(TORONTO, ON) – Long gone are the days where rubbing elbows with the “trade” and public at wine shows can be considered fun or educational unless. Of course, if you know the presenting winegrowers you can have some brief and engaging discussion with them before you are elbowed out of the way, by someone wanting a miniscule pour of wine.
Wine is meant to be consumed with food, and with the meagre scraps now available, how can the wine be tasted with what it was meant to be consumed. Kudos to the Italians for almost always laying out a good spread of edibles.
There are several ways to learn about the wine. One is by being invited to a tutored tasting where an expert goes through various flights of wine and explains their characteristics and the grapes, from which it was made, and what foods they might best be paired.
Another way is exclusive, but can be both a powerful way by which to gain a better appreciation of the wine and leave with a lasting personal relationship with the wine and the winery owner. This is the winemaker’s dinner, where a small group of influence makers assemble for a dinner with the winemaker where the wines are paired with specific dishes which highlight both the wines and food.
I was honoured to be the sole wine writer in Toronto invited for an exclusive winemaker’s dinner hosted by Steve Kriaris, the powerhouse behind the Kolonaki Group. The firm has a huge portfolio of Greek wines, fine foods, spring water, and beers.
Having been to a couple of Steve’s dinners before, they are always memorable, perhaps because he has a knack for selecting a tremendous restaurant and maintaining a fairly strict invitation list.
In this case, the guest vintner was Michiel Eradus, owner of the Eradus portfolio of wines alongside his wife Hanna. His viticulturist is Jeremy Hyland, his vineyard managers are Jaco and Sandra van Hensbergen, and his winemakers are himself and Hyland and Jules Taylor.
All grapes used in the vinification of the wine are from the Awatere Valley, located in Marlborough, New Zealand, on the South Island. The valley has its own microclimate and is windier, dryer, stonier, cooler, and in the whole, more extreme than the other regions of Marlborough.
These conditions create wine with a distinct minerality and crisp, clean finish.
Eradus is proud to state that Awatere Valley wines represent, “New World fruit with old world minerality and acidity.” He believes that his status as a boutique producer allows him to carefully produce wines of great quality.
The venue for the occasion was the cozy Elm Tree Restaurant very close to Toronto’s Eaton Centre. The food was excellently prepared and presented, and well matched with the wines.
The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc was perfectly melded with the spring salad ($15), consisting of heirloom carrots, zucchini slivers, corn, radish, fennel, arugula, pecorino cheese, and a sumac vinaigrette. The salad brought out the peach and apricot nature of the wine and dialed down its acidity.
On its lonesome, this Sauvignon Blanc displayed a bewitching frame of pineapple, guava, and dragon fruit on the nose with additional notes of gooseberry, floral undertones, guava, pineapple, and solid minerality.
As Michiel modestly noted, “This wine is not better than other Sauvignon Blanc’s from Marlborough; just different. The essence of the Awatere Valley is crispness and minerality.”
The Sauvignon Blanc is currently a Vintages release issued on March 18, 2017, and sells for a very attractive $18.95.
I talked with Michiel about the danger of Sauvignon Blanc pigeonholing New Zealand and about the recent run at Sauvignon Blanc by Pinot Gris in the south Pacific nation. He acknowledged the run, but said it was brief lived due to rapid overproduction of Pinot Gris grapes, which decreased the quality of Pinot Gris.
He added that, while Australians dealt with their over identification with Shiraz by increasing the number of labels, the Zealies focused on expanding the production of other grapes such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Merlot.
The Eradus 2016 Pinot Gris was served with gigantic scallops on a bed of sunflower seed pesto, garlic purée, confit of tomato, and prosciutto crisps ($19). The dialed down acidity and good minerality of the Pinot Gris mastered the sweetness of the scallops.
On its own, the Pinot Gris has less acidity than the Sauvignon Blanc, but an equal degree of minerality. A forceful nose of apple, pineapple, guava, mango, marzipan, and talcum powder.
Lots of crisp apple and sweet apricot on the finish. I agreed with Michiel when he exclaimed, “A great bloody wine.” The wine is available by consignment through The Kolanaki Group for $18.95.
The third Eradus wine was the Pinot Noir Rosé 2016.
Michiel advised us that there was a slight blue tinge to the bottle that gave the wine a darker pinkish colour. I don’t think he seemed particularly fond of the bone dry French Tavel rosés. And, I think he wanted to avoid any impression this was a lightweight dry as all get out rosé.
It certainly wasn’t.
It had its own forceful personality with strawberry, raspberry, talcum powder, and watermelon nose. On the palate, simple yet assertive notes of sweet red grapes, almonds, and strawberries. It paired very nicely with the slightly over salted Pecorino filled Ravioli with crème fraiche, lemon zest, fine fresh herbs, Nigella seeds, grated almond, and grated Pecorino cheese.
Three cheers for any wine which can hold its own and compliment such a contrasting dish.
Available for $18.95 from The Kolanaki Group on a consignment basis.
After not having any beef for some three months, I was faced with a monster beef tenderloin with sunchoke, shallot, endive, and cremini mushrooms in a Madeira sauce ($37). It just literally melted in my mouth.
Instincts called for a Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon or Portuguese Douro red table wine or Vintage Port, so I was a bit taken aback by the Eradus 2014 Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noirs are most often too delicate with such a cut of beef, but this Pinot Noir, with its gently aged oak and good acidic foundation, mastered and complimented the beautifully prepared beef.
Initially in the New Zealand market, Michiel indicated the Pinot Noir was seen as light weight, but in Europe was appreciated with a sense of the Old World elegance. I agree.
I was a bit reticent with the older French oak influence being a tad too aggressive but, when faced with the beef, it held the steer down with aplomb. Loads of black cherry, raspberry, and licorice.
Additionally, grilled Portobello mushrooms will do the wine justice. I think the oak will fade slightly with age or with a couple of hours of decanting. You can pick this up at Vintages for a steal at $24.95 as of June 10, 2017.
The Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir will champion Christmas turkey and ham while the Sauvignon Blanc would serve New Year oysters and mussels. But, Eradus wines are multi-seasonal and all these wines match nicely with summer.
As a surprise, a late harvest 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was sprung upon some very well fed diners. Michiel explained it was created by accident with some rotten, dehydrated grapes. In other words, the noble rot which makes some of the most expensive Sauternes in France.
Decadent, indeed, with deep, ripe pineapple upside down cake, apricot, and honeyed nose, and a sweet, yet light on its feet, taste that serenaded the orange lavender crème brulée and cheese board plate.
This late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc is available at $24.95 by consignment from The Kolanaki Group.
There are only a few winemakers you can encounter like Michiel. No bullshit, from the heart and, in short, a real live human being.
For more information and to order contact The Kolonaki Group.
For information on Eradus wines, check out their website.