Thursday, 11 July 2013

Magnificent Meal with McLeish Wines

We are spending two weeks in the Hunter Valley and really enjoying it.  We have taken the opportunity to cook every meal so far and have plans to cook most of our meals while here.  However, we are excited to participate in two McLeish Estate wine tastings.  The first one was this evening at Two Naughty Chooks Restaurant and Wine Bar at 130 John Street, Singleton, NSW and the other will be tomorrow evening at Paymasters Cafe in Newcastle.  Both are hosted by McLeish Estate wines.

Brook and Wayne Dermody are the husband and wife team and co-chefs at Two Naughty Chooks Restaurant and Wine Bar.  The food truly caught us by surprise - it was magnificent!  And working together with Jessica McLeish of McLeish Wines, we had a perfect pairing of food and wine.  We also bought some real truffles and other truffle-related products.  (Tomorrow morning for breakfast we will be having scrambled eggs with truffles - yum!)

Bob and Maryanne McLeish have been working the vineyard since 1985, and all grapes are sourced from their own vineyards.  They have a premium parcel of land between Broke Road and De Beyers Road and the quality of their grapes shows in the quality of their wines.  Their daughter, Jessica, is part of the wine making team along with Andrew Thomas, one of Australia's best known winemakers.  The McLeish family and Andrew Thomas make a formidable team and I am certainly interested in trying more of their wines year-in and year-out.

We started the evening drinking a Sparkling Chardonnay and a Sparkling Shiraz with an assortment of great canapes.  Then we sat down for a four-course degustation with perfectly matching wines.  The first course was a Jerusalem artichoke soup with scallop, bacon, Hazelnuts and crispy artichoke.  We drank a 2013 McLeish Estate Semillon (bottled only four weeks prior) and the 2009 McLeish Estate Semillon.  Both wines went extremely well with the soup.  The 2013 Semillon was fresh and very alive on the palate, with citrus and pineapple flavors, while the 2009 Semillon possessed a smoother mouth feel and was more integrated and balanced due to its maturity.

Jessica describing the Semillons

We then had the Confit chicken with mushroom and truffle.  Among so many other great foods during the evening, it is impossible to pick out a standout dish, but if one had to chose, this would be it.  And the matching wine was the 2009 McLeish Estate Reserve Chardonnay.  This was also the stand-out wine of the evening and we are swinging by McLeish Estate in the next several days to get a dozen or so bottles.  The 2009 McLeish Estate Reserve Chardonnay drank like a Montrachet.  It had a mineral, wet stone taste representative of Chassagne Montrachet and lemon flavors.  It also still had a good amount of acid and should cellar and improve with age over the next decade or so.

The main course was beef cheeks with celeriac, broad beans, pickled cabbage and Enoki mushrooms with a matching 2010 McLeish Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  The bouquet was amazing. This wine was drinkable now, with big fruity, jammy flavors, tasting of blackberries.  It was alive on the palate.  This drink was surprisingly good for a Hunter Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

We also had the 2010 McLeish Estate Shiraz and the 2009 McLeish Estate Jessica Botytis Semillon with an assortment of desserts.    The Shiraz was big and both fruity and spicy, typical of a Hunter Valley Shiraz.  It possessed boysenberry and plum flavors.

While both red wines were very drinkable today, the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Shiraz had decent tannins and I am certain each wine will improve significantly over time.  You should buy some now to sit down in the cellar for a few years!  And the 2009 Jessica was luscious, with a creamy, yet refined mouth feel.  It had both melon and honey flavors and was a bit sweet, but not too sweet.

The evening overall was magical with a great crowd, great chefs, food and service and of course, great wines.  Jessica McLeish is typical of someone in the Australian wine industry in that she is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about her wine, yet is one of the friendliest people around and willing to share her knowledge with anyone else who is interested (like me!).

And to think we get to repeat the experience (with a different line-up of McLeish Estate wines) tomorrow again at Paymasters Cafe.  Looking forward to it!  Then back to cooking on our own!

Steve Shipley
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  1. Was very interested to read about the comment "We drank a 2013 McLeish Estate Semillon bottled only 4 weeks prior"..... I've never personally had good experience with young just bottled wines. Do you have any comment as to if this is just that I've tried the wrong ones, or if it's abnormal for this one to be so enjoyed?

    1. Matthew,

      You are correct in that just bottled wines can be problematic and not that enjoyable to drink. I believe they need to rest for about three week before they settle down. (A winemaker told me that once I believe, but I will verify with a expert and get back to you.)

      I doubt it was a particular wine, but rather the amount of time just after bottling that had passed. If it was two weeks or less, It might have been too agitated and not at all integrated yet in terms of wine and head room exchange and co-existence.

      I have had some unfiltered wine right from the storage tank and while you could discern the fruity and spicy flavors, it was quite rough yet. I had a bottle a month after it was filtered and bottled and it was spectacular in comparison. But of course, the bottle I had several years later was better yet.

      I am meeting with a winemaker for a tasting tomorrow, so will ask about the amount of time for a wine to settle after bottling and if there is any difference base on varietal also.

      Regards, Steve