Friday, February 28, 2014

Mornington Peninsula Wine Tour

Today was Leilani's last full day in Melbourne so I took the day off work so we could go on a wine tour of the Mornington Peninsula.  Our Wine Tours Victoria driver picked us up in the city and we got to spend the day with a lovely group of ladies from all over the globe.  We drove out of the city through St Kilda, Elwood and the bayside suburbs along Beach Road before joining up with the Nepean Highway.  It was a really nice drive and amazingly my first time on Beach Road.  I also now know where to find the Brighton Beach bathing boxes, which I have never seen in person before.  Our first stop for the day was up at Arthurs Seat State Park for morning tea at the summit.  On the drive up we stopped for some pictures of the peninsula at one of the outlooks then had our tea/coffee and a piece of fruitcake on the park benches.

The first winery we visited for the day was T'Gallant.  Known mainly for their Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris wines, we got to taste a wide variety of what they had on offer:
- Ophelia Sparkling Pinot Noir/Chardonnay Vintage 2008
- Grace Pinot Grigio 2012
- Imogen Pinot Gris 2013
- Holystone Rosé 2012
- Cape Schanck Pinot Noir 2013
- Cyrano Pinot Noir 2013
- T'Gallant Pink Muscato 2013
- Romeo 2013
- Odysseus Nebbiolo 2012
My favorites were the Ophelia Sparkling Pinot Noir/Chardonnay and the Imogen Pinot Gris.  Lei was intrigued by the different flavor profiles of the wines and asked some technical questions that I think secretly thrilled our server.

Next we went to Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove where we got to sample both wine and olive oil.  The olive oils were very tasty and I especially liked the lemon infused one and their Chardonnay Estate verjuice.  Once again we got a variety of wines to taste:
- 2013 Montalto "Estate" Riesling
- 2013 Pennon Hill Pinot Grigio
- 2013 Pennon Hill Rosé
- 2012 Montalto "Estate" Chardonnay
- 2012 Pennon Hill Pinot Noir
- 2012 Montalto "Estate" Pinot Noir
- 2012 Pennon Hill Shiraz
- 2013 Pennon Hill Moscato
The reds had a peppery taste and I really liked the Montalto "Estate" Pinot Noir, as well as the Moscato, which Lei has gotten me into while she's been staying here.

For lunch we stopped at the Merricks General Wine Store where we had a quick tasting before sitting down for our meal:
- Sparking Moscato 2010
- Merricks General Wine Store Pinot Grigio 2012
- Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2013
- Quealy Pobblebonk 2012 Field Blend
- Baillieu Rosé 2013
- Baillieu Pinot Noir 2011
- Quealy Rageous 2013 (Sangiovese, Shiraz & Pinot Noir blend)

My two favorites here were the Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris and the Quealy Rageous, which I had a glass of with my lunch.  We moved from the tasting area to a table and began our lunch by sharing the Merricks general platter that contained a house made kitchen charcuterie served with toasties.  We then had our choice of mains and I got the beef and ale pie on a pea purée with leaf salad, which tasted fantastic.  I also got to sample Lei's chicken which was also yummy.  It was a nice and relaxed lunch stop and great opportunity to chat with the people in our tour group.

We then hit the road for our final winery of the day, Dromana Estate, which featured four different wine labels to taste from:
- Mornington Estate 2012 Sauvignon Blanc
- Mornington Estate 2012 Pinot Gris
- David Traeger 2013 Verdelho
- Mornington Estate 2012 Chardonnay
- Dromana Estate 2012 Chardonnay
- 'i' range Sangiovese 2013
- Mornington Estate 2012 Pinot Noir
- Dromana Estate 2012 Pinot Noir
- David Traeger 2009 Shiraz
- Dromana Estate Non-Vintage Ascuitto
- 'i' Range Late Harvest Arnesis
I really liked the Mornington Estate Sauvignon Blanc and the Dromana Estate Pinot Noir although by this time I think my taste buds were over it since we had sampled so many wines throughout the day.

Overall it was great to be able to try such a wide variety of wines from the Mornington Peninsula, but a bit overwhelming to have nearly 10 different wines at each stop.  The tastings also felt rushed as the servers tried to quickly get through all of them.  Perhaps over time and as the region gets better known they will shorten down their tasting menus to their top five sellers instead of trying to showcase every variety coming out of their vineyards.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Basics- The Post Office Hotel

No trip to Melbourne would be complete without heading out to a gig, and Leilani was very lucky that The Basics were playing an intimate show at The Post Office Hotel in Coburg while she was here.  We met up with Mary at the venue in time for the first act The Bluebottles.  Featuring Michael Hubbard (the original guitarist for The Basics), his brother Joe, and Sam Raines and Rich Bradbeer from The Greasers, they played a very tight set of instrumental 60s surf rock.  I found them quite entertaining in their sharp suits and we were even treated to a cover of "Walk Don't Run" by The Ventures.

The Basics were not wearing their suits for tonight's performance.  Kris came out solo and started the gig with an acoustic version of "All Or Nothing" before being joined on stage by Wally and Tim.  The set list featured a lot of new songs, which we were very privileged be able to hear.  Primarily written by Kris, we had the politically themed "The Lucky Country" and "Time Poor," "My Old Man," "I'm A Woman," and the standout new track for me "Every Part Of Me."  We also got to listen to newer tracks that were played at the shows last year such as the beautiful "To Think Of You," the hand clapping fun of "Roundabout" and their newest single "So Hard For You."  It was good they've been able to road test these songs before heading off to record at Abbey Road Studios in London in the upcoming weeks.

The extended set list also contained many old favorites including "The No. 1 Cause Of Death Amongst Youth Today," "Second Best," "Better" and the rarely played "Bitten By The Same Bug."  Tim showed his range from the acoustic beauty of "Hey Rain" to the rocking guitar and vocals of "Have Love, Will Travel."  He also demonstrated his air guitar/dance moves when his guitar cut out during the guitar solo for The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night."  "Three Cool Cats" featured Kris singing the lyrics in different accents, which was amusing.  However, the funniest moment of the night was when Wally repeatedly fluttered his drum brushes like a butterfly before one of the songs.

For the encore we got the triple Stand Out/Fit In pairing of "Hey There!," "Just Hold On" and "Rattle My Chain."  And it was a great finish to the night with old live show classics "My Baby" and The Police's "Roxanne" (see my little Vine clip) complete with Wally losing multiple drum sticks during the chorus but finally getting one to stay in his hand.  Hopefully it won't be ages until we get to see The Basics live again, but it's exciting that they are going off to record and there is the possibility of a new album on the horizon.

Here is a recent appearance by The Basics on ABC Radio National's The Music Show playing "The Lucky Country" and "I'm A Woman"

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Great Ocean Road Sunset Tour

It's been over ten years since I last drove along the Great Ocean Road, so I was excited to be able to take a day off work to celebrate Leilani's birthday with a sunset tour.  Our tour van was a bit late picking us up in Melbourne but soon our group was on its way heading toward Geelong.  Our first stop was Aireys Inlet to see the memorial arch, which was originally built by returned servicemen from WWI.  We also got to take a quick walk on the beach before getting back in the van for our lunch stop in Lorne.  We ate our sandwiches from an overlook of the town and were able to watch some surfers attempt to surf the small waves.

After some further driving on the windy road and a couple stops at scenic outlooks we arrived at the Cape Otway Lightstation.  Thankfully we had mostly blue skies and a great view of the lighthouse and ocean.  On the way out we even stopped along the roadside to see some koalas in the surrounding eucalyptus trees.

Our next big stop was Gibsons Steps where we walked down from the cliff to the beach for an amazing view.  At first it was cloudy but the sun burst through while we were down there to give the cliffs an amazing glow in the afternoon light.

For dinner we stopped in Port Campbell at the aptly named Frying Nemo for fish and chips before heading back on the road to Loch Ard Gorge.  As we walked down the stairs we had fantastic views of the Gorge along the beach.  Back up on the cliffs we were in awe as The Razorback came into view.  It was simply stunning.

We then were in a race against time to drive to our final stop, the Twelve Apostles, for sunset.  Unfortunately there were some low clouds along the horizon which made the sun disappear sooner than scheduled but the views of the Twelve Apostles from various points along the lookout were still fantastic.

As we left the Twelve Apostles it was dark.  We stopped for some tea and biscuits under the stars half way along the drive and made it back into the city a bit after 11:30 pm.  Although the tour was a bit rushed as we crammed in a lot of stops throughout the day, the views made the long journey worth the trip.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

NAB Challenge: Essendon v. Port Adelaide

Can you believe that the footy is already back?  This year the AFL has created an 18 day carnival of footy with the NAB Challenge (aka preseason).  Tonight was our first opportunity to see Essendon play in town so I brought Leilani along to Etihad Stadium for her initial foray into Aussie Rules.

Essendon started the game well against Port Adelaide although we kept missing shots on goal and getting behinds.  The second quarter was a shocker and Port soon took the lead.  This is the preseason so you'd expect some mistakes but it was as if many of the players forgot even basic hand balling skills. The amount of times we kicked the ball to the opponent was very frustrating.  By the end even Lei was yelling at the players and completely over it like the rest of us.

This was the first game back for several of our veteran players, including new Geelong recruit Paul Chapman.  It was also nice to see former player Angus Monfries on the field again, and he sealed our defeat with a goal after the siren.  Hopefully this poor game will wake up the players to the fact they have a lot of work to do before the season starts in a couple weeks.

Final Score
Essendon: 0.9.11 (65)
Port Adelaide: 1.11.15 (90)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

White Night Melbourne 2014

After the soccer match last night we walked into the city for White Night Melbourne.  In its second year, White Night celebrates culture and art and runs for 12 hours from 7pm to 7am.  We started in Birrarung Marr along the Yarra River and came across the pulsating bass and lights of Eness' Midden.  We then walked across the Princes Bridge and past the White Night sign to get to the Alexandra Gardens side of the River.  There we could see the Crepuscular Beam by Paul Collison and the amazing Monuments by Craig Walsh, which beamed five different moving faces onto trees.  It was a very unique and interesting piece.

Next up was The Electric Canvas' Wonderland along Flinders Street, which lit up Flinders Street Train Station, the Forum Theatre and other buildings with carnival themed light projections.  This was one of the highlights of White Night for me with its amazing use of color and intricate designs in the different projections.

Although this year's White Night was spread further throughout the city it was still packed even past midnight, which wasn't that surprising considering over 500,000 people attended the event.  There was a sea of bodies all the way up Swanston Street as we headed to the Northern Lights precinct.  Along the way there wasn't that much to see or do, which was disappointing.  When we arrived at the State Library of Victoria to watch the Kaleidoscope projections by Nicholas Azidis we took a bit of a break from all the walking. 

I had really wanted to check out Molecular Kaleidoscope - 'Virus one billion times' by Drew Berry and Franc Tetaz inside the La Trobe Reading Room of the State Library but the line was way too long to get in.  It was a similar story at many of the indoor sites, and we also bypassed the Moonlight Synchro at the City Baths for the same reason.  Overall though I really enjoyed my first White Night and had I done a bit more planning around knowing where things were at I wouldn't have missed out on seeing Tattooed City at the NGV or Purple Rain in the RMIT Alumni Courtyard.  I also think that if I go next year I will come into the city early in the AM when hopefully the crowds are a bit smaller.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fitzroy, Collingwood and Melbourne Victory

To give Leilani a taste of Melbourne hipster life we headed to Fitzroy and Collingwood this afternoon for a bit of a wander around.  We started our adventure on Gertrude Street and then turned up Smith Street.  While there we stopped for lunch at Jimmy Grants and had tzatziki dip with pita bread and some very yummy souvas.  Next we hit Gelato Messina for dessert.  This was my second time there and I tried out the tiramisu and choc mint flavors.  While they were both good, I still prefer Spring Street Grocer for the freshest and tastiest gelati in town.

We next turned left and travelled down Johnston Street, where our street art hunt began in earnest.  There are so many little side streets with hidden treasures located inside them.  You just never know what you might find, and we were fortunate to spot some amazing pieces both here and around Brunswick Street as we also browsed in some shops and stopped for a coffee at The Fitz Cafe.


After our fun afternoon we headed to the train station to get to AAMI Park and partake in another of Melbourne's favorite past times- sport!  Tonight thanks to my friend Justin we got to join him to watch Melbourne Victory vs Adelaide United in an A-League football match (or soccer for us Americans).  The Adelaide fans were in their own small corner of the stadium, but they made up for it through their loud voices.  There was also the amusing chanting and dancing from the Melbourne Victory supporters in the north and south ends of the stands throughout the night.  

The game itself was quite a good one in this battle for third place on the ladder.  Adelaide scored a quick goal at the start and were leading 2-1 at the half, but the Victory came back in the second half and scored 3 goals within a 19 minute period, which had the crowd jumping and cheering each time.  Despite a goal by Adelaide near the end of the match Melbourne held on to win 4-3 in one of the more entertaining matches of the season.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

South Yarra Patisserie Crawl

Some people like to go on pub crawls- I prefer a patisserie crawl!  After my South Yarra adventure last year I was ready for a return visit to celebrate my birthday.  Leilani and I started our afternoon at LuxBite and shared the Tea Set for Two.  Besides our chai lattes and two finger sandwiches we had our choice of 4 macarons and two desserts.  For the macarons we picked the following flavors: heilala vanilla creme brûlée, ribena lemonade, green tea pistachio and bamboo oolong tea.  For the desserts we had the Lolly Bag Cake and Banoffee.  Everything was great and I think the Lolly Bag Cake was a favorite for both of us with its unique mix of flavors.

The next stop was Adriano Zumbo's first Melbourne shop, which I have been wanting to visit since it opened last year.  We picked out a box of six Zumbarons to eat later on: apple pie, mojito, pandan & sticky rice pudding, red velvet, caramel de buerre sale and Francesco brownie.  We then got a table and shared the WASSAUP-BI! and Secret Carrot's Business cakes.  Both were quite yummy, and the hint of wasabi actually worked in the cake.  All of the Zumbarons that we ate this evening were quite flavorful and tasted as expected, especially the mojito one.  I look forward to returning and tasting some more Zumbaron flavors as well as the famous V8 cake.

Our last visit was to the Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio.  You would think we had sugar overload by this point, but you would be wrong (at least for me).  We bought a couple treats to take home with us: the popcorn & honeycomb rubble and strawberry, mint & white chocolate rubble.  In addition, we shared two different desserts: the Explosive Raspberry Milk Chocolate which was served in a tube and the Beetroot, Strawberry, Rose and Vanilla cake.  Both were surprisingly light and tasted amazing (especially the cake).  When Lei told them it was my birthday one of the ladies brought us out a slightly damaged Explosive Raspberry Wheel to take home as a gift, which was so nice of them.  Overall it was a great way to celebrate the day and get a pretty strong sugar fix!

Spectacle: The Music Video Exhibition

I have been meaning to get to Spectacle: The Music Video Exhibition at ACMI for ages, so my cousin Leilani's visit to Melbourne and my birthday were the perfect excuse to finally go.  The exhibition contains over 300 clips spanning nine decades and explores how the art form has evolved over the years.  As you walk through the rooms there are screens dotted along the walls where you can stop, watch and listen to videos with the headphones provided that are grouped by an assortment of themes.  We were lucky it wasn't too crowded so we were able to spend some time watching a few of the clips at each screen.  Some of the more modern clips were in large groupings of 10, so if you wanted to see a particular video you would have to wait for it to come up on the rotation.

There were some amazing video props sprinkled throughout the exhibition.  The first great one was a bit of a recreation of a-ha's "Take On Me" clip.

They also had the Legos from the video for The White Stripes breakthrough hit single "Fell In Love With A Girl."

OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass" took months to plan out and you can see why when watching the clip.

My absolute favorite item though was a life size Milky from one of the best videos of all time- Blur's "Coffee & TV."

The exhibition is only on for one more week so get down to ACMI to check it out before it closes on Sunday, 23 February.
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