It’s the gastronomic equivalent of planets aligning and the ultimate triple threat – five of the best from New Zealand’s premier, and oldest, vineyard Te Mata Estate, matched to five courses from five chefs at the top of their game all wrapped in the refined splendour and elegance of New Zealand’s industry-leading boutique luxury hotel The George. The opportunity to attend has attracted an intimate gathering of oenophiles and gourmands and is an appropriately grand celebration of the end-of-year finale of The George’s Winemakers’ Dinner Series.
“You’ll notice a light saline finish,” confides Te Mata Estate’s senior winemaker Phil Brodie, “it’s an alternative sauvignon,” he adds as eyebrows rise, curiosity piqued, around the room.
Te Mata Estate Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc
Swirling the glass of pellucid, molten white gold that is Te Mata Estate’s Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2019 elicits the slightest of lime hues and opens a bouquet of freshly-cut green capsicum, nettle and ripe passionfruit. Bold and brazen, the alt sav’s juicy, sun-warmed tropical fruit heft is gently tempered with flashes of oyster shell minerality and a textured complexity and delicate smokiness courtesy of 12 months on oak.
Accompanied by The George’s executive chef Chanaka Jayabahu’s first course of green pea salmon macaron and beef bonbon, there’s an exquisite synergy at play with the mini stack of chewy, earthen sweetness of the macaron and oily decadence of the Akaroa salmon volleying with the vibrant crispness of the winning sauvignon blanc, semillon and sauvignon gris trifecta.
Joining the macaron on the plate, under a golden orbed crunch, the beef bonbon delivers a meaty hit pairing meltingly tender moist beef cheek with the woodsy forest floor nuances of truffle and sharpness of parmesan to perfectly tease out the exquisite length of the wine’s sultry smoky finish which delightfully lingers with its promised light sprinkling of sea salt and sets the benchmark for an exquisite banquet of the senses.
Green pea salmon macaron
The Winemakers Series - Table setting & menu
Venue - Pescatore at The George
Ensconced in the understated sophistication of The George’s private dining room, it’s an otherworldly setting where we soon discover the 5 star boutique hotel’s impressive artwork isn’t just restricted to the walls. Plates appear and glasses fill in a seamless, choreographed symphony and time loses all meaning as we eagerly await each new epicurean sensation as Jayabahu, his team and guest chef and Christchurch culinary icon Darren Wright of Chillingworth Road fame, now Lumina Lamb ambassador chef, brilliantly match the flight of handcrafted wines.
Winemaker - Phil Brodie, Te Mata Estate
Executive Chef Chanaka Jayabahu and Kavinda (Kavi) Samarasinghe at work in the kitchen.
Part artwork, all culinary revelation, sous chef, Kavinda (Kavi) Samarasinghe’s, Hokkaido scallops sees two plump scallops precision plated amid a burnt orange lobster bisque and wedges of pickled red radish.
There’s a delightful caramelised char on the meltingly delicate scallops and velvety decadence to the rich bisque which positively sings when paired with the creamy union of the Te Mata Estate Elston Chardonnay 2019's nectarine and nutty oak notes.
The wine’s flinty, voluptuous finish compliments the acid profile of the pickled radish and light citric bitterness delivered via a dusting of freeze-dried mandarin. Sure, we have added a few air miles with the scallops, but it’s a no-brainer, they are among the world’s finest and we are also protecting New Zealand’s dredge-ravaged sea beds.
Matt Kennedy Introducing the 3rd course
Treated to the hand-picked perfection of Te Mata's highly-coveted answer to a Left Bank Bordeaux and New Zealand’s reigning red, the third vintage of the legendary Coleraine Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2015 is served alongside chef de partie, Matt Kennedy’s venison tataki third course. It's a faultless marriage and masterclass in seduction, the bodacious Kiwi Bordeaux's velveteen spices envelop the venison's rare gaminess while the earthy nuttiness of the accompanying roasted sesame dressing draws out the exquisite length of tightly-wound plummy tannins.
The silken lovechild of a meticulously crafted cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc blend, the inky, ruby wine enthralls with its jammy bramble fruit and steely graphite finish, cementing its reputation as New Zealand's finest. Emboldened by the playful crunch of the salty-sweet seaweed salad, the wine finishes with opulent hints of buttery leather and dark chocolate.
Accolades flow between sips and bites – we are smitten.
4th Course - Lumina Lamb
Equally impressive, the Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah 2019 is as perfectly formed, rounded and captivating as its automotive namesake.
Our fourth course union sees guest chef Darren Wright work his gastronomic alchemy with a spectacular cathedral created by the interlocking ribs of the Lumina lamb rack.
New Zealand’s home-grown answer to Wagyu, Lumina Lamb have been making gourmands swoon, by way of the world’s leading chefs and restaurants, and is the culmination of a 15-year relentless pursuit of free-range perfection.
Blushingly pink, their finely marbled ‘healthy lamb’ is Michelin star-worthy succulence on the plate.
Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah '19
Delicate lanolin notes retain the lamb's hero status amid the tightly controlled riot of palate-pleasing creamy, smoky intensity of burnt eggplant, fresh bursts of basil microgreens and salty streak of olive caramel combining in the deliverance of the ultimate umami finale. It's an exceptional partner in crime to the peppery, black cherry notes and silken lush tannins of the near blue-black depths of the rambunctious syrah.
Our evening reaches its delicious conclusion with The George's pastry chef Danielle (Dani) Thomas’s adult-elevated Wonka-styled confection Manuka honey & chocolate and the bright-scarlet-in-the-glass charms of Te Mata Estate's Gamay Noir 2021. Serving meadows of wildflowers and wild strawberries on the nose, the Gamay Noir’s elegant notes of Turkish delight combine with a whisper of cinnamon to buffer the decadent tang of black Doris ice-cream and earthy chocolate soil, while a lengthy line of acidity cuts through the rich honey ganache and salty caramelised chocolate for a captivating finish. Reliving our youth, we eat the accompanying shard of crisp golden honeycomb with our fingers.
Melting on the tongue, the honeycomb’s burnt-sweet minerality is the perfect foil to the luscious cherry and tart cranberry palate of the wine and a nostalgic high to conclude another auspicious celebration synonymous with The George.
Danielle (Dani) Thomas - Pastry chef
Te Mata Estate Gamay Noir '21
5th course manuka honey & chocolate
Darren Wright (Guest Chef courtesy of Lumina Lamb), Matthew Kennedy (Chef de Partie), Kavinda Samarasinghe (Sous Chef), Danielle Thomas (Pastry chef) and Chanaka Jayabahu (Executive Chef)
Words, Issac Wilson
Images, Images By Kia