At The Bar with Le Meridien’s Dolly Restaurant Sommelier Patrick Walsh

Lights, Camera, Action! 

Dolly has rolled into town at the top end of Spring and Bourke Street, nestled inside the luxurious hotel Le Meridien. Inspired by its film and stage past, the menu at this chic city restaurant riffs on the glory of European fare and helmed by Executive Chef Christian Graebner. The wine and drink list is elegantly curated by sommelier and Cellar Hand founder Patrick Walsh who brings a wealth of knowledge to the table.

The Write Drop speaks to Walsh about his Melbourne loves, his fondest drinking memories around the world and reveals why he’s called Mr Riesling.


I get to travel a fair bit for my wine import business, and just about to head to Vienna which is a favourite city, but I have to say that there’s nowhere I’d prefer to live than Melbourne. For me it’s the best of NYC, London and Paris all rolled into one. That and that fact that my actual home in Kyneton is only an hour away.


In the early 90’s Walter Bourke opened Walter’s Wine Bar at Southgate in Melbourne and I was lucky enough to be restaurant manager for a number of years and also the ‘sommelier’ before we even had such a thing in Australia. Walter was a great chef and one of his favourites was duck and cherry pies. Matched with great Burgundies from Rousseau or DRC as we did on many occasions, I realised I was learning what it was to be in food and wine heaven – and it was worked.


Many of my favourite bar memories are vague for obvious reasons, but a hilarious one from a few years ago was when my good friend Ernst ‘Erni’ Loosen (Dr Loosen) turned to me and asked ‘Patrick, why are there so many Americans in Vienna tonight?’. The fact that we were in fact standing on in the rooftop bar Siglo in Melbourne’s Spring St was what made it so funny. He’d just come from a gig in Aspen, Colorado and the 40-hour transit time had done his jet-lag levels no favours as he looked across to Parliament House mistaking it for a Vienna skyline quite clearly. Also working our way through the Pisco list at Museo del Pisco in Cusco, Peru one time was a whole lot of fun.


Riesling, the grape variety that I’m most synonymous with after 25 years importing it from Germany, France, Austria and beyond. I’ve even been called Mr Riesling from time to time. Hopefully I’ll be as long lived as some of the great Rieslings which can drink superbly at 75 or 80 years.


Predictably I do find that a strong and spicier the better Bloody Mary works wonders.

As does crispy-fried eggs and bacon that we cook on the Teppanyaki grill at home. Either those or just getting back on the horse with a glass of Riesling Kabinett and pushing through.


In the famous Peel Street in Adelaide lurks a cosy little bar called Clever Little Tailor. Whenever I find myself in SA on a wine trip as is often the case, I always manage to make an excuse to go there. They have a great selection of Amaro. This usually lead kicking on to The Exeter Hotel for Krug Champagne in beer glasses.


As the distributor/importer for around 100 wineries this is a tricky one – it would be like choosing a favourite child! So, I’ll sidestep the question slightly and say my favourite wine town on the planet is Beaune in Burgundy where the greatest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines are produced. If I am ever lucky enough to enjoy a bottle of Domaine Leroy Musigny again it will be a very special day indeed.


It’s not new – far from it – but since moving to Kyneton seven years ago, we’ve fallen in love with the big, dark and deliciously bitter work of Amaros and Vermouth. Thanks in no small part to the brilliant work of Melissa and Frank at Botanik who’ve set about creating what must be amongst Australia’s deepest lists of such things. We often pop in for ‘just one’ but it never is…


The idea was to focus as much as possible on wines of the so called ‘Melbourne Dress Circle’ of vineyards, That’s wineries from right around the bay from Bellarine, Geelong, Macedon, Yarra, Gippsland and so on. Added to that are selections to fill the vinous ‘gaps’ so to speak with wineries from around Australia and a few select imports. It’s an ever-evolving piece.


The fact that the hotel is a beautifully re-imagined version of what was in various stages of its life – some amazing theatres, the ‘dress circle’ notion seemed like a nice nod to the building’s past, whilst looking to its future and new direction.


The work of the Chalmers family wine-growers features prominently on the list. These guys have been instrumental for a couple of decades in reshaping the Australian vinous landscape with the introduction of many of the ‘Italian’ varieties that are now enjoying great success here. Try their Rosato – a fabulous dry Rose made mostly from Aglianico – a southern Italian grape but in this case grown at the Chalmers vineyard in Heathcote, Victoria.


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