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Friday, November 28, 2008

Adelaide Day 1 - McLaren Vale

Last year, my friend made a trip to Adelaide to visit the wineries. I said to him at the time that if he went again, I would like to go as well. Well it just shows how quickly time passes because he was going to Adelaide again, and I decided to tag along. A couple of other friends were coming as well initially but couldn't make it last minute. That just meant more space for our wines on the way back. Silver lining. :-)

So the primary reason that Dennis wanted to go to Adelaide at this time was to coincide with Noon Winery's once a year opening weekend. Yes, that's right, they only open one weekend a year. Amazing! I want this business model, to be able to open just once a year and sell out your entire stock for the year. I asked many of the other wineries what they thought about this, and all were in high praise that Drew and Raegan Noon are able to do this. It turns out that Drew is the only winemaker with a degree in vitriculture in Australia. He's also a chemist and all these other things. So his reputation is very high.

Despite what Dennis told me, I still didn't expect what we encountered. When we got there at 9am, an hour before opening at 10am, there was already a long long queue. Not only that, people were prepared. The guys behind us had an esky and fold out chairs. It had become an "event" for some people, making a trek back every year. It's like watching the Boxing Day test. There's nothing particularly special about that first day, but it's become tradition. Anyway, after trying out the wines while we waited, 90 minutes later, we were able to purchase our allotment of wines, which basically came to 7 bottles of their various wines. The wines themselves are pretty good, but nothing mind blowing. I guess it's partially the exclusiveness and the cheap prices that draw people back each year. I don't know whether I will be back next year, but maybe in two or three years time.


Well after having to line up for the wine at Noon, nothing else we visited that day sort of matched up. The wineries were still good, but it didn't have that buzz. Throughout the day we visited Fox Creek, Penny's Hill, d'Arenberg, Kay's Amery and Simon Hackett.

Fox Creek


Penny's Hill


d'Arenberg


Kay's Amery


Simon Hackett


I got a Grenache at Kay's Amery and Simon Hackett. Both had a nice slightly sweet taste to it. At Penny's Hill, I liked their Cabernet and at d'Arenberg, their Dead Arm was very good indeed. Of all the wineries visited that day, I liked Kay's Amery the most. It was a small winery but the staff were very helpful and engaging. The huge oak barrels in the cellar door was also a wonderful sight.

For lunch, we ate at the Red Dot Cafe at Penny's Hill. The staff told us they were the best winery restaurant around. The menu definitely looked very impressive, but sadly, the meal did not live up to the text on the page.

The quality of the ingredients was great, as were individual elements of certain dishes, but when the whole dish was combined, none of them worked for me.

We started off with an Onion Soup. It was quite good, but just way too heavy for a hot day. Also, the pepper in it was quite strong and was very prominent on the taste buds.


The Artichoke Mille Feuille looked and sounded great, but tasted very disjointed. When deconstructed, the pasty and artichoke mash were good, but they didn't work well together. The tangy apple salad with an even tangier dressing would have worked well with seafood or beef, but helped to further confuse the taste buds in this dish.


The Veal with Mayonnaise again had great individual elements that didn't work together. The veal slices were soft and had good flavour. The mayonnaise though was extremely unctuous and needed a tang to it. The apple salad might have worked here. The dill pickles again did nothing for the dish. And I love anything that's pickled. It works with virtually anything, but apparently not with this dish.


The Swordfish with Scallops again had great individual elements. I'm sounding like a broken record but that was what kept occuring. The scallop was simply salted (possibly a bit too much salt) and tasted of the sea. The swordfish was cooked perfectly and firm. But the vegetables tasted so weird and did not blend with the fish at all. There was artichokes that were slightly pickled and olives and a very sour sauce. It didn't work for me at all.


Finally, when I was expecting dessert, I was to be disappointed and instead got another savoury dish. It was Braised Pork with Beetroot. The braised pork was very nice on it's own, braised to a soft texture. However, the duck egg sauce really didn't go with it and it tasted very strange. I had to scrape the sauce off. The beetroot with their sweet flavours did not match well with the salty pork.


Overall, I would say that I was rather disappointed with the meal. Maybe if the chef could reduce some of the dishes so that it was simpler, it would taste better. There were good elements in every dish, but they didn't work well together. Less is more sometimes.

Dinner was at Tiffany Thai on Gouger street. It was extremely forgettable and not that cheap either. Avoide it if you happen to be in the area.

Apart from that, it was a thoroughly enjoyable first day and we were both extremely tired after having driven to Adelaide throughout the night the day before. It was back to the Grenada Motor Inn (a nice clean quiet place for good prices) for a good nights rest.

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