Front Bench Dinner at WAQU, Crows Nest, December 5, 2013

New venue, lovely food (modern fusion), comfortable room but the light was poor and made it tough on the photographer. Here’s a small selection.

Front Bench DEC 2013 3

Front Bench DEC 2013 1We’re all becoming hard of hearing, so it’s just as well the wines speak for themselves.

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Front Bench DEC 2013 7The faces tell a story too.

Front Bench DEC 2013 4This looks serious!

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Front Bench DEC 2013 14Peter did it tough, in a cramped, dark corner.

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Ah, the Suduiraut was mother’s milk.

Front Bench DEC 2013 15PB looked relaxed as usual

Front Bench DEC 2013 10Chris Anstee couldn’t be with us, so the Christmas Port Season remained unopened. That’s why Neil looks so glum.

Front Bench DEC 2013 13Let’s end on a happy note:

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A great Night

Here’s the full list, thanks to Peter Snowball, with his succinct notes:

1. Tattinger Comtes de Champagne 2002 – very good

2. Mt.Mary Chardonnay 2003 – superb

3. Domaine Caillot Puligny Montrachet “Les Pucelles” 2002 – very good

4. Jean Boillot Puligny Montrachet “Clos de la Mouchere” 2004 – very good

5. Richmond Grove Watervale 2004 – v good but a bit lost in this line up

6. Trimbach Gewurztraminer “Cuvee des Siegneurs de Ribeaupierre” 1985 – voted wine of the night. Most guessed it to be 5/10 years old. Bought at a recent Sydney north shore auction!!

7. Guigal Condrieu “La Doriane”2009 – wonderful

8. Pipers Brook Summit Chardonnay 1997 – oxidised

9. Saki 2913 – red rice saki. The sommelier said that he had not seen red rice saki in Australia before.

10. Kasuda Martinborough Syrah 2009 – yes

11. Bouchard ‘Vigne de L’Enfant Jesus” 2002 – very good

12. Bruno Clair Gevrey “Cazetiers” 2008 – not up to it – perhaps just the year?

13. Seppelt St Peters Shiraz 1998 – very good

14. Ch. Suduiraut 1983 – superb

15. Cape Mentelle cab 1982 – too old

16. Brown Bros Merkel’s Cab 1991 – awful

17. Ch. Du Tertre 1979 – v good once but now faded

18. Domaine de Chevalier 2000 – big wine and a bit young  – perfect in 10/15 years from now

19. Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz 1994 – overoaked awful

20. Peter Lehmann Stonewell 1992 – American oak and no good

21. Kasuda Pinot 2010 – biggish but very enjoyable after the dreadful 16 19 and 20



Front Bench Dinner at Tastevin, Victoria Road, Darlinghurst, August 28, 2013


Lots of fun as usual, and a perfect backroom with a bar for Peter M to do the decanting, which he does with enormous dedication and diligence. Like the photographer, he gets no credit for his labours, only unintelligible mutterings from Paul.

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The wines were a strange lot – superb whites, most of all the Rieslings. Stunning Wilsons Polish Hill River 2002. Desert Island number that one, and the Austrian Prager. The Savannieres sure had us fooled – if only we could make a Chenin Blanc remotely similar! I had more than my fair share of the Canard-Duchene Blanke de Blanks – what a lovely champagne!

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Some of us look pretty happy Front Bench Aug 2013 4

The food was pretty good, especially the Cassoulet. Very tasty and very ducky. The problem was that we had about a dozen bottles before we started to eat. Bad Boys.

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These reds were a bit underwhelming after those terrific whites.

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We had fun, though. We have our ways.

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Mm. Polka Dots. The guys liked this cross breed better than I did. And the Barolo was buggered. These are wines you have to stash away for 30 years, then you pull one out and it’s gone. The old Spaniard was still all there, though.

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Yeah, we’re having fun.

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This Menzies was a gentle soul, refined and perhaps past its best. The Wendouree was a great example of this wonderful style at its peak. And the Cullen was sheer bliss. So much flavour combined with such elegance and style . Seductive, utterly seductive.

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Paul looks surprisingly sober after 250 bottles earlier in the day.

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I have to confess that the Ducru was disappointing, and the Montroses were mean old codgers. Shame.

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Chris wasn’t sure what to make of them either

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Peter looks remarkably sober, no?

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There was a dessert wine a lovely 1994 Alsace Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive, but I took it home instead of taking a shot of it.



The last Front bench Dinner at Pyrmont – mid 2013

It was a special occasion, and all of us took advantage of it I think. We drank less and talked more, we enjoyed each other’s company – that’s clear from the photos. I took a lot of those last Wednesday night, as I love these nights and the venue and the company and the wines and the food. The friends I’ve made here were my main focus this time, and I’ve collected the best shots on this page. Simply click on any photo to see the full-size version.

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Peter looks happy

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Even happier here, but Doug and Ray are clearly stumped

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So is Alan

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Ah, Reg is in his element

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So is John

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Jeffrey wrapping up his options wines

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Neil and Andrew smiling at one of Reg’s jokes

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Jeffrey thinking: I really stumped them with those wines!

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Peter and Ray doing the Foxtrot?

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Paul looking remarkably composed

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These boys still look sober! That’s Front bench stamina for you.

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Doug got a shot of me romancing some great reds.

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Peter Mouser having a break from pulling teeth, or corks or …

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It all looks far too civilised but the camera doesn’t lie.

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Sorry Peter, couldn’t fit you in for the group photo.

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That big smile just about sums up a great evening.

Thank you, Peter Bourne, for so much joy.



The Last Front Bench Dinner at Pyrmont March 2013 – the wines

Here they are, with the full list at the end

Click on any image to see a larger file

Last Pyrmont Front Bench March 2013 - wines1
A great beginning, with the CH the standout

Last Pyrmont Front Bench March 2013 - wines2
The Leeuwin was great as always, the Yattarna overoaked as always, the suprise here was that the Pipers Brook wasn’t corked

Last Pyrmont Front Bench March 2013 - wines3
I found the Condrieu disappointing, the Rothbury way past its best, and the Vat 47 full of serious promise

Last Pyrmont Front Bench March 2013 - wines4
The Wendouree was in stunning condition, minty and elegant. The VegaSicilia was one of the best reds I’ve ever tasted – wonderful goodies wrapped in an elegant package. The ANAPERENNA was a sledge hammer by comparison (a well-made one).

Last Pyrmont Front Bench March 2013 - wines5
The Hermitage was way past its best in my view, sadly, and the 76 Grange showed ridiculously young and vibrant. What a wine! I’m sure the 96 Grange was good too but it paled against its older sibling

Last Pyrmont Front Bench March 2013 - wines6
The old one still showed signs of life! The young one was robust for a Burgundy.

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What can I say? Gorgeous stuff, the Lafite still full of life

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Going a bit vague at this point. Can’t remember hearing any complaints

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The Graham was great but the Para was a knock-out! What a way to finish!

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And here’s the full list


Penultimate Front Bench Dinner at Peter Bourne’s  – March 20, 2013

At Pyrmont, that is. Sadly, Peter is leaving these lovely rooms soon

After all the debates about reducing the number of wines at these events, I didn’t notice any difference. Makes it hard for the pourer (Peter M), the scribe (Chris A) and the photographer, later on when cheeks get flushed. Paul F missed out, and we missed out on his Delphic utterances. Still, we had enough fun as you can see (please click on any image to see a large version):

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The tucker was tops as usual

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And the wines bloody lovely

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How lucky are we to have friends who share ancient treasure like this so generously?

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And this lovely lot of Murray’s best – interesting to see the transition from Hunter River Riesling to Semillon.

John L brought a whole bracket of Turkey Flat Shiraz, one of my favourite Barossa reds, 1992 – 96.

Remarkable were two things: utterly consistent modern Shiraz style, and the wines’ steadfast refusal to show signs of age. Will they outlast us? Sadly, I didn’t get a shot of these lovely, John.

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Someone kept moving the bottles off the table

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Just warming up with this lot

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And this lovely bunch

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Serious stuff on the table now.

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Someone took a photo of me – don’t remember that – offering one of the strong opinions I have so many of, with Reg looking non-plussed and Peter smiling politely.

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Would you believe a 1939 Dolcetto from Johnny Walker’s Rhinecastle? Still with us as well? In good company here.

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Thank you all for a wonderful evening