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Beautiful theming by Paula Theadore

Beautiful theming by Paula Theadore

Despite being the region (and the brand) that put Sauvignon Blanc firmly on the map and in the glass, Cloudy Bay, and the Marlborough region in general, have for some time now been pushing for greater recognition for their Pinot Noirs.

Hence the annual “Pinot at Cloudy Bay” celebration which takes place over three days (for the privileged invitees) culminating in a grand tasting and long lunch on Saturday.

The event has been running for forteen years now. In her time managing the event, event manager Stephanie McIntyre has brought food more to the forefront, and the number of locals buying individual tickets (vs trade guests) has increased.

The tasting was ably led by winemaker Nick Lane and focused on the 2010 vintage. That is a subject for another post.

Today I want to focus on the “Long Lunch”.

2013 was the second year that Clooney chef Des Harris came to cater at Cloudy Bay. In 2012 he delivered a spectacular meal but in typically modest style, felt he “could do better” and was keen to come back for a second bite at the cherry.

This year’s menu was superlative.

To start:- salmon pearls on a tapioca crisp, and goats curd & truffle oil tarts to compliment the Cloudy Bay Pelorus Rose. I could have been happy just carrying on munching on these all afternoon. A great intro to the meal.

Course 1: Lobster, Oyster Creme, Puffed pork crackling paired with Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2006. Not being a lobster fan myself, I had an alternate consisting of goats curd and white asparagus. Divine.

Course 2: Wild game, apple, hazelnut, red cabbage juice paired with Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer 2011. This was my favourite course. The combination of flavours worked beautifully with the gewurztraminer – apple and hazelnut picking out some of the fruit and spicy notes in the wine – and left a beautiful mess on the plate.

"Art on a plate" left by course 2.

“Art on a plate” – course 2.

Course 3: Lamb marrow, black olive, fermented garlic paired with Cloudy Bay Mustang Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010

Des mentioned that lamb was sometimes difficult to pair with Pinot Noir – in this case the 2010 vintage of Cloudy Bay’s single vineyard Mustang Pinot Noir. That wasn’t my impression at The Grill by Sean Connelly a few weeks ago when I enjoyed a delicious slow cooked lamb roast with star anise. However Des’ take on the match included a more savoury blend of flavours with tapenade and black garlic.

Lamb, tapenade, black garlic

Lamb, tapenade, black garlic

Course 4: Bitters, Lemon, Elderflower, Meringue – Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Riesling 2002. The dessert was a masterpiece in understatement on the menu and in showmanship at the table involving meringues cooked in liquid nitrogen. The photo shows the teamwork and frenetic pace to get the dishes out, and a queue of people coming back for seconds can’t have helped!

Great Clooney teamwork!

Great Clooney teamwork!

The food was sensational. Chef Des Harris is perhaps NZ’s most talented, consistent chef, delivering fantastic creations of flavour, texture and colour.

The wines chosen to compliment the meal were also well thought-out. Cloudy Bay went a little left of centre: an aged vintage of the wild ferment Te Koko had nuances of wax, hazelnut and fresh peach as well as grass and gooseberry more typically associated with Sauvignon – the many layers and waxy texture made it a great wine to pair with food. I touched on the gewurztraminer above – generally not my favourite grape but this dry, balanced wine was a perfect foil for the complex flavours of the dish.

All in all, the day was well worth the $350 ticket price and I hope many more locals continue to support this bench-setting local event.