This was my first wine maker dinner with the Australian Wine Appreciation Society. Held at the Fish House in Stanley Park, Mr. Bruce Tyrrell from Tyrrell’s Wines regaled us with stories of his family’s past and about the wines we were about to enjoy that evening. Although the Tyrrell family established themselves in Australia in 1858, it wasn’t until the 1950s when they started for make wine under their own label. Previous to then, they were strictly grape growers. A feather in their cap was the introduction of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Australia.
Bruce is the fourth generation of the Tyrrell family to work in the wine trade in Australia. Although the family started farming in the Hunter Valley, Bruce expanded their holdings to McLaren Vale in South Australia and Heathcote in Victoria.
In 2006, Bruce Tyrrell was recognised with an Order of Australia medal for his contribution to the Australian wine industry; improving grape quality, research, tourism and export opportunities. In 2009, he became a Hunter Valley Living Legend at the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Awards. Also, in 2009, Garry Walsh and Campbell Mattinson made Tyrrell’s their Australian Red Winery of the Year and James Halliday his Australian Winery of the Year.
Yet with all these accolades, Bruce is a down to earth fellow, with a great passion for wine, and making people feel comfortable.
Our Reception Wine
Our reception wine this evening was Tyrrell’s Lost Block Semillon 2010. It had a light citrus nose. Off dry with a round mouth feel and medium minus acidity to back it up. Lime peel and ripe citrus fruit flavours. This Semillon is meant to be enjoyed now. Semillon though is a very age-able wine grape, with Australia’s Hunter Valley (home to Tyrrell’s) being one of the prime growing locations in the world. If you are interested to find out more about the Semillon grape, check out this Wikipedia link.
Our First Course
Starting off our evening meal was a Halibut Ceviche make with citrus, cilantro and chili brine, and served with Pugliese toast points. Our wine pairing was the Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2004. The wine was medium lemon in colour with a greenish tinge. Toasty oak nose with some citrus and waxiness. Light body, medium plus acidity, dry, with a very light mouthfeel. Citrus, green apple and “oaky” notes on the palate. I put “oaky” in quotes as this is not an oaked wine. The oak that you sense is actually an attribute of the Semillon grape as it ages in the bottle. This is an exceptional, elegant wine. This was one of my favourite pairings of the evening. The ceviche was spicy and had a high acidic, cilantro flavour. This meshed nicely with the acidity in this wine. It was a complementary flavoured pairing.
Our Second Course
Second course was a grilled Juan de Fuca Sablefish filet, with smoked horseradish butter, golden beet puree and cress salad. Our wine pairing was Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay 2006. This wine is special to Bruce as his daughter will be married in 2 weeks and this wine will be served at the wedding reception. This wine was medium minus golden in colour. It has ripe tropical fruit, lemon, and smoky vanilla aromas. Tropical and stone fruit aromas, along with lots of cinnamon on the palate as it was aerated. The sable fish was soft and buttery and melted into the Chardonnay. Again, nice complementary flavours between the food and wine. The beet puree was subtle and I think toned down the acid and the oak from the wine.
Our Third Course
The third course was a duo of Australian lamb – Dijon crusted Rack of Lamb, and Sous Vide Leg in Shiraz Rosemary jus. Our wine pairings were the Tyrrell’s 4 Acres Shiraz 2011, and the Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz 2010. The Vat 9 Shiraz 2010 was light, bright, translucent ruby in colour. On the nose there was purple fruit and bramble berries, along with minerality and a hint of smokiness. Medium body, dry with firm tannins. Ripe berry fruit, and vanilla flavours with spice on the mid palate. This was my favourite wine of the evening. It is the top Syrah of the Tyrrell’s estate. The 4 Acres Shiraz 2011 was much lighter bodied than the Vat 9 Shiraz. It was medium translucent ruby in colour. Black berry and I think some cranberries on the nose. Bright red cherry and raspberry flavours, spicy with high acidity on the palate. Light and bright flavours. The darker more tannic Vat 9 Shiraz paired the best with the Dijon crusted Rack of Lamb. It is also my overall favourite pairing. The Rack of Lamb was very tender with a light Dijon accent. The Vat 9 Shiraz seemed to enhance the salt in the Dijon crust.
Our Fourth Course
Our fourth course was a seared duck breast – confit duck with shallot risotto and braised fig compote. The pairing was the Tyrrell’s Stevens Shiraz 2009. This wine was named after the Stevens grape growing family. Their vineyard is notable for the purple coloured soil that they say makes bigger, richer wines. This wine was opaque ruby in colour with a light vanilla, capsicum and purple fruit nose. Medium plus body, dry with high acidity. Dark berries, plums and spice. A bit hot at the back of the tongue. The slightly sweet fig compote contrasted nicely with the fatter, darker duck flavour. The shallot risotto though was quite strong and there was a strong consensus at our table that it overpowered the duck and did not work well with this wine.
Our Cheese Course
To finish off the evening we had a Spanish Valdeon Blue cheese, berry fruit preserves and crackers. Our pairing was the Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2006. This is from a newer vineyard for the Tyrrell family. The land being bought and vines planted in 1994. This wine has 2-3% Viognier blended in with the Shiraz during fermentation, which helps to bring out the colour from the Shiraz skin, plus adds a flowery component to the wine. The blending of Shiraz (Syrah in France) with Viognier, was pioneered in the Hermitage region of the Rhone Valley, France. The Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz was almost opaque ruby in colour. Smoky dark fruit and raspberry aromas. Very high acidity, minerality, with bright raspberry fruits. It was interesting to me but that behind the acidity and minerality there was an undercurrent of dark fruit flavour. Peppery feel on the sides of your tongue on the finish. This was a wonderful pairing with the Spanish Valdeon Blue cheese. The cheese had salty, smoky and spicy flavours, which meshed nicely with the fruit and the minerality in the wine.
This was a wonderful evening, and I thank Mark Anthony Brands for bringing me as their guest to this event. And a special thanks to Bruce Tyrrell for spending quite a while with me chatting about Semillon, the Australian wine industry, French wine, and so much more. Please buy Bruce’s wines so he can afford his daughter’s wedding!