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.

Metro Magazine NZ - - Metro Presents -

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.

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