Archive for March, 2011

provenance in the tamar valley

provenance in the tamar valley

March 18, 2011  |  environment, knowledge, main blog, motivation  |  4 Comments

Imagine receiving a box of fruit and vegies once a week, packed full of fresh seasonal produce with a story about where they were grown. Carrots and spuds with soil on them, new seasons apples, tomatoes that taste like the ones you grow in the back yard, rhubarb and fresh lettuce, as well as mushrooms and onions (and whatever else is in season at a point in time) – all for $25, on your doorstep!

Across Australia, there is a groundswell of sourcing fresh locally grown produce from farmers markets. My friends Hilary and Barney near Lilydale in the Tamar Valley of Tasmania, have taken this one step further. They have developed a network of local providers who provide fruit and vegetables in season for Hilbarn. The producer is packed with a team of local people every Sunday night ready for despatch the next morning. An emerging distribution network has the Hilbarn box delivered to more than 100 loyal customers in Launceston, Scottsdale and even Hobart, every Monday.

We were lucky to see this in action recently and even helped with the packing. The idea is brilliant! It embraces the concept of provenance, or understanding origin. The regional and local sourcing has obvious carbon, energy and employment benefits, but also engenders a sense of community and belonging that adds another dimension and level of appreciation and understanding.

The contents of the Hilbarn box are a talking point. There is an element of surprise and even education. Hilary related the story of children realising for the first time that peas come in pods rather than packets. The sense of discovery and infectious involvement is exciting. People have even described themselves as “Hilbarners” (a marketer’s dream).

Hi and Barney do this because they love it. Although they are establishing a potentially powerful brand and concept, they would never sell out to the big retailers whose philosophies just don’t align. This is grass roots, local and powerful. It was a privilege to see it in action and I salute these two visionary people who are bringing growers and consumers together in a very satisfying and meaningful way.

a truly sparkling shiraz experience

March 14, 2011  |  wine review  |  No Comments

A generation ago, sparkling red was considered a frivolous beverage to all but a handful of afficionados. On the one hand there were those who played with (and were often deflowered by) frivolous wines like Cold Duck, and on the other, some lucky souls sipped serious wines like the legendary Seppelts Sparkling Burgundys from 1963, 64, 72 and 82.

We’re not allowed to use that descriptor any more – which is a good thing as many red varieties are now nurtured under methode champenoise. You can buy Sparkling Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot, Durif, Pinot and I’m sure soon a Tempranillo or Nebbiolo!

Having been committed to stock one wall of the cellar with sparkling red for many years to achieve marital harmony, there is long family experience in this style. It is therefore with great delight that I can share a secret about a fine example of Sparkling Shiraz with my subscribers.

The wine is a Dorrien Estate Lockwood Smith non-vintage Cuvee Shiraz. Dorrien Estate, described by its marketers as the best kept secret in Australia, makes small volumes that are exclusively distributed by Cellarmasters (which is about to be bought by Woolworths). It might be hard to find, but at $17 it is worth pursuing to the end of the earth.

This wine has rich, ripe, dark brooding fruit in beautiful balance, it is a fine Shiraz in its own right with yet another level of excitement and palate stimulation provided by the fine bead that caresses the taste buds to the very end. Full of full flavoured cherries and plums with a lifted nose, this wine is an exceptional drinking experience. Under crown seal, at 14% alcohol and at $17, I have given this wine 95/100. Find some!!

…in all humility

My daughters are great levellers! At the very hint of immodesty or pretension, they nip me in the bud, offering an ironic preface for my comments, “in all humility….” We smile, but the point is powerfully made, and I feel fortunate to have their love and support.

While being humble doesn’t come naturally, I admire and respect people who have managed to use humility to achieve that delightful balance in their lives between ego and lack of confidence. Humility requires not that we think less of ourselves but that we think of ourselves less often. If the report in The Age is right, we are seeing an epidemic of obsession with self, where narcissism measured among university students has risen from 15% to 30% in the last 30 years.

Recently I shared a flight to Melbourne with the gorgeous Jennifer Hawkins and was able to share with her a story about her own humility, passed on by a 30 year old friend of my daughters. He’d been overseas for a few years, returned to Australia and met Jennifer on a boat where she was filming for Getaway. Not knowing who she was, he asked how she had got this great job. She said, “I was lucky”, but my friend kept persisting, “This is a great gig – tell me how – it must have been more than luck!” Finally she succumbed, “I won a competition”. “What competition was that?” he pressed. “Miss Universe”, came the response – at which point our friend hot- footed it to the back of the boat in tongue tied panic! As I retold the story to Jennifer, I again saw living proof of the authenticity and lack of pretension from someone who has the world at her feet, yet who is delightfully grounded by her modesty and humility.

Bruno Martinuzzi believes that humility is liberating and enabling. Being in a state of non- pretence improves relationships, reduces anxiety, encourages openness and paradoxically, enhances self -confidence. His tips for practising humility are worth a look. They include using phrases like, “You are right”, “How am I doing?” and in the daily contests of life, stopping talking and allowing the other person to be in the limelight.

He also cautions against confusing humility with timidity. It’s not about self-denigration. It’s about maintaining pride in who we are and what we’ve achieved without arrogance or hubris. It’s about being content to let others discover our talents without having to boast about them.

There are plenty of great quotes about humility. I like these ones.

 William Safire says “Nobody stands taller than those willing to be corrected”.

Fulton Sheen, “A proud man counts his newspaper clippings, the humble one his blessings”.

James Barrie, “Life is a long lesson in humility”.

 Ralph Stockman, “True humility is intelligent self-respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we come short of what we can be”

I’ve long been interested in the role of humility in leadership. Jim Collins identifies great (level 5) leaders who have the unique blend of humility and will, the antithesis of the heroic, charismatic leader. Will often has elements of courage and passion. We need humility to stop the courage being foolhardy and the passion being overbearing. Humility is inward looking in a way that other virtues are not. It’s the stance we take towards ourselves before it’s a stance we take towards others. It’s the glue with which we form effective partnerships and relationships.

Can ego and humility co-exist? David Marcum and Stephen Smith  in the must-read book “Egonomics”, suggest that humility has a reputation of being the polar opposite of excessive ego. In fact, the exact opposite of excessive ego is no confidence at all. Humility provides the crucial balance between the two extremes. Humility is a means to an end that leads to openness and progress.

Finally, Kathryn Britton gives an interesting overview of humility and how it is learned.

Well, I feel quite pleased with this blog… all humility!

seduced by central otago pinot

March 1, 2011  |  wine review  |  4 Comments

Firstly, an apology to those who like to follow my wine blogs. Like many others, I had an alcohol free February. By mid-month I could hear my liver softly whispering, “I love you”. So I felt so good by the end of the month that I wonder whether I am allergic to alcohol! Perish the thought – at least as far as wine tasting is concerned.

Anyway, back in the saddle and the first temptation seemed too good to be true! A 2006 Central Otago Pinot for $15.99 featured in the Dan Murphy’s catalogue. Central Otago is the new world Pinot Noir mecca, with some wines seeling upwards of $100. We couldn’t wait to try this entry and arrived at Dan’s where the fine wine manager suggested we buy the Anahera East rather than the Anahera West – both at $15.99, both 2006, and both 14% alcohol.

On March 1 we fought our way through an annoying plastic closure over the screwcap and poured a glass. In the glass the wine looked enticing, bright cherry red in fine condition. I was prepared to give the sharpness on the nose (which continued through on the front palate), the benefit of the doubt, hoping that the wine would breathe nicely and settle down.

The wine was fairly light bodied but there were certainly overtones of ripe plummy berry fruit and even a promise of those mellow, savoury characteristics that I love about Central Otago. Alas, despite a reasonably long finish, the wine never seemed to be in balance. The acidity, sharpness and hot alcohol remained to the last drop. I was disappointed.

I then started to question why a Central Otago pinot noir five years old could sell so cheaply. The answer was there in the glass. The wine has never and will never rise to great heights. I decided to include this in the write ups to provide a balance – they can’t all get 93/100; and also to suggest that you don’t rush to Murphy’s for bargain Central Otago pinots.

This wine is pointed at 85/100, although on the second night it had opened up a little and might sneak 87/100. A lot of the sharpness had disappeared. If you were seduced like me, open it 24 hours ahead!