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It's the first night off the leash after the 4th Melbourne lockdown. Heading out to Rob Dolan Wines reminds me of all the good things we've been missing. Eating out, sipping great wine, and conversing with convivial people in person. Wine keeps the conversation flowing.
Rob Dolan Wines Yarra Valley - Photo @nadine.cresswell-myatt
The faithful winery dog comes out to greet me and leads me in. There's the smell of oak barrels, and a long table of people -strangers who become like new friends over a glass of fine wine.
The Barrel Room has a long table set with gold cutlery in a marriage of rustic with refined.
I meet Rob Dolan, a hearty, likeable chap and a great host. His staff are young, vibrant, and passionate about all things epicurean. He takes great pride in their accomplishments and seems highly encouraging. Four Pillars Gin got its start in a shed out the back, including 'appropriating' 250kg of Shiraz' from Rob for their award-winning Bloody Shiraz Gin
Our educators for the night are Meg Brodtmann and Tyson Bertoncello. Brodtmann is Australia's first female Master of Wine - the highest accolade a person can achieve in the world of wines. Only about 400 people worldwide hold this coveted title as it's one of the hardest exams in the world.
Over dinner, Meg tells me of how she and her family were living in Chile when she decided to sit for the exam. "It was hard to access the wine I needed so I'd be able to pass the section on blind taste-testing. So I flew to London and spent two weeks before the exam staying in a friend's place while they were away. I bought and tasted my way through thousands of pounds of wine. My friends came home to a wealth of nearly full bottles."
Tyson, our chef for the night, earned his hatted status as a chef at O.MY. a restaurant he started with his brothers. Tyson went on to start I Like Too Much. offering Pinot & Pasta Parties. The kind of fun event people can do for at-home parties or corporate events.
After a welcoming glass of Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Meg runs us through a tasting of White Label Chardonnay & White Label Pinot Noir with some tips on wine and food pairing. She's down to earth and calls a spade a spade. And recognises that despite certain pretensions around wine, in the end, it's what you like, and each palate is different. But she still offers tips such as match like with like and high acid with high fat, such as pork crackling.
Then we are let loose with our glass of White Label Cabernet Sauvignon at a series of tasting stations with a selection of little bowls of possible pairings under signs such as sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. The lovely helpers at each station talk us through some of our choices as well as saying, " Try this. See what you think."
Some of the selections are surprising. But gosh, they work. Coconut sends many into swooning territory, thinking of how lamingtons might actually be paired with a glass of wine. Salt doesn't work for most of us, but surprisingly dehydrated beetroot powder does.
As a wine novice but a food lover, I find myself understanding so much more about pairing. It's like reverse engineering. I never want to do a wine tasting again without food. Wine and food are a marriage made in heaven.
Meg Brodtmann is a Master of Wine - Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
There's a large communal board where we tick off the items we feel pair with our sips of wine. Despite our different palates, there's a surprising consensus even though some choices come out of left field, such as butter and capers.
He forms the dough into a long rectangle and then guides it through the pasta machine many times until it's the right thinness. Then he pipes macaron-shaped blobs into the egg golden pasta, beautifully cutting around each until there is perfectly formed and serrated ravioli.
His expressive hands are amazing to watch so expressive as he moulds, edges and creates.
The final plating is beautiful. The yellow of the pasta with a not oversweet sauce despite the shavings of chocolate and the plumes of purple from the beetroot and the moss green of the capers. The perfect pairing to the White Label Pinot Noir. Hats off to a two-hatted chef.
The other pairings for the night have been done for us. The main is a 6hr slow-braised beef cheek, on a bed of silk truffle mash with long flat Romano beans and bright carrots served with a Rob Dolan White Label Cabernet Sauvignon with hints of blackcurrant and mulberry.
Our final course is a platter of boutique house-made cheese by cheesemaker Jack Holman. Stone & Crow cheeses are made in a micro-dairy located on Rob Dolans Wines. Another reason to visit! The striking wheel you see in the middle is an Amiel. The set goat's milk cheese has been lightly ashed during production to give it an aesthetic appeal.
The massive platter of cheese is served with Two Barrel Batch made from up to 25-year-old Rutherglen wines with sweet flavours of raisin, toffee, and fruitcake. The perfect accompaniment to the wonderful cheese.
Stone Crow Cheeses, Rob Dolan Yarra Valley - Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
The Pairing Method is held in the Rob Dolan Wines barrel room, and despite being an ample space, tickets are limited to 18 people per event to ensure an intimate experience.
There is one more date for this great event June 19th. Cost $160 per person. June 19th (11:00am – 2:30pm) Book here.
VISITING AT OTHER TIMES
Visitors are welcome to taste, purchase wine to take away or enjoy on the deck- or in the gardens over a game of bocce. The people I met there said they enjoyed bringing their dog and having a drink outside. This is a dog-friendly place with a page devoted to bringing your dog.
A selection of local produce, including Stone and Crow cheese, is available seven days a week, along with accompaniments such as City Larder pate and terrine, Mount Zero olives, crackers by The Farm Yarra Valley, and an in-house range of Rob Dolan pickles, pastes, relishes, and jellies. Wine by the bottle or four tastes of premium Rob Dolan wines (equivalent to 2 glasses of wine). To book click here.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WINE
Meg Brodtmann MW has teamed up with Mel Gilcrist to create a fun podcast to help beginners navigate the world of wine. Give it a listen for 20-min episodes that will help you choose (or recommend) great wine and navigate hot topics like clean wine, aging, apps, and food pairing. Wine with Meg Mel is available on Apple and Spotify.