Australia is a big country, from east to west covering 4000 km, which in Canadian terms would be about the distance from Calgary to Quebec City. As with Canada’s east and west coasts, there is a difference in climate, there is also in Australia. This dinner, this evening we discovered the regional differences between Australia’s west coast – Margaret River represented by the Evans & Tate Winery – versus Australia’s east coast – McWilliams Mount Pleasant winery of the Hunter Valley.
Some Info on the Two Wine Regions
Did you know that Margaret River is approximately 4 hours south of Perth, and the Hunter Valley is approximately 2 hours north of Sydney? In the Margaret River area all the wineries are located within 7 km away from the coast, along a length of 90 km. The northern stretch of Margaret River being warmer and the southern area being cooler climate, gives the winemakers a chance to combine grapes from both climates to come up with something unique.
Hunter Valley we were told is slightly subtropical, and that the region does harvest sooner than other areas. For example the Margaret River area started harvest this year after the Hunter Valley finished their harvest. I also learned that the Hunter Valley is the oldest commercial wine region in Australia, with the oldest vines being planted in 1880 by Maurice O’Shea.
Our 5 Courses and Wine Pairings
We were treated to these wines, paired with expertly crafted dishes at West Restaurant in Vancouver, thanks to Executive Chef Quang Dang, and Restaurant & Wine Director Owen Knowlton. Representing the two Australian wineries were Greg West from Margaret River, and Craig Stephenson from the Hunter Valley.
- Dungeness Crab and Side Stripe Prawn Salad with grapefruit jelly, Gala apples, and charred orange vinaigrette
- Evans & Tate Metricup Road Chardonnay 2013
- Mount Pleasant Hunter Valley Leontine Chardonnay 2012
- Milk Poached Smoked Sablefish with leek fondue, Yukon Gold potatoes, and tarragon veloute
- Evans & Tate Metricup Road Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013
- Mount Pleasant Lovedale Hunter Valley Semillon 2007
- Black Truffle Crusted Chicken Breast with wild mushroom croquettes, celeraic, and bacon jus
- Evans & Tate Porongurup Pinot Noir 2011
- Mount Pleasant Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir 2013
- Coffee and Cocoa Crusted Venison Loin with heirloom carrots, braised kale, and Okanagan Cherry Mostarda
- Evans & Tate Redbrook Shiraz 2011
- McWilliams Maurice O’Shea Shiraz 2011
- Caramel White Chocolate Parfait, Passion Fruit, Blood Orange Sorbet with Honey Macadamia Nut Shortbread
- McWilliam’s “Morning Light” Botrytis Semillon 2010
I must confess that during the day, a cold slowly came upon me, so that during the time of this event, I could not smell or taste as well as I could normally. Nevertheless it was still interesting as I did pick up more on textures, and the primary tastes on the tongue of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. So forgive my less detailed wine notes, and I recommend checking the winery websites for their tasting notes. I am taking cold medicine to get me in shape for the wine tastings the rest of the Wine Festival.
Dungeness Crab and Side Stripe Prawn Salad with grapefruit jelly, Gala apples, and charred orange vinaigrette
Evans & Tate Metricup Road Chardonnay 2013
Mount Pleasant Hunter Valley Leontine Chardonnay 2012
Both of these Chardonnay represent where Chardonnay is going being more lean, fruit-driven, and not heavily oaked. An elegant style. The wines are both fermented with indigenous yeasts. The Evans & Tate Chardonnay had a light citrus flavour, light mouth feel and medium acidity, while the Mount Pleasant Leontine Chardonnay was more medium bodied, with citrus and some tropical fruit on the nose, and citrus and citrus rind flavour. I felt that the more rich and rounder Mount Pleasant Leontine Chardonnay was a nicer pairing with the richness of the dungeness crab, which was in a rice wrapper. I also did quite liked the crunch from the Gala apples and the charred orange segments. Lots of flavours and textures. The salad was beautifully presented; a work of art.
Milk Poached Smoked Sablefish with leek fondue, Yukon Gold potatoes, and tarragon veloute
Evans & Tate Metricup Road Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Mount Pleasant Lovedale Hunter Valley Semillon 2007
Wow, an aged, 2007 Semillon to try. For those that don’t know, Semillon, a white grape from France (Bordeaux and Loire), can be exceptionally long lived in the bottle, taking on a nutty or oaky characteristic over time. I was excited to see how the Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon is progressing in the bottle. I found that it is still fresh and lively. It had a nice acidic prickle on the tongue. Craig mentioned that to get the best from the Semillon grape that they pick the grapes early to get the best flavour, and then they ferment the free run juice. The wine has 8 years of aging, but Craig felt that the wine has another 15 years to go. The Evans & Tate Metricup Road Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is a 50/50 blend of the 2 grapes, partially wild fermented in barrel. It was dry, higher in acidity with citrus and some minerality. As for the pairing, I enjoyed the Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon with the Sablefish on it’s own. I liked the butteriness of the sablefish and the milk with the wine. It became more round and silky. Overall the sablefish was not overcooked, and came apart by fork very easily. I did have other comments at my table, that if you had some of the frisee salad along with the sablefish, then the Evans & Tate Metricup Road Semillon Sauvignon Blanc made a very good pairing, getting some matching of flavour of the frisee with the Sauvignon Blanc. As an aside, did you know that Sablefish is also known as Black Cod?
Black Truffle Crusted Chicken Breast with wild mushroom croquettes, celeraic, and bacon jus
Evans & Tate Porongurup Pinot Noir 2011
Mount Pleasant Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir 2013
The Evans & Tate Pinot Noir had light cherry aroma, light body, dry with high acidity (again, but because of my cold, aromas and flavours were really hard to identify). The Mount Pleasant Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir was an interesting and different blend. If you go into any BC liquor store, I’d doubt you would find this blend on the shelves, but we were told that many years ago, this was a common blend in Australia, and since Mount Pleasant brought back the blend, other wineries in the area are also bringing it back. This wine had a deeper, ripe cherry nose. Medium plus body, round with ripe cherries and firm tannins. The Black Truffle Crusted Chicken Breast was very full of big flavours. The texture of the chicken was quite intriguing to me, being soft and grainy. Not what I’ve had from chicken before. Again the black truffle also has a strong flavour, and then you also have the sweetness from the bacon jus. The Mount Pleasant Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir, being fuller bodied was the choice among the diners at my table, me included.
Coffee and Cocoa Crusted Venison Loin with heirloom carrots, braised kale, and Okanagan Cherry Mostarda
Evans & Tate Redbrook Shiraz 2011
McWilliams Maurice O’Shea Shiraz 2011
Properly cooked, rare venison, paired with a full bodied red wine is a joy to enjoy. The coffee and cocoa crust gave some graininess as well as coffee/cocoa flavour to the venison, while the cherry mostarda added a nice sweet component. Both shiraz wines paired nicely with the venison. The Evans & Tate Redbrook Shiraz had ripe berry and dark fruit aromas. Full bodied, fry with ripe dark fruit and quite peppery. Fine tannins. The Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz was full bodied, dry with an acidic prickle on the tongue. Round with fine tannins. The Maurice O’Shea was a highlight wine for the diners this evening. The wine coming from vines planted by Maurice O’Shea, who started the first plantings in the Hunter Valley. Currently these are 135 year old vines. Esteemed wine write James Halliday selected this 2011 vintage wine as his top Australian Shiraz of the year.
Although I have not mentioned yet, all of the red wines were poured from decanters. I am not sure how long they were in decanters but it shows that the wineries and the restaurant cares to have these red wines breathe and open up so that we tasted the best from the wines.
Caramel White Chocolate Parfait, Passion Fruit, Blood Orange Sorbet with Honey Macadamia Nut Shortbread
McWilliam’s “Morning Light” Botrytis Semillon 2010
Our last course of the evening, but only one Aussie “stickie”. The “Morning Light” in the wine’s name comes from the name of the ship that Mr. McWilliams sailed on to arrive in Australia. Semillon is a thin skinned grape and is susceptible to mold. Which in some cases can be good, and it was for this wine as “Noble Rot” had attacked the grapes to wizen them, concentrating the sugars, (and sometimes adding in a marmalade flavour component. Again, I could not tell as my sense of smell was not at 100%). I did like the pairing flavours between the wine and the blood orange sorbet, as well as the wine with the white chocolate. Again the people at my table raved about this pairing.
So if you are attending the Vancouver International Wine Festival tasting room, stop by the Evans & Tate and the Mount Pleasant winery tables, try their wines, and if you like them, buy a few bottles at the on-site liquor store before you leave. Enjoy!