In a past life, Mike Bennie used to help famous figures like Russell Crowe, A Tribe Called Quest, Baby John Burgess, as well as (future Prime Minister) Malcolm Turnbull and then Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull pick wines. The Rootstock Sydney co-founder and award-winning wine communicator takes us on a few flashbacks to that memorable time (the Russell Crowe anecdote is particularly great) and – inspired by this very amusing Herald article that bagged Turnbull’s public wine collection (‘Malcolm Turnbull’s wine list is embarrassing and boring: industry experts’) – Bennie also covers the hilariously bad state of politician’s taxpayer-funded booze cellars.
In this podcast, we also cover Mike’s record-setting drinking session at Noma Japan (aided by Rootstock co-conspirator James Hird, with slight assistance by The Bridge Room’s Ross Lusted) and what it was like to then help Mads Kleppe put together the drinks program for Noma Australia – the biggest restaurant opening in Sydney this year. They enlisted artisanal makers, like Two Metre Tall’s Ashley Huntington (who is literally two metres tall) and Mike even had his own Brian wine make the final cut, in a totally legit way. He also chats about the blowback and the immense pressure he faced putting together the drinks list, against intense expectations about “name-checks” and supposedly obligatory inclusions.
We also chat about the upcoming Rootstock Sydney festival (on November 26-27 at Carriageworks), which doubles down on Australian cuisine even more than last year’s impressive effort. Expect “roo and ray rolls”, pizzas topped with native ingredients and sausages that were OG creations by immigrants during the gold rush. And after some legal battles, Rootstock has managed to successfully bring out a collection of Georgian winemakers, here to celebrate their 8000-year-old approach to making booze, as well as stage a “big wild party” on the Saturday night with Georgian dishes such as roasted potato with tkemali and cheese khachapuri. Also at Rootstock, there’ll be the return of the orange wine bar, the sake bar, the introduction of Spritzstock (which sees Spirit People teaming up with PS40) and beers made with wild fermented grains by Two Metre Tall. And don’t forget, there’ll be talks and a chance to meet producers – from Owen Latta, who started making wines during schoolbreaks as an underaged 15-year-old to the one-of-a-kind French champagne grower Lelarge Pugeot.
Mike also updates us on the places he loves to frequent in Sydney – as well as the establishments he’s looking forward to checking out next.
You can listen to this episode on iTunes or download it via RSS or directly. And thanks to everyone who has said nice things about this podcast or dropped some kind words in the iTunes store or note via the blog. In particular, thanks to chef Rowena Shannon for leaving a really nice comment about how much she’s getting out of the podcast series – it really means a hell of a lot!
PS Tool frontman Maynard Keenan’s wine definitely make a cameo during this podcast.
PPS You can find the first podcast I did with Mike Bennie over here.