Robin Garr and the Sydney Opera House
Robin Garr plays tourist, posing for a photo near the Sydney Opera House. (Photo by Peter Callow.)

Down Under Wine Diary 2000

In connection with the great honor of being invited to serve as an international wine judge at the Sydney International Wine Competition ("Top 1OO"), I took advantage of the opportunity to spend a couple of additional weeks Down Under before and after the judging, visiting vineyards and wineries and meeting online friends in the wine-producing regions of Australia and New Zealand.

During an all-too-rapid trip, I managed to visit about 45 wineries and taste more than 400 wines (not counting the 600 wines or so that I judged at the Sydney competition!) Although I couldn't resist dropping in on a few smaller properties whose products are rarely exported, I made some effort to focus my tastings to wines that stand a chance of being available to consumers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and other countries. Please note that where prices are shown, they represent retail price at the cellar door in each nation's local currency; at the time of my visit, the Australian dollar exchanged for just over 50 cents US, and the New Zealand dollar a bit less than 50 cents.

This index page offers quick access to each day's tasting reports and photos.

New Zealand
  • Martinborough: Visits to Palliser, Margrain and Ata Rangi wineries. (Nov. 9)
  • Dinner in Wellington: Wine Lovers' Discussion Group "offline" at Roxburgh Bistro. (Nov. 9)
  • Marlborough: Seresin, Grove Mill, Isabel Estate, Villa Maria, Stoneleigh and Cloudy Bay. (Nov. 10)
  • Air New Zealand: Notes on more than two dozen gold-medal winners in New Zealand's top annual competition. (Nov. 11)
  • Auckland wineries and dinner: Notes from Kumeu River and Kerr Farm wineries and a Wine Lovers' Discussion Group dinner at Merlot in Auckland.(Nov. 11)

  • Sydney International Wine Competition: A quick overview of wine judging in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, originally published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor. (Nov. 12-17)
  • Dinner in Sydney: A Wine Lovers' Discussion Group gathering at Barmuda in Sydney's Newtown section. (Nov. 18)
  • Dinner at Celia's: A casual dinner, with some special wines, at home with friends in Sydney. (Nov. 19)
  • Adelaide Hills and Plains: (Nov. 20 and 22) Visits to Penfolds, Chain of Ponds, Primo and Barossa Valley Estate, and a top Oz wine at dinner with a pal at Jolley's in Adelaide.
  • Barossa and Eden Valleys: Henschke, Peter Lehmann, Yalumba, Orlando, Elderton and Veritas, and dinner at 1918 in Tanunda. (Nov. 21)
  • Clare Valley: Wolf Blass, Jim Barry and Leasingham. (Nov. 22)
  • McLaren Vale: Fox Creek, d'Arenberg and Coriole. (Nov. 23)
  • Macedon Ranges: Visits to Goona Warra, Cope-Williams, Cleveland, Granite Hills and Hanging Rock, and a hamburger lunch with Cabernet in the village of Lancefield. (Nov. 24)
  • Dinner at The Vault in Melbourne: My Australian pal Murray Almond takes over the pulpit to report on this large gathering of online wine lovers.
  • Pyrenees and Great Western: Redbank, Summerfield, Warrenmang, Dalwhinnie, Blue Pyrenees, Mount Avoca, Best's Great Western, Seppelt, Mount Langhi Ghiran. (Nov. 25)
  • Ozwine dinner in Melbourne: Wrapping up the trip at dinner in Melbourne with a gathering of Australian and American Internet wine lovers from the Ozwine E-mail list, who gather at Boccelle restaurant in the city's with-it Carlton district and uncork nearly two dozen Zinfandels, including an impressive array from the States and six very good examples from Australia. (Nov. 25)
  • Wine Australia 2000: This outstanding expo, bringing together wine makers and wines from all over Australia under one roof, is glitzy and entertaining, and there's plenty of wine here for the sampling. But I'm just about "wined out" after sampling more than 1,000 wines over a three-week period, so I lurk quietly on the sidelines, taking a few pictures and thinking that a cold beer would go mighty well. And then I ran into my Australian wine writer pal Max Allen, who knew just where to find one. Thanks, Max! (Nov. 26)

    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.

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