We visited Rowlee a little over a year ago with a group from the Wine Media Conference This was a post-conference excursion to Orange Australia sponsored by Orange 360. We joined Nicole and James at their cellar door on the vineyard. We gathered on the porch to look out on the vineyard as the sun began to set, tasting through their Pinot Gris, Riesling, and rosé.
Rowlee is in the Orange Region of Australia which is a high altitude region. This 8-hectare vineyard sits at 950 meters above sea level. That’s over 3000 feet. They sit at the foot of Mount Canobolas with ancient volcanic soils.
We had a tour of the property, and James shared with us some of the fascinating studies and technological advances they have been working on. We then gathered around the table to feast and taste their wines.
2018 Rowlee Single Vineyard Nebbiolo
One of the standouts from our tasting and a bottle of wine that we left with, was their 2018 Rowlee Single Vineyard Nebbiolo.
They have 2 clones of Nebbiolo and they only make it in the best years. James says they know the Nebbiolo is right when it tastes like a piece of licorice when they taste it on the vine.
2017 was not a great year and it did not have those notes, so they decided to drop the fruit and mulch it back into the soil. They did save a little of the fruit and turned it into Grappa. The 2018 vintage, on the other hand, was spectacular.
The 2018 Rowlee Nebbiolo has notes of black fruit, red fruit, cocoa powder, sweet tobacco, licorice, and a lovely floral note in the back, like crushed rose petals.
It has great acid and flavors of bramble fruit and red cherry with a long finish.
14% abv 100% Nebbiolo $60 AU SRP
Bleu Cheese Burger with bacon and tomato marmalade
To pair with this beautiful wine, we made burgers with some toppings to tie in the flavors in the wine.
For a while, I have made my burgers by the Bobby Flay method.
First, your meat should be 80% lean. Then you make a ¾ inch patty and make a deep thumbprint in the middle of each patty. This will keep them cooking evenly. Season with salt and pepper and cook in a cast-iron skillet with a bit of canola oil. 3 minutes for the first side then flip and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Then add your cheese, put a lid on it and cook for 1 more minute. The burgers come out medium rare and juicy.
For this burger, we cooked the 2nd side for 4 minutes and added bacon and bleu cheese. After that, I drizzled with a little balsamic reduction. We also topped it with spinach and a bit of tomato marmalade. This recipe we made a couple of years ago and I still have a jar left. It’s soo good. Maybe I’ll dig that recipe up to share with you later.
The wine with this burger was lovely. Usually eating a burger is a bit messy and drippy, oozing with umami and we pair it with a Syrah or a Cab Franc. This burger was delicious, but the wine made it behave. The wine was elegant, popping the bleu cheese notes and bringing out the tomato in the marmalade. It tamed the bacon, which always wants to be the star of the show. It made this burger ever so civilized. I almost felt like I should be eating it with a knife and fork.
Blackberry Goat Cheese Chocolate Bombs
To tie in the black fruit and cocoa notes in the wine, we made these fancy-schmancy blackberry goat cheese chocolate bombs. While we could have just hand-dipped them, we just bought silicone dome molds and I was dying to use them. So, I learned to temper chocolate (only afterward finding an easier way) and created these delights. We made them in 2 sizes and I kinda prefer the smaller ones that you can pop in your mouth in one bite, even though the larger size looks prettier.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.