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I was recently involved in the planning for Nautilus Estate’s 30th vintage celebrations in Auckland (although sadly impending motherhood prevented me from attending in person).

This was one of the most exciting events I have been involved in – definitely up there with the Ballet Banquet that kicked off this blog.

We wanted to host an event that showcased the wines while also highlighting the journey Nautilus had travelled since its beginnings in 1985, and to emphasise that this evolution was a steady, continuous process.

We started by choosing a venue to work with. My number one choice was Cazador restaurant in Mount Eden which has been run by the same family since 1987. Coincidentally it was where our winemaker Clive Jones celebrated his graduation many years ago (I’ve seen the photos but he won’t let me share them with the world on social media!). Today Cazador is being run by second generation Dariush and Bex, serving up exquisite and innovative food. They have extremely high standards and echo the ideals we wanted to promote – of family ownership, experience and a forward looking mentality. I was stoked that they said yes, because there really was no option number two!

Then it was down to working out wines and a menu. We wanted to showcase some older vintages and after an extensive (and enjoyable) tasting of various options, plumped for the 2007 Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc, 2007 Nautilus Chardonnay, 2005 Nautilus Pinot Gris and 2007 Nautilus Pinot Noir.

I love showing older vintages at events like these – particularly an aged Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc which is honestly one of my favourite wines when paired with food. I think Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc would be seen as a far more sophisticated category by the world’s wine media if they got to try some of the matches that I have tasted with this wine. The oldest wine of the day was the 2005 Pinot Girs – this wine gets particularly delicious with age, evolving notes of ginger, hazelnut, truffle and cardomom.

The inspiration for the menu started with the idea of journeying through four decades, with the four courses being taken from classic food trends from the 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s. Dariush took things one step further with dishes that were actually on the menu at Cazador in each era. A modern interpretation of these classic dishes ensured that the menu would be different from a standard, run of the mill, wine event. Moreover, I particularly loved the fact that the last course was inspired by the modern food trend of “nose to tail dining” as inaugurated by St Johns restaurant in London, and that this is really a house speciality for Cazador. In fact the last time I ate there, the highlight of my evening was a dish of chicken hearts. So the lunch finished with a venison fillet, tongue and heart dish which paired beautifully with the aged Nautilus Pinot Noir.

The full menu was as follows:-

Canapes – Cured salmon gravadlax blini & Pheasant liver parfait on brioche, served with Nautilus Cuvée NV

First course – Prawn cocktail in endive leaf, served with Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc

Second course – Sour cherry duck with root vegetables, served with Nautilus Chardonnay

Third course – Rabbit loin with watercress, broad bean and black pudding, served with Nautilus Pinot Gris

Fourth course – Venison heart, fillet and smoked tongue with Jerusalem artichoke and kale, served with Nautilus Pinot Noir

The photos from the event were taken by the talented Mareea Vegas.