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by Chuck Hayward

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Post by Chuck Hayward | September 1st, 2010

Over the past 15 years, I have probably visited Australia 25 times. The purpose of almost every trip has been to visit wineries or attend wine conferences or tastings. As things happen in the wine business, you get to know a few people over the years. Nowadays, visiting Australia is becoming less about the business of the wine industry and more about catching up with friends.

The wine business is very special due to its convivial nature. It provides folks with a unique window into a country's culture. You learn about the politics and history. You essentially have your own tourist guide as the locals tell you where to find the best coffee or croissants. I can't count the times where I have been invited to homes, some mornings eating eggs I gathered from the chicken coop after a brisk morning walk. So when planning my first day back to Oz, I thought nothing would be better than organizing a dinner with friends in the business and getting sucked into some good food and trying some new wines.

the infamous Ying Chow

And in Adelaide, the only place to have this feast is Ying Chow. More incredible wines from Australia, I dare say from anywhere in the world, have probably been poured at the tables of this venerable Chinese restaurant than at any other restaurant in the country. Located near the city's produce market, it has seen numerous lunches and dinners hosted by winemakers, wine writers or average folks taking advantage of the restaurant’s BYOB/no corkage policy. Nothing fancy here with barebones decor and brusque service, but it's great for getting a big table where groups can try lots of different wines accompanied by delicious Cantonese food. It is a perfect place for those in the business to catch up on gossip and expand their wine horizons as bottles get passed back and forth. Ying Chow along with neighboring Ti Chow has performed this function for over twenty years. It is THE place to be.

Jen Bratovic (l) & Peter Lynn of Majella Winery (r)

So it was with great pleasure that we recently caught up with many friends while meeting new ones. The food came out fast and furious as did a lazy Susan so we could spin the bottles. Peter Lynn from Majella in the Coonawarra brought a smashing 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon while Stephen Pannell showed an excellent Nebbiolo grown in the Adelaide Hills. Aldo Bratovic, whom I have known since he worked at Petaluma over a decade ago, brought a bottle of 2009 Tappanappa Pinot Noir from the new venture by his old boss. We also had a chance to meet David Bowley, another young winemaker venturing into the business with small amounts of handcrafted wines. His 2010 Vinterloper Clare Valley Riesling was one of the table's favorites.  Finally, we roared through an assortment of wines from the up-and-coming Canberra wine region. A 2010 Helm Riesling brought its own distinctive take on this delicious varietal. All in all, it was a great way to start the trip. Great wines at one of Australia's top dining establishments accompanied by stimulating conversation among ten friends.

Not bad. Not bad at all.