Spring New Release Dinner at Lark Hill Vineyard Restaurant
Living in Canberra, we get endless amounts of flak from our friends from Australia and overseas alike. “But… what do you DO there?” Ah… you can’t enjoy what you don’t know exists, right? There are some things about Canberra that you can’t find elsewhere in the country or the world. This year, we have been fortunate enough to indulge in black truffles comparable to those in France, without leaving home. And because of the cooler climate, Canberra wineries are some of the best in the country.
Soy and I have driven past Lark Hill Winery millions of times, and has been on our one-day-we’ll-stop-by list for years. So finally on a characteristically chilly Canberra spring evening, we drove the half hour to the edge of Lake George to Lark Hill.
The winery is down a dirt drive, and the restaurant is clearly marked on the left and the cellar door on the right. It’s a shame it was so cold that night because having a glass of sparkling burgundy on the terrace would have been really pretty.
When we arrive, Chris hands us the said sparkling burgundy, which was delicious! I must admit that I’m not that big on drinks as I am on food. To me, good wine is wine that my tastebuds like. Soy however, enjoys her wine, but is largely a red wine drinker. Tonight however, I really enjoy the wines that we are served. We catch Dave, Sue and Chris and have a chat to them about their new release wines. Soy is especially interested in their biodynamic farming practices, and Dave explains what cow horn manure is. Sue tells Soy about natural pesticides, and Soy has already collected our abandoned chamomile tea bags and sprayed our veggie patch with chamomile tea.
There are a comfortable number of guests and the atmosphere is warm and friendly. Soy and I remark that the dining room would look amazing in the day time, with the glass windows overlooking the vineyard.
But tonight, we have our very own table, and we meet lovely Canberra tweeps, crazybrave, NatMcNazz and curiousmint. It was great that Chris had the foresight to seat us together because the amount of giggling going on at our table was shameful! Our topics of conversation ranged from tips on rearing chickens, vegetable growing, parenthood and…. I can’t even remember, but I remember the endless hysterical laughter. The company during dinner is almost as important as the food itself, and this was a huge check for us that night.
Which brings me to the food, of course….. Here’s a visual feast:
2001 Sparkling Burgundy
A blend of Shiraz & Merlot, the base wine has been aged for 4 years in old French oak barrels before being blended and tiraged & aged 4 years in bottle on yeast lees.
The resulting wine is rich, vibrant and powerful with ripe berry fruits.
Native-yeast fermented in French oak, this Chardonnay is lean and elegant, with texture and creaminess from 9 months maturation on yeast lees in barrel. Lark Hill fruit has great natural acidity giving length and vibrancy to this style.
This white grape from the Rhone Valley is rich, mouthfilling and textural – perfect with food. We wild-ferment the juice in old French barriques to give complexity behind the powerful apricot/ginger notes.
2009 Shiraz Viognier
5% Viognier was co-fermented with Shiraz (both varieties from Murrumbateman) to give a perfumed medium-bodied Shiraz with a firm but fine tannin structure. This wine was awarded the Trophy for best Canberra District Shiraz at last weeks Canberra Wine Show
Remember I said Soy is not really into white wines? Well, her stand out wine for the night was the Lark Hill chardonnay, and it was a hands down favourite of the night at our table. The food was tasty and satisfying. My favourites were the artichoke sabayon blanketing the tender quail, and the swordfish (I like meaty fish), which was buttery and perfectly cooked. The risotto, however was just a tad undercooked, and none of us at our table could taste the truffle, so we suspected that the arborio rice was infused with truffle, rather than cooked with actual truffle pieces. The only major minus for me was that the black angus rump was cold when served, however I think our foray into the kitchen to take photos of the chefs plating up the dish unfortunately had a large part to play with that. Oops!
2010 ‘Auslese’ Riesling
We pick only the best, undamaged fruit for our Auslese Riesling, yielding a Riesling of intense flavour, amazing sweetness and balancing acidity. These wines are lovely when young but show their best after years of careful cellaring.
For me though, the night of food and wine climaxed with the last pairing of vanilla bean panna cotta and the Lark Hill Auslese riesling. If I could virtual gush, I would. In fact, I am doing it right now. The panna cotta was undoubtedly the best panna cotta I have ever tasted. I know that panna cotta has been pooh poohed in the culinary literature of late, for being unoriginal, but, like crème brûlée, is something so simple that can go so wrong. But when it’s done right, oh goodness, it is SO right. The Carpenters should hold on to their pastry chef (the watermelon and mint granita palate cleanser was also divine) because this panna cotta had just the right amount of wobble, creaminess and a hint of sweetness, which meant that when eaten with the fresh strawberries and sticky sweet berry reduction, what comes together in the mouth is almost what I imagine perfection to be. Almost, because, with the sticky, sweet, honey flavour of the Auslese riesling (in the first photo) which also had a clarity to its flavour, then it was perfection. I told you this was a virtual gush. Our table, vociferous throughout the night, was silent during dessert. The only thing I wanted more of was the berry glaze. I would have been very happy if the panna cotta and strawberries were doused with it.
Soy and I were really glad to have bonded so warmly with fellow Canberra tweeps, and thoroughly enjoyed the food and wine at Lark Hill. And I am still dreaming about that panna cotta and Auslese riesling combination. Now to convince Chris to have a dessert and wine special to convince me to make another half hour drive…..
Honey and Soy dined as guests of Lark Hill Winery.
Lark Hill Winery and Vineyard Restaurant
Cnr Bungendore Rd & Joe Rocks Rd
Bungendore, NSW 2621
Restaurant: 02 6238 0266
Lunch Available Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays
The next new release dinner is the Gruner Veltliner Launch on 4th December 2010. $75 for 3 courses including matched wines. Menu available here. Bookings essential.