11 February 2020 - CoTD Paul Irwin
Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave
For the second Chef of the Year cook-off, we had Paul Irwin in the kitchen with a support team of Steve Liebeskind and Romain Stamm. As expected, it was a full dining room.
We were treated to three canapés today, a more common occurrence than it used to be. They were served in a specific order with the first being, citrus cured salmon on a spoon, then a pork and venison terrine served on crusty bread and topped with beetroot chutney and finally a mushroom pate with truffle oil and parsley in a pastry cup. Comments on the salmon were very positive as were the comments on the beautifully prepared terrine with beetroot chutney, adding a little bit of flourish in both flavour and presentation. The mushroom pate was thought by many to be a little bland, especially as it was served after the terrine.
As expected and required the main we were served today was based on the meal Paul served last year that landed him in the Chef of the Year cauldron. As was the case in 2019, it was a picture-perfect presentation with the word pretty coming to mind.
The meal was based on lamb backstrap which had been sous vide and coated in salted leek ash but there appeared to be a slight bite reminiscent of chilly. The lamb was served on a smoked eggplant baba ghanoush with roast carrots and blanched broccoli. In addition, there were duck fat roasties that Paul had parboiled and then cooked twice in duck fat. The only complaint from the floor with that they would have liked more. This addition was to add some diversity of texture to the meal.
The lamb was tender and tasty and the presentation of this dish would not be out of place in a fine dining restaurant.
The cheese presented by James Healey today led to an amount of head-scratching. Blue, clearly, but it was not salty enough to be Roquefort. A number of informed guesses proved to be wrong and it was revealed as a Berry’s Creek Riverine Blue from Gippsland in Victoria. To add to the mystery it was a 100% pasteurised buffalo cheese. It had a beautiful soft creamy mouthfeel and was at its peak.
Spencer’s aim for 2020 is a “Society coffee”. Whilst absent this week that didn’t prevent him from continuing the quest. In Spencer’s sometimes cryptic style we knew that today’s coffee was 50% peaberry which he described as an intense flavour, but often a little thin. The other 50% was a general full-spectrum coffee but no other information was given. It had a round sweet palate that could be described as a little thin.
Today’s excellent starters were accompanied by a couple of wines that share the German tongue. A 2017 Groiss Germischter Satz from Weinviertal, Austria’s largest vineyard region, was confusing for many. Although it had some citrus, lime notes to indicate Riesling, it was actually a blend of a multitude of varieties, the majority of them unpronounceable - except perhaps for Josef. Certainly a wine with complex fruit aromas, it was dry and a little closed.
The 2016 Timo Mayer Remstal Riesling from Baden-Württemberg in Germany was an excellent match for the terrine with its fruit and off-dry finish. The glass stopper closure was a new experience for some and difficult to extract for many.
The main course was yet another matching of lamb and the Cabernet family. From Bordeaux, we had a 2010 Chateau Peyzat. A wine from the renowned Teyssier portfolio and vines near to St Emilion, it was a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. With the expected Bordeaux aromas, it was an attractive mix of spice and blue fruits with fine-grained tannins. The 2006 Jacob’s Creek Cabernet Sauvignon had regional cassis and mint notes but was a little on the ripe side at 14.5%.
There were two more Cabernet-based wines with the fantastic cheese. The Yalumba Cigar is a Society favourite and the 2009 vintage was preferred by many. It still carried fresh oak but lacked some varietal definition. It had excellent Cabernet tannins. The last red was a Tapanappa Whalebone Cabernet (65%) Shiraz (35%) from Wrattonbully. A rich wine at 15.1% alcohol, it seemed more Shiraz than Cabernet. It was well balanced and complex with none of the jam or heat one might expect from that degree of ripeness. The tannins led the wine to a soft, round finish.
4 February 2020 CoTY Cook-off 1 CoTD Grant Montgomery
Thanks to Steve Liebeskind for the food review and Chilly Hargrave for the wine review.
Today we started the COTY cook-off season with Grant Montgomery in the kitchen and over 50 people rolled into the Society’s room eagerly waiting for the fine fare with anticipation.
We were treated to two starters:
Duck pancakes (Peking duck style) – what a hit these were and as good as you get in a restaurant. Beautifully presented duck with spring onion, hoisin sauce, coriander and cucumber all on a thin pancake and tied together by a chive.
Pate with onion chutney on a toast round – this was pretty and a refreshing canape. The pate was quenelled and sat on the onion and toast.
Grant replicated his lunch of 2019 being a lobster tail in a shell sitting on two prawns, noodle birds nest and two strips of nori paper for colour. This was accompanied by snow peas, roast potatoes and a sauce of reduced fish and chicken broth with butter and lemon myrtle.
The main came to the table and looked colourful and presented beautifully on the plate – all were excited.
The general consensus was that it was a quality lunch and well deserved being in the cook-off. The hero was the lobster and prepared by having it thawed and place in the oven with garlic and butter for a short time and then torched before serving. This created a lovely redness on the flesh and was complemented with salmon roe and a sprig of dill. The prawns had their heads attached for presentation and the noodles gave extra texture.
Majority of attendees were very happy and praised how the meat was cooked although some members commented that theirs was overcooked and that they found it challenging to remove the meat from the shell. The potatoes and snow peas were terrific. The sauce presented to accompany the seafood was creative and looked good on the plate.
One of the best cheeses presented in quite some time. This was even more relevant in light of the recent passing of the quintessential former Cheesemaster and life member Ross MacDonald. He would have been so excited and happy with the high standard of the Montgomery Cheddar that was served today. The cheddar had lovely colour, texture with a delicate creaminess. No salad or other accompaniment came with the cheese, but it was good enough to carry it off.
Excellent lunch to start the new year, a new decade and the COTY cook-off.
To finish, the Society toasted the lives of members Bob McCann and Ross MacDonald plus that of Society friend and restaurant bon vivant Tony Bilson who passed away since our last lunch. A number of members stood up and spoke of the quality of these men and what they meant to them and the Society. They will certainly be missed but always remembered.
The aperitif wines at today’s lunch were an excellent opportunity to understand the longevity of Hunter Valley Semillon. From the highly regarded 2007 vintage, we tasted the Tyrrells Belford and the Vat 1. Individual preference depended on whether on like the fuller style of the Belford or the citrus intensity of the Vat 1. Nonetheless, they both drank beautifully.
With the exceptional fish course, we tasted a young Chablis and a mature Australian Chardonnay. The Louis Boileau Montmains 1er Cru showed the whetstone mineral aromas of the region, while the palate was slightly blowsy with lower acidity than expected. The winemakers of Chablis have a slight dilemma with the warming climate. Their grapes can be harvested at higher potential alcohols and consequently lower acidity. It’s interesting that the relevant authorities to their South are debating removing Chablis from the Burgundy appellation. Perhaps they are concerned about competition going forward.
The second Chardonnay was a 2010 Tapanappa from the Piccadilly Valley. This is Brian Croser’s label with fruit drawn from his vineyards surrounding the old Petaluma winery. It was starting to lose fruit and didn’t have the structure or intensity to carry the oak - excellent oak though it was.
With the cheese, we moved into some big Australian Shiraz. There seems to a certain love/hate relationship in the Society for these wines. Loved by some and hated by others. The 2012 Bests Bin 1 Shiraz at 14.5% alcohol was unusually big for such a good year. Normally about 1% lower, the wine showed both ripe and unripe characters typical of large canopy vineyards. The grapes for this wine generally come from various Great Western growers rather than the estate which is renowned for its Bin 0.
The second wine was a 2008 Kaesler Old Vine Shiraz. It was produced from two estate vineyards of average age in excess of 50 years. Its alcohol was labelled 15.5%, but may well have been higher. A wine of its time, it had stewed, jammy characters with tough tannins. Its portiness was perhaps an appropriate wine for the excellent Montgomery cheddar.
10 December - Bill Alexiou-Hucker
Thanks to James Hill for the food review.
Our last lunch of the year saw almost half our membership turn up to enjoy the fare of our Foodmaster Bill Alexiou assisted by Voula Price with James Hill on initial canapés.
James provided some of our canapés today the first homemade tarama served in filo cups topped with half a black olive.
The second, served on spoons, fava (split yellow peas) topped with pickled sardines, capers and onion.
We couldn’t pass a lunch without some Iggy’s bread so we saw Iggy’s ficelle topped with tarama and some of the pickled sardines.
Bill and Voula sent out croutons topped with thyme, sautéed mushrooms and Danish feta then followed by a 120 (who’s counting) filo triangles filled with ricotta, Parmesan and feta.
All canapés were a good match for our aperitif wines.
Our main course today consisted of a tapenade, feta and olive crusted lamb rack. This was cooked over potato which soaked up the juices of the lamb.
The lamb was cooked perfectly pink and moist with a salty crust and some mint yoghurt that matched well with stuffed tomato (yemista) which was surprisingly sweet and stuffed green pepper (papoutsakia) that was baked with a bechamel sauce.
Flavours were perfectly integrated, and it was a very good meal for a service of such large numbers
Bill is noted for making sure we don’t go home hungry and he didn’t disappoint today.
James Healey presented Holy Goat Brigid’s Well from Castlemaine Victoria. It’s a handcrafted pasteurised organic goat’s milk cheese and an ‘ashed’ version of the “La Luna Ring”. It has a full-bodied interior delivering a creamy citrus flavour.
Bill chose to serve this with Christmas cake, moist and full of flavour that was a perfect match to the cheese.
Spencer Ferrier introduced a guest today, Rob Forsyth, who supplies most of the coffee we have during the year. Today we had Ethiopian Guji which Spencer thought was coffee of the year. It showed fruit notes with good acidity.
President Peter Kelso introduce a guest today, Trevor Gibson, President of the Federation of Wine and Food Societies of Australia. Trevor presented members James Hill and Michael Staniland with certificates and medals for meritorious service to our society.
Following lunch, presentations were made to our team at the Royal Exchange Club.
In the kitchen chef Leo, chef Amish and kitchen hand Ashish, front of house Rex Manager Ida and Gabriela.
In closing lunch, Peter asked us to raise our glasses with the traditional toast to the Society.
Our first lunch in 2020 is Tuesday, February 4th.
3 December 2019 - CsoTD Grant and Susi Montgomery
Grant and Susie Montgomery were out chef team today for the final mixed lunch of the year. The numbers attending were hearty given the expectation of excellent food and wine.
Two canapés from our duo starting with a pea soup topped with creme fraiche. There was intense sweetness from the peas which again underscores what a wonderful and underrated vegetable it is. This was followed by pastry boats filled with confit tomatoes and olives topped with an onion, anchovy and butter sauce.
The first thought that came to mind when the plate was placed in front of me was how enticing was this meal. The presentation was superb. The centrepiece of the dish was the lobster tail with a prawn standing guard either side. This centrepiece was topped with grilled fish skin. This was accompanied by beautifully crispy potatoes, sugar snaps and some interesting baked rice noodles. The latter had been slightly browned and added an interesting and intriguing crunchy characteristic to the meal. Sauce was also provided which was made from fish and vegetable stock, garlic, bush tomatoes, cream and butter. A fantastic meal. The lobster tail, or at least the one I enjoyed, was not overdone nor underdone, it lifted perfectly from the shell to enjoy its sweet meat.
For information, the lobster was Caribbean spiny, and the prawns were Australian green king.
James Healey was again reigning over the cheese selection and presentation. Today, few of us were familiar with the Mimolette Vielle from maker, Isigny. This cow’s milk cheese comes in an amazing bowling ball shape. It had a few of us wanting to practice our bowling skills across the dining room. The cheese historically comes from the French city of Lille and is a most unusual cheese, not least of which because of its bright orange interior. The cheese is very nutty in flavour, but some found it a little an uninteresting despite the striking orange colour which comes from a natural additive used in production.
Spencer Ferrier announced the end of his worldwide coffee tour for 2019. Today, Spencer sourced a single-origin Australian coffee from Harris Farm, which was medium-bodied with a lingering sweetness on the palate. A good Australian coffee. For tea drinkers, Spencer served a Darjeeling which he described as a summer tea.
The coffee project for 2020 is to define a ‘Society coffee’.
Whilst munching on canapes we had the Salinger 2010 (which Chilly Hargrave had more than a passing hand in its production) and the Ca’ dei Zago Processo 2017. The former was showing its age in the form of its golden colour but it had retained good acidity and some bread yeast characteristics. The latter had been a controversial wine when served in the past because of its very low sugar profile and some had taken advantage of the Campari on the table to add some flavour to it.
With the main, we enjoyed a Yabby Lake 2015 Chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula and a Curly Flat 2012 Chardonnay from the Macedon area. The Yabby Lake was flinty with excellent purity of flavour and appropriate acid balance. It was a marvellous example of a great Australian Chardonnay. The Curly Flat in comparison had more obvious oak and whilst it had bright acidity, the generous fruit may have been little over the top for some. Most commentators preferred the Yabby Lake.
The cheese had us move on to Northern Rhône wines with the Laurent Combier "Cuvée L’ Crozes-Hermitage 2012 and the Maxime Graillot Domaine des Lises 'Equis' Cornas. Easy to say in retrospect but both peppery Rhone Syrah.
The Crozes-Hermitage was showing its seven years of age with some leather characteristics in its medium-bodied style. It had a good degree of complexity but seemed a little hot surprisingly, given that there was no oak and the wine was matured in the more trendy egg-shaped concrete vats.
The Cornas, whilst the more solid wine, had relatively lighter tannins with a distinct, peppery overtone that is associated with northern Rhônes.
A delightful lunch today from Grant and Susi and reminiscent of the quality from the late-year lunch they provided in 2018.
26 November 2019 - CoTD Nick Reynolds
Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave
The final wine lunch of the year was upon us and in the kitchen today was one of our accomplished providers Nick Reynolds. Nick was assisted by another accomplished provider in James Hill. What a pair and the theme was duck.
The canapés began with a duck consomme prepared by Paul Thorne. Not content to use cloudy stock, Paul fines the duck stock with egg whites to produce a beautifully clear and tasty starter for the meal. Paul had lightly dusted some orange zest across each portion which added an extra level of complexity and zing.
The other canapé was of course duck but duck pate served on pastry shells. I recall the pate was a blend of three different types. It was strongly flavoured as duck should be.
As always with Nick, there was a lot going on with the presentation of the dish. The centrepiece was confit duck maryland, served with a duck spring roll and a whole duck egg. This was served on top of lentils cooked in red wine and chicken stock. The photo above will tell you all you need to know. The presentation was pleasing to the eye and the taste terrific.
The bread was supplied by James Hill and of course, it was Iggys, but specifically, the incredible looking large round version where individual ‘rounds’ can be ripped off to enjoy with the butter, which was made by Nick in his kitchen.
James Healey served us a Beaufort cheese today, another one of the Society’s favourites. This cheese from the Rhône Alps is beautifully firm with a creamy texture and it was much-loved.
Coffee from Spencer Ferrier today was Ethiopian Guji, an area that borders Sidamo and Yirgacheffe, both coffees we have had before. Full flavoured with sweet overtones.
In celebration of his birthday, Roger McGuiness treated us to a large volume of Piper Heidsieck. Given the speed with which we were removing corks, it was a generosity that was very much appreciated. Following the rapid evaporation of the Champagne we presented the 2014 Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon. We had the Belford version of this vintage last week which was showing some development. The Vat 1, however, is still in its early stages and will be good drinking over the next 4 or 5 years.
Nick described the sensational duck dish that he was producing, so the search was on to find matching wines. Over the last few months, we have had a number of examples of Pinot Noir, considered the ideal match for duck. Often in blind tastings, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese have been mistaken for Pinot Noir. For this lunch we have gone down that path with three wines from the Piemonte and three from Tuscany.
The first wine was an odd one out being a 2014 Barbera d’Alba. Made by renowned producer Elvis Cogno it had complex aromas of red fruits with a palate showing similar fruit and the expected soft tannins and bright acidity. It will probably be at its best over the next 12 months. For many, it was the ideal match of the day. Second up was a Massolino Langhe Nebbiolo from the same vintage. Here we saw the typical pale colour and rose petal aromas, and again some maturation. The Nebbiolo tannins were starting to soften and the fruit flavours were rounding.
The third wine from the Piemonte was quite unique. The 2011 Aldo Contorno Langhe Rosso is a blend of 80% Freisa (an ancient local variety) and 10% of each of Cabernet and Merlot. The name is derived from the Latin to suggest its aroma of wild strawberry. It is variously suggested that Freisa shares parentage with Nebbiolo while others say that it IS the parent of Nebbiolo. The recognisable grainy tannins were present while the fruit flavours were still lively. An extremely well-made wine with excellent balance of oak.
Moving south to Tuscany we first tasted another wine with Cabernet support. The 2010 Tenuta di Ghizzano Veneroso IGT has 30% Cabernet blended with the 70% Sangiovese. Like many of the Super Tuscans, the large vineyards of the estate are in the coastal region of Tuscany. It showed dark cherries, plums and herbs on the nose with a wonderful harmony of Sangiovese cherry fruit and the black currant of Cabernet with its chalky tannins. A fully organic vineyard, it shows what can be achieved with great attention to detail from a great vintage.
The final two wines were both 100% Sangiovese from Isole e Olena. The Cepparello is the flagship of their large portfolio. It was first produced in the 1970s and carries the descriptor IGT because at the time Chianti had to have a certain proportion of the local white varieties. Two vintages were tasted, the 2012 and the masked 2009. Both had a large input of pencil shavings oak aromas reflecting 18 months maturation in a combination of French and American oak barriques, one-third new. The 2012 wine (scored 97 points by Antonio Galloni) was beautifully poised with a mix of rich, dark, savoury fruits and silky tannins - still a young wine. The oak flavours certainly carried the palate and the wine was much appreciated by those liking this style. The older vintage was from the hot year 2009. This wine showed significant development with tannins softening, fruit moving away from the savoury notes of the 2012 and the oak characters starting to fade.
19 November 2019 - CoTD Matthew Holmes
Food review by James Hill and wine reviews by Richard Gibson and Chilly Hargrave
Chef of the Day this week was Matt Holmes assisted by Nick Reynolds. The room was full today with members coming along to celebrate the 103rd birthday of our popular member Wal Edwards.
Japanese was the theme of today's lunch we started with south coast Sydney Rock Oysters served with a Japanese dressing of ginger, mirin, soy, sake and topped with some caviar roe and spring onion. Then Yakitori chicken thighs cooked by Nick on a Konro or Robata, they were perfectly cooked succulent and moist.
Both a great start to our lunch and the perfect match for our canapé wine Tyrrell’s Belford Semillon from 2017 and 2014. The 2017 was showing some sulphur a good example of young Hunter Semillon, the 14 was preferred on the day with good complexity, more fruit and filled out beautifully.
With temperatures expected in the high 30s, the lunch today was perfect. It was salmon marinated in home-made miso with a sauce of soy, sesame, lime land ginger. It was accompanied by soba buckwheat noodles, seasonal mango and watercress. The salmon was cooked ‘a point’ and flavours perfectly integrated with peppery watercress, sweet mango, noodles and the fish.
Many members commented on the originality and quality of the dish. A guest of Bill Alexiou, Mark Jensen, who is the executive chef and owner of Red Lantern restaurant gave a glowing commentary on all food presented today. Definitely a Chef of the Year nominee.
James Healey presented the cheese today, a ‘Perenzin Capra Ubriaco al Traminer’. Ubriaco translates to drunken, a common group name for cheeses cured in wine and fermented grape must. It is a cheese-making process inspired by the centuries-old custom of hiding cheese to conceal them from raiders in time of war or the masters' accounting ledger.
The Ubriaco al Traminer is a goat milk cheese of semihard consistency that is uniformly textured. It is steeped in Traminer grape great marc for 10 days imparting a floral wine-like flavour with grape residues clinging to its characteristically dark rind.
Spencer Ferrier continued his coffee tour of the world with a PNG blue which was derived from the Jamaica blue mountain coffee. It had a lightness in flavour and a ‘dreamy taste’ to quote Spencer. He also brought along some lemongrass tea for Wal.
Wine review 1
Our canapé wine was the Tyrrell’s Belford Semillon 2017 served first followed by 2014. Given the numbers in the room, our Winemaster took the opportunity to present some bin-ends as well.
Domaine Sebastian Brunet Vouvray 2014: Brooding nose, complex, broad palate, good balance and a hint of residual sugar in the finish.
Fraser Gallop Chardonnay Margaret River 2014: Balanced wine, typical nose, some oak, good length and acid. Somewhat lighter than the Vouvray could benefit from cellaring another five years.
The Yard Shiraz Acacia Vineyard Franklin River W.A. 2014: Quite linear, high acid Shiraz with some length.
Vinden Estate Basket Press Shiraz Hunter Valley 2010: Oaky start to finish which diminished the fruit, acid showing.
Wine review 2
Apéritif wines were an interesting comparison of two Tyrrell’s Belford Sémillons. The 2017 tasted first was still austere and closed with obvious sulphur dioxide. We won’t see that again for a few years. On the other hand, the 2014 was starting to open up and show a little bottle development. It will perhaps be at its best over the next couple of years.
With the main course, we matched a Chenin Blanc and a Chardonnay. The first was a 2014 Sébastien Brunet Vouvray Sec Arpent. Showing a lot of complexity from natural ferment and ageing on lees it had a depth and mouthfeel that worked well with the salmon. As a contrast, the 2014 Fraser Gallop Parterre Margaret River Chardonnay was still bright and in its youth. A little mono-dimensional, it might lack the structure to develop over time.
The cheese wines were both from the 2010 vintages but from opposite sides of the continent. The Cherubino ‘The Yard’ Shiraz was rich in texture and flavour with a slight hardness on the finish. The Vincent Estate Basket Press Shiraz showed ripe fruit characters that belied its low alcohol (13.5%). It showed softness with fleshy fruit but starting to tire.
At the end of the lunch celebrated Wal’s achievement in turning 103 and as 50 plus year member of our Society. Our toast was the traditional rum supplied by Wal, Bundaberg Inner Circle Cask Strength Rum with 75% alc.vol.
Wal thanked everyone for being there and reminded us of his philosophy on life ‘don’t whinge, live with what you’ve got and if you have a heart and have a mate you’ve made it.
Remember love, joy, peace, goodness, patience, kindness and self-control.
12 November 2019 - CoTD Mark Bradford
Mark Bradford was in the kitchen today and chose to not ask for assistance and prepared all the canapés and the main without the assistance of another member. A very self-sufficient Prof Bradford.
On his lonesome, he turned out three starters. First off were mini sausage rolls from pork and veal mince, bacon and toasted fennel seeds. The accompanying ketchup was made from ripe tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. They looked and tasted wonderful.
Next up were small crepes with chopped chives in batter, spread with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and Danish caviar rolled into a cylinder and cut into bite-sized portions. I believe Mark made the crêpes which had a smashing texture and consistency.
Finally, came mini corn fritters and fruit chutney, based on Bill Granger who has two kernels processed in the batter for every whole one in the fritter. Again, these were made from scratch and were yet another testament to the work that Mark put into this lunch.
We were provided with a Spanish influenced dish with a Basque fish stew or marmitako. Ingredients were fresh tuna, Desiree potatoes, sweet paprika, green capsicum, puree of roast red capsicum and roasted tomatoes. This was served with toasted and oiled baguette slices with a garnish of lemon zest and roughly chopped parsley. This reviewer is not a massive fish fan but I found this tasty and very enjoyable.
Even before we tasted the cheese today it was so very picturesque that I liked it at first sight. It was Spanish Merco Queso Iberico semicurado. Not Manchego (it looks like it) but made from cow, goat and sheep milk. The creamy texture melts in the mouth gradually, releasing a rich, full-bodied nuttiness before delivering a fruity tang on the finish.
Spencer provided a Rwandan coffee for the third time in 2019 as part of his worldwide tour. It had a grassiness on the palate and was all the more enjoyable for medium to heavy roast.
Wines (No wine notes from this week)
Mark provided the lunch with a remarkably diverse range of dishes all on his lonesome. Well done.
5 November 2019 - Melbourne Cup lunch at Brick Lane
The WFS NSW Cup luncheon was at Brick Lane who once again did a great job serving a wide variety of dishes. A photo of the menu is above.
We began with Society supplied Champagne, Pierre Gimonnet NV, which was fresh and lively, a perfect start. After that, we all supplied our own wine and there were some beauties bough out from home cellars. Much fun was had and some of even watched the race.
29 October 2019 - CoTD James Tinslay
Wine review is by Chilly Hargrave
The Chef of the Day this week was James Tinslay and in the interests of transparency that would be me. I was assisted by Keith Steele on canapés and in the kitchen and by Gary Linnane with canapés. This, of course, was a wine lunch and Chilly Hargraves presented a wonderful selection of six wines.
NOTE: volunteers to write a review of a lunch are always very welcome.
Between Gary and Keith, there were two canapés. From Keith an unusual serve of a small papadum filled with a curry and egg mixture. Simple but very tasty. This is followed by a starter of cornichons on smoked sausage. The sausage was divine and had been sourced by Gary from charcutier Romeo Baudouin.
Being a wine lunch the flavours were kept under control with the emphasis on some high-quality free-range chicken thighs skin-on, bone-in that had been browned both sides prior to roasting. The chicken had been baked in a sauce of blood oranges, maple syrup, cranberry and mustard. A good swig of cider vinegar kept any sweetness under control. The chicken was served with duck fat potatoes, baked carrots and asparagus.
Cheese today was presented by Gary Linnane and was a Will Studd Comte, one of my very favourites. This was an aged Comte with our portion cut from a 36 kg wheel. It was in excellent shape with medium firmness and wonderful finesse.
Spencer was not with us today but he had delivered from Forsyth Coffee House, East Timor coffee. It was medium-bodied with a sweet palate.
The major aperitif wine today was a 2011 Lindeman’s Semillon. At 8 years of age, it was showing traditional aged Hunter characters. Although still with bright acidity it is nearing its drink now window.
This was followed by an exciting selection of wines for the tasting. A 2014 Tolpuddle Chardonnay was a definitely in its youth. With obvious natural ferment characters, it was supported by well-balanced oak and acidity. It was followed by a pair of 2012 white burgundies. The members were general king in agreement that the third wine was a Chablis while the second came from vineyards further south. The Chablis 1er Cru ‘Fourchaume’ showed the expected whetstone minerality although it was starting to show some evolution. Such a shame that the top end Chablis have cork rather than screw cap. The Vincent Girardin St Aubin 1er Cru ’Les Dents de Chien’ was in good condition with an excellent balance of fruit, oak and acidity. The Girardin wines are made in the bigger style which brought more depth to the St Aubin. As mentioned on the day, St Aubin is tucked in behind the Montrachet vineyard and can offer excellent buying if you choose a vineyard with good aspect.
The bracket of 3 Pinot Noirs was led by a glorious 2012 Phillipe Cheron Vosne Romanée ‘Les Barreaux’. Although not classified the vineyard sits just above the Grand Cru ‘Richbourg’. The wine had lovely, bright, cherry fruit with a great length on the palate. The tannins were still surprisingly firm. A wine that we won’t see for some time as it is still so young. Brilliant. The other burgundy was a 2010 Roche de Bellene Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Lavaut St Jacques’. A vineyard on the other side of the village to the great Grand Crus, the wine was a beautiful example of a mature burgundy - complex with depth and richness. The tannins were softer than might be expected from the village, but that meant it was a great drink on the day.
Another 2010 wine was the Yabby Lake Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir. It stood up pretty well to the competition from the burgundies of a similar age, but much higher price point. The winemaker (Tom Carson) is a ‘burgundyfile’ and it shows in the complexity and vigour he has been able to extract from the fruit.
As an aside, we opened 16 bottles today that were under cork with no TCA issues. That followed on from 30 Spanish wines under cork with no issues as well. Not sure what that means. Just lucky I think!!!
22 October 2019 - CoTD Antoni Serra, La Despensa
Today we were fortunate to have Antoni Serra, the chef and owner of La Despensa restaurant in Neutral Bay. Nick Reynolds had organised Antoni for this marquee event. Anthony is of course, Spanish, and also has a Spanish wine importing business and the Society had purchased some of these wines to serve with the lunch today. His food is based on that of the Catalunyan city of Barcelona.
Antonio presented us with two canapés the could come straight out of a bar in Barcelona. Firstly croqueta de marisco (seafood croqueta) served on a small bed of Romesco sauce followed with a bite of roasted capsicum, eggplant and onion topped with Angelachu anchovies, which are hand filleted premium anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea. What they both had in common was a mouthful flavour. They lasted on the serving plates for a very short period. The anchovies were not over salted and had a medium-bodied intensity that did not overpower the other ingredients on the spoon.
One of our favourite proteins, lamb, was served as the main. In this case, braised lamb shoulder wrapped in brik pastry served on a bed of eggplant hummus with almonds, sesame seeds and smoked paprika dukkah. This was accompanied by oven-roasted vegetables. The lamb had been slow-cooked then shredded and shaped to oblong blocks around which the brik pastry was wrapped. Very flavoursome however, some would have liked a little more moisture in the meat. The presentation was most engaging.
Most would have assumed that with the focus on Spain that we would have had a Spanish cheese but they were wrong. The holidaying James Healey had selected the cheese and it was presented by Gary Linnane who explained that the French cheese was Jean Faup chevre which came to us in a 4 kg wheel. The goat’s cheese had been pasteurised and hails from the Pyrenees region. This semi-hard cheese was a real hit with its pungent nose and medium bodied, distinctive goat cheese flavour.
Spencer was not with us today but had delivered one of the favourite coffees of the Society, Colombia, as supplied by Forsyth coffee. It had its usual full flavour but I felt the dosing was a little short and as I was the doser, I know where to lay the blame.
Antoni imports a range of Catalunya wines, a few of which we tasted on the day.
With the canapés, we had a white and a rosé. The former (Bouquet d’Allela 2018) was an interesting blend of Pansa Blanca (Xarel-lo) and Garnatxa Blanca (White Grenache). Xarel-lo is widely planted in the Penedes and most commonly used in Cava, while White Grenache is common to many Mediterranean vineyards. The wine showed a bright colour with complex fruit aromas. The palate was textural with a savoury, phenolic finish. The rosé from Espelt was another fresh 2018 wine, this time from Grenache, with attractive pink hues and fresh fruit. The palate was full of red fruits, again with a savoury dry finish.
Another of Antoni’s wines was the Clos Galena Priorat 2015. A blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah it was still young with fresh, spicey fruits. The same fruit profile carried to the palate finishing with firm tannins. Still a young wine. This was matched with another Priorat from Torres. The Salmos 2011 was a similar blend, but on this occasion with the Grenache as the dominant component. Showing more evolved complex aromas, it still finished with the expected drying tannins,
With the cheese, we travelled to the south and the west. The La Purisma Trapio Monastrell 2008 from Yecla (Alicante) still showed fresh, spicey, peppery fruit. These characters carried on to the palate, balanced with the still firm Mouvèdre tannins. From Rioja, we had a Gabaxo 2013 from Olivier Rivière - a Frenchman who jumped the border into Spain. A mix of Tempranillo and Grenache it is his attempt at a Rhône style blend. Softer and fruitier than we might expect from Rioja, it nevertheless had length and depth. A good match for the cheese.
An excellent lunch with some torrid debate about the honesty or otherwise of member commentary on wine and food.
Those who may be interested in La Despensa in Neutral Bay it is a simple Google search away and Antoni’s Spanish wines can be found at vinicolawines.com.au. A wonderful lunch.