North Sydney Cellars

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).

'Drink Better Wine', North Sydney Cellars

‘Drink Better Wine’, North Sydney Cellars

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.

The bottle shop

The bottle shop

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’.

Lots of wine barrels

Lots of wine barrels

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.

A spitting bowl

A spitting bowl

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.

Our table, for getting down to business

Our table, for getting down to business

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.

The bottles are wrapped in foil

The bottles are wrapped in foil

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.

The left and the right.  What's French and what's Kiwi?

The left and the right. What’s French and what’s Kiwi?

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.

Double smoked ham, prosciutto, hummus and dukkah $16

Double smoked ham, prosciutto, hummus and dukkah $16

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.

Sweet born fritters with seven-day hot sauce $10

Sweet born fritters with seven-day hot sauce $10

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.

Baby beetroot salad with sheep's milk fetta, apple and toasted walnuts $15

Baby beetroot salad with sheep’s milk fetta, apple and toasted walnuts $15

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.

The left and the right

The left and the right

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.

Sticky wines

Dessert (sticky) wines

The swimming group has spouses

The swimming group has spouses

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.

Carl's favourite for the night

Carl’s favourite for the night

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.

I don't think we drank any Italian wines

I don’t think we drank any Italian wines

Beer-battered chips with aged parmesan, truffle oil and aioli $5.00

Beer-battered chips with aged parmesan, truffle oil and aioli $5.00

Pork slider with house-made smokey bacon BBQ sauce $9.00

Pork slider with house-made smokey bacon BBQ sauce $9.00

Corned beef sliders with horseradish may $9.00 for two

Corned beef sliders with horseradish mayo $9.00 for two

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.

Pork sliders with house-made smokey bacon BBQ sauce

Pork sliders with house-made smokey bacon BBQ sauce

North Sydney Cellars:  189 Miller Street, North Sydney.  Ph:  02 9954 0090

Well this is just very unfortunate

Well this is just very unfortunate

The line-up

The line-up

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  1. what a feast i want the BBQ burger.. yummy!

  2. Now THAT’S how to drink wine ! 🙂

    What a fun evening with good food, good wine and good friends.

  3. That looks like so much fun! I choose my wine by the pretty label on the bottle, which is a very bad way to do it 😉 I would not get in the water either Charlie, that is waaaaay too cold for me!

  4. WOW! What a beautiful meeting and table… I wanted too 🙂 Thank you dear Charlie, love, nia

  5. Sounds like a wonderful evening! There are a lot of people in the US who really prefer nothing but Californian wines. California does produce some world class wines, but French wines can be extraordinary. We’ve the sort that buy it by the bottle, too, but we have some friends with first rate wine cellars, including one who drinks primarily good French wines. So of course we’re always happy for dinner invites. 😉

  6. Great excuse to just have ‘a little more’ to help you decide!! Sounds like a great time. GG xx

  7. What a fun idea!! I must admit that I’m really partial to French reds. I usually can’t drink red wine but I did like the ones I had in France 🙂

  8. Drinking straight from the bottle, Charlie. Aren’t you ashamed? 🙂 I’m not familiar with the terminology of wines so ‘sticky’ was a stumper. Is it a wine made with honey or just tasting of honey?

    By the 3rd set of wines, I would have been under the table doing something embarrassing … sleeping (get your minds out of the gutter). I think a single glass would have been my limit cause I’d want to savour all that lovely food.

    • A ‘sticky’ wine is a bit of a slang terms for a dessert wine. They’re botrytis wines where the grapes are left longer on the vine to develop a higher sugar content. They are served chilled and are excellent with dessert of a cheese platter after a meal.

      • The closest thing I know to dessert wines are the ice wines that are grown in south-western Ontario. There are more than 16 wineries within an hour drive from me. If only I liked to drive I’d take the scenic wine route. There was a 3 day wine festival this weekend but I had no one to go with who would have agreed to be the designated driver. 🙂

  9. I love wine tastings–always such fun. And this group looks lively indeed and the set-up for the wine perfect. Love the look of those sliders as well. Great photo of you–I would have been under the table at that point!

  10. Can’t say I have wine experience at all but this sounds like an awesome evening out 😀


  11. What a fun idea Charlie, but I’d be under the table after the first glass or two! I’d love to learn more about wines, but I’ve not got around to it yet- maybe I should go to a dinner like this one 🙂 xox

  12. I want to steal the wine glasses used for the sticky whites.

  13. I wouldn’t have a clue about wine either Charlie! Looks like a lovely way to spend a night though and the food looks fantastic.

  14. I don’t think I’ve actually had a lot of French wine. We mostly drink California wine, but I we do enjoy Australian and Chilean wines quite frequently. I would have enjoyed everything about this occasion. What a fun group. And i love the polite way you mentioned your husbands insulation! I carry a little extra insulation, too. Very discreet, Charlie! 🙂

  15. G’day and what a fun get together Charlie, true!
    LOVE blind tastings of wine as no one is influenced by the label or where it came from too!
    Is only brekkie, but have a craving for those sliders too!
    Great group photo! Cheers! Joanne

  16. And I see an adorable baby in the group, too.

  17. Charlie, thanks so much for your generous words. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you and the gang on the night, but I certainly had fun helping Matthew select the wines.

    Seeing, hearing and reading about our customers enjoying the wine we recommend, whether its here at the restaurant or orders we’ve delivered around Australia, is probably the best part of my job.

    Thanks again!


  18. Nice reviews – how do you stay sober drinking even 1/2 glass of all those wines. No wonder you got mixed up part way through. I don’t have much of a clue about wine regions but do not what I prefer when comparing (shame about NZ wines – they are usually quite good).

  19. Oooh I love my wines but I don’t think I would have done well in a blind-tasting 🙁

    • But Libby, you know the best part about blind tastings?

      They’re not really about guessing what the wines are (though some people are competitive when it comes to that).

      Blind tasting is loads of fun, whether you’re experienced or not.

      It’s about tasting the wine without preconceptions getting in the way.

      Most of us, upon seeing a wine’s label, or even just knowing what grape variety it’s made from or what country it comes from, subconsciously form an opinion about whether we like that wine or not, even though it may not have touched our lips.

      We could be denying ourselves some seriously pleasurable experiences. We may dismiss a wine that we might otherwise have really enjoyed, had we just listened to our senses.

      After all, the only thing about wine that really matters is how much pleasure it gives YOU to drink it, regardless of what anyone else says. There are no right or wrong answers beyond that!

  20. Aww that sounds like a wonderful get-together. My husband LOVES wine and I can only drink a little bit (and feel drunk already) so my focus is always food! Wow, that smoked ham, prosciutto, hummus..and pork sliders.. I’ll be in heaven without drinking wine. 😀

  21. Oh many Friday afternoon drinks were had here when I worked in North Sydney! Brought back many fond memories indeed!

  22. What a fun night! I’m not a drinker at all so would have been clueless regarding wine locations but how funny you were so unwittingly loyal to the French 😉 And I’m impressed anyone turned up for swimming the morning after this dinner – Carl deserves serious credit!

  23. That meal looks fantastic, sounds like a good night was had by all 🙂

  24. What a brilliant idea! I am such a wine novice, if I like it I drink it – simple as that 🙂 x

  25. What a fabulous idea for a night out. Good wines and the food looked fabulous as well.

  26. That sounds like my sort of night out – and I would definitely be confusing my left and right wines after a couple. What a great idea for a night out with friends.

  27. You are so funny, Charlie.I tried to get into wines a bit years ago, but well, …then the kids came along and I t all got lost…I try some new ones upon occasion but I usually drink what I like when I do. I don’t have time for ‘acquired taste’. You place sounds wonderful and fun.

  28. OMG, these boys do have courage to swim at this temperature!
    I’m freezing just at the thought of it.
    Lovely place for wine tasting and the hors d’oeuvres look delicious.

  29. A great way to sample wines from many regions, such fun time. Those sliders look yummy, would love to taste one of each.

  30. This does look like fun, Charlie, and an excellent way to learn about wine. I like the idea of blind tastings of the pairings. Let you own palate guide you, not the label. The food looks great, too. I wouldn’t mind a corned beef slider with horseradish mayo right about now. I’ve just one question. Who scheduled this get-together for the night before a swim? 🙂

  31. Waw, what a fun gathering! I would have loved it to be with you over there,…All of the finger foods look amazing & so do the wines! 😉

  32. Swimming in the ocean at 6am? Now that is something!! I could never get myself to get up that early, let alone swim in the ocean. Good for him!

  33. I definitely couldn’t not swim in the cold! LOL men and they’re tolerances hehe but it’s quite nice to organise lunch here everything looks great and so much wine!

  34. So excited I found your blog! My brother is one of the managers of the restaurant at DBW! I love it there!

  35. Sounds like you had good fun and that you have very good taste (putting aside my Kiwi loyalty) !

  36. Oh, you’re lucky – I always wanted to try something like this. I guess I just don’t move in the right circles to be honest, haha. Most people I know are more interested in the differences between Coke and Fanta than a good wine :(.

    The food looks wonderful too – loving the idea of those chips with parmesan and aïoli (which incidentally is just what I posted today, lol!)

  37. This had me laughing… and that’s a hilarious photo of you at the end. I’m impressed by those swimming blokes, it’s been far too chilly for me too.

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