WINE: The Wizard Pinot Noir 

A WINE, an Australian Wimbledon singles victory and a failed tennis racquet tree plantation in Tasmania are the ingredients of this story.
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It unfolded after I received a bottle of the Holm Oak 2010 The Wizard Pinot Noir from Rebecca and Tim Duffy’s Holm Oak operation at Rowella, 40kilometres north of Launceston, in northern Tasmania.

The wine, which is reviewed today, is the second vintage of the marque and gets its name from The Wizard tennis racquet used by Australia’s Jack Crawford when he won Wimbledon in 1933.

The racquet was made by the Alexander Patent Racquet Co in Launceston using imported English ash.

Rebecca Duffy tells me the Holm Oak property was once owned by Alexander North, a prominent Tasmanian architect, who was on the board of the Alexander racquet company.

North decided to plant oak and ash trees on his land with the aim of supplying wood for Alexander racquets. He was also involved in planting a larger English ash plantation at Hollybank, near Lilydale, in Tasmania’s north-east.

Sadly the wood from Holm Oak didn’t meet the standards required and Hollybank also proved a failure because the trees were planted too close together.

The Alexander factory on the corner of Abbott and Wentworth streets, Launceston, no longer operates. In the 1930s and 1940s, however, it prospered making not only tennis racquets, but cricket bats, badminton and squash racquets, furniture, wooden bicycle rims and, during World War II, ammunition boxes.

Although its tree-growing experiment failed, the Holm Oak property took a promising new turn in 1983, when the then owners established a small pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon vineyard. These vines produced the first Holm Oak wines in 1987 and in 1991 riesling vines were added to the mix.

In 2004 Rebecca Duffy’s father, Ian Wilson, a King Island farmer, and her mother Robyn, an island estate agent, bought the property.

Under Wilson family ownership, Rebecca made her first Holm Oak wines in 2007.

Born on King Island and schooled in Launceston, Rebecca tried her hand as a cheesemaker on King Island, but quickly decided that wine was a far better choice.

After graduating from the University of Adelaide wine science degree course, she worked at South Australia’s Tatachilla winery at McLaren Vale and in California’s Napa Valley.

From there she went in 2001 to Western Australia’s Capel Vale wine company as assistant winemaker, later rising to senior winemaker.

In 2006, Rebecca left WA to take charge of Holm Oak winemaking while her husband, viticultural agronomist Tim Duffy, took on management of the 10.4-hectare Holm Oak plantings of arneis, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc.

Tim also oversees his parents’ vineyard in Victoria’s Swan Hill area that provides the muscat a petits grains grapes used to make the distinctive Holm Oak Moscato wines.

Rebecca and Tim, the parents of two young sons, have proved themselves expert and innovative producers, with riesling, arneis and pinot noir. Rebecca believes the 600-litre, $6000 seamless oval concrete fermentation vessel creates different temperature layers, producing a vortex that keeps the lees in suspension. The lees contain lots of dead yeast cells that over time break down and create wines of rich creamy textures.

Rebecca matured 20per cent of the current-release $30 Holm Oak 2012 Chardonnay for eight months in the Nomblot and is well-pleased with the results.

They have introduced a French-made Nomblot egg to their winery and along with the $25 2012 Riesling and 2012 Arneis, the $22 Ilex Pinot Noir, the $32 Pinot Noir and the $60 2010 The Wizard Pinot Noir are available at holmoakvineyards杭州夜生活m.au.

Rebecca and Tim Duffy.

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Synthetic drugs to be outlawed in NSW

Fell from balcony: Henry Kwan, who had taken synthetic drugs. Banned: a selection of synthetic drugs. Photo: NSW Police
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Synthetic drugs will be outlawed in NSW under new laws that carry jail terms of up to two years and fines of more than $2000.

The drug believed to have contributed to the death of Sydney student Henry Kwan is banned under the new legislation.

The NSW government said the laws are the first of their kind in Australia and will target the manufacture, supply and advertising of synthetic drugs such as synthetic cannabis, cocaine and LSD.

Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts said the government would introduce the legislation on Tuesday.

“There is no silver bullet to protect people from the scourge of psychoactive drugs, but the NSW government has developed groundbreaking laws to tackle the problem,” he said.

Attorney-General Greg Smith said the new offences will be added to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985.

“Manufacturers may try to alter drugs to avoid detection, but these new laws mean police have greater certainty in seizing substances where they have formed a reasonable suspicion that it is a drug or psychoactive substance,” he said.

“The NSW government will also ban the advertising and promotion of a substance to be consumed for its psychoactive effects, or information that provides how or where to acquire the substance.”

Penalties will include jail sentences of up to two years, more than $2000 in fines or both for the manufacture or supply of synthetic drugs. The penalty for possession of the drugs will be up to one year in jail and/or more than $2000 in fines.

The state and federal governments introduced an interim ban on synthetic drugs in June, but this will be the first time the ban will be introduced in law.

Mr Roberts said the community is seeing the benefits of removing harmful synthetic drugs from sale “and these new laws capture the whole process”.

He said NSW Fair Trading inspected more than 1000 retailers since the ban was introduced to ensure synthetic drugs were removed from sale.

NSW will add 40 substances to the prohibited drugs list including NBOMe which contributed to the death of Sydney student Henry Kwan, 17, who jumped from the balcony of his Killara home in June. He was said to have suffered from a psychosis brought about by the synthetic drug.

NSW Greens MP John Kaye said the government’s legislation was “doomed to failure”.

“The O’Farrell government has shifted the arms race between the drug manufacturers and the regulations to a new plane. The new battle ground will be over the meaning of psychoactive and will inevitably result in yet another generation of extremely dangerous drugs.

“The New Zealand approach of testing and regulating the availability of relatively safe substances, not only works but reduces the unnecessary criminalisation of both users and suppliers.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Bushfires threaten Sydney’s western suburbs: NSW Rural Fire Service issues emergency warnings

Bushfire Fire at Londonderry. Photo: Nick Moir
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A bushfire threatens properties in the Castlereagh area. Photo: Nick Moir

Fire

A fire burns along Devlin Street in Castlereagh. Photo: Kylie Pitt

Fire danger: smoke surrounds a property on Devlin Street in Castlereagh. Photo: Kylie Pitt

A man runs as bushfires burn near Devlin Street in Castlereagh. Photo: Kylie Pitt

The RFS Brigade abandons a truck as fire rushes along Londonderry Road. Photo: Nick Moir

A truck catches fire near Londonderry Road, Castlereagh. Photo: Nick Moir

The Sydney skyline is blanketed in smoke haze as kite surfers ride near Kurnell. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

A firefighter battles flames that destroyed a truck in Londonderry Road, Castlereagh. Photo: Nick Moir

Fires are threatening homes in Sydney’s west as temperatures soar past 30 degrees.

A large grass fire could threaten homes in Sydney’s west as the temperature soars past 30 degrees, firefighters say.

Fire crews are working to contain the blaze that broke out in Tickner Road in Castlereagh and was burning towards Devlin Road on Tuesday.

A second grass fire is also threatening a number of homes near Richmond and Bennett roads in Windsor. The fire has crossed Garfield Road and is now burning through Windsor Downs Nature Reserve.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has issued an emergency warning as strong northerly winds carried the fire towards George Street and Bligh Park, according to the RFS website.

An emergency telephone alert has been sent to phones in the area and people have been asked not to drive in smoky conditions.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said there were 40 fires burning across NSW that had not been contained.

”Fire behaviour very erratic. People need to keep monitoring situation rapidly changing,” he posted on Twitter about 1.30pm.null

The Rural Fire Service has now issued an emergency warning for another bushfire burning in the Blue Mountains area around Hawkesbury Road at Winmalee.

There are currently unconfirmed reports of property losses in that area, the RFS says.

Several fires have now flared up in Sydney’s west. Here is a map that shows the last reported location of the biggest blazes.

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There are now more than 50 bushfires burning across NSW.

Three in Sydney’s west have prompted emergency warnings  to be issued – the Blue Mountains fire, the Castlereagh fire and grass fire burning around Richmond Road at Windsor.

A fourth is burning in the area of Grange Avenue and Marsden Park near Blacktown. Residents in that area are being told to protect themselves from the radiant heat.

The bushfires are causing traffic problems in some areas of western Sydney.

The NSW Ambulance Service says smoke has caused a collission on Castlereagh Road at Castlereagh.

Motorists should also be aware of:

BLIGH PARK: Motorists are advised to avoid Blacktown Road at Bligh Park near Richmond due to a grass fire.

Blacktown Road is closed in both directions between George Street and Bourke Street.

Motorists are being diverted onto Hawkesbury Valley Way and Richmond Road but motorists are urged to stay away from the area altogether.

Jocelyn Anderson said shops in Windsor were closing and the roads were clogged as people sought to leave the area.

“People were heading east, away from the fire,” Ms Anderson, who lives near Windsor, said. “We got caught in very heavy traffic.”

“Horrendous winds, incredibly dry and hot and scary,” were the conditions around 2pm, she said.

Trains were still taking passengers towards the city from Windsor but the service to Richmond had stopped, Ms Anderson said.

The fires are also causing power outages in surrounding areas.

Students at the University of Western Sydney’s Hawkesbury campus have been sent home for the day.

UWS Hawkesbury campus has been closed this afternoon due to widespread power outage caused by fires in the area. Other campuses remain open.— UWS (@UWSNews) September 10, 2013

The Rural Fire Service has confirmed one home is alight at Winmalee in the Blue Mountains.

The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, has just told NSW Parliament that two firefighters have also been injured fighting that blaze.

Premier tells state parliament report of a house alight in wsyd #bushfires and two firefighters injured— Liz Foschia (@lizfoschia) September 10, 2013nullnullnull

Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers says there are now 45 fires burning out of control across NSW with the biggest concern those blazes in western Sydney.

He has told ABC TV there are now unconfirmed reports of property loss in the Marsden Park fire near Blacktown.

One home is alight at Winmalee. Mr Rogers says there are unconfirmed reports of property lost in the Marsden Park fire near Blacktown.

There are more than 800 firefighters, 200 fire trucks and “numerous helicopters” currently working across the state to bring these blazes under control, he said.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) major fire updates page has the latest information for what residents living near major blazes.

Seven firefighters have now received treatment while trying to contain the Winmalee bushfire in the Blue Mountains.

That fire has now crossed Hawkesbury Road and is burning under strong northerly winds. One property has been destroyed.

#Winmalee Fire: 5 firefighters have sustained smoke inhalation and 2 have received minor burns. #NSWRFS— NSW Rural Fire Srvce (@NSWRFS) September 10, 2013

What’s sparked such intense bushfires only days into spring?

Adding to the many records to fall this year, Sydney had both its warmest night and hottest day so early in spring.

Temperatures remained above 20 degrees overnight while the maximum of 31.6 degrees was a new early-season record for the city, said David Jones, head of climate monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology.

Combined with that has been Tuesday’s winds.

Simon Louis, from the Bureau of Meteorology said winds in Sydney’s west were averaging between 35-45 kilometres per hour, with gusts up to 70 km/h.

Over the next few hours the bureau is predicting a change in overall wind direction, which is likely to affect the course of the fire, from west-north westerly winds towards south westerly.nullnullnull

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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From the Barossa to a new port

hero Winemaker David Baverstock.
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It was a perfect autumn day – warm, the water refreshing, and a gentle sea breeze soothed a young David Baverstock, the fresh-faced Barossa boy with piercing blue eyes. Recently out of agricultural college and having finished a stint of vintages in France and Germany, he thought a few days’ holiday in Lisbon would be just the thing before returning home.

Except love got in the way. At the beach he met Antonietta – now his wife and mother of their two adult sons – and life changed irrevocably.

Today Baverstock is one of Portugal’s most celebrated winemakers, heading the hugely successful and enormous winery Herdade do Esporao in the Alentejo, about 280 kilometres south-east of Lisbon. Baverstock also oversees its Douro Valley outpost, Quinta dos Murcas – and he has a clutch of awards to prove it. Recently he took out the coveted winemaker of the year gong in one of Portugal’s leading wine magazines, Revista de Vinhos, but he also took out the title in 1999, becoming the first non-Portuguese winemaker to do so.

Before that fame, he returned to the Barossa Valley – Antonietta soon followed – where he landed the winemaking role at Saltram after the abrupt exit of Peter Lehmann and his winemaker, Andrew Wigan.

Baverstock was barely 25. ”I was just happy to get a job, and it was a great experience to be at this famous [and expanding] Barossa winery,” he says. ”We had chardonnay juice coming from the Hunter Valley. There wasn’t any chardonnay in South Australia and there was very little in New South Wales at the time. It was pretty exciting. We had cabernet coming up from Coonawarra and there were some great fortified wines [being made in the company]. It was a fantastic learning experience – well, for a couple of years anyway.”

Unfortunately, the experience soured and the multinational owners at the time were more interested in profit than great wine and too many worthy people were being sacked.

”We were losing character in the winery. [The owners] wanted gold medals for certain wines while we were also doing bag-in-the-box. By the second year there, I was working under difficult circumstances,” he says.

His friend and mentor, Robert O’Callaghan of Rockford fame, offered sage advice: ”If you’re any good at your job and you’re working for a big company, you won’t be making wine for very long. You’ll be pushed up the ladder and you’ll be controlling information and crunching numbers.”

”I have never wanted to do that and never will,” Baverstock says. ”I was still young and adventurous and I thought, ‘What the heck, let’s go to Portugal’.”

He and Antonietta headed back in 1982. ”Returning was more of a challenge than I realised,” he says. ”I didn’t speak the language and there wasn’t much work so I really struggled for the first 12 months or so. There were no jobs working with table wines.”

So Baverstock headed to Oporto to make port for Crofts for a year before joining the famous Symington Family Estates, owners of exemplary port houses today, such as Graham’s, Warre’s, Dow’s, Quinta do Vesuvio and more. It was a happy, prosperous time.

”What I learnt most about being in the port trade and working in different houses was the blending, and creating a house style,” he says. ”Although we were making port, it still translated into an idea about table wines. There’s no doubt that working in port helped me understand more about blending than had I stayed in Australia.”

While making port, he couldn’t help wondering what the wines would be like if they were fermented dry and not fortified. With Symington’s blessing, he played around with some trial batches. ”One of the nice things about the port trade was the social side, with fantastic lunches at lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia [Oporto’s famous port area], yet the buyers would be served really average table wines, leaving the ports to shine at the end. So I started serving my wine, which was pretty good, and these buyers would say, ‘Hey, this stuff’s great, where can we buy it?’ They were told it was just a hobby to keep me happy. I went along with this for a while but I wanted to do something more.”

Baverstock was fortunate because Symington allowed him to consult to Quinta de la Rosa in the Douro Valley for the sole purpose of making table wines. It was 1991 and only Dirk Niepoort had started to make table wines a year earlier so for the Douro in this modern era, it was revolutionary. The art was in the blending.

In 1992, wealthy banker, businessman and owner of Esporao, Jose Roquette, offered Baverstock the job of a lifetime – chief winemaker. Today the company edges towards 20 million bottles, with many tiers of Alandra, from inexpensive fresh table wines to the expensive age-worthy Torre.

Since 2000, Baverstock has concentrated on the burgeoning Esporao brand, although latterly he has overseen its Douro venture, Quinta das Murcas, a beautiful property bought in 2008.

Baverstock says returning to the Douro Valley is a reminder of just how diverse and special Portuguese varieties are – both white and red. Varieties such as tinta amarela, tinta barroca, tinta roriz, touriga francesa and touriga nacional, plus extraordinary whites such as rabigato and viosinho – and that’s just in the Douro. It makes you think, he says, that with a few exceptions, such as burgundy, complexity comes from blending.

”You just don’t get enough complexity working with one variety, especially in a warm to hot region. Using three or four … you’re going to get a different flavour profile and have a better chance of making a well-balanced wine, whether a better acid-tannin balance or lots of different flavours – just like cooking.

”That’s the best thing about Portugal. Thanks to those unique varieties, the end result is something quite special,” he says. ”It’s great to have trophies in your cabinet but I get more of a kick out of these wines that go well with food that people enjoy now, because they won’t take 20 years to be drinkable and ready. They are wines you can enjoy and they give pleasure. That’s what it should be all about.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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OFFCUTS: Mad about hats

WITH the announcement of the SMH Good Food Guide awards last week, comes a slew of repercussions for restaurants and diners. Some good, some not so good.
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Of course, for those eateries (Subo, Mason, Muse, Muse Kitchen and Bistro Molines) who received the coveted hat, massive kudos to them. It takes dedication, innovation, passion and a bloody lot of hard work to get the scores that earn a hat.

The hours are long and your weekends aren’t your own. And I’ve never met a chef that didn’t have burns and scars on their arms.

But getting toqued, or even included in the guide, has many benefits: it boosts awareness of the restaurant, often removing the need for advertising and its associated costs; it’s a tick of approval that reaffirms diners they will be receiving a pretty special experience, and it adds a boost to the bottom line – an increase in bookings is the usual reaction to the announcement.

And full dining rooms equal bigger profits. Which is good for owners, good for employees and good for diners – a thriving city food scene is an indication of a strong economy and a vibrant lifestyle.

The pros far outweigh the cons, but there are still some. Personal expectations become high before you even step foot into a hatted restaurant.

I’ve eaten at Quay, expecting something akin to gold fairy dust splashing me in the face with every mouthful. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t happen.

It’s tough to keep up the standard too; once you’ve got that reputation, everyone’s a critic.

Despite the circus surrounding the awards, the basic message is that we have some top notch eateries here in the Hunter – stop eating junk and pay them a visit.

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