On a cool Saturday afternoon, we made our way to Gumeracha for the Ochre Nation Cellar Door (home to Applewood Distillery and Unico Zelo Wines) official launch party and Applewood Distillery‘s 2nd birthday.
It was a chilled out afternoon with stalls, live music and food aromas wafting throughout the garden.
The food stalls included Forgotten Seasons (Shannon Fleming) and a BBQ fundraiser (Birdwood CFS).
We were lucky enough to try a Brisket, Cheese and Karkalla Toastie, Cheese Platter and Salted Caramel Tart with quandongs from Forgotten Seasons.
It was a surprise to get such high quality food from a small BBQ stall. The Toastie was well-balanced for such a simple dish. The cheese was wonderful and aromatic, with tender, tasty brisket and balanced with the karkalla. Even the bread was lovely, thick and perfectly toasted – not just your run-of-the-mill breadloaf.
The Cheese Platter was also delicious, with two medium-sized chunks of cheese, flat bread/crackers with jam. The cheese was excellent quality and the jam was a welcome addition to what we expected to be a simple dish of cheese and crackers.
The Salted Caramel Tart was an absolute highlight, with rich, yet light and creamy salted caramel with oozing chocolate and a crunchy tart shell. The caramel was utterly delicious and flowed out of the tart as we cut it. It would take some incredible self-control to not lick the plate clean after a tart as so delicious. The quandongs added an acidity to the dish that was not necessary, but welcome nonetheless (especially if you don’t have a sweet tooth like mine and need a little break from the sugar!). We loved this dish so much, we bought another as we left.
The quality of the food was incredible, but we soon learnt why, after chatting to Shannon and finding out that he was the head chef of Australia’s Top Restaurant Orana until recently. What an exciting way to get top class food for a reasonable price!
As well as the BBQ, the CFS held a fishing game for wine, where participants could pay $2 to use a fishing rod attached to a ring to try and ‘catch’ a bottle of wine. After two tries, I unfortunately did not win, but had a blast nonetheless!
After trying the delicious food, we headed inside for some drinks and a Cocktail Masterclass. First, we tried a Hot Toddy from the bar. The hot toddy was unfortunately no longer hot, and we would have liked more. However the little we did try was strong, sharp and smooth!
After the hot toddy we headed into the highlight of the evening – the “Cocktails like a Pro” Masterclass with Mark Reginato, the Man of Spirit.
For $30, this workshop was certainly excellent value for money!
During the workshop we were able to make three gin-based cocktails – a punch, a shaken cocktail and a stirred cocktail.
First, Mark taught us to make a Watermelon and Basil Punch. The punch is perfect for parties as it’s delicious and sweet (easy to drink) and involves pouring entire bottles of alcohol into a large bowl (easy to make). Mark called up a volunteer from our workshop to help him make this concoction, and then invited everyone to try.
The second drink on the menu was the Clover Club – a tradition sour with a twist. Mark explained the different ways to shake cocktails, the order to add ingredients and the different substitutes for egg whites in cocktails. The cocktail itself was absolutely delicious – sour with a hint of sweetness, and surprisingly easy to make once Mark explained each step.
The final cocktail was a stirred cocktail: the L&L Spritz. This involved a large amount of alcohol from the distillery (unico zelo blanc de blanc and Applewood gin) that we poured ourselves, and locally sourced ingredients including Applewood limoncello, lemon wedges and lavender from the nearby garden. As someone who isn’t a huge fan of lavender, I found this cocktail surprisingly delicious… not to mention excellent value! At this point the Masterclass became a social event as participants were relaxed after two cocktails and begun to share ingredients and ask Mark questions about cocktails and professional bartending.
The Masterclass was excellent value for money, considering the amount of alcohol consumed… Not to mention the expert advice and information learnt from such a short amount of time.
Overall, Applewood Distillery and Unico Zelo Wines provided a wonderful day out for all involved. The alcohol was delicious, the scenery was beautiful and the staff were wonderful. It’s excellent to see such a huge range of alcohol produced right here in our backyard. Be sure to visit soon, and try your hand at some of your own homemade cocktails. Keep an eye out for more masterclasses, too! For such a great price, I’ll be back, for sure.
Words and Photos by Olivia Henry
WHERE: 24 Victoria St, Gumeracha