Five minutes with Frank van de Loo, Mount Majura Vineyard

Michelle Rowe 14 March 2021
Frank van de Loo

Mount Majura Vineyard winemaker Frank van de Loo. Photo: Supplied.

Who is Frank van de Loo? I’m the winemaker at Mount Majura Vineyard.

Best recent dining experience: I’ve been to Lamshed’s in Yarralumla a few times, and the scallop ceviche is the sort of dish that just screams riesling at me, so I can’t resist it. I love places like this that are great restaurants tucked away in the local shops – just think Rubicon in Griffith, Rama’s in Pearce, Lanterne Rooms in Campbell and lots more.

Most embarrassing pantry item: I get enthusiastic about things. Right now in my pantry, there is a spare 1 kg bag of ground ginger leftover from a large batch of brewed ginger beer I did for the Majura Valley Festival a few years ago. We haven’t made any at home this year because our lemon tree has been so loaded we’ve done lemonade instead (1 kg sugar per litre of lemon juice, store it in the fridge and mix with soda water).

Must-buy ingredient: Sriracha mayo is on the table a lot. We wouldn’t want to be without that one!

Lamshed's Yarralumla

Lamshed’s in Yarralumla is one of many great Canberra restaurants tucked away in local shopping strips. Photo: Ash St George.

Next big thing: Vinho verde, the light, fresh and zesty white blend from Portugal that is so drinkable. If you can’t travel there right now, you can still travel the world in your wine glass. We’re planting some albariño soon, but the louriero that we want to blend it with will take another year or two.

Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: I love the idea of going out for brunch but never seem to do it. But grabbing one of the awesome bacon and egg rolls from Handlebar cafe after an early ride at Stromlo Forest Park is always great.

My Canberra food secret: I got into making salumi a while ago and I love getting pork from Hing Shing Butcher in Dickson. The quality is amazing and they’ll do whole bellies for me if I’m making pancetta.

Queenies

Queenies has an inventive cocktail menu featuring native ingredients. Photo: Supplied.

Biggest culinary influence: For food, my mum. Just learning to make everything from scratch because that’s how we do things. And I’m making sure that she teaches me how to make all the Dutch specialties I grew up with. Funnily enough, she doesn’t drink at all. My training in science has probably been the biggest influence on my winemaking, and the late winemaker Roger Harris was a great man of both science and wine who taught me a lot, especially when to ignore your training and go with your palate.

Favourite cookbook: The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit is by turns fascinating, hilarious and practical, and I love the thought that has gone into why good food combinations work so well.

Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: What a richness of talent we’ve developed in Canberra in the past decade or so! Chef John Leverink is a quiet achiever and brings so much quality and innovation to his work at The Boat House in Barton, as well as ventures like Ramen Daddy at Verity Lane Market in the city.

The Boat House, Barton

Boat House chef John Leverink’s potato and basil gnocchi with pumpkin, black garlic and broccolini. Photo: Supplied.

What’s on the menu this week: Our main tempranillo just sold out, but we have our three single-site tempranillo wines for tasting. It’s fascinating to taste the same variety made from different patches within the vineyard and see how sensitive vines are to soil and aspect. This is the stuff that really drives us – making wine that has a real sense of place.

Where I’m going next: If I wasn’t going to be so busy with vintage, I would be booking for the Pitch Black dining-in-the-dark event in March and April because that sounds like a terrific experience. As it is, I’m hoping to finally pop into Queenies in Kingston for a cocktail.

Death row meal: Of course, the wine comes first – there is a small group of red varieties like Grenache, Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese that have such a delicious combination of ruby colour, red fruits and rusty-nail savouriness that I’m sure they’re sustaining and might even increase your blood cell count when you drink them. And they’re perfect for my favourite, pork. I would start with rillettes, and there would be pork belly ssam and maybe some smoked ribs.

My COVID-19 response: Wine tastings at Mount Majura Vineyard are now by booking and include a small individual plate instead of the platters we used to sell separately. It works better for everyone, and we’ve enjoyed seeing so many domestic travellers who’ve found it a relaxing and interesting way to spend an hour in the countryside right next door to the city.

Mount Majura Vineyard

Mount Majura Vineyard’s beautiful country setting belies its convenient location just minutes from Canberra’s CBD. Photo: Supplied.

My really simple recipe tip: It really doesn’t take long to make fresh pasta, and I would wander around the garden to find something to dress it with, whether it’s just tomatoes, capers and olive oil, or peas, cream and pancetta, or a basil pesto. And even when there’s nothing in the garden right now, there are sour cherries in the freezer ready to make clafoutis for dessert.

The cellar door at Mount Majura Vineyard is open seven days a week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Bookings are essential and can be made for groups of up to 10.


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