It is always a treat to sit down for a meal with a wine maker and have them tell you about their wines they are drinking with you, and enjoying with paired dishes. Such was the case recently when I, and a few other media people, sat down with Grant Edmonds, winemaker of Sileni Estates from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand at the Tableau Bar Bistro downtown. And of course the food and wine pairing magic does not happen without an excellent chef, in this case it is Executive Chef Marc-Andrew Choquette.
About Sileni Estates Winery
Sileni Estates is named after the Sileni who appeared in Roman mythology together with Bacchus, the God of wine, enjoying good wine, good food, and good company. The winery is located on the North Island of New Zealand, on the east coast in Hawke’s Bay. It is a warmer climate area, where you can grow red grape varieties like Merlot. As you may recall, New Zealand is more well-known for Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, which are grown further south, in the cooler areas of New Zealand.
Sileni Estates started in 1997 when Graeme Avery, a well established business man, contacted Grant Edmonds about developing a winery in Hawke’s Bay. Grant identified the most suitable area for the grapes he wished to grow, and selected river gravel sites; the Bridge Pa Triangle. Sileni has planted Merlot as it’s main Bordeaux red grape variety in Hawke’s Bay as it ripens early and can produce good results in cool years, and even better results in warmer years. Besides Merlot, Sileni does also produce Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Semillon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah from Hawke’s Bay.
Grant leads a team of wine makers and viticultural staff. His passion is Merlot, which began with him working at Esk Valley Estates and followed by working the vintage at Chateau Pavie in St. Emilion in 1990.
The Sileni Wines We Tasted
- Sileni Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2014
- Sileni The Straits Sauvignon Blanc 2014
- Sileni The Lodge Chardonnay 2013
- Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014
- Sileni The Plateau Pinot Noir 2013
- Sileni The Triangle Merlot 2013
Our Food Courses
- Grilled Calamari & Prawns with garbanzo beans, roasted peppers & olive tapenade, romaine hearth lettuce & cherry tomatoes (paired with the Sileni Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 and the Sileni The Straits Sauvignon Blanc 2014)
The grill gave the calamari and prawns a nice smoky flavour. You also get a nice crunch from the prawns without being chewy, and a firmer texture from the garbanzo beans. The olivetapenade rounded out the flavours with salty bitterness.
- Duck Leg Confit with spinach & frisee salad, warm bacon & hazelnut dressing, golden beets, shallot & vinegar (paired with the Sileni The Lodge Chardonnay 2013, Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014, and Sileni The Plateau Pinot Noir 2013)
Very nice crunchy skin on the duck leg, and very rich flavour. The sweetness of the golden beets was also a nice complement to the dish.
- Manchego cheese, with roasted pear slices (paired with the The Triangle Merlot 2013)
TheManchego cheese has a light nutty flavour, but to me the better component to the dish was the roasted Bosc pear slices. I will tell you why shortly.
My Tasting Notes
- Sileni Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – This is their entry level Sauvignon Blanc, where they produce around 400,000 cases a year. The grapes come from Marlborough. Grant is not fond of green flavours in his Sauvignon Blanc. He prefers a riper style. You can see this in both Sauvignon Blancs. This wine has medium intensity gooseberry and guava aromas, with a hint of lime. Medium minus body, with light mouth feel, and a mineral streak. The wine starts off with gooseberry flavour then adds in jalapeno and some peaches. Medium acidity is not too overpowering. Medium length. An elegant wine.
- Sileni The Straits Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – The Straits is the name of the Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. This wine comes from grapes from selected vineyards with lower yield. The wine is left on the lees for more complexity and creaminess. Only 30,000 cases are produced yearly, so less than 1/10 of the Cellar Selection production. The wine has alight intensity nose, with citrus, rind and lees aromas. It is dry, medium bodied. Light citrus flavour with some creaminess from the lees. A hint of lime mid palate and honey together with mouthwatering acidity on the finish.
For the Grilled Calamari & Prawns dish, this wine worked better than the Cellar Selection. The saltiness and smoke from the dish matched nicely with the acidity in this wine. The flavours of this wine complemented, the flavours of the dish. The Cellar Selection flavours were a bit stronger and overpowered the dish.
- Sileni The Lodge Chardonnay 2013 – Sileni wins most of their awards for their Chardonnay. This wine was medium lemon with a greenish tinge. Lots of ripe tropical fruit aromas in the glass. Medium plus body, quite round, mouthfiling and buttery. Tropical fruit flavours. Mid palate to finish you also get nutmeg spice. Long finish.
I enjoyed this wine with the Duck Leg Confit. The oak and butteriness of this wine meshed nicely with the richness of the duck. The duck also seemed to bring out the butterscotch flavour in the wine.
- Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014 – Medium translucent garnet in colour, with quite flowery violets on the nose together with red fruits and cherries. Dry, medium minus body, medium acidity and fine tannins. You get flowers, red cherries, and strawberries, along with a hint of nutmeg on the palate. An elegant wine.
- Sileni The Plateau Pinot Noir 2013 – Light intensity nose of dark, ripe cherries. With swirling you see legs in this wine. Medium plus body, with flavours of ripe cassis and sweet spice, followed by ripe plums later on. Very tasty.
The Plateau to me paired better than the Cellar Selection for the Duck Leg Confit. The Cellar Selection flavour was a bit too strong. The flavours of the Plateau along with the acidity made this a winning pairing.
- Sileni The Triangle Merlot 2013 – Opaque garnet in colour. Medium intensity nose with aromas of ripe plums, cassis, flowers and chocolate. Full body, round and very fruity with ripe cassis, raspberry and cherry flavours. Medium acidity and fine tannins. Peppery finish. Another very good wine.
This wine was paired with the Manchego cheese and roasted Bosc pear slices. The cheese and Merlot were OK together, but my greatest surprise, was how wonderfully the roasted pears paired with the Merlot. The pears were ripe and sweet, and had some herbs, which seemed to make the Merlot even fruitier, richer and rounder in the mouth. I must try grilling some pears on the BBQ this summer and pairing it with a Merlot for dessert.
All the wines from SIleni Estates were very good quality and I can recommend them to you.
I spoke with Grant Edmonds before our lunch was underway. Watch my youtube interview with Grant Edmonds.