A seasonal supper matched perfectly
Metro heads out on a cold winter’s night to a glorious seasonal feast — a collaboration between Marlborough’s Stoneleigh Wines and The Tasting Shed.
There was snow on the Desert Road the night Stoneleigh invited us to a mid-winter seasonal feast: they told us to wrap up warm, but even for Auckland this was mighty cold. We pulled up at The Tasting Shed in Waimauku — better known for long, languid lunches in the height of summer — and there was a light fog. As we made our way up the path, our breath creating white clouds, the lights inside were low, the heaters were on, and a whole pig awaited.
We stood in the courtyard drinking Stoneleigh Wild Valley Pinot Noir 2016 from custom-made porcelain tumblers and stamping our feet to shake out the cold, while Stoneleigh’s chief winemaker Jamie Marfell stood there in a light jacket.
“When I left Marlborough this morning it was -2 degrees and I had to scrape the ice off my windscreen,” said Marfell. “So this is quite balmy really.” While summers in Marlborough are hot, winters are cold. This contrast, plus the unique characteristics of the soil, helps define the area’s wine.
We were there to eat, of course, and to drink wine, but also to celebrate the art of good ingredients treated well and served simply, and to take a sneak peek into Stoneleigh’s range of rare and special wines, along with current releases.
Marfell, and The Tasting Shed owner Ganesh Raj worked together to create a menu inspired by the land, the sea and the earth — in essence, to create food that would sit simply and elegantly alongside a range of Stoneleigh wines.
Stoneleigh varietals are grown in the Rapaura region of Marlborough, where over thousands of years the Wairau River has criss-crossed its way across the landscape, depositing stones that make wine from here so distinct: at once mineral and fruitdriven, with a crisp acidity. “People think of winemaking as being quite intensive, but truth be told I don’t really do all that much,” Marfell said in reference to his minimal intervention winemaking technique. “I just spend a lot of time in the vineyard and working with the guys who grow the grapes.”
That’s something that defines Stoneleigh wines across the board: in essence a range of varietals — sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling pinot gris, merlot, pinot noir — from different sites express the appellation in subtly different ways. Stoneleigh’s Wild
Valley wines are the ultimate expression of hands-off winemaking, wild-fermented with a richer, more textural palate. Latitude wines are rich and elegant, thanks to the high concentrations of sunstones in the soil. And the Rapaura Series comes from a single vineyard of low-cropping, best-quality fruit — delicate expressions of the terroir.
It’s a perfect fit for The Tasting Shed: during their six years in operation and multiple appearances in Metro’s annual Top 50 Restaurants, a particular sort of feel has emerged. A former apple cidery, there are steel-framed doors and rough-hewn walls, and scrubbed timber tables. The food here, while ingredient-driven and unpretentious, is far from rustic but it’s somehow approachable. “This is what we love to do,” said Raj, “just really look after people and do it well. It’s not about price or pretension, it’s about doing it really, really well.”
Stoneleigh’s Wild Valley wines are the ultimate expression of hands-off winemaking.
We started with an entrée of fresh, yellow-fin tuna ceviche, served with blood orange, ponzu and hibiscus. It was a dish that traversed between polished and rustic, and eventually settled on real.
Its crisp acidity cried out for sauvignon blanc: most notably, the Rapaura Series Sauvignon Blanc 2016, with flavours of white peach and tropical fruit, complementing the citrusy, tart flavours of the dish.
There were other wines too – a 2017 ‘cloudy’ wine, drawn straight from the tank and unfiltered – verging on funky – in a good way. And a Rapaura Series Sauvignon Blanc from 2011: softened and aged, leaving the bones of minerality and a herbaceous aroma.
Next up, the main course: a whole pig, cooked on a spit for many many hours. Right down to the tail, its parts were used in different ways to create a dish of textural and flavour contrast, alongside an edible garden of pickled root vegetables, served on a mushroom soil, with New Zealand potatoes. Plated exquisitely was a perfect square of belly nestled against a piece of crackling, wrapped with a piece of light-as-air pancetta, beside a crumbed press of the head, with autumnal savourysweet accompaniments.
With this, we matched some very fine wines – the Rapaura Series Pinot Noir 2014 was the standout: a perfect expression of the stones it was grown on, the dark cherry flavours complementing and contrasting the unctuousness of the pork. Equally, the Latitude Chardonnay 2016 came with ripe stone fruit aromas and a touch of smokiness, which stood up beautifully to the richness of the dish. There were older versions too – 2012 Rapaura Series Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
For dessert, Marfell and Raj dispensed with any pretence of sweetness. Instead, it was the most perfect cheese course possible: a fondue, into which you might dunk succulent cubes of pork, accompanied by generous slabs of cheese, including an oozing washed rind. With this, we drank a special late-harvest riesling, a wine Marfell produced just for fun with the oversupply of grapes from the 2009 vintage, as well as a Latitude Pinot Gris 2016 – all nashi pears, aniseed and melon; the ideal antidote to the richness of the cheese.
And after a final glass of Rapaura 2012 Pinot Noir – because, why not? – we headed out into the night, the warmth of the restaurant fading behind us. Somehow, we relished the thought that down in Rapaura, it was even colder. Just the way it should be.
LEFT— The main course was matched with Rapaura Series Pinot Noir 2014 and Latitude Chardonnay 2016.
BELOW— The ceviche entrée; Stoneleigh Wild Valley Pinot Noir 2016 served in custom-made porcelain tumblers on arrival.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT— Stoneleigh’s chief winemaker Jamie Marfell and guests at the seasonal supper event; “The Land” serving station; a range of Stoneleigh wines was served; the edible garden, part of the main course.