Autumn rains colour the celebrations in Kiwi wineries
FOODDetective has been on the trail in New Zealand’s idyllic Marlborough wine region. The news from here, in the north of the South Island, is that the weather has turned. After a long, hot summer that had everyone anticipating a bumper crop, it’s raining on their parade. Mid-harvest. (Mudgee and the Hunter Valley in NSW have had incessant rain following a cool summer, also bad.)
The fragrant, thin-skinned sauvignon blanc grapes that have put these mountainfringed NZ plains on the world map come in tightly packed bunches and are susceptible to botrytis rot (and not the kind that produces dessert wines); so, anxious times. Most vineyards are about two-thirds through their picking but the necessary gamble of leaving the fruit on the vine as long as possible for maximum ripeness and the sudden, sustained rainfall means a lot of grapes will be lost.
AROMATIC white wines are the flagship here, but vineyards are also producing pinot noir, and these wines are soft and lovely. A Winestate magazine article in 2003 mentioned Marlborough’s quiet pinot noir revolution. Pinot noir skins are thicker and the bunches more open, the better to withstand mould. One of the region’s best known winemakers, Cloudy Bay, hosts an annual event, Pinot at Cloudy Bay, at the winery. This year’s will be on June 28 and registrations open next week. Details to come. www.cloudybay.co.nz.
MEANWHILE, at Seresin Estate — the dream-like property owned since the 1990s by NZ-born cinematographer Michael Seresin ( Angela’sAshes , HarryPotterand thePrisonerofAzkaban ) — estate manager Colin Ross tells Detective he cried when he walked along the rows in one of the plantings and saw the damage. But there are still plenty of grapes to be picked. And life on this estate with vineyards in the Wairau and Omaka valleys could only be a celebration, with its organic and biodynamic principles (they make compost ‘‘ teas’’ from seaweed harvested in the Marlborough Sounds), Tuscan olive groves and goat-faced Wiltshire Horn sheep cropping the weeds and providing meat for sausages. www.seresin.co.nz.
HARVEST Celebration Dinners will feature at Seresin’s special-event restaurant at Waterfall Bay. Rex Morgan, chef-owner of leading Wellington restaurant Citron, will offer a five-course dinner matched with wines from Clos Henri, Huia, Lawson’s Dry Hills and Seresin Estate. Each dinner is limited to 35. April 25 and 26; $215 a head includes boat transport from Picton. Bookings: +64 3572 9408.
IT’S no backwater here despite the peace and quiet; Heidi Gibb, chef-owner (with Chris Gibb) of Gibb’s Vineyard Restaurant at Blenheim, tells Detective Sydney chef Tetsuya Wakuda will be cooking with Marlborough chefs at a fundraising dinner for the Marlborough Community Hospice on July 4 at Montana Brancott Winery. Wakuda’s Sydney office confirms the date but details are yet to come.
NOOSA is planning its fifth Celebration of Australian Food & Wine — Noosa Style, which opens with seven top chefs from across the states leading hands-on classes on May 16, 11am-2pm in the Grand Marquee. Lunch and wines are included in the $95 fee. The big weekend continues with food trails, degustations, Queensland Wine Expo and the Great Aussie Picnic, May 16-18, Grand Marquee, Noosa Lions Park. TheAustralian ’ s Graeme Blundell will be one of the foodies competing in the picnic challenge; Detective has high hopes for Blundell’s repeat triumph following last year’s success as the people’s choice winner in the barbecue cook-off.
Buy a Saturday full-day or weekend gold pass before May 1 and you’ll be eligible to enter the running to win dinners for two at 15 of the town’s top restaurants. www.celebrationofaustralianfoodand wine.com.au
FANCY beetroot ravioli, trout stuffed with bread and fennel and spelt salad? Sydneysiders can watch Vogue Entertaining+ Travel food editor Sophia Young make these dishes and more; then it’s time for dinner. Autumn treats (witlof, raddichio, walnuts, chestnuts) join exotica (spelt, vincotto, cocoa nibs) in this demonstration using several cookery techniques. Electrolux Gallery, Domayne, 84 O’Riordan St, Alexandria; April 30, 6.30pm-9.30pm. $60 demonstration, dinner, wines and VE+T gift bag. Bookings: (02) 8062 2513.
TASMANIAN vineyard restaurant Daniel Alps at Strathlynn (at Pipers Brook’s Tamar Valley vineyard) has put together a program of cooking classes at its Rosevears premises. Flash the pans with Dan is held on occasional Saturdays at 6.30pm, followed by dinner. The first class, on game (including butchery tips), is June 21; $215 (with wines and personal pantry bag). Limited to 10. Bookings: (03) 6330 2388.
POTATOES are news this year; it’s the UN International Year of the Potato, celebrating this crucial world staple. Sydney kids will be able to plant their own spuds at the Royal Botanic Gardens; at Spudz4kidz, six to 12-year-olds will plant, cook and eat them. Existing plantings (heritage, rare and threatened varieties such as purple congo and pink fir apple), in a big above-ground Perspex tube, will show roots and tubers in April; the children’s April plantings will be harvested during the July and September school holidays. April 15, 16 and 17; www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au (search for spudz4kidz).
CELEBRATE cheese at a special night at Bells at Killcare, chef Stefano Manfredi’s hideaway on the NSW central coast. Five courses, each focusing on a different cheese, matched with Hunter Valley wines (from Patrick Auld and Usher Tinkler of Pooles Rock Wines). Cheese guru Will Studd will lead a tutored tasting of the final course, which will feature some of the world’s best cheeses. May 16, 7pm; $135. Bookings: (02) 4360 2411.
A STARRING role for Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor and especially its executive pastry chef Nigel Braithwaite. He was formerly at Savoy Hotel London and trained at Ecole Lenotre in Paris; chocolate and sugar-work are Braithwaite’s forte. Now he has been filmed for Forte Communications’ international television series Chefsofthe GreatHotelsoftheWorld part two (series one aired on SBS in Australia, and in 40 other countries). The Windsor is among the few Australian hotels maintaining a dedicated pastry kitchen (Braithwaite leads seven full-time pastry chefs). In the program he visits Gentle Annie berry farm in Victoria and shares pastry-making and dessert tips. The 125-year-old Hotel Windsor’s chocolate fountain also stars. www.thewindsor.com.au; www.gentleannie.com.au.
FIND of the week: A teatime choice between 125-year-old Aussie stalwart Bushells and genteel 300-year-old Brit Twinings. Both have created new Aussie teas: Bushells’ Australian Breakfast ($4.99 for 100 bags); Twinings everyday black Simply Tea ($3.99 for 50; $5.99 for 100); from leading supermarkets.
DETECTIVE loves: Chef Gabriel Gate and Rob Moodie’s RecipesforaGreatLife (Hardie Grant Books, $34.95). Delicious detox and positivity between the covers of a book; recipes with a Gate touch (mushroom filo tartlets, Italian fish stew, rabbit ragout) beside sections on sheds and garages, and joining a choir.
DETECTIVE loathes: A single wine list being offered at a table for two. (Centuries ago, classy restaurants used to give the bloke the proper menu and the lady a version without prices; those were the days.)