LOCAL gourmand Shanna Provost went along to the recent Tyrell’s Wine degustation dinner at the Whale Motel restaurant in Narooma and filed this report:
Degustation: a culinary term meaning a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods (and wine) focusing on the gustatory system, the senses, high culinary art and good company.
MORE than 40 locals enjoyed a special treat at the Whale Restaurant recently when fifth generation winemaker to the iconic Australian Tyrrell's dynasty, Chris Tyrrell, visited Narooma to share his family's wines.
The Whale Restaurant's chef Michael Donovan carefully created a menu to complement the wines using fresh ingredients selected from the local area, and his sous chef Alan Newbold prepared and presented the degustation.
After guests were urged to drink responsibly, the Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut started to flow, accompanied by Course 1: a local Agassi oyster encased in cucumber salsa and Tyrrell’s Pinot Noir Chardonnay foam.
Chris Tyrell had interesting stories about growing up amongst the Tyrrell vines in the Hunter Valley and about starting his winemaking career at 17 under the guidance of his grandfather, Murray Tyrrell.
Chris studied Wine Science at Charles Sturt University then worked in some of the world’s greatest wine regions including Burgundy, the Rhone, Bordeaux and Spain.
The food presented took equal billing with the wine on the night.
Course 2: the delicate flavours of a sous vide scallop, poached local lobster, Lilliput caper salad, saffron vanilla emulsion and chervil teased out the citrusy freshness of a Belford Hunter Chardonnay.
Between courses Chris spoke of the history of his family's vineyards, the company's journey through expansion from the Hunter Valley and the challenges of oaking wines.
Guests showed their wine knowledge (it was extensive) in a wine guessing competition and laughter flowed as freely as the wine.
Course 3: crispy pork belly, roasted parsnip, green apple salad, spiced rhubarb sauce was served with a Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon.
Course 4: local veal medallion, crispy prosciutto, celeriac puree, roasted baby onions, peppered veal reduction was ably assisted by a Rufus Stone McLaren Vale Cabernet Malbec (the most popular wine of the evening).
Local chef Judith Cox was impressed with the care and deliberation Chef Donovan took in choosing the elements of each dish.
“I felt [The Whale Restaurant] did an exquisite job. The ambiance of the room was inviting, the food exquisite and the service was first class”, said Cox.
“It was obvious for me that Chef took the time to deconstruct each wine and sought tastes that would complement every individual essence. For example, pairing the sous vide scallop with the Lilliput caper created a clean taste to complement the citrusy overtones in the Belford Hunter Chardonnay – and the chervil on the palate brought out the freshness of the wine.”
The light summer fruit characteristics of the Vat 1 Semillon worked really well with the gelatinous round palette of the pork belly and the sharp, sweet rhubarb closed it off nicely”, she said.
While the Whale staff busied themselves washing the 300 wine glasses used during the evening, guests enjoyed Course 5: local confit duck breast, baby beet, Persian fetta, cured cabbage with a mandarin glaze washed down with the iconic Vat 9 Shiraz ($80 per bottle).
By this time guests were feeling the pinch (around the waistband) but the degustation wasn't over. Course 6: Valrhona chocolate with pear and hazelnut was forced upon them with Tyrell's Special Aged Tawny Port.
Sated and sanguine, guests ambled off into the streets of Narooma comparing highlights and walking off the evening's indulgence.