Sometimes stars align, and along comes an invitation to attend a wine dinner at a desirable restaurant with a desirable wine producer…
That happened to me last week, when a representative from SUTL asked if I would take up 1 final “media spot” at the d’Arenberg Wine Dinner at Saint Pierre. For me, that was a straight “yes”. I have drank d’Arenberg wines for a while now, and am a big fan of Chester Osborn‘s winemaking philosophy. Years ago, I watched season 2 of Masterchef Australia, and Chef Emmanuel Stroobant was a guest on one of the shows; after seeing his dishes, I have wanted to try his cooking, particularly at his well-acclaimed Saint Pierre. So, this is definitely a wine dinner I will make time for!
The entire restaurant was reserved for the event, with Emmanuel Stroobant and his team preparing a delectable 6 courses meal (paired with 6 d’Arenberg wines) for the 50+ present. Representing d’Arenberg is Toby Porter (winemaker), who has been with d’Arenberg for 11 years. I was fortunate to be sitting opposite him. As we coursed through the menu, those around Toby got the opportunity to hear funny stories, particularly those relating to the more unorthodox (shall we say) names given to the wines by Chester.
Now, to the courses and paired wines:
Course 1: Salade de Crabe
— d’Arenberg 2010 “The Money Spider” Roussanne
Lots happening on this dish – lovely king crab with melons, ginger syrup braised apples, and an interesting pine-nut oil dust. The wine saw some bottle age, which translated to the nose and palate. Lingering fruit and mellowed acid. I would have preferred to drink this younger. Still, interesting enough. Decent food-wine match.
Course 2: Noix de Saint-Jacques
— d’Arenberg 2011 “The Hermit Crab” Viognier Marsanne
Almond-crusted Hokkaido scallop, sitting in a Viognier emulsion, topped with a lin cracker, with peach skin, tarragon-pansy film, and beetroot paint. I like the scallop, very well cooked. Seeing a fellow seafood, The Hermit Carb came out to play. Though not that young anymore, it retains the freshness to accompany the dish. Flowers and citrus, and a zippy focus in this wine. Well-matched wine for this course.
Course 3: Confit de Canard
— d’Arenberg NV “The Peppermint Paddock” Sparkling Red Chambourcin
This course was supposed to come in 5th, but Chef Emmanuel changed the sequence, and we understood why after tasting. Cubes of duck breast confit and foie gras terrine sit amid maraschino fluid gel, eggplant berries puree, with a descent of soft spice curry snow on parts of the plate. A really lovely looking dish (which I forgot to take a photo of!). I love The Peppermint Paddock, a slightly heavy yet fun sparkling red wine. A touch of Shiraz liqueur was used to dose this sparkler, and it shows up with some licorice notes. Perhaps not the best food-wine combo, as the duck outshone the wine. Enjoyed each in its own right.
Course 4: Porc Iberique
— d’Arenberg 2010 “The Feral Fox” Pinot Noir
Iberico pork shoulder grilled on Japanese coal, with smoked bacon julienne, celeriac puree, and a lovely homemade strawberry vinegar. The pork was beautiful, the vinegar was brilliant with the pork and the wine. If The Feral Fox was not allowed to play with the duck, it was because the little piggy was a better playmate. From the cooler region of the Adelaide Hills, this Pinot is (to me) typical of the region. Red fruits with some dustiness, forest floor, and mushrooms. Nice balance of characters, although not very complex, but quite enjoyable. Dish of the night for me! And, very good food-wine pairing.
Course 5: Boeuf John Stone
— d’Arenberg 2010 “The Dead Arm” Shiraz
Overnight-roasted John Stone sirloin prepared into thick ribbons, with truffled mashed ratte potato, wild mushrooms, charred pepper coulis, and a kosho dressing. Another brilliant dish, and it was gone almost too quickly. The beef was fantastic with the various other components of the dish supporting it very well. Wine-of-the-night The Dead Arm elegantly lifted up its body, packed with red and dark fruits, light pepper, and some scent reminiscent of a small goods shop. Beautifully poised and balanced, with a lingering finish. Both food and wine complemented each other very well. I wanted more of both!
Course 6: Ananas
— d’Arenberg 2010 “The Noble” Wrinkled Riesling (botrytis-affected)
Barley sugar confit pineapple rock, with star aniseed apple compression, lemon peel curd and white pepper meringue. Another beautiful and well presented dish. This dessert is subtle and refined, with its restrained sweetness being a key quality for me. The Noble was comparatively much sweeter. Lots of candied fruit and honey, with nice acid balancing it rather well. By themselves, very good dessert and dessert wine, but I think the difference in sweetness levels may be a little too noticeable.
Adding to the fun, Toby brought along a mystery wine, presented between courses 4 and 5. Dinner guests are invited to taste and guess which wine it was. The winner was to walk away with a magnum of the 2008 ‘Dead Arm’ Shiraz. The wine was later revealed to be the d’Arenberg 2010 “The Laughing Magpie” Shiraz Viognier. Sadly, I guessed wrong…
Of course, the big name of the line-up of wines is “The Dead Arm”, which showed very well on the night. I really like “The Hermit Crab” and “The Peppermint Paddock” too, and I can imagine drinking them with local cuisines, in our warm and humid climate.
It was a fun, convivial evening of really high quality food and beautiful wines. I have always enjoyed Australian wines, and d’Arenberg produces wines that are essentially Australian, with an elegant touch in their characters.
Many thanks to SUTL for this opportunity.