Flicking through the Melbourne Food & Wine Fest Guide is just a feast for the eyes. I’ll go to that one, no that one, or that one….ok all three. But I must admit, the Tarrawarra Estate is one of my faves so when ‘3 Wine Guys & a Gin Man’ popped up, well that was a no brainer. We were to be absolutely spoilt by Melbourne Gin Company, TarraWarra Estate, Mayer Winery & Hoddles Creek.
Tarrawarra Estate. Aka. God’s country. It’s what you think of when you think ‘Yarra Valley’. Rolling hills, beautiful sunsets, amazing wine and the food, oh the food. I’ve ventured here once before with Fiancé and I made him fall in love with duck liver pate. For someone whose favourite food is Spag Bol, this was a huge accomplishment for me. Bravo, JP. Helping amazing food reach the masses, one fiancé at a time.
Back to Saturday. Beautiful day in Melbs. Or so Mother Nature led us to believe. But we can get to that later. We started with delicious cocktails brought to you by Melbourne Gin Company and canapés on the new deck space. This area is damn delightful and I felt like I was a character in wind in the willows…or something where you stand on a deck and the trees sway in the breeze. Bliss.
As my buddy JW (‘Jessica’s All Good Things’. Lovely lady. Check out the blog) and I had been discussing Negronis a lot of late, with a Melb Gin Negroni on the menu, it was a done deal. And did it deliver! Such smooth gin, Campari, vermouth, what’s not to love. Perfect Negroni.
The canapés rolled out with the lovely waiters and we knew we were in for a delicious night. I’m going to put it out there, I’m pretty sure this is what heaven looks like. Cocktails, amazing scenery and oh so tasty food. Sign me up.
Trays of oysters were moving around and I had to sample a few to get a true appreciation for one of my favourite things. Well that was the excuse I used anyway. The gin and tonic granita provided a great punch on the oyster but still managed to let the little morsel shine and not be overpowered. Balance. Yep. Balance.
Another favourite of the canapés were the dukkah crusted olives. Oh em gee. These were incredible. Warm and crispy with the smooth olive on the inside. Thankfully they came in pairs. And the lovely waitress knew to sneak back to me on her laps so she became my new friend for the evening.
What I loved about this evening of delights, aside from the incredible food and wine, was the passion. Not in a wanky Masterchef way, but the three winemakers and gin man present, as well as those presenting the food were full of the stuff. They made you feel so welcome and wanted to share their story with you. Each one of them spoke so enthusiastically about the reason they get out of bed each morning (SO early) and why they do what they do, and each person at that dinner would have gained a greater appreciation for what was put in front of them.
Bravo to you. I raise my tea cup (wishing it was TarraWarra Shiraz) and salute you.
We were seated and welcomed by the lovely Ben of the Tarrawarra variety and our eyes met a beautiful vine leaf and scrumptious menu that I held back from drooling all over. It was going to be a feast and a half and at that point I regretted eating every canapé three times over….ok four times over. My portion control issues were very evident on this particular evening. And every other evening now I think about it.
Slow cooked salmon, tahini yoghurt, coriander, walnut
Slicing a piece out of this bad boy was like digging for treasure. In a very smooth, easy to cut landscape. Well that analogy didn’t work well, but hopefully you get what I mean.
The sous vide salmon had been prepping all day and was damn perfect. Yet to meet someone who doesn’t like tahini so the combination of that yoghurt with coriander and walnut provided the best accompaniment for the salmon. I would say it was my favourite dish of the night, but the rest was just as delicious so I can’t decide.
Now, I’m no wine connoisseur. I know what I like, I know what I don’t, and I occasionally throw in a fancy word to make myself sound slightly more sophisticated. I haven’t ever really been a fan of Chardonnay. Never floated my boat. But. There’s a but. The three provided with the salmon were the perfect pairing for the fish. My personal favourite being the 2014 Mayer Chardonnay.
I must say, the company at the dinner was so entertaining and we learnt so much about TarraWarra’s endeavours as well as the local winemakers and gin man who had joined the party for the evening. Like, Melbourne Gin Co took a whole year to perfect the flavour of their dry gin. Grapefruit peel from Gembrook, rosemary from his mum and dad’s backyard….gotta love the locals.
The next dish looked as though it was from a feast in Game of Thrones. Plates piled up with rabbit with a honey cardamom glaze were placed along the table and you could hear the ooohs and ahhhs. I think they were mostly coming from me. This rabbit, accompanied with almond skordalia was delightful once again. Surprisingly only one attendee of the large group hadn’t tried rabbit before and she loved it, and so will you. Fantastic meat. I could have had the whole platter to myself. Almost did. The rabbit was served with a Pinot Noir from TarraWarra, Mayer and Hoddles Creek. Each with their difference twists on the tongue. Let me just say, there also was not a shortage in the vino. None of this, sip and move on business. My glass remained full throughout the evening and it was done in such a sneaky way, I hardly ever saw the waiter. Brilliant sneak work. I commend you.
The dishes were accompanied by salads all put together from produce from the TarraWarra Estate Kitchen Garden. A field of dreams in my opinion. They even make their own vincotto to dress salads like a fantastic caprese with tomatoes of all colours. Ah it was superb. Another salad highlight was the sautéed warrigal greens, chickpeas, harissa and my fave, preserved lemons. Who would have thought that combo could taste so good. It wasn’t as pretty as a picture, but the taste made up for that tenfold.
We soon noticed that the weather was matching the way our wine was going. From a beautiful light breeze and sunshine to a darker more complex system. Ha oh JP, stop with the analogies. But you get my drift. Again. Lovely light chardonnay, to pinot noir and now we were moving into duck country. The land of the Merlot and Cab Sav. The storm was rolling in and we saw some incredible lightening rolling in over the valley.
In my opinion, rain, hail or shine, TarraWarra has one of the best views in the Yarra Valley so if you haven’t ventured to this fantastic restaurant and gallery, please do.
Because we all needed more food, the next dish soon came out and this was definitely the one I was looking forward to the most. Once again served in a piled high ‘Game of Thrones’ like manner, the duck almost glimmered in the light. Twice cooked duck leg to be precise, along with salt and sugar (do do do do do do aww honey honey) cured duck breast and picked plums. Oh the glory of it all. I managed to get a rather large portion of leg and breast….probably because the plate was right in front of me and I just couldn’t say no. The breast was rare and delectable and the legs were the best I’ve seen in my days. Heidi Klum has nothing on these babies. Oh JP. Please stop.
Must admit I am more partial to the complex, ‘deeper’ reds and I was thoroughly looking forward to the 2012 TarraWarra Estate K Block Merlot and the 2014 Mayer Cab Sauvignon and they did not disappoint. As described to us, the ‘standard’ Merlot gives more of a donut flavour on the palate. And no, not cinnamon or chocolate. There isn’t that ‘fullness’. The hole is missing. Mm donut holes. Whereas TarraWarra is more ‘generous’ with that flavour and I enjoyed it immensely. So much in fact that I purchased a bottle (and a bottle of Shiraz) as we were leaving.
We were well and truly full by this stage but of course, it was time for the dessert tummy to do it’s thing. Pannacotta. A brilliant finish to the evening. Light, yet a lot of flavour and exactly what we all needed after such rich meats. This Lemon Verbene Pannacotta was the base cradling some delicious gin and tonic jelly and was accompanied by a drunken apricot. Oh Mr Apricot, I think you’ve had enough. When you start talking to an apricot, I do believe it is in fact you, that has had enough…..awkward.
This spectacular dessert was accompanied with a rather pleasant 1er Yarra Valley Pinot Blanc and a 2013 TarraWarra Single bock MRV. Both of which I wasn’t sure I would enjoy, but they were a great match with the pannacotta.
I had a spectacular night with my buddy JW and the crew from TarraWarra and I thank you again for your hospitality throughout the evening. It was a mighty fine ode to everything that the Yarra Valley should be.
TarraWarra Estate are apparently coming back to the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival bigger and better than ever in 2016 so make sure you get your tickets. I will be first in line, fo sho.