After discovering Flaxman Wines a few years ago via the Good Food & Wine Show in Brisbane, we visited them last Vintage Festival for a fantastic private tasting. Many wines were tasted and quite a few dollars charged to credit cards as we enjoyed a relaxed afternoon set on the gentle slopes on the vineyard chatting with Col and Fi Sheppard. Imagine my surprise then, when last year I saw Col appear on my TV screen during the opening credits for Masterchef. It seems he’s a bit of a dark horse. Whilst Col cooked his way through to the top 12, Fi was back at the home working the vintage and keeping things ticking along.
Barossa At Leisure
This year, the Barossa Vintage Festival started mid-week. This gave us a few days to do the ‘Barossa at Leisure’ before the festival started in earnest which was the perfect opportunity to connect again with Col & Fi. Apart from vintage, Col has been busy do private catering and a range of lunches and dinners for various events. I got in touch hoping to arrange a tasting and lunch for our group and received an enthusiastic response. A beautiful table had been laid and with Col busy in the kitchen, Fi led the tasting through the wines considered to be a good match for the meal to come. There was a chance to talk about the most recent vintage and catch up on changes since our last visit.
To start, a bowl of Thai Style Broth. Full of plump Spencer Gulf prawns, it was sweet and fragrant with kaffir lime and luscious with coconut cream. With just faint tingle on the lips, it was perfectly balanced. Col was endearing as he served our entrée, carefully placing the bowls in front of us with reverence usually reserved for the Masterchef judges. Quite frankly, I would have been more than happy to have had several bowls of this as lunch and worked my way through the zesty Estate Riesling from 60+ year old vines. Full of citrus, it was an excellent pairing with the broth with no hint of the mineral qualities that often dominate Clare Valley Rieslings. Flaxman is located in the Barossa overlooking Flaxmans Valley but is right on the edge of the Eden Valley, where cooler climate wines feature. This microclimate affords an opportunity for Col and Fi to offer varieties that aren’t produced on the hotter Valley floor.
Shared platters of Moroccan chicken and couscous studded with currants and pomegranates were placed on the table, bottles opened and glasses topped as the lunch unfolded. The cellar door only 2012 Grenache was particularly good in cutting through the spices and dark meat cuts of chicken. A lighter style grenache, it was perfect as a lunch time red. Having said that, the red fruits and soft tannins of the 2012 GMS Blend made it just as quaffable with the meal. The GMS has had a name change since we last visited. Once known as Drone, it was a clever wordplay on Côtes du Rhône but feedback suggested that some didn’t understand the name and others didn’t like it. Resistance was futile and the Drone was re-badged.
Col Tells All
A Fresh Strawberry Millefeuille and a few more glasses of wine smoothed the edges off the afternoon. There was also a last chance to enjoy the NV Sparkling Shiraz which is no longer being produced. From the winemaker’s stance, it makes sense to re-assess and tweak production on a regular basis but I’m sorry to see this go as the Barossa sparkling reds are very good and this was no exception. Gus the cellar door dog had given up on hoping there’d be a crumb of couscous or lick of cream on the ground and had retreated to the porch. Freed from the tyranny the kitchen, Col had time to chat with us about life on the other side of Masterchef. It was a great opportunity to find out the little secrets of filming, his favourite challenges and competitors and talk about the busy week ahead for them during the Vintage Festival. Like needing to create 250 hand made empanadas for the Yalumba Market Day. A woodfired pizza oven has been installed, there are plans well underway to build a larger kitchen closer to the outdoor area and visits to a range of food and wine shows in the calendar.
The warm hospitality shown to us at Flaxman was the perfect blend of a food and wine experience. Whilst I consider Col and Fi to be first and foremost winemakers, Col’s success in the food world has brought new followers and fans to the vineyard. It has cemented my admiration for these small producers who seem to have gone from strength to strength in the vineyard and now more widely. It was only just over a decade ago they gave up their 9-5 life to chase their dream and it seems that whatever they turn their hand to, it’s a success.
After some cellar door purchases, it was time then to take our leave and let Col and Fi get on with the mound of empanadas to be made. A grand day out and I can’t wait for our next visit.
Flaxmans Valley Rd
Flaxman Valley (Barossa) SA 5353