There's a little pop we hear from the fairy light strewn shed at Brown Brothers. One of Australia's biggest wine brands Brown Brothers started in this very Canadian barn 128 years ago with a very pitched roof to keep out the snow that he believed would fall. The snow didn't come but the founder John Francis made his first wine here in 1889.
The business was named Brown Brothers by John Francis who expected his brothers to join him in the venture. They did not but his son John Charles's four sons fulfilled the destiny of the name Brown Brothers.
Today is the third day of the Ultimate Winery Experience's 5 day tour where we get to go beyond the cellar door. Caroline Brown is a fourth generation Brown. She is one of the many family members that works in the business. A few years ago the sprawling grounds were a popular spot for people to visit where they would pile their car boots high with boxes of wine before driving off but with the wines' ready availability meant that they've had to offer other reasons to visit.
They explain that there are four types of visitors to the winery:
- Wine newbie
- Wine explorer that is hungry for information
- Wine settled that like one type of wine, they seek less information
- Wine connoisseur who wants the best
For the Ultimate Winery experience, it is a three part offering starting with a tour, then a tasting and 3 course meal the first cellar door restaurant in Australia called Patricia's. And if you're a serious wine enthusiast, there is a three day immersion course where guests have pretty much a run of the winery and are greeted like family.
The tour starts with a pictorial wall detailing the generations of the Browns with a special mention of Patricia the matriarch and wife of John Charles. We are lead to the in ground cellar that was used for fortified wines before they show us the modern machinery and how the wine is made today.
There is a large range of 35 tonne stainless steel vats that show what a large production this winery is. These run constantly and are refilled time and time again especially now as it is vintage at the moment. What results is huge piles of grapeskins and stalks that are used for grapeseed oil, manure or fed to cattle. Every vintage they go through 17,000 tonnes of grapes.
Katherine Brown the winemaker crosses the floor carrying a box of wine glasses. She leads us into the "kindergarten" a testing ground shed where the winemakers are free to play with wines. This is also where smaller batch Patricia wines are made. She dispenses some wines from a vat-the first is a Pinot Noir 2017 for sparkling. It is quite fresh and tastes like sparking grape juice and in 10 days it will go dry.
The next vat she taps has a Tempranillo Rosé - it's a candy pink with still a high level of sweetness with a slightly dry finish. Katherine is curious to see how this drop ends up. On the other end of the flavour spectrum is the Pinot Noir Rosé -she tells us that it is the "ugliest" time to see this as it is dry but the sweetness and fruitiness will come back in time.
We adjourn to the tasting room to do a structured tasting working our way down the page with a Patricia Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2010, an 1989 Sauvignon Blanc and The Explorer Series Pinot Gris 2016.
After trying the four, our guide Ernie lets us taste the Mystique which is not yet released (at the end of March). It is made using a red fleshed variety of grape. He describes it as a wine with simple structure for those that want to cut their teeth on a red wine but don't like the big tannins. It's deep purple in colour although it does get a mixed response in this group. He segues onto a rare grape Carmenere 2015 that they no longer grow as it is quite a challenge to grow although it thrives well in countries like Chile.
There are two final reds: and they're both the Patricia label. Patricia wines are only released when the winemaker deems the wine to be good enough. At first we try the 2012 Patricia Shiraz but it's a wine ideally made for ageing so we try a 2006 Patricia Cabernet which is superb. A fitting drop to end the tasting on.
Goat's Milk Ricotta Tart served with Brown Brothers 2016 Pinot Grigio
We then move to a three course meal at Patricia's restaurant situated in the old vegetable garden. The award winning restaurant is helmed by chef Doug Elder and matches food and Brown Brothers wine. We start with a goats milk ricotta tart with a crispy base, peppers, candied black olives, pine nuts and tomato jelly which is a light divine tart. It is served with a 2016 Pinot Grigio. A little note for vegetarians: the kitchen makes superb vegetarian offerings.
Beef hanger steak medium rare with Brown Brothers 2015 Carmenere
The main is a wonderful beef hanger steak, wonderfully tender and served with creamed spinach, smoked onions, kipfler potatoes and mimosa dressing. This is a fantastic main with just a slender slice of beef and the creamy accompaniments and despite all intentions I eat everything. It is served with a 2015 Carmenere.
Dessert is a special treat. We follow Caroline down to the private family cellar for cheese. The family cellar came about when one year their entire crop was decimated by frost but all workers needed the work so they tasked them with digging out the cellar.
Milawa Cheeses with accompaniments served with Brown Brothers 2002 Patricia cabernet sauvignon
It houses the family's personal collection of back vintages of most of the wines. It's an atmospheric setting to have our cheese and a very special wine.
Our home for tonight is the property across the road at Lindenwarrah. It's my second visit here and things are pretty much identical to the rooms to the view. There's a warm breeze wafting over the vineyards and people sit outside having drinks or a dip in the pool in this early Autumn heat.
So tell me Dear Reader, what sort of winery visitor are you? Do you have a favourite wine varietal?
NQN was a guest of Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia but all opinions remain her own.
Brown Brothers Winery
239 Milawa-Bobinawarrah Rd, Milawa VIC 3678
Phone:(03) 5720 5500