Friday, November 29, 2013

Yarra Valley Grape Grazing 2014, by invitation by Bureaucrat

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to attend the media briefing for the return of Yarra Valley’s Grape Grazing in 2014.  After the devastating bush fires of Black Saturday, Grape Grazing has been on hiatus... until now.  

As with most city folk and suburbanites, I find it a bit difficult to know whether or not it’s appropriate to go visiting the areas that have been affected by the bush fires – acknowledging that those affected need time to work through what has happened to their families and communities and to re-build, but also wanting to visit and help out the local communities by contributing to the local economy.  With the reinstatement of Grape Grazing, this is a perfect opportunity to return to the area.

I was invited by the Grape Grazing 2014 Committee to sample some of the wine and food that will be on offer during 14-15 February 2014.  The sampling was at De Bortoli Winery and Restaurant - a gorgeous property surrounded by leafy, verdant grapevines and rolling green hills.

Stepping into the restaurant, you could definitely feel the sumptuousness of the place - crisp white table cloths contrasting against the striking black curtains that frame the lovely vistas.  I also couldn't help but note the large wooden table with the baskets of freshly baked inviting!

We were welcomed by members of the Grape Grazing committee with a glass of De Bortoli sparkling wine before finding out more about what they have planned for 2014.

Members of the Grape Grazing Committee, from left to right: Richard Howden, Ben Payten and Leanne De Bortoli

The three-day festival is returning in a re-invigorated format to showcase the best of what Yarra Valley has to offer.  Unlike past festivals, where the focus was solely on wine, the 2014 festival will also incorporate food producers, restaurants, cider, beer and ale producers, as well as offering live music (Jimmy Barnes, the Baby Animals, Daryl Braithwaite and Jon Stevens to name a few), outdoor cinema, opera, masterclasses and family friendly events.

Steve Webber and Leanne De Bortolli were keen to let us try some of their more quirkier wines to go with the tasting plates.  First up was pan fried prawns and sardine served w tuna aioli, Sicilian caponata and lemon oil.  Two lovely plump prawns with a nice pan fried crispness, the sardine was so delicate that initially I thought they were white anchovies.  The caponata had a nice zing that lifted the flavours of the seafood.

To go with this, we tried some very different cider from Napoleone and Co - a small cider company in the region.  The first was the Veil Aged Cider.  This was nice, it was different and it was unusual - if you want to try something different, then this is it!  It was unlike any cider that I have ever tried before.  It has a strong aroma that hits you in the face (in the nicest way!) and it's so dry and has a bitter aftertaste.  Ben Payten, the cider master, told us that this could quite possibly be a world's first apple cider Manzanilla.  Ben said that because his cider is so unusual that, for now, you can only purchase this at the cellar door or online.  The Methode Traditionelle was more like your typical champagne in terms of how it's made and its flavour. 

Our second tasting plate was potato gnocchi w pork shoulder ragu, fennel, chilli and pecorino.  This is such a winner that they're not allowed to take it off the menu here.  Light, fluffy pillows of potato, and a deep porky ragu.  I love a good slow-roasted lamb, and a slow-cooked pork shoulder is just as flavoursome and tender.  The sharp, salty cheesiness of the pecorino contrasted against the mellow spiciness of the chilli.  Each mouthful was light, fluffy, meaty, cheesy and spicy - yum!

To go with this dish, we had De Bortoli Riorret and De Bortoli Vinoque Pinot Blanc.

The third tasting dish was the Milawa duck breast, braised and pressed leg, nettle, roast and pickled beetroot.  Tender duck breast with a nice meat-to-fat ratio.  As nice as the duck breast was, I loved the leg meat, which was shaped into a disc and a rectangle.  The braised meat was so moist and flavoursome - it was like an essence of duck.  I also loved the glistening dark purple beets.

To go with the duck, we got to sample De Bortoli La Boheme Syrah Gamay Act Four and Two Blind Mice Shiraz.  I liked how the label for the Two Blind Mice had braille on it - very cute.

Following tea and coffee, we had a look-see in the cellar to stock up on supplies before we departed...

...and also in the cheese shop.

Verdict (for the food only)
Food - 9
Ambiance - 10
Service - 8*
Price – 7.5*

* Scores are notional as I was a guest of De Bortoli and the Grape Grazing Committee.

With more than 50 events planned for Grape Grazing (picnic hampers, gourmet breakfast, comedy acts, blues music, degustation dining, to name a few more) in beautiful surroundings it's a great way to come re-discover (or discover for the first time) the Yarra Valley.  It's clear that the providers and the region are eager to share with you their produce and everything else they have on offer.  For more information on the events and how you can purchase tickets can be found in the links below.

Booking details
Grape Grazing
Yarra Valley, various locations
14-16 February 2014

De Bortoli Winery and Restaurant
Pinnacle Lane
Yarra Valley 3775
Telephone: 03 5965 2271

De Bortoli Winery and Restaurant on Urbanspoon


obelix glutt said...

What a feast! V envious

Anonymous said...

good place,
good wines and good foods !
great reviews !

Bureaucrat said...

Thank you, Obelix Glutt and Anonymous :)

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