The George Winemakers' Dinner series returns with an Australasian 'Meeting of the Vines"
It’s love at first sip.
Glistening diaphanous in the glass with delicate wafts of wildflowers and lime, Misha’s Vineyard Limelight Riesling is an expertly conducted symphony of lightly-honeyed zesty citrus and the epitome of lightning in a bottle. Its flawless supple minerality and nuanced acidity provides the perfect foil for The George’s executive chef Chanaka Jayabahu’s duck liver parfait first course.
A delightful culinary contradiction, the parfait is an umami sensation of decadent, buttery mouth-coating perfection, akin to the finest foie gras, while also impossibly light and airy.
Laced with spiced plum the parfait’s creamy mouthfeel is cunningly juxtaposed with the crunch and semi-sweetness of fried brioche and, between sips of the riesling’s flinty finish, aptly sets the exquisite scene for the fine-wine matched gastronomic odyssey ahead.
It’s a wild and unruly winter’s evening in Christchurch, though we are oblivious to the elements cocooned as we are in the refined luxury of The George’s private dining room. Beyond the chic sophistication of a white leather-boothed entrance lies the understated elegance of a glorious escape, resplendent with opulent lighting and black fringe curtains creating intimate dining spaces. Taking pride of place in the city and overlooking Christchurch’s iconic Avon River, where rope-like branches of weeping willows swing pendulously in the wind over the water’s surface and the endless expanse of Hagley Park fades into the stormy night, there’s no better place to be this evening.
A regular (prior to COVID, at least) and coveted feature on the city’s culinary calendar, tonight marks the highly anticipated return of the luxurious 5-star boutique hotel’s signature Winemakers’ Dinners. Tonight’s celebration sees the coupling of fine wine merchant Negociants’ superstars Langmeil Winery and Misha’s Vineyard in an Australasian meeting of the vines.
Our terroir tour by bottle see us exploring the cool climate aromatics and perfect pinot of Central Otago with Misha’s Vineyard’s Misha and Andy Wilkinson, and navigating the Barossa’s famed sun-baked earth, valley floor and ancient vines with Langmeil Winery’s Leigh Woodrow.
There’s an easy rapport and mutual respect between the wineries as jovial anecdotes and on-tour asides between raconteurs Wilkinsons and Woodrow are shared and woven into the tasting masterclasses, adding a delightfully unexpected element of entertainment to the occasion.
The evening starts with an appetite-whetting green pea macaron and Akaroa Salmon amuse-bouche paired with Misha’s Vineyard’s plucky Dress Circle Pinot Gris.
Delivering on both the wow and flavour fronts, the union of the perfectly constructed tiny, tiered towers and unctuous off-dry gris, effortlessly seduce with the slightly sweet chew of the macaron and lemony zest of the cured salmon, all brought home by a whisper of oak in the wine’s finish.
Hitting the high note in both name and form, the second course’s marriage of Jayabahu’s venison tataki and Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir is a match made in gamey, peppery heaven. The creamy nuttiness of the accompanying roasted sesame dressing draws out the exquisite length of plummy tannins in the ruby-hued pinot while the playful crunch of the salty-sweet seaweed salad emboldens hints of dark chocolate.
Three times proves a charm for gourmands and wine connoisseurs favouring weightier reds as Barossa legends Langmeil Winery flip the script filling not one, but two glasses to accompany the third course. The delicate pastoral flavours of New Zealand’s famed Lumina lamb, the elegant tender lightly marbled meat served blushingly pink, beautifully accompanies the rambunctious, velvety spice of Langmeil Three Gardens Grenache Shiraz Mataro, while the refined smokiness of a plate-stealing burnt eggplant puree playfully volleys with the Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz’s plump tannins and peppery fruit finish.
Meltingly tender, the 12-hour slow cooked Greenstone Creek beef and star of the fourth course yields under the slightest pressure of the knife and delivers a next-level beefy hit with an addictive smoky intensity courtesy of a dark caramelised crust and precision level of chew. There’s almost an obscene level of decadence in its pairing with the inky, forged in iron bitter chocolate, blackberry, smoky leathery notes and full-bodied heft of Langmeil’s Blacksmith Cabernet Sauvignon.
In a fitting finale, Misha’s Vineyard offers up The Cadenza Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, another golden-hued aromatic full of swagger, exotic fruits and the delicate hum of ginger. It finds its soulmate in Jayabahu’s irrepressible baked salted camembert cheesecake, the pairing combining in a provocative and genius hybrid cheese-platter-cum-dessert fusion.
There’s an excited buzz and much discussion in the room as guests farewell new-found friends and, as a barometer of the evening’s success and return of The George's Winemakers’ Dinners, the farewell phrase of the night is...
“We’ll see you at the next one”.
Words by Isaac Wilson
Images by IBK Photography