Toast Of Martinborough 2


When we visited Escarpment in New Zealand last November, we **only** got to taste some of its the wine straight from the barrel. Yeah, some hardship. So, it was great to get the chance to try some of the wines with food at the latest winemaker’s dinner held by The Providores in London.

Winemaker Larry McKenna was over from Martinborough to guide us through the dishes which head chef Christian Hossack had created for the evening.

We drank Escarpment Riesling 2009 as an aperitif. Larry explained that while his Rieslings have quite a high amount of residual sugar (grams of sugar per litre of wine), he ensures there is a good level of acidity to offset the sweetness. The result in this case is a rounded but refreshing Riesling.

Escarpement wine menu at The Providores

When matched with amazingly tender pork belly and proper crackly crackling, some people felt the tahini yogurt brought out the fruit in the Riesling. I thought it subdued some of the fruitiness and would like to have tried the dish with a honeyed Pinot Gris. But hey, my palate is different from the next person’s. Luckily, my taste buds told me the dish was divine.

We moved onto Escarpment Chardonnay 2008. The 2009 wine shipment didn’t arrive in time, apparently. The 2008 is a smoky number – I also picked up bananas and aniseed balls on the nose, and grapefruit, bananas and stonefruit on the palate. Christian matched this with smoked halibut with nori sauce. Not your usual Chardonnay and not your usual dish, but I think the two complemented each other pretty well. I was just stupid for not dabbing the sauce with the fish much as I went along and saving most ’til the end.

Sign at the entrance of Escarpment in Martinborough

The biggest hit of the evening was the match with tagliatelle served with cep cream, Pecorino cheese and Perigord truffle – the bosky flavours of the food bringing out the earthy, savoury undertones of the Kiwa Pinot Noir 2008. We then compared the Kiwa with the younger, fruitier Kupe Pinot Noir 2009, which was matched with Oxtail served with bonito salad. Of course that meant we also tried the both Pinots with both dishes. Now this is wine matching!

The majority felt the Kupe was the best match with the Oxtail, but I thought the dish bought out the alcohol flavours in the wine by a whisker. Nicola, from The Providores, and Kat sitting next to me thought the Kiwa tasted ‘spirity’ with the oxtail. I should point out that the Pinots were in different shaped glasses so we couldn’t confuse them.

Escarpment vineyards

We finished with a dish that contained one of the best ice creams I have eaten. EVER. Cashew palm sugar. It was well matched with a stunning Hinemoa Riesling 2009, a mineral beerenauslese-style Riesling with only 9.5% alcohol by volume.

The other great thing about the evening was the people. We knew no one else there – apart from our brief acquaintance with Larry and wine consultant and sommelier Robert Giorgione via Twitter. But we had such a laugh and left feeling we’d been to a rather good party. If only it hadn’t been a school night….

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