It’s been said that all good stories start with a glass of wine.
In the case of David Faulks, who co-owns Tallagandra Hill Winery, the end was just the beginning.
David’s father Ron lived to the ripe age of 96. He died in 2017, an hour after David and the team at Tallagandra Hill Winery had finished hand-picking the Shiraz grapes that became The Great Ron, a shiraz described as a strong, resilient wine with a memorable finish.
This is just one of the stories to come from a cornucopia of memorable moments during the annual Murrumbateman Moving Feast, held last weekend across 18 different wineries and specialty producers around the Murrumbateman area.
“Now, I’m amazed at how many Rons there are,” says David. “I thought it was an old name, but thousands of them pop up and think this wine is all about them!”
Owned and run by David and his Irish wife Mary McAvoy, Tallagandra Hill Winery matches the scenery of their winery with their own personalities as hosts and storytellers. However, they leave the marketing of the winery to the nine-year-old dog Mac, who they say also masquerades as a golden retriever.
During the Moving Feast, wines are specially matched with foods from the region, such as a slow-cooked lamb shoulder with native pepper berry, pearl couscous and coriander. It happens to go very nicely with Tallangandra Hill’s Gundaroo Cabbie, a cheeky cabernet sauvignon.
Mind you, their Spanish doughnuts with salted caramel sauce and double cream go really well all by themselves!
“I know today we’re matching wine with food, but I have a bit of philosophy of matching wine with mood,” David says.
With that, the mood takes us to the next stop just down the road at Dionysus Winery, one of the smallest wineries in the area, owned by Michael and Wendy O’Dea and named after the Greek God, Dionysus, who lived life to the full and liked to indulge in the finer things.
Vigneron Michael O’Dea is a certified winemaker and Wendy has also studied viticulture and winemaking. Wendy says there’s always plenty of lively debate about their wines, which is why they have a ‘he says/she says’ section in their tasting notes at the cellar door.
Together they produce vintages using traditional methods such as a basket-press, a manual hydraulic press that extracts all the finest qualities of the grapes, grown and made on-site.
Their vineyard has just celebrated its coming of age, with the first vines having been planted 21 years ago last week by Wendy’s grandmother on her 89th birthday. Another 3000 vines were planted by friends and family, and Wendy says several vines had to be replanted the right way up the following day.
Since then, they have perfected the art of winemaking by following the footsteps of the region’s pioneer winemakers from the 1970s.
“In the 1990s, there was an influx of people planting vines and making wines, so we’ve gone from good to great,” says Wendy. “We all work really well together and we’ve realised that while we can succeed on our own, we can all be more successful if we work together.
“And there’s always good wine and cheese and chocolates at our meetings,” Wendy says.
The Dionysus Reisling was worked perfectly with a couple of slightly spicy bao buns, filled with confit pork belly or Thai satay chicken, with condiments of pickled cucumber, chilli and Kewpie mayonnaise. An amazingly decadent chocolate mousse that hid a hint of orange chocolate was also a perfect match for their cabernet sauvignon.
Taste buds were further tantalised at Murrumbateman Winery, where host Kerry Brotherton and chef and winemaker Bobbie Makin were busy serving scallops drizzled with a delicious apple cider syrup. Served with potato mash, beets and Brussel sprouts, it was matched with the winery’s 2019 pinot gris that packs some extra grrrr thanks to the dogs that also wander the property.
Kerry said their winery is another of the smaller, boutique wineries where everything is sourced as locally as possible.
“Here, you get the flavours of Murrumbateman,” Kerry says. “All our fruit is from the Murrumbateman region as there are lots of people growing, but don’t have a winery, so we make everything here on the premises. You can’t get any more local.
“We’re small, we’re friendly, and so are our dogs, and we love talking about wine and sharing it with people.”
So while this story starts with wine, it has a perfect ending that begins with chocolate and the array of amazing delicacies at Robyn Rowe Chocolates.
Robyn started making chocolates in her home and soon decided that life is short, so why not make it sweet?
“I love the tempering of the chocolate and knowing what’s going on with the molecules in the cocoa butter,” says Robyn. “There’s a challenge in doing it well so we’re very fussy about maintaining the standard that makes chocolate so enjoyable.”
Her favourite is the vanilla pecan caramel where pecans are roasted and remain crisp when covered in caramel. Robyn, a creative artist, then decorates it with painted chocolate.
It is one of the many sweet delights in an ideal setting of the hills that surround the area.
“The whole area is a bit of a bubble of wineries and we figured that we could become part of the tourism trail, which is what has happened,” says Robyn.
And while they don’t use any preservatives in their chocolates, it just means the chocolate is preserved in other stories that represent the many wonders of the Murrumbateman area.