South Coast of NSW – A road trip to Mollymook, part 2
We wake up this wednesday morning to a beautiful sunny day on the South Coast. Surprisingly fresh considering the amount of wine and beer consumed the night before, I venture to say the brisk walk home must have had a lot to do with clearing our foggy heads. It is 8am and I am itchy to start the day with a long walk along Mollymook beach. We’ve decided to skip breakfast, as we have a wine tasting tour and a light lunch booked for later in the morning. I also reserved a table for dinner at one of the fancy restaurants in the area (more on that later) , so the key for the day is to pace ourselves. Starting with a couple of bites of ginger biscuits and strong long blacks courtesy of the Nespresso machine in our room.
The stroll along the beach is magical, I am amazed to find it so quiet despite the school holidays. We come across a couple of fishermen, the few surfers in the water and a young family frolicking in the shallows but that’s just about it! Terry suggests that, since we’ve only switched to daylight saving, most people would still be in bed. Well I am certainly mainly making the most of a near deserted beach!
Today’s excursion takes us to Cupitt’s Winery, a family estate located in a pasture only 5 km inland from Ulladulla and Milton, overlooking a plot of vines. We have booked a Tour and Tasting experience, led by Wally Cupitt, one of the sons of Rosie and Griff Cupitt, the owners of the property. He explains how cattle farming was the original idea behind the purchase of the then Washburton Farm, but Rosie who is a horticulturist turned oenologist, decided to try her hands at winemaking, so the winery was born. As well as breeding Black Angus cattle, they grow some of their own grapes (semillon and sauvignon blanc) while also sourcing other grapes from the southern regions.
The wine is crafted in their custom built cellar (or barrel room as they call it), hidden under the hillside.
Aside from the cellar, the tour takes us thru the kitchen garden, where a lot of the produces they grow are served in the restaurant. Today it is in transition, being tended by the resident gardener preparing the soil for the next crop, but one side still has artichokes and some asian herbs thriving.
Of great interest to Terry is the micro brewery, the brain child of Wally and his brother Tom. Yes, you heard right, an estate that offers wine AND beer. Wally pulls out samples of hops and malts and talks us thru the brewing process, all a new world for me whose knowledge of beer making is somewhat limited. What started as a hobby is now growing into a small boutique business, with their distinctive ales available for purchase at the restaurant (sadly, the production isn’t big enough to allow for beer tasting!)
Next building is the fromagerie, where Rosie and a couple of ladies are busy making a batch of goat cheese. Like the beer, production is small. It is a recent venture that Rosie’s thrown herself in, and her enthusiasm is obvious when she pops her head out of the room to offer us a sample of the blue cheese she is working on, all the while describing the various processes needed to produce the different varieties of cheese. Currently, Cupitt exclusively produces goat cheese, served at the restaurant and available for sale at the cellar door.
Ah the cellar door: housed in the old creamery, this is where the tour ends and the tasting starts. Wally hands us over to Michael who expertly pours and describes every wine produced by the estate, starting from the lightest (Semillon) to the strongest ( Shiraz). One of the ladies in the group is pregnant, and I do feel for her as she waves away the glasses on offer having a sniff of her husband’s instead. That must be torture, but I tell her it will probably tastes very special after the baby is born! Terry is as taken by the wine as I am, loving nearly all of them and we have trouble deciding which ones to take home. We finally settle on 2 cartons, have Michael arrange the packing while we shuffle next door to the restaurant for lunch!
The large room is bathed in sunlight and overlooks the vineyard and Burrill lake below. The French inspired menu looks lovely, and I am very tempted to settle down for a 3 course lunch. But we are going out for dinner later, so we decide to try the morsels menu instead, which offers lighter fare in the more casual setting near the fireplace. We order some local oysters and the cheese board. The oysters are from the Clyde River, only 50 klm away, and taste deliciously briny served with a simple shallots and red wine vinegar dressing. We also share a selection of goat’s cheese: Mild blue, Aged Gouda, Crouton and Tomme…all delicious, ranging from sharp, to salty, served with some quince paste, marinated baby figs, apple and crackers. They are nicely paired with the house Semillon! Terry shunned the wine, preferring a tasting paddle of 4 house beers: a “light” Hefeweizen, a Pale Ale, an IPA and a Brown Ale. The waitress advised us that the servings do not total more than a pint, which is good as it means that Terry is ok to drive after lunch!
I am not a great passenger at the best of time, the car motion always puts me to sleep. Today is no exception, especially after the wine tasting and lunch, small as it may have been. Terry decides to take us on a scenic drive to Batemans Bay, 1 hour down the road, which courtesy of my dozing, only seems to take minutes! I can’t say much about the place, as the weather turned rainy and grey, we didn’t feel like exploring the beaches and chose to retire back to the motel for a spa session instead, hoping it would make us hungry for dinner.
Before we left Sydney, I had read about Tallwood Eatery in Lorraine’s blog and also found out that its chefs would feature in a Good Food month event this month. My curiosity picked, it is on top of the list of places to eat this trip. We decide to walk the 2.5 klm path along the beach, to work up an appetite.
This is not a beachfront restaurant, though not far from the sea, it is located in a suburban street in a small shopping complex and next door to Bannisters Pavilion. We are early, amongst the first customers, so enjoy the full attention of the waitress.The menu features a lot of the regional produce, a contemporary take on classics, it all looks nice to me but the specials of the day win us over: tuna tataki for starters and a share plate of Wagyu beef served with 2 side salads.
I have always loved fresh tuna, and this dish brings me back to our cruising days when we used to catch yellowfin and find ways to cook it. Tataki ( or seared tuna) used to be my favourite way of preparing the fish, and Tallwood’s version with miso dressing, sliced kohlrabi and puffed rice is right down my alley. There is just enough for 2 ( 3 slices each ) so would think of ordering 2 plates for a bigger table.
The main is definitely big enough. with a 500g piece of what is referred to as Wagyu rib eye, though the meat is cooked medium rare to perfection, I can’t help think that Wagyu should be melt in the mouth rather than just tender. The salt crystals on the outside are a nice touch however. The sides are outstanding: the leek and spinach gratin is sooooo comforting. while the radish and quinoa salad is very refreshing and satisfying. These are the highlights of dinner for me! By the time the dessert menu is presented, the restaurant is quite busy with a mix of locals and tourists alike. The people at the table next to us have obviously dined here before, and without hesitation ordered the fishcakes while asking what the chef is cooking tonight. The lady whispers to me “the desserts are to die for”, but as much as I would like to try some, I am just too full. I can’t even finish the glass of wine I ordered at the start! Terry still has a bit of room left, but is not in the mood for Roasted Rhubarb or Fennel Cake. All he wants is Affogatto, which I remember seeing on Bannisters’ menu.
So off we trot next door, walk up to the Rooftop Bar and Grill for dessert. The place is pumping, most tables are taken by what I assume are hotel guests, lots of families and couples. No one seems to mind that we are here for dessert only, and we are seated near the bar. Terry goes straight for the Affogatto with spiced vanilla ice cream and chocolate tuile, and I get talked into ordering the special of Creme Caramel and Coconut Sorbet. The plan is mostly to share it with Terry, since I am full, but somehow the lightness of the creme caramel and the freshness of the sorbet win me over and I have polished the plate clean! I did share with him the balls of Dulce de Leche accompanying the creme, they were too rich for me anyway.
We briefly consider asking for a taxi to go home, but decide to stroll back instead. It is actually quite a pleasant way to end the night, walking off a full day of food and wine. And once again there is not a soul to be met in this dark moonless night. End of day 2.