Tuesday, March 18, 2008
(George is the Big Guy on the Left)
If I ever get in legal trouble in Australia (which is bound to happen) I would want the renaissance man George Shinas as my Bail Justice (an Australian version of a judge)-Mainly because he makes some of the most interesting and creative reds we have ever tasted-And, after all our appreciation for his work as a vinter couldn't hurt our chances to avoid incarceration right? We had bought some of his wines in Sayville, NY and were attracted by the unusual labels and were impressed with the wine itself. George's email address was as big as life on the back of one of his bottles and I emailed him hoping the site might feature something about his work and his vineyard. Lucky for us we struck paydirt. George was nice enough to check in with MLAF about his wines, his unusual dual-career and his philosophy of the grape-
George's wines caught Lynn
MLAF: Had you always wanted to get involved with creating wine?
"My heritage is Greek; both my parents migrated to Australia in the
early 1950's and spent 40 years in the restaurant industry. I spent 20 years
living and breathing restaurants, which gave me an insight of what
consumers look for in food and wine. The first time I can remember
making wine, I would have been maybe 5 years old. It was always great
fun, the family would get together, help to harvest the grapes and my
father and uncles would commence making wine. Even as a young child
wine making fascinated me, I preferred helping the adults make wine, than
playing childish games with my cousins. To this very day, I love every
aspect of the wine industry from growing the grapes to selling wine."
"In my opinion the growing of the grapes is the most important aspect inwine making. You can make crap wine out of good grapes, but you can't
make good wine out of crap grapes."
"That's what wine should be all about, smiling, laughing and great
times. It's been 40 years since I took part in my first vintage and to this
very day I still get excited when I walk through the vineyard and see
it's time to harvest."
MLAF: Are there any vineyards or winemakers who inspire
"Wine making is hard work and there are easier ways to make a buck. Most
people who grow grapes, make wine, write about wine and sell wine have
a passion for it. The one's who don't, are not in the industry for very long.
"Any body that grows wine grapes and makes wine for the same reason as I
do inspires me, wether it's a home brew winemaker or a renowned award
wining wine maker. If there laughing and smiling during vintage, they
are the people I want to be around."
"Great wine is made from people who enjoy what they do? I think that
goes with any job. The more you like something, the more passion and
effort you put into it."
MLAF: Do you have a particular philosophy or perspective
with regard to your wines and what you hope people
Will get from them?
"My philosophy to wine making is never be totally happy with the quality
of your previous vintage. There is always room for improvement."
"The most important thing when it comes to my wines, is consumer feed
back. I receive emails daily congratulating me on great wines and there
affordability. I am thanked often for producing super premium wines
that people can afford to drink daily and that's the way it should be.
Quality wine should be affordable to everybody at every meal time, not
just on special occasions."
MLAF: Your labels are extremely striking. What is the process for deciding how they look or what image they might convey?
"My labels are extremely different to the norm. Then again I'm extremely
different to the people who are in the wine industry. I have no formal
education in wine making or marketing, I haven't been trained to think
like most people who are in the industry. I found most labels very
similar and extremely boring. They all have the same crap written on
the back. Aged in barrel, tastes of ripe berry fruits, blaaa, blaaa, blaaa.
I wanted labels and names that would amuse me, amuse others, create
interest and conversation when people sighted them. I didn't want just
another boring old label, there were thousands of them already out
"As for the names, as I said I'm a Bail Justice with the Justice
Department in the state of Victoria. I sat down with a couple of friends
one cold winter's day back in 2003 with a few bottles of Shiraz. By the
time we had finished our 4th bottle, The Court House Series was born."
MLAF: What do you think the state of winemaking in
Australia is at present?-What place does it occupy on
the stage of world wine-production?
"The Australian wine industry is doing extremely well on the world
stage. Our wines are continuing to receive high prase around the world, for
there superior qualities and value for money."
"The continuing drought is playing havoc with crop yields. This year the
Australian crop harvest will be one of the lowest in years. I'm an optimist and unlike most people I see this as a positive. When yields are light, wine quality rises. That a good thing because life is too short to drink ordinary wine."
For more on George and his wines check out www.shinasestate.com
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
On our recent trip to Wilmington we happened upon a restaraunt recommended by our son Jono called Sweet and Savory. The restaraunt is in nearby Wrightsville Beach near an old mini-mall called Plaza East. I had not been impressd with restaraunts in Wilmington for the most part and even old reliables like The Pilot House seemed to be underperforming on at least a couple of levels.
That is what made this restaraunt so refreshing. Sweet and Savory The food was really exceptional and it might have been the best experience in dining we have had in Wilmington in recent memory. We had Sesame Seared Tuna which was as good as any I have had anywhere. Lynn had a fried oyster salad which was almost as light as a tempura.
The genuine surprise was the service which seems to be a real problem in Wilmington. The waitress service was perfectly modulated; attentive but not over-bearing or too cute. The dining room is a large space with little privacy (another trait of many restaraunts in the south). This democratic feel seems right, however, and the lighting was surprisingly ambient on the night we dined their.
The restaraunt had some nice desserts and some excellent drink special through the week. No doubt MLAF will dine their on a return trip to the Port City.
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Links of note from M & L...
- I (Mark) have written for The Christian Science Monitor, Clear Magazine, Picture Magazine, Film Score Monthly, Dan's Papers, Rue Morgue, In Flight USA and a lot more publications that I can't remember.... My wife Lynn was a model with the Ford Agency and her photography has been featured in most of the publications I have written for...