WINE: John Lewis

Tim Adams 2009 The Fergus wine
Nanjing Night Net

Topper’s Mountain 2011 Red Earth Child wine

Zonte?s Footstep Canto di Lago Sangiovese Barbera 2010Langhorne Creek, South AustraliaWicks Estate Shiraz 2010Wicks Estate vineyard, Adelaide Hills, South AustraliaPenfolds Yattarna ChardonnayChris Shanahan wine revews May 16 2012Zonte’s Footstep_Canto Di Lago.jpg

Tannat, tempranillo, grenache, mourvedre, sangiovese and barbera are not frontline red varieties in Australia, but they have played a role in these interesting red blends from New England and South Australia’s Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale areas.

Topper’s Mountain 2011 Red Earth Child, $38

Topper’s Mountain vineyard, at an elevation of 900 metres above sea level in the Tingha area of New England, produces some of the best nebbiolo reds around. That ancient Italian variety, famed in Piemonte and Valtellina, is one of the four components of this multi-faceted, 13.5 per cent alcohol red. The three other varieties in the mix are shiraz, tempranillo and tannat. The wine is brick red and has tobacco leaf scents. Firm blackberry and mint flavours feature on the front of the palate and elements of plum, licorice, capers and toasty oak combine on the middle palate. Ferric acid shows at the finish. It’s available on toppers南京夜网.au and in some wine stores. The 10-hectare Topper’s Mountain vineyard was established in 1999 by Sydney-based engineer Mark Kirkby and the wines are made by Queensland Granite Belt winemaker Mike Hayes.

Zonte’s Footstep 2012 Canto di Largo Sangiovese Barbera, $25

“Pasta please” says this blend of two great Italian-origin varieties made from Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale grapes. The wine is bright crimson, weighs in at 14.5 per cent alcohol and has fruitcake scents. Juicy raspberry flavour zips onto the front palate and dried cranberry, spearmint and herb fruit characters meld with savoury oak on the middle palate. Dusty tannins come through at the finish. It’s in wine stores and on zontesfootstep南京夜网.au. The Zonte’s Footstep name comes from the fact that that the inaugural wine grape vineyard was planted on what was the Zante currant vineyard at Langhorne Creek. The wines are made by Ben Riggs, who heads the Zonte’s Footstep team with general manager Brad Rey and marketer Zar Brooks.

Tim Adams 2009 The Fergus, $23

This is the 17th release of The Fergus and over the years the wines have evolved from the original straight grenache. This 14.5 per cent alcohol 2009 has tempranillo, mourvedre and shiraz blended with the grenache, and is garnet-hued. It has berry pastille scents and spicy cherry front palate flavour. The middle palate introduces blueberry, mocha coffee, cloves and nutty oak characters and the finish has minty tannins. It’s in wine stores and on timadamswines南京夜网.au. The original Fergus grenache was made in the 1993 Clare Valley vintage when Tim Adams faced a desperate shortage of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon and his neighbour, Fergus Mahon, helped out by selling him grenache grapes.

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Renew Newcastle creates fresh vibe in the city

NEWS-NCH- Launch of Hunter Innovation scorecard left to right Todd Williams CEO of RDA Brent Jenkins CEO of Newcastle Innovation Marcus Westbury Renew Newcastle Founder and Paul Jeans Uni of Newcastle Chancellor.Thursday 18th July 2013 pic by Natalie Grono NCH WEEKENDER – Simone Dacy and Hannah Rose in their photographic studio they hire through Renew Newcastle – 21st March 2014 Pic by Ryan Osland
Nanjing Night Net

NCH NEWS. Pic of Marni Jackson General manager Renew Newcastle who will be celebrating their 5yr Anniversary with a Renew Rewind photographic exhibition at the Emporium celebrating five years work bringing spaces to life.25th MARCH 2014. Picture by SIMONE DE PEAK.

IN five short years, Renew Newcastle has helped turn the city’s CBD from a wasteland into a thriving hub.

This weekend Renew celebrates the anniversary of its launch in January 2009, when 12 projects moved into the Hunter Street Mall and began setting up shop.

It was the beginning of a change that would play a part in transforming not only the face but also the soul of the city.

It also marks an important date for Renew’s general manager, Marni Jackson, who stepped into the role in April of that year and has been the driving force ever since.

She admits she never expected Renew to last this long or become this big.

“Maybe it was the case that we really didn’t realise the full extent of what we were getting ourselves into,” she says, laughing.

The operative term, when talking about Newcastle’s CBD prior to 2008, is “dead”, both commercially and culturally. Shuttered shops dominated the mall, and at night jumpy dudes with sallow skin huddled in Civic Park drinking from cartons in the shadows.

The fear of assault, particularly for women, was real and present, and on the rare occasions you were in that area after night fell, you were only passing through.

“It was definitely a no-go zone, the city. You never walked through Civic Park and you never walked through the mall,” Jackson says, thinking back.

“It was just known that it wasn’t going to be safe, that there probably would be a fight. There would be no one around except other people moving from place to place, but definitely Civic Park and the mall you just didn’t go [there], you seriously didn’t want to walk there by yourself and your friends wouldn’t let you.

“I think when you’re living here you don’t realise how bad things are.”

The problems were bad enough that Newcastle started attracting national attention for our now-famous problems with booze.

A moustachioed Tony Brown got blown up on the ABC’s 7.30 Report telling the country we had an “epidemic of binge drinking”, and they overlaid his comments with pictures of girls in short dresses stumbling outside of Finnegan’s and young kids swigging from goon sacks.

Marni Jackson

Into this stepped Renew founder Marcus Westbury, a Newcastle kid who had spent enough time in metropolitan Melbourne to start having dreams above his station.

A few months after the then-state government introduced new legislation that made it possible to open smaller bars and cultural venues, Westbury came back to Newcastle looking to ignite something in the heart of the city.

“So I came home and went up and down Hunter Street and looked at all the vacant properties and it just blew me away, it was sort of the first time it hit me how bad it had really gotten,” he says.

How bad has been well-documented, but essentially the only businesses rocking it in Newcastle in 2008 were those directly associated with the security shutter industry, and even they were reaching market saturation.

In one outing that year Westbury counted about 150 empty or vacant spaces on street level alone, 20 of them in the mall.

With all that empty space you might think the town’s commercial real estate agents would have been falling over themselves to get to Westbury, buying him steak dinners and box seats.

Not so.

“I seriously got no calls, and I contacted a lot of commercial agencies,” he says.

“So on one level you had all these empty spaces and on the other it seemed incredibly impractical for people like me to access it. I talked to a lot of people with similar experiences, and that became the very early preoccupation of what would I guess become Renew.

“It was about plugging as much as possible the gaps between the imaginations of the people I knew who wanted to do things, and the system that was in place.”

And that was how it began.

A public forum to flesh out the idea had people queueing out the door, and once the business community, led by GPT, understood the plan was to not only fill empty shops, but also to have enough business to make it viable for commercial outlets to move back, they got onside pretty quickly.

In short, property owners with no tenants enter into a 30-day rolling licence agreement with Renew, which acts as a brokerage to find projects for the spaces.

The shops and galleries pay a weekly participation fee of $20 to Renew, and in some circumstances paid additional negotiated fees directly to property owners.

Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan was at the Property Council at the time, and remembers thinking of it as a “fantastic opportunity”.

“I think it really did need a whole lot of stakeholders, including property owners like GPT, to get on board with such a new innovative solution,” she says.

“It wouldn’t have been as successful without that support [but] I think the model they put in place with a 30-day rolling licence rather gave owners a lot more confidence.”

Five years later and the numbers pretty well speak for themselves – 59 vacant properties have been brought back to life in the period, supporting 138 arts, creative and community projects.

Tourism is booming, and some surveys have found the mall is now the second-most visited attraction in the city.

But, to paraphrase Dennis Denuto, it’s not just the numbers, but also the vibe of the thing.

Photographers Hannah Rose and Simone Darcy, who share a studio off the mall through Renew, say the program has helped foster a new sense of cultural community in the city.

“There has been a huge change out there,” Darcy says.

“I think it was a matter of ‘it was time’, but Renew has brought a particular section of the community into the mall and commercial businesses have latched onto that, like Cream for example, that maybe wouldn’t have done so well if that scene wasn’t building.

“Renew has sort of given everyone a chance to come and have these spaces so instead of having business meetings at home everyone goes into the mall and has coffee or lunch, and that’s sort of reintroduced an energy,” Rose adds.

“And I think that’s why people come here, because there is no Gloria Jeans and there is no Bras n Things.”

Jackson denies Renew has driven a particular cultural aesthetic in Newcastle, pointing out that the organisation has supported everything from sound art studios to hat makers and children’s clothing stores since its inception, but says the program has given a community of local industry a chance to be visible.

“I don’t think there’s a flavour we’ve put in, other than this ingenuity or innovation or idea that you can do stuff,” she says.

“[But] I think it’s really important for [a] community of makers and creatives to be more visible to each other and what I think is people feel like there is opportunities for them here.”

With five years under the belt, and the recent news that GPT and UrbanGrowth NSW are again talking about plans for development of the city, the question of what’s next for Renew looms large.

“We’ll work wherever there’s vacant property that can be activated to add value to the city while it’s in a transition stage,” Jackson says.

“There may be big plans on the table [but] it’s not going to happen overnight, there’s going to be lots of vacant sites and lots of upheaval.

“There’s kind of a need for that Renew activity while that happens because we need to maintain the momentum that has already built up on the ground.”

“Regardless of the big plans we’ve already started with the city that we want to see.”

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Artist’s eye evident in renovation

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND
Nanjing Night Net

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NCH WeekenderHome of the week 34 Northumberland Street, Maryville 25th March 2014NCH Weekender Picture by DEAN OSLAND

NOVOCASTRIAN painter Sally McDonald knows what looks good.

The artist deals primarily with acrylics and focuses on moody backdrops with overlays of punchy bold colours that command the eye.

In fact, her style of artistry is consistent with her style of interiors.

McDonald bought her Maryville miner’s cottage with her partner Terry in 2011. And after a lengthy renovation, the home now glows with personality while still providing practicality for the couple and their large brood of young adult children who drop by.

“It was your typical miner’s cottage – none of the floors were even, the doors slanted,” McDonald says. “But I loved all the character.”

The six-month renovation breathed new life into the relatively small, 300-square-metre property, completely opening up the back of the home to turn the two-bedroom cottage into a four-bedroom home plus teenagers’ retreat.

With the north-facing aspect pouring sunlight through the glass french doors and shutters across the Dulux White walls, the former dark and private home now feels spacious and open.

“It was very dark, which is typical of the era, and we wanted everything to be open on the north side of the house,” she says.

In maximising space in the open-plan living area, the couple designed a single-wall kitchen to travel the length of the living room.

Using an unlikely combination of marine ply face, moody charcoal cabinets and glossy white Laminex bench tops, the kitchen is functional and industrial with a fresh, clean twist.

“It’s great because there’s loads of storage above – we really wanted to take advantage of the high ceilings,” she says.

“The charcoal works as a neutral shade but it also provides a nice contrast to the ply.”

The slight industrial nods are carried through into the main bathroom. The squared-off vanity was constructed from the original timber floorboards in the cottage, and with a square sink and bold matte black tap, it is a chic take on practicality.

A jumbo silver showerhead dangles from above over the shower and two industrial-style bulbs from the ceiling.

“We liked the industrial theme. Being in Maryville, it made sense to have something practical in such a functional area” she says.

There is an undercurrent of punchy 1960s mod throughout the furnishings, with an assortment of eclectic pieces collected over the years from unlikely places.

The sturdy timber dining table is adorned by royal-blue vintage Laminex armchairs originally belonging to the Newcastle Council and sourced through the Clyde Street shops in Hamilton North.

Similarly, her set of two vintage armchairs fixed in geometrical timber and finished in a retro bright pink and bold orange came from the University of Newcastle library.

“Eclectic is a cliche, but I try and steer away from buying new stuff,” she says.

The master bedroom sits at the end of the home, with a chesterfield headboard sitting proudly at the top of the bed. It was created by Peter Bryne, Sydney upholsterer and a close friend of McDonald’s, and is finished in a cream Spanish linen.

The master bedroom features two sets of glass french doors that lead onto a generous wooden deck that wraps around all of the home’s north side.

A large outdoor table sits adorned by around a dozen bright red replica Philippe Starck Masters Chairs, sourced through Matt Blatt – a necessary number considering Terry and Sally have four boys and four girls between them.

With their sizeable family in mind, the couple decided to embrace practicality and turn the two bedrooms at the front of the cottage into three. The rooms, which McDonald describes as “pods”, feature unusual sliding doors in washed-pastel wood panels that are rolled into place with a cast-iron castor system.

The wood was sourced from a home in Maryville that was demolished – McDonald decided to simply sand back the wood to reveal the original paintwork.

The sliding doors provide the perfect amount of privacy while still maintaining a sense of guest about the rooms.

With such a spacious use of a small block, a functional undertone and stylish punches of colour, it’s no wonder the brood of young adult offspring take the opportunity to occasionally spend the night.

“They usually drop in, sleep over and drop all of their washing off,” McDonald says.

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DINING: Authentic Italian at Una Volta

NCH WEEKEND MAGAZINE. Pic for Dining review at Una Volta in King St Newcastle.21st MARCH 2014. Picture by SIMONE DE PEAK. NCH WEEKEND MAGAZINE. Pic for Dining review at Una Volta in King St Newcastle.21st MARCH 2014. Picture by SIMONE DE PEAK.
Nanjing Night Net

NEWCASTLE is incredibly fortunate to have Una Volta. This authentic Italian trattoria oozes intimacy and charm and fills a dearth of quality Italian eateries. Housed in the former Govindas, Hare Krishna restaurant, Nikki Bondini’s welcoming space is a culmination of her time spent travelling and her love of Italy and its food.

We arrive on a balmy Thursday evening, carrying a bottle of chilled rose. It’s early and we are the first customers. Soon, however, mostly female diners fill every table, with some unlucky customers having to be turned away.

Nikki’s sister-in-law is front of house and is chatty, warm and knowledgeable. She has seated us at a window table near a small lounge where our five-year-old can play – intuitively knowing that children can only sit still for so long. The menu’s premise is simple. Two courses for $35 on a Thursday night with a choice of two entrees and a set main. Dessert is an extra $12. On Friday or Saturday nights, two courses are $45 and three courses are $55.

We decide to order both choices of starters so we can share – gnocchi with gorgonzola and gnocchi with tomato and basil. This is served with a generous basket of warm sourdough bread. My family quickly reneges on the agreement to share and I am lucky to get a look in. Both my husband and daughter wolf down the gnocchi with the tangy, rich tomato and basil sauce and promptly mop up the plate with the bread. Fortunately my dish of gnocchi gorgonzola is just as good. Soft plump pillows of gnocchi sit in the light, flavoursome blue cheese sauce.

Despite the restaurant now being filled, including a group of 10 women at a neighbouring table enjoying a night out, service is quick and faultless. Before long our mains arrive: crispy-skinned chicken breast with sage and garlic butter, with side dishes of pumpkin, potatoes and a simply dressed rocket salad. The dish is simple, delicious and perfectly executed. The chicken is moist and succulent and the flavours mingle effortlessly.

Not usually being sweet tooths; we decide to share that night’s dish of crepes with banana and butterscotch sauce. Once again three spoons fight it out for the golden crepes swimming in the rich, heavenly sauce. Desserts are made by Nikki’s sister Alicia Jayne, and are not to be missed. Afterwards we stroll home, content and pleased that Nikki Bondini chose Newcastle for her simple yet quality trattoria where every dish is delivered with love and care. Grazie.

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