an excellent space in Hawthorn, funky, relaxed, but focused on quality and totally befitting of the owners.

I can’t say I know Hawthorn very well as an area, but I’m led to believe it’s vaguely similar to Claremont in terms of style and clientele. An old and well established area with a fair amount of old money around the place, but not completely wrapped up in the establishment to realise the value of people trying to do something fresh and different.

Fresh and different would sum up Liar, Liar pretty well. From the decks on the bar where Nolan spins tunes when he isn’t pulling shots, to the very chic Clover Coffee brewing machine, and seriously tasty breakfast choices. It’s quite the compelling package.

We stopped by for breakfast on day 2 of the trip and a caught up with Nolan while talking coffee. This was first introduction to the Clover, which takes an innovative approach to single serve brewed coffee. From the Clover website:

After dosing it and grinding it to your specifications, you will add the coffee to the Clover brew chamber. You will choose the cup size and the steep time on the user interface, and then press the brew button. Clover delivers the exact dose of water at the temperature youíve chosen. Stir and wait while the coffee steeps. At the end of the set time, Cloverís piston rises, creating a vacuum that draws the coffee through the grounds. The piston will then descend and deliver the coffee into your customerís cup.

The flavours are very clean and there mouthfeel is entirely different to regular french press style coffee, which still retains a lot of sediment. We tried an Ethiopian and a Guatemalan through the clover and were pleasantly surprised by the delicate flavours and finish.

The regular coffee was of course fantastic. Nolan takes his espresso seriously even managed to swap records in amongst pulling some fantastic shots.

The food was on song too. My poached eggs (the test of any cafe) were perfectly presented, and Sharon’s coconut bread with fresh berries and yoghurt was more art piece than breakfast.

If I had to live in Melbourne, I think a trip out to Liar, Liar would be a weekly necessity.

Liar, Liar
90 Kinkora Road, Hawthorn
Phone (03) 9818 8864

Perth Barista Jam Wrap-up

The espresso flowed Things got blurry

How good was it ? It was awesome. So many coffee people in one room, sharing tips and tricks and blends and beers. I was massively proud to be amongst so many people from such diverse backgrounds, all getting into the spirit of things.

We had coffees sent from all over the country, including some fantastic beans from Eureka. We had Black Sheep and Blue Horse, and beans from every coffee producing continent on earth (well I think we did anyway).

There were people from cafe’s all over the city, as well as a good turn out from local roasters. Five Senses and Fiori were well represented and had brought out a stack of great single origins to try. Standouts for me were the Mao’s Blue Horse Ethiopian Harrar from Fiori, and a Sumatran from Gayo Mountain by Five Senses.

There was an impromptu cupping which gave the a bit of background to story of the coffees and the processes they’ve gone through before ending up in our cups, and then the latte art smackdown took centre stage.

The competition was fierce… almost as fierce as the sledging from the gallery. There were some great pours, some not so great pours, and some mind boggling 3 dimensional pours… in the end, the man with the skills to pull it off was none other than Jackson of Tiger, Tiger. Who took home a fine swag of booty courtesy of the nice folks at Sunbeam.

The jam was also a swan song of sorts for Jen Murray, our current barista champ here in Perth, who will be heading over to Canada for a while shortly, leaving the Perth coffee scene much less cooler than when she arrived. Much love to Jen on her travels, and well done for putting together such a sweet sweet event all on the whimsical prompting of yours truly :)

Check out the photos and see what you missed out on if you were too cool to show up :)

Barista Jam this Sunday – Don’t forget !

Perth Barista Jam 08

You’ve seen it here, you’ve seen it on Cafe Grendel. You’ve seen it in cafe’s… It’s spoken about in hushed whispers in coffee shops and espresso bars all throughout the city… all the cool kids are totally coming along (isn’t that right Mooba?) that’s right… it’s the Barista Jam !

This coming Sunday… this very weekend, the first proper barista jam will be going down at the WA Barista Academy in Northbridge. It’s a chance for everyone either in or on the fringes (peering gleefully over the shoulder) of the Perth coffee scene. You are all invited, regardless of your preference for coffee machine, roaster, grinder, tamper, fair trade, direct trade, share trade… you get the picture. Leave the ego at the door (mine fits in a custom designed warehouse), and enjoy some great coffees, food, beers, and have a crack at taking away some prizes in a winner takes all latte art smackdown !

Be there or be L7.

Australian Barista Competition Finals

The post that needed to be written, and the actual reason I went to Melbourne in the first place (because unfortunately noone will pay me to eat for a living yet). The finals of the Australian Barista Championships.

There has been much said about the competition this year, and the overall standard of the competitors. I was fortunate enough to be able to judge the competitors in the Open Heats, which were run before the Australian Barista Competition finals. The Open Heats are basically the last chance for any barista who hadn’t made it through the state heats to get into the final.

The competitors were all very strong, with Con Haralambopolous coming out on top despite running over time and having to redo the shots for his cappucinos. Which was an outstanding performance.

During the finals I basically tried to keep out of everyone elses way, whilst doing a bit of running, table setup, and then taking photos of competitors from as close a vantage point as I could. It was a day of very tough competition. I personally could not pick who was going to win, even after having observed each person from up close. The level of technical competence and slick performance from each barista was quite overwhelming.

Of course my personal favourite and all round local hero was Jen Murray of W.A. Jen Put in perhaps one of the best performances I’ve seen her give (and I’ve seen this routine many times), pulling out some fantastic looking shots, as well as a stellar signature drink, which was good enough for her to take out third place ! She also got my vote for most awesome soundtrack, which was the Somersault soundtrack by Decoder Ring…very cool.

Second place in the finals was the ever consistent Con Haralambopolous from the Open Heats. Con is what I’d call the quiet achiever in the scene. He’s a down to earth guy who just does his thing in a truly honest way. His routine was much smoother than the heats, and he was always going to be a contender with an interesting molecular gastronomy take with a coffee soil in his signature drink.

The winner this year, was David Makin. David’s routine was slick and polished, and although I couldn’t see a lot of difference performance-wise between him and the other competitors, the results in the cup clearly indicated there was a big one, with an over 100 point difference between him and the rest of the field. He also finished in 14 minutes, a full one minute under the allotted competition time, which is normally unheard of. He’ll go on to Copenhagen later this year to compete in the world finals.

The other big event of the finals was Australian Coffee Cupping Championships, which I had another crack at, after a promising result in the Perth heats, getting 6 out of 8 cups and being pipped by one.
The finals were another story altogether though, with some seriously tough triangle tests to deal with.
One competitor in the early rounds scored 0 out of 8, which made me feel a little sick.

I managed to hit 4 out of 8 in my heat though, finishing in a mostly respectable 3 and a half minutes. The winner of the heats though, was the lovely Emily Oak, who hit 6 out of 8 to take them out.

So on to the finals and Perth girl Catherine Ferrari, taking on local fave Toshi from St Ali, and Emily Oak. It was a fierce comp and Catherine was on fire. Taking out 6 out of 8 cups to win the day, and become the Australian Coffee Cupping Champion. A fantastic result for Catherine and her very proud mum who had come over to watch the competition with her.

And so after some sustained partying and a few too many drinks, the greater coffee loving community of Australia slinked back to their respective cities to rest their weary heads after a weekend where too much coffee was barely enough.

Cheers to all the great people I met over the course of the weekend. Nim, Luca, Emily, Emma, Aaron, Syd (and your awesome photos), Mel, Bruno, and all the other judges and helpers who did such a fine job.