M rating, 91 min, Drama, Thriller, Action, 8 Oct 2013 (AUS)
Undercover agent Thanh Do is a bright and capable agent and has been sent to infiltrate a group of food lover on a trip to the King Valley. There has been a tip off that a mafia run counterfeit ring has been set up in the King Valley to sell cheaper Prosecco in place of the quality product made in the area. The whistleblower has indicated that an upcoming trip with an group of food lovers touring the area is actually a scouting mission to find new locations to sell the fake goods. Agent Do has been tasked with flushing out the criminals and breaking up this crime syndicate. Agent Do must realistically embed himself into the world of food and wine in order to not be found out. As Agent Do gets closer to others in the group, the developing relationships start to impede his judgement, which may ultimately result in his demise.
Director: Melissa Bauer, also plays Melissa aka Prosecco Queen in the movie.
Cinematoprapher: Ewen Bell, also plays Ewen aka The Photographer in the movie.
Location: King Valley
David - David aka The Flasher
Ashley - Ashley aka Blue Hair
Rob - Rob aka The Brit
Veda - Veda aka The Laugh
Sarah - Sarah aka Meow Meow
Jo - Jo aka High Heels
Emma Keith - Emma aka Bus Driver/Farmer/Tourism Representative/Party Goer #27
I drove out from the police headquarters to meet the food lovers group at the Brown Brothers Epicurean Centre. I had been informed by my superior that one of the group was the prime suspect for a mafia cartel that were counterfeiting Prosecco wines that was made famous by the King Valley wineries. The mafia group were selling these counterfeits to unsuspecting customers and passing them off as the real deal. The crime syndicated needed to be stopped, and my task was to infiltrate this group and flush out the criminal. Everyone was under suspicion and to be observed.
The trip started with a meeting with Caroline Brown, of the Brown Brothers family. She is working as the company's public relations manager, while her father Ross Brown is the current CEO. He also joined the group for a lunch. I made my way around and met the group, starting with Melissa, the organiser, Ewen, the photographer and the food lovers David, Ashley, Rob, Veda, Sarah and Jo. From first meetings, they all seemed to be enthusiastic food lovers, but I wouldn't let their front lull me into a false sense of security.
We learned about the great history of Brown Brothers, being one of the first wineries in the King Valley region. They pretty much started the wine industry in the area. As with many other wineries in the area, Brown Brothers specialise in a number of unique Italian varietals and as well as the famous Prosecco. I had always thought Prosecco was a cheap unrefined drink but having that first sip, I could see why the mafia were trying to counterfeit it as it grew in popularity in Australia.
We sat down to a shared lunch, and the food was excellent, far exceeding my expectations. Being a city boy all my life and having experienced some rather ordinary fare in country locations when on assignment, I was very happy that the food was so good. The cuisine contained traditional Italian flavours but with a modern twist. Simple items like great salamis, olives and white anchovies went beautifully with the bread and matching wines. A tasting platter of duck, prawns, cheese croquettes and pork belly was excellent, something you'd be happy with at any top metropolitan restaurant. There was also a tripe bake that was beautiful and something you would not often see.
I thought I would start my investigation with the person who I felt was most likely to be the criminal, the photographer Ewen. He was constantly taking photos of everyone just keeping an overall eye on the group. Under the guise of wanting to learn more about how to take photos, I went and spoke to Ewen. It turned out Ewen shoots photos for travel and food magazine and has gone to many parts around the world. He showed me how to take a few different shots of the pork belly dish and immediately I could see an improvement in my photos. I automatically removed him from my list of suspects. No criminal would have so much time to perfect such an artistic skill.
After lunch, we went and did some wine testing. I should have been spitting to keep a clear head but I let myself enjoy the beautiful wines of Brown Brothers. The Patricia range was a real highlight, as were the semi-sweet whites. Another treat was to visit the personal wine cellars of the Brown family, laden with every single vintage of wine that made. Can you imagine how great dinner gatherings in that family would be, "let me go pick out a 40 year old wine from the cellar". While down in the cellar, we also tried some Milawa Cheese Company cheeses. I loved a number of them and we ate through it all, despite professing how full we were. Lastly, while down in the cellar, we tasted the Noble Riesling, which was just stunning and a must buy.
After the cheese tasting, we headed back upstairs to chill on the bean bags in the garden. I then focused my attention on Emma, our driver who arrived in yellow high heels and her blonde flowing hair cascading around her beautiful face. My years of experience in the field was telling me something was not right. I asked Emma many questions, from what she did, to what her passions were and why she was a bus driver. As it turned out, Emma was also the King Valley Tourism representative and King Valley Premium Beef owner. When she told me about the struggles of being a small producer, I ruled her out as a suspect. Anyone who knew the struggles of being a farmer had to have worked the land.
Emma the bus driver drove us, in high heels and all, to our accommodation. I was staying at Mountain View Hotel with Rob and David. I made sure I got the unit by myself as I needed to lay out my surveillance equipment and files. The room was very large with a king sized bed and while simple, had all the necessities. There was digital TV, a split system air conditioner and a beautiful large shower with good water pressure and free flowing hot water. I was rather impressed given many country hotels are terrible.
When I walked over to Jessie's Creek B&B where the others were staying, I was rather jealous. They had use of two beautiful cottages that were so well furnished and had big rooms, a spa, a large dining/rumpus area, and a wonderful backyard patio. We all convened at the patio and drank Prosecco while nibbling on some food from the local catering company. I went onto my next suspect, the Brit, Rob. I talked to him about what he did, and he told me he was a publisher. We chatted some more about books and I found him to be a very personable guy, but I couldn't rule him out as a suspect yet.
For dinner, we were eating at the cottage, with food cooked by the local catering company. We were also having wines by King River Estate, with the owner Trevor joining us. The food was simple fare but very good. We had roast lamb and potatoes, with various vegetable dishes, finishing off with an utterly fantastic tiramisu.
Throughout the night, we continued to sample more of the King River Estate wines, which are biodynamically made. We tried numerous wines, with the Saperavi being the ultimate, described by one wine writer that it will "suck all the water out of your eyes, suck all the light from the room and then start sucking the volts outa your wires". It did indeed pack a punch.
As we drank more and more wines, the participants got louder and louder. Even Ewen, who was previously a bit more in the shadows was starting to laugh and talk loudly and acting silly. I knew I was right in ruling him out as a suspect. I was sitting next to Rob again by chance and when I heard all his views about different restaurants he liked and naming all the dishes they had, I knew he was not the criminal. Again, any person who could develop so much information on a topic could not have time to run a crime syndication. That narrowed down my list of suspects to David, Ashley, Veda, Jo, Sarah and Melissa. It was not a bad days work to eliminate 3 suspects. I now had 3 more days to determine the criminal.
As the night wounded towards midnight, I knew it was time to go when the dance moves started to come out and there were threats of twerking. Therefore, me and the two guys started to make our way back to our hotel on foot. Little did we know that a car was rounding the bend on the road at a very fast speed, just as we were about to cross it. Suddenly....................
TO BE CONTINUED
Read part 2 of the King Valley Love saga about Pizzini Wines, King Valley Premium Beef and Mountain View Hotel here.
Read part 3 of the King Valley Love saga about Politini Wines, Gracebrook Vineyards and Dal Zotto Wines here.
Read part 4 of the King Valley Love saga about Lindenwarrah and Milawa Chese Company here.
I attended this wonderful trip courtesy of Squawk Media and the hospitality of the numerous companies of the King Valley.