Sunday, October 4, 2009

Report from ... Lunch with Jane Ferrari of Yalumba - September 24, 2009

Not sure if you caught my meeting with Jane Ferrari last time she was in town, but this time it was a more intimate affair. Eight of us got to sit around the table for a lunch with the lady who tells stories of the Australia we have all never experienced. Jane is a wealth of knowledge, not just about her employer, Yalumba Winery, but of the whole of Australia. And she’s not just a great storyteller; she has one of the most congenial and wry senses of humour you’ll even have the chance to be around. She is also straightforward, honest and what some would term as “real” as any person can get. Like when she talks about Australia’s big Chardonnay mistake: “15 year ago we shot ourselves in the foot with over worked, over oaked Chardonnay.” Or when she talks about her past life as a winemaker: “I’m a winemaker by trade but not by vocation,” she says, “I’m a better storyteller than I was a winemaker.” And when you get her onto the topic of her Hollywood crush she is unabashedly a George Clooney fan, “though I’ve moved on from him,” she reports, “since he won’t return my phone calls,” she finishes that statement with a sly smile. Her favourite movie, she claims, is Syriana, but she flies back in her chair and squeals with delight when the movie Michael Clayton is mentioned, “Yes, I love that one too – that one blew my tits off.” She says while gales of erupt from all in attendance; “I’ve never heard that one,” says the writer next to me, wiping a tear from his eye; we all talk briefly about the important plot points, Jane with added enthusiasm.

It’s that fresh, lively, off-the-cuff conversational style that makes Jane a pure pleasure to visit with; the kind of person you could have a beer (or a glass of wine) with and lose yourself in a variety of stories, all while whiling away the evening. As proof I offer this example: we sat down for lunch at 12:00 and didn’t get up till 3:30.

She talks about wine with the same passion she talks about George: “With a Shiraz-Viognier blend the magic level is 5%, we tried higher we’ve tried lower but 5% gives the right character to the wine; over that and you get too much Viognier character, a gluey palate and too much of that Viognier smell.” She also talks frankly about organic farming and how the Yalumba winery has been organic farming for years, the only difference: “organic farmers would leave their crop to mildew if they had that problem [meaning they’d lose the crop], we would spray if we had to, that’s what keeps us from being certified organic.”

But my favourite comment of the afternoon was an off-handed remark she made after one of the writers in attendance talked about hitting oneself over a mistake: “Self flagellation is something I am not familiar with,” she deadpans, “though I have seen a couple of movies lately,” she pauses, “just kidding.” With Jane on the road Yalumba is putting a face and a story behind the winery, and a meeting with Jane is not one you will soon forget, and along with that comes the name Yalumba, who’s 160 history is in good hands.

The Wines …

Yalumba 2008 Y-Series Riesling ($15.95) – Jane says the wine has a “snap, crackle and pop texture” and is “explosive, even at cold temperatures.” I enjoyed this Aussie Riesling with its lemon, lime and talc aromas and a palate that follows, it also suit and has good acidity with a nice long dry finish. (****)

Yalumba 2006 Barossa Shiraz-Viognier ($19.95) – a very supple wine with a nice deep colour for this red/white blend. Dense black fruit and white pepper take the palate by storm; while there’s a smoky, violet aroma that wafts up from the glass through the fruit; there’s heft here with delicacy, a Yin-Yang kinda thing. (****)

Yalumba 2006 Mawson’s Wrattonbully Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95) – “This is a wine that can sit vegetarian or can sit carnivorous, which is my world,” said Jane Ferrari. Mine too I agree, as I dig into my burger. The wine showed some elegance and finesse. Big black fruited nose with berries and cassis … fruit follows onto the palate with spices and mineral notes; there’s also a lovely red berry finish. (****½)

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