Carl belongs to a swim group that meets every Friday morning at about 6am for an ocean swim; rain, hail or shine. It’s a boy’s group and that doesn’t bother me a bit because I’m not aching to join. Even though we’ve had a mild winter the water temperature has been down to around 13 or 14C (55F) and I cannot survive a swim in those kinds of temperatures. But Carl just can’t see the problem and just says all anyone needs to do is wear a second cap. (I’ll politely let you know that Carl has a lot more padding on his bones than I do).
Besides swimming, these boys share a passion for wine. Their homes have cellars (ours doesn’t) and some are climate controlled and some have tasting rooms and some order their wine by the pallet (we’re the single bottle buyer). And when they talk about wine their eyes light up and regions are spoken of and climates and soils and the age of vines and oak and altitude and aromas of ‘sweet-smelling flowers, wild mountain herbs, savoury spices, black olive and very dark chocolate’ roll off the tongue. Carl and I just nod our heads.
So, one of their most favourite places to buy wine is North Sydney Cellars which is a boutique bottle shop that carries the slogan, ‘Drink Better Wine’. The business prides itself in sourcing quality wines from around the globe and in employing staff who can actually help you to find that bottle of wine tasting of ‘sweet-smelling flowers, wild mountain herbs, savoury spices, black olive and very dark chocolate’.
But there’s so much more to North Sydney Cellars. On one side they have the racks and fridges of wine and on the other, just beyond the old wooden wine barrels, they have a restaurant. Customers can choose a wine then sit and enjoy it over a meal for just $10.00 corkage per bottle. When you think about the mark-up a licensed restaurant has on a typical bottle of wine, this makes ‘wining and dining’ at North Sydney Cellars extremely good value.
Last week the swimming club boys organised a night with the wives at North Sydney Cellars. The idea was that we would go around the world sampling 12 bottles of wine that were of six different varieties while enjoying a meal. The 12 bottles were wrapped in foil so they couldn’t be identified.
When we sat down we had a glass on our left and another on our right. The first two bottles appeared and one went into the glass on the left and the other into the glass on the right. We had to guess which wine was from France and which was locally produced. I tried not to appear as though the only thing I knew about wine was how to swallow.
I immediately preferred the glass on my left which turned out to be Domaine Christian Salmon Sancerre 201 from the Loire Valley. I found the other white to be less mellow and more perfumed. That wine was a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from my country of birth, New Zealand! I thought I was a loyalist.
Next came two lighter coloured red wines so Carl immediately picked these as Pinot Noir. The first was a Dexter Pinot Noir 2012 and I preferred it to the Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2010 from New Zealand. I wasn’t giving the Kiwi’s much love.
Then came an Abbott’s & Delaunay Reserve Corbieres Syrah Grenache Mourvedre 2011 that is described as having savoury flavours of violets, leather, earth, licorice and dark chocolate. The only flavour I picked out was licorice. It was paired with a Teusner ‘Avatar’ Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2012 from the Barossa Valley. By now I was becoming a little distracted with the good company on my left (it wasn’t Carl), and I sort of forgot about what I was supposed to be doing with the wines.
Then we had a Cape Mentelle Zinfandel 2011 from the Margaret River with a mystery Zinfandel from California. By now my glasses were mixed up and I was guilty of, ‘Let not the left hand know what the right hand is doing’. I had no idea what wine had been poured into which glass.
The next two wines were a Tikal ‘Patriota’ Malbec Bonarda from Argentina that’s grown 1000mtrs up in the foothills of the Andes mountains. I was supposed to be able to taste lavender, plum and blueberry. When asked what I thought, I said, ‘It’s very nice’. There is no way I would have known this was from Argentina however I did think it wasn’t from France. It was paired with a Robert Oatly ‘Finisterre’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from the Margaret River and it’s apparently fragrant with blackcurrant, bay leat, cassis, mulberry and dark chocolate. I didn’t challenge the findings.
I’m not normally a ‘sticky’ drinker but..when in Rome! So there were two in front of me and I definitely preferred the one on my right that had a lovely aroma and was smooth to drink with a hint of honey. The other ‘sticky’ had little aroma and just not as much depth. The one I preferred was a Chateau Guiraud Grand Cru Sauternes 2007 from Bordeaux and it was the Australian De Bortoli Noble One Semillon 2009 that I liked less.
I don’t normally drink French wines and I was quite surprised that whenever there was a French wine in my glass, that was the wine I preferred.
We had a fantastic evening. It was a lot of fun and full of laughs. Of course to dine at North Sydney Cellars you don’t have to have a tasting night; that was just something the swimming club boys wanted to do. However, I would recommend it because it’s a great way to branch out of your comfort zone and try some wines you wouldn’t normally buy.
We went home by taxi and Carl had a short sleep before having to be up and down to the water’s edge with the swimming club. But the numbers were down. As you can imagine, after drinking our way around the world, not everyone turned up.
North Sydney Cellars: 189 Miller Street, North Sydney. Ph: 02 9954 0090
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