March 14th evening
I walk through the streets of Melbourne to the corner of Queen’s Street and Colleens where Jonno will pick me up. On my way, I see faces from porcelain to pecan to ebony. Some speak no English, some with heavy accents, some with that unmistakable Aussie lilt, but something extra. The city buzzes with it. This is no outback.
Jonno and I are headed to a drinks party for Lats and Elka at Lats's parents place. Lats is getting married soon, and this party is for those who could not make it to the wedding. Lats's father is quite a wine connoisseur, and in an endeavor to pass this vinophilic love to his son (something not hard, I think) has asked all the guests to bring a good bottle of wine that the new couple can cellar. I have a case sent to them from Margaret River.
Walking in the door, it is clear they will have a good start to the cellar. As the night wears on, I end up in the cellar of the house. The cellar is roughly 20 years old, but the house was built right around the time Lincoln was inaugurated, and thus the arched brick supports that make the roof of the cellar are in sharp contrast to the poured cement. Huge barrels and hundreds of bottles of wines and ports and Muskats find their home in the cool beneath the house. All of us under 35 look impressed with envy at the lifetime that built this well-stocked establishment. Lats comes down, taking a break from hosting, and we open up a home-brewed 1998 (turn of the century!) stout. It cracks with a satisfying hiss, and the bottle seems to smoke with the change in air pressure. It has less head than a Guinness, but the it’s rich in flavor, almost coffee and chocolate, and it is hard to liken it to any beer I have ever had.