There aren't enough positive adjectives to describe my dining experiences at this year's International Wine and Food Festival (IWFF). The IWFF showcase dinner that featured seven Peter Lehmann wines from Australia’s Barossa Valley and was simply elegant.
The first plating of “La Paz” farm sturgeon caviar over a cucumber salad and whole grain mustard mousseline was both creamy and salty. The combination of cucumber and caviar provided a balanced refreshing flavor – think of a crisp sea breeze-filled morning and you have the essence of this dish.
The second wine was served ultra-chilled prior to the plating of the second dish. According to Lehmann Wines, their 2011 Eden Valley Dry Riesling, like all Australian Rieslings, is meant to be served bracingly cold to refresh the spirit on hot days. This may have been my favorite wine of the evening, though it is hard to decide when it had such good company.
The second course of “Riso Nero” (a black risotto) crusted Skuna Bay salmon filet was served on a bed of midnight cauliflower puree. The picture doesn’t do this dish justice. The black crusted, red-pink fish on a dark lavender pool was an exquisite feast for the eyes. The cauliflower puree was tinted with the addition of squid ink and was the Ying, to the buerre blanc’s Yang, on top of which was layered brussel sprout petals and tri-colored carrots. As a personal preference, I rarely order salmon, but this dish was exceptional and by far my favorite course of the evening.
Pan seared pheasant with pearled barley risotto and smoked walnuts, was the third offering of the evening. Coupled with royal trumpet mushrooms and natural jus, this dish was the obvious guest favorite since no one seemed to have a single morsel left on their plates before the fourth dish was plated.
The pheasant’s smoky sweetness was paired with the 2009 Clancy’s Shiraz Cabernet Merlot (an Aussie standard, properly named after an Australian folk song, Clancy of the Overflow) as well as the 2010 Layers Red. Both were excellent counterparts to the dish, with the Layers providing a fruity Shiraz blend and Clancy’s a more traditional balanced red blend.
The fourth course of venison and foie gras paupiette was presented on a bed of celery roots hash browns and Shiraz wine sauce.
This rich and deeply flavorful dish was fit for a king and paired easily with Lehmann’s award-winning crowned jewel - the 2009 Stonewell Shiraz. Using the best vintage of their growers’ Shiraz, this darkly intense wine exemplifies Barossa Shiraz. It is the type of red that one drinks when needing a large steak knife to complete their meal.
For those desiring a lighter more velvety pairing, the 2008 Eight Songs Shiraz was also offered. This Shiraz, though equally distinct, is a bit more lenient and flexible for pairing with a variety of dishes – lamb, roast beef, spicy foods, etc. Preference for either depends on the personality of the dish and consumer.
After healthy, Australian-sized portions, guests were consistently impressed with the chefs' preparation of the Buddah’s Hand espelette, pepper crème brulee with a palm sugar crust and meringue fingers rolled in toasted nuts which was paired with the sweet, citrusy 2010 Botrytis Semillon. Pink grated pepper off-set the creamy dessert, edging it with a spicy, gingery kick. It was artistically arranged to assimilate the Australian flag.
If you’re ever in Adelaide, Australia and wish to take in some gorgeous wine country, visit Tanunda in the heart of Barossa Valley and be sure to stop in to Peter Lehman Wines for a tasting or two.
And if you have the opportunity to attend one of next year's IWFF Showcase Dinners, you will not be disappointed.