Bondi Beach

Dinner at Celia's (Nov. 19)
Our plan was simple: My friends Celia and Peter Callow and their kids would show me around Sydney. We would catch the main tourist features - Bondi Beach (pictured at right), the Bay Bridge, the Opera House ... and then we'd spend a quiet evening at their home, ordering in pizza and pasta and breaking the pace of wine judging and wine touring with a few ice-cold, cleansing ales.

But somehow when the tour ended, Kris and Lisa turned up at the Callows' place, and so did their wine-loving neighbor Ross, just in from Hobart; and wine got opened, and then some more wine got opened, and it went great with the pizza and we spent the evening talking about wine and Australia and the Olympics and American politics and Australian politics, and we laughed until wine came out our noses, and a great time was had by all. But except for a taste of a Hahn's Centennial Ale that Kris brought in, we never did get to the beer.

The wines were mighty good, though. In addition to re-tastings of last night's 1947 Para Port and Seppelt D.P.57 Rutherglen Show Tokay (it's still toothache-sweet, Bob), we enjoyed the following:

Coldstream Hills 1998 Yarra Valley Chardonnay - Pale brass color, with ripe pineapple aromas and full, spicy tropical fruit and apple flavors. It was a match made in heaven with a plate full of Sydney Rock oysters just out of the bay.

Stoney Vineyard 1997 Domaine A (Tasmania) Cabernet Sauvignon - Ross's contribution, and it's a fine one, possibly my first Tasmanian wine (unless one was run past me "blind" in last week's Sydney International judging); inky dark-garnet in color, it offers up delicious, forward aromas of cassis and green peppercorns. Full and intense, black fruit and pleasant herbal flavors follow the nose. Very fine, more "French" in style than most Australian Cabernets.

Bannockburn 1995 Geelong Pinot Noir - Dark ruby, with black cherry and good earthy Pinot aromas, forward but no fruit bomb. Appealing dried-cherry fruit and earthy nuances, crisp and fresh. A complex, developed Pinot that might lead a blind taster to guess Oregon or even Burgundy before jumping to Australia.

Stoney Vineyard 1998 Domaine A (Tasmania) Pinot Noir - Our raves about the Tasmanian Cabernet and the fine Geelong Pinot prompt Ross to run back to his house and add this one to the table. Critically acclaimed, it's sadly not showing too well this evening: Inky, almost black, it's very spicy on the nose but quite closed, sort of like smelling an empty cedar box that used to have fruitcake in it. Similar on the palate: Intriguing, certainly not flawed, showing potential but awfully closed and tight. Opens up a little, but not much, over the ensuing hour.

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I accept no free samples from wineries or distributors, purchasing all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

Have you tasted these wines?
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