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Welcome to the S of A.

South Australia, has opened its door to welcome everyone to this beautiful city of churches, gardens or something a little bit more attractive to a food enthusiast like me, – the surrounding wineries. “Over 200 cellar doors on your doorstep”, a promising slogan of the new South Australian Tourism marketing push to position Adelaide and SA as the nation’s wine tourism capital. Wineries regions like Barossa, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Adelaide Hills and many others are all just within a 60 minutes drive from Adelaide city centre.

To celebrate their new cellar door theme television commercial, a couple of food bloggers and myself are invited to the showcase dinner at QUAY restaurant to experience what South Australia has to offer. An opportunity no one could resist, and since I’ve never been to QUAY, I know I am in for a treat.

The Pom and I arrived at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at 7pm sharp and soon greeted by Philip Engelberts, the founder of PEPR who is standing right at the top of the stairs welcoming everyone who walks through the grapevines arch. The function room upstairs at QUAY has transformed into a representation of a cellar door tasting room with wooden fences covered in luscious foliage and grapevines.

Tonight is all about showcasing the great wine and fresh produce from South Australia and the opportunity to mingle with some of the State’s finest winemakers. Guests are presented with two different wines upon arrival, we have the options of NV Grant Burge Sparkling Blanc de Noirs and the 2008 Charles Melton Brut Peche. I go for the Brut Peche, a sweet easy drinking sparkling red which looks similar to a rosé.

After a few chit chat with winemakers and journalists, we are soon informed by the host of this evening, Nick Ryan, a freelance journalist and wine writer, to take our seats as the dinner is about to start.

The first course of this evening is poached South Australian marron which is perfectly cooked and tender, served with seaweed jelly which really brings out the sweet flavour of the marron. A few julienne of cucumber, fennel and baby onion bulbs adds the crunch. Each dish is paired with two different wine for comparison. The 2009 O’Leary Walker Polish Hill River Riesling is very light and crisp, while the 2008 Yalumba The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier has a fuller body with a sweeter fruity flavour which I like.

The next course is a pork dish and paired with two different Chardonnays. The twice cooked belly of Barossa Shu Am Berkshire pork is fragrant with star anise glaze, topped with pickled carrots for the colour and texture. The pork belly is incredibly tender with a generous layer of fat which makes it simply melts in the mouth. It is paired with 2008 Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay which is clean and crisp; in comparison with 2008 Bremerton Reserve Chardonnay which I preferred, is smoother and sweeter. But both are pairing very well with the dish by enhancing its flavour even further.

There are Q&As sessions in between courses with the winemakers from different regions to tell us more about their wineries and the wines they produced. It is very informative and inspiring to hear different success stories. We are very lucky to be sitting right next to Rebecca Willson from Bremerton Wines who is exceptionally insightful and passionate about what she loves doing.

“I started learning about wine after finishing school at 18 years old. I initially took a wine course which is more focusing on sales and marketing, but I always know I am more interested in wine making.” Rebecca told us. A team of two sisters, their commitment and determination have finally paid off. In 2004, Rebecca and Lucy Willson had given Bremerton a brand new attitude, by releasing a new range of premium red and white wines which are innovatively crafted to reflect a new chapter of the Bremerton winery tradition.

Our third course is slow cooked Limestone Coast Pure Suffolk lamb with young vegetables. A slice of pinkish Suffolk lamb is topped with roasted quinoa, sunflower seeds, pine nuts and hazelnuts; with a thin layer of comté-infused fresh milk curd in between. The Pom is rather excited to see Pure Suffolk Lamb on the menu as his brother also has a few of them at the home farm back in England. No surprise that the Pure Suffolk Lamb is indeed delicious with a modest amount of tiny marbling flecks present in the meat makes it even softer and juicier.

This time we are pairing the lamb with 2007 Samuel’s Gorge Shiraz and 2005 Zema Estate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are really different with their own distinctive characteristics. The Samuel’s Gorge Shiraz is an easy drinking, fruity shiraz while the Zema Estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon is sophisticated, dry and oakey, just how I like my red.

We finish our dinner this evening with a refreshing dessert of honey roast Riverland peach, served on a fluffy bed of nectarine mousse, and verjus and red peach sorbet. And what does this tell you? The stone fruits season is coming and looks like we are in for a treat this year with some of the sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted.

The Pom beams me a cheesy grin after having the first sip of the pairing dessert wine, which is a 2008 d’Arenberg The Noble Mud Pie Viognier Pinot Gris Marsanne. I thought the label looks familiar and I’m pretty sure I have a bottle at home. And I was not wrong, I checked and indeed we still have a bottle of 1999 d’Arenberg The Nobel McLaren Vale Semillon in our collection. I can see why The Pom loves it so much after have my first taste, it is almost like drinking honey syrup with a hint of sweet scent of dandelions, daisies or elderflower is what I could think of.

After finishing our dinner, I want to know whether my wine tasting skill has improved and share my tasting notes with Rebecca to see whether I am actually tasting it correctly like everyone else or still an amateur trying to talk big when I have absolutely no clue what so ever. I am confident and confirmed with her that I am leaning towards the wines being poured into the glasses on the right (will be the second pairing wine of each dish) which has more characteristics.

“You are absolutely doing it right (not my tasting notes I suspect),” Rebecca replied. “There is no right or wrong in wine, some people prefer light, clean, fruity, and some people prefer a little bit more dry, or oakey, etc. Different wine will taste better on different palates, so there is absolutely nothing wrong with which wine you prefer. All winemakers will not be upset simply because you prefer their wines more than ours or vice versa. A lot of people are so afraid of sharing their experience because they worried they will say the wrong thing but seriously, don’t be.”

The lovely Rebecca also giving each couple at the table a bottle of their 2005 Bremerton Reserve Cabernet to keep. Rebecca suggests us to keep it for another 5 years as she predicts it is the prime period for the wine to be drank. Rebecca says, “Again, you can keep it for another 5 years to 10 years. 5 years is my prediction that the wine at its best, but like my dad he probably would prefer to keep it for 10 years when the wine is a lot more subdue and mellow, but I think it will lose most of its characteristic by then.”

5 years that is… and I will let you know whether my palate has become more mature and sophisticated, and call myself a “vintage”.

[A Table For Two was invited to the event by PEPR on behalf of South Australian Tourism Commission]


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QUAY restaurant
Upper Level Overseas Passengers Terminal
Circular Quay West
Sydney NSW 2000
P: (02) 9251 5600

For more information about South Australia Tourism, please visit:
http://www.southaustralia.com

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