Nick Reynolds kitted up for the final cook off for 2013 COTY, and he should be a shoo-in if the comments from the large crowd of about 48 are any guide.

He started with some handmade mini pork buns a la Momofuku, made on slow cooked pork belly with spring onion, hoisin and a bit of this and that. The buns were nicely soft but not chewy, and the whole was well washed down by a brace of Lustau sherries, along with an inconsistent 2002 Rothbury black label semillon ( blame the corks), a couple of better Lindemans 2005 semillons and a fleeting Steingarten from the 1990’s.

So to the main event, with two beautifully sous vide medallions of venison loin reclining on a bed of indulgent chicken and veal reduction sauce thickened with potato flour next to a thin slice of poached pear stuffed with panacotta and herbs thickened with agar agar, a piece of cooked but still crunchy beetroot on a dab of goat’s curd the only other thing on the plate, although a dish of green beans embellished with almond slivers was passed around.  The meat was soft and pink, the sauce oleaginous and the remnants on the plate ideally scraped up with bread pieces and the pear lent a note of fruit sweetness. No one complained about portion sizes, presumably stunned by the flavours and presentation. It all overwhelmed a 2010 Lindemans Harriet’s Elegant pinot from the Yarra Valley and a 2009 Tamar Ridge pinot from Tasmania, although the latter had a bit more structure underlying sweetish fruit.

The leftover pears found their way to a poaching dish with aromatic spices and were served cold as an accompaniment to an interesting Toggenburger Nidel  semi-hard cheese from Switzerland, akin to appenzeller but more subdued in intensity and fooling most into thinking French With both, a cleanskin which proved to be a 2005 Lindemans  Stevens shiraz from the Hunter and the 2004 St Hugo Coonawarra cabernet. The former was stylish and well made, but needing a bit more time to develop Hunter characters, while the St Hugo was a typical Coonawarra with big minty fruit characters, needing a good few more years to hit its straps.

Coffee was a single plantation bean from the coastal area of Colombia, medium roast and showing a particularly attractive long and fruity finish

Our special guest was Philip Laffer, former head winemaker at Orlando/Jacobs Creek and recent recipient of an AM for services to the industry. Phil is now involved with wine in China and gave some fascinating insights into the Byzantine ways in which wine, both local and imported, is growing in that potentially huge market