“Port is the preferred drink of clubby English gentlemen and deros who want a quick, cheap fix. That dichotomy tells you a lot about the quality range of this fortified wine,” writes RICHARD CALVER
I WAS speaking with the convenor of my defunct writers’ group (not my fault, your honour) which is, sadly, now a faded memory.
“Aren’t you running out of things to write about wine?” she asked.
“Well, not yet,” I said. “It seems that there are a number of wineries with restaurants in the Canberra region that I could visit, explore their cellar-door offerings and have a decent lunch, telling people about the wine.”
“Okay, sounds good,” she said, “when are we exploring?” And the beauteous words that followed. She said: “I’ll drive.”
We decided on an autumnal Saturday sojourn, which I would arrange. I started by calling Shaw’s because I had been told their restaurant was very good and I like their wines. Alas, since February the restaurant has been closed and the Shaw website says they are looking for a new lessee for the venue.
So I called Four Winds whose pizza and wine offering had been positively talked about at work; fully booked. I then remembered that Lark Hill had a restaurant at the vineyard and Bungendore is closer to home than Murrumbateman. Sorted.
We arrived at the restaurant to be greeted by a wonderful vista, revealed through ceiling-to-floor glass that lets the light in and which shows the golds and russet reds of vine leaves that are ready to fall. The view was framed by a line of trees and an absence of human settlement.
“Without the gum trees, we could be in rural France,” said my companion.
When we were seated the image of France was enhanced because our waitress Justine is an intern from a town near St Tropez and her accent was thickly Gallic. I found myself humming “La Marseillaise”. She explained that she was not a sommelier but that she was at Lark Hill to learn about their style of winemaking. And their style is to be commended: local, biodynamic.
We started with fizz, the non-vintage “Roxanne” sparkling pinot noir. There was no sting in the tail of this wine; it was sufficiently pleasant with small bubbles, yeasty but had a strange colour, like a faded 1970s couch. It did go well with the pork belly bun. We then tried the chardonnay, 2015, to accompany zucchini fritters.
My companion: “Chardonnay is under-rated and seems not fashionable but I love its richness.”
The wine was pleasant; I liked the melon taste on the front palate and the clean finish.
Next for me was a 2009 cabernet merlot and water for my driver. The wine was far from over-the-hill, full flavoured, complex and plummy. It went very well with the pappardelle, lamb ragu, goat curd and almonds.
This was not a cheap outing; food and wine came to $166.
At the cellar door, we then had a complete tasting overseen by one of the winemakers and owners at Lark Hill, Sue Carpenter. I very much liked the Exaltation, a 2013 blend of shiraz, sangiovese and merlot. It was a very well balanced wine and its name is the collective for larks. But at $75 a bottle, I just took off with the memory.