Tips to sat­isfy your palate

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Re­cently, I was very for­tu­nate to at­tend a wine­maker’s dinner at the fan­tas­tic Palate restau­rant in Hamil­ton, hosted by Gor­don Russell of Esk Val­ley Wines.

Esk Val­ley is an old es­tab­lished Hawke’s Bay pro­ducer, and Gor­don has been mak­ing their wines for over 20 years. Part of the Villa Maria Group, which has al­ways been a firm fam­ily favourite, I was more than keen to try their wines, and they cer­tainly didn’t dis­ap­point.

Esk Val­ley Mer­lot Rose 2015 is a blush wine made from red grapes, dry but sweet-fruited, with notes of straw­berry, and highly en­joy­able.

Show me a chardon­nay and I usu­ally get in­ter­ested, show me a wine­maker’s reserve and I get ex­cited, as it of­ten sug­gests a big fat tasty oaky beast of a wine – the best kind. As luck would have it, Esk Val­ley Wine­maker’s Reserve Chardon­nay 2015 is ex­actly that style.

A mouth-fill­ing, but­tery, min­er­ally pile of ex­cel­lence.

It was served with an en­tirely veg­e­tar­ian course, which would nor­mally cause a fur­rowed brow and a mut­tered curse, but the potato gnoc­chi was a per­fect match.

Served with some beau­ti­ful Ha­puka, Esk Val­ley 2016 Verdelho was a rev­e­la­tion. Orig­i­nally from the Por­tuguese is­land of Madeira, Verdelho is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar as con­sumers look for some­thing new and dif­fer­ent.

Esk Val­ley was the first to plant the va­ri­ety in New Zealand, as far back as 1998.

Esk Val­ley also pro­duce one of NZ’s ab­so­lute clas­sic wines – The Ter­races.

A blend of clas­sic Bordeaux va­ri­eties, it sits at the very top of the tree and has be­come an iconic wine that is gen­er­ally of­fered ‘en primeur’, a French tra­di­tion where top wines are of­fered for sale while still in the bar­rel to those lucky (or wealthy!) enough to be ‘on the list’.

Sadly, we didn’t get to try any! In­stead, we were treated to Esk Val­ley, The Hill­side, Caber­net/ Mer­lot 2010. It is a big, mus­cu­lar, dark fruited and com­plex wine that will age well but is al­ready spec­tac­u­lar.

When I’m not com­bin­ing grain­fed sir­loin steak with mag­nif­i­cent NZ red wines, I tend to beer and food match at home.

As a go-to com­mer­cial beer that is sev­eral lev­els above the usual sus­pects, Mon­teith’s RIPA Red IPA is a great op­tion.

I love red beers, and this is pretty de­cent, and it works equally as well with fish and chips or with roast chicken. Flavour­some and nicely weighty, at around $16 for a six-pack it’s worth hunt­ing down.

In my pre­vi­ous col­umn, I men­tioned the sup­posed demise of the loved Mikes from Taranaki. I am happy to say Mikes is very much alive and kick­ing, and pro­duc­ing some very tasty beers. My apolo­gies to Ron and all at Mikes for the er­ror.

Si­mon Wood grew up in Hamil­ton and now lives in Te Aroha.

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