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Published on December 22nd, 2017 | by Ken Gargett

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Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No 2 | Wynn’s Single Vineyard ‘Johnson’s Block’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 | Rubbel Sexy Lager

A lovely day, looking out over a glorious cobalt ocean and writing about a 60-vintage tasting of the great Wynn’s Black Label Coonawarra Cabernet, has just been spoilt by that blow-up doll who runs North Korea. News is through that apparently, he wants to drop a nuke on Guam. Haven’t we been through this before? Way to be a downer! I really liked Guam for the short time I was there. Felt like I was on the set of Magnum PI. And one imagines that if he does, the ageing Mr Burns on the other side of the planet is going to ensure that NK becomes one large smouldering crater and turn what little tourism they have into a few scientists in white onesies with madly-crackling Geiger counters.

So, it was time to put this depressing news aside, grab a cigar and a bottle of Wynn’s (and a beer as a back-up) and head down for a break. Very peaceful near the ocean though they are filming ‘Aquaman’ down on the headland and the tranquillity is occasionally shattered by choppers.

The cigar was a relatively small one, the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No 2. Thoroughly pleasant. Construction not perfect and it did require some attention throughout. Quite a mild and gentle style and with subtle complexity. Moved into some really pleasing flavours, especially a creamy milk coffee note midway through (89).

The drinks is where things got really interesting. Another attempt to mesh a red with a cigar – I remain of the view that is possible to thoroughly enjoy both, but they rarely combine well. And this was a cracker red – Johnson’s Block was planted with Cabernet in 1954, the oldest surviving cab in Coonawarra. Full of black cherry and cassis notes. Ripe yet dense but elegant. This was finely balanced. Plenty of silky tannins. A supple, medium bodied style which lingers beautifully. Balance is the key. A really good Cab (95, for what it is worth). But reds always struggle as a match for cigars. Thoughts below.

The beer. Rubbel Sexy Lager. Whoops. This was another from the back of the cupboard. Made in 2008 and could well have been there since then. Dropped off by one of my mates, I suspect. I poured it out and horror abounded (thankfully, I did not, on this occasion, drink straight from the bottle). Cloudy, full of chunky muck. Just what one would expect from a stale old tired beer. Into the garden you go! And really, what chance did a beer with a label like that ever have? A Belgian lager, from what was described as a family operation. Mum must be so proud.

The nonsense from the two muppets about bombing each other had me thinking of how fortunate our generations have been. I pulled out my grandfather’s diary from WWI, which I had been meaning to read for ages (only just got my hands on a copy). I wrote about my grandfather’s, on Dad’s side of the family, involvement in WWII recently. My grandfather’s, on Mum’s side, involvement in WWI was even more astonishing.  I was very young when he passed, but I do remember him. A lovely old man (well, 60s), as bald as a Buddhist. He would score cricket and boxing matches over the radio. Would take me for train rides.

Extraordinary stuff, indeed. He was from a family of 12 kids, I believe, and all bar two were boys. Some were still fighting in WWII, at least one at Torbruk. One landed at Gallipoli on the 2nd day (I think I have told the story elsewhere of how he and his mates were heading to shore on rickety landing craft. One had a pack of cards, and they declared that it should be dealt out amongst the group and whoever received the Joker would be first to cop it. My great-uncle was second to receive a card. The Joker. Anyway, he landed, fought there until it was eventually finished and then in the trenches in France and never received a scratch).

My grandfather was young entering the War and a top sportsman – cricket, swimming, boxing and had played the visiting Poms in Rugby League, but the eyesight was not good enough to get him in. So, he memorised the eyechart and snuck in that way. Between then and arriving at the front in France – where he spent 3-4 years – he had pleurisy three times, trench fever, an ulcerated throat and who knows what else. Not the ideal start.

The diary is very matter-of-fact. Much is about friends he met and made, catching up regularly with other brothers and friends from Bundaberg, time on leave – no doubt it was preferable to write of such things rather than horrors they faced. But there is enough about the fighting to send chills. He had not been at Passchendaele long before he copped a bullet through the left knee. As he tried to crawl out to find help, his captain told him to crawl back to the front line (reading between the lines, I suspect his captain was told to bugger off). He had nine weeks in a hospital bed, then time on crutches, before he could rejoin his mates. Another time, he talks of how they had to huddle in shell holes for a night. Finishes by saying ‘a lot of the chaps drowned in their holes overnight’.

When told of one brother being killed, he simply mentions it. No details. Another time, he talks of a miserable day where Fritz (how he refers to the enemy mostly, though near the end, they become the Hun) blew him and a mate up twice. I gather being blown up meant a bomb going off which threw you up into the air. Twice in one day? Another day he mentions he was a bit lucky. One bullet put a dint into his steel helmet and another went through his tunic, but missed him. He talks of how quite a few of the chaps were lost to a barrage of artillery from their own guns. Then he gets hit by a bomb that digs into the back of his leg and it is back to hospital for a few more weeks. When he returns, his group is immediately put into quarantine for mumps.

I know a great deal is left out. He suffered all his life from being badly gassed in the trenches, but the only mention of gas is when he describes how hard it is to crawl under the wire wearing a mask.

He won the Military Medal and Bar, which is pretty impressive (I’d like to say such courage runs in the family but…). I know how he got one of them – he and his mates were pinned down by a German machine gun nest on a rise. He managed to get to it on his own and took out all in it. That is not from the diary – that was from Mum and my grandmother. No idea why he got the other one, but must try and find out. The only mention in the diary is a note that he was advised he had been awarded the Medal. Nothing about why.

I’m sure many families have similar tales. Makes those idiots in power, banging on about dropping bombs, look like such appalling imbeciles, when it will be the youth who suffer. But all that is a topic for another day.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, the matching of the wine and cigar? Car crash. Awful. Diminished both. Gives a chunky metallic taste. I need to stop trying to match reds.

KBG


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