Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books

Wines to drink

25 June 2010


Every year the Mercy Hospice Brunch gets better. It’s a swanky affair held at the Hyatt and 450 guests enjoy the chance to graze through ten courses of beautifully executed food prepared by star restaurants round town. Better still, ten wineries join in the fun with vinous treats and are paired with the cooks to match each dish with the perfect wine. So what wines were on the menu this year?

To give the morning a lively kick start, Pernod Ricard’s Deutz Prestige Cuvée vintage was poured in the foyer and the creamy rich flavours, soft and full of effervescence were served with Hammerheads’ bite sized smoked salmon blinis. Society photographers rushed about, snapping the guests and hardly a word could be heard above the buzz, reminiscent of those vuvuzelas at the World Cup.

Then it was off to the serious business of gourmet eating and drinking. Most of the restaurateurs had anticipated the stormy wintry weather and prepared hearty comfort food with a twist. So with the huge task ahead of us, we headed first to the two seafood plates. Bracu restaurant had prepared a tartare of salmon folded with horseradish crème and surrounded by a sauce gribcihe and baby parsley. A lovely start with Coopers Creek SV Marlborough Riesling ‘Mr Phebus.’ I have no idea who Mr Phebus is, but he sounds like he should be a horse. He does grow lovely grapes to make this exquisite example of a Riesling that balances sweetness and acidity very well.

The second oceanic choice was Mikano’s Waikanae crab lasagne with a truly perfect beurre blanc. I could have gone back for a second helping of this masterpiece, but the queue was too long. And Villa Maria’s Marlborough Chardonnay 2007 was equally sublime. I nearly sneaked back for that too.

Hawkesby, Brett McGregor of Masterchef fame and I shared the next dish; Poderi Crisci’s braised beef cheek on a hugely generous portion of saffron risotto finished with gremolata and truffle oil. Delightful. And matched to Poderi Crisci Merlot 2007, a plumy soft wine grown and produced at Antonio Crisci’s boutique winery on Waiheke Island. True Italian flair in both the winery and the kitchen.

I sent Hawkesby off to get Andiamo’s dish; a perfect square of braised pork belly on a black tiger prawn polenta cake with apple pea puree and crisp crackling. We both loved this dish, even if John thought the polenta was potato. (He may know about wine, but needs more practice with his food skills.) Saint Clair’s 2008 Pioneer Block12 Lone Gum Gewurztraminer was a terrific spicy match with soft rose petal aromas.

Bowmans dished up a playful interpretation of vitello tonnato. I loved the slice of sparkling fresh tuna, the braised veal and the snowy mound of lemon foam. It reminded me of lemon meringue pie, and was well matched with Elephant Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2008. This relatively new winery in Te Awanga, Hawkes Bay produced a Savvy that was classical, with flavours of citrusy lemon to complement the dish.

Dawsons, clever caterers on the Auckland scene had made a meltingly soft lamb shank dish with smoked sage gnocchi and a jus with hints of liqourice and beetroot. Remarkable, and lovely with the Weeping Sands Waiheke Island Syrah 2008. We loved it all.

Do you know Xocopoli? Hawkesby had no idea. Tribeca, the classy Newmarket restaurant got daring and served their rare ostrich fillet with xocopoli crumble, butternut, Rocquefort milk, dates and coffee. The dish was riot of flavours and colour, and I am sure that poor John still doesn’t know xocopoli is Mexican chocolate. He did love the accompanying Coalpit Pinot Noir 2007 however, a great example of fine Central Otago wine.

There was an endless queue for the one and only dessert. Prepared by the Hyatt’s own kitchen, a the hazelnut and Baileys mousse with thyme apple went beautifully with Mount Riley Pinot Gris 2009. A sweet and toothsome finale.

But there’s more! The winning dish on the day, as judged by the Masterchef, the wine buff and the MC (me) was a tender, flavour-filled osso bucco with light as air truffle potato tortellini and gremolata, from Prime Bistro, that super little lunchtime restaurant in the PWC tower opposite the Ferry building. We loved it and we loved the wine match. Ransom Dark Summit 2005 Cabernet blend was moody, with an intensity of flavour. Unusual, for the blend includes some Carmenère, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot, all grown in Matakana wine region.

The day was a sell out, and over $216,000 was raised for the Hospice. Look out for next year’s event. Can it get better than this?

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