A few weeks ago, Matt and I were lucky enough to go and try our final event for Wellington On A Plate: Wondrous World of Wellington Wine Country at Le Cordon Bleu!
This gastronomically superb event fell in the middle of a very busy week in which I was going to Auckland for the New Zealand Social Media Awards (have I milked that enough yet?) but was too good a chance to pass up! Like so many of you, I love Wellington On A Plate - and it felt like a great way to send off the festival!
I had never visited the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School to eat, so it was an exciting chance to find out more about this prestigious cooking school and what the students who attend there do. As you know, there are few things that I enjoy more than gorging myself on delicious food, and imbibing with gay abandon!
Le Cordon Bleu is synonymous with culinary excellence, and boy do they do it well. Starting in France over 120 years ago and now here in New Zealand at their Cuba St cooking school, they offer intensive training for aspiring chefs and students alike who are wanting a career in the food and hospitality industry. The school combines the very best of new world innovation and local cuisine with the principles, techniques, and artistry of the French traditions. I couldn't believe that the students who created our dishes had only been training for 5 months!! Safe to say, my Edmonds cook book menu wouldn't quite cut the mustard with these chaps.
For our Wonderous World of Wellington Wine Country event, Le Cordon Bleu teamed up with Wairarapa wine makers from Gladstone, Masterton and Martinborough under the Wellington Wine Country umbrella, a group of vineyards who are working together to help bring attention to the incredible wines from the Wairarapa region. The region produces just 1.4 per cent of New Zealand's wine, yet represents about 10 per cent of producers which is pretty awesome. It's owned by Wairarapa Winegrowers, the regional arm of the industry body, New Zealand Winegrowers and is all about connecting Wellingtonians and people visiting Wellington with the offering that our region has when it comes to vino!
The premise of the event was simple. Over the course of the night, we had the chance to try 12 or so wines which were presented to us to go with our dinner. Four courses were prepared, each in the style of the French Cuisine that Le Cordon Bleu is known for, and we tasted each wine and decided which we liked the most. The first wine was a Dry River Riesling (2016), a real winner. And food? Think 'Julie and Julia' for the type of dishes, including a wonderful rich 'escargot', battered in a green broth for starters.
For our first course we had John Dory carpaccio with pink grapefruit, fennel and vanilla oil. This was accompanied by Nga Waka Riesling 2013, Borthwick CPR 2014, Ashwell Chardonnay 2015 and Escarpment Chardonnay 2014. Next up was roast quail, duck crepinette, celery root, chestnut and wild mushrooms with a Villeroy sauce. We had Mataiwi, Luna Estate , Johner and Craggy Range Pinot Noir with that. We followed with lamb noisette, smoked potatoes, seasonal vegatables served with garlic foam and serpolet juice and drank Te Kairanga Rum Holder, Big Sky, Martinborough Vineyard and Schubert Pinot Noir's. To finish, an apple and single malt flavour dessert with Urlar Noble Riesling. For tasting notes and the menu, click here.
Matt and I were seated by some fairly intimidating guests. Not only was there the head of Le Cordon Bleu and the Wellington Wine Country group, but also the wine reviewer Joelle Thomson. Joelle is a total expert when it comes to wine, so rather than take it from me, I'd highly recommend that you go and check out her blog posts about which great wine to try (and articles - which she writes for publications such as Capital Magazine and North & South - it is her full-time job to know this stuff). At the other end of our table were our hosts for the evening, wine makers from Dry River and Urlar Vineyards in the Wairarapa. They told us all about some of the history of the region, and how old the first vines are that still exist there around Masterton. Incredible stuff!
It was a truly amazing experience to be guided through the wines on offer by our hosts. We tasted a wide variety of varietals, from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir. While some spat our their wines, I hate to admit Matt and I did not have such self-control. It felt really good to get some proper education about the incredible wine which is on offer in the Wellington region. In particular, the Dry River Riesling that we tried on arrival was delicious. A Pinot Noir from Matahiwi Vineyard was also a standout.
If you find an opportunity to do an event at Le Cordon Bleu or with Wellington Wine Country in the future, I would very much recommend going along. Make sure you bring someone from out of town if you can too. You can't beat the opportunity to learn more about the fascinating work that goes on right under our noses, just an hour away in Wellington, making fantastic wines. What a splendid way to sign off Wellington On A Plate!