Appellation Chef’s Tasting Menu 8th February 2013
Happy 2013 to everyone! Apologies for being AFK, I have been a combination of slack and lazy as of late, as well as travelling about but after an extreme boost of confidence from Mark Wickman, I have decided to get cracking again. Over the next few posts, I shall be playing a bit of catchup blogging on wines I have tasted and places I nommed at. Today, let me take you to Barossa.
The missus and I recently took a trip down to Adelaide for a good friend’s wedding and decided to hit the Barossa on the way. After booking a last minute accommodation I consulted Gourmet Traveller and the web for some foodie ideas. All signs pointed to Appellation.
Appellation at The Louise is highly regarded as one of Australia’s finest regional restaurants; with a real passion for real, fresh local ingredients and produce. The kitchen staff, headed by Mark McNamara, flow with the seasons, foraging from the kitchen garden, bake their own bread and butcher their own meats; but most importantly, see wine and food as natural partners and design dishes to flatter the glass.
We were leaving on Friday with the intent to dine here that evening…good luck right? I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get a reservation but randomly scored a neat little corner table for that evening! Sweet! So a quick plane trip and a car drive away and here we are!
The Menu at Appellation
We were greeted with a candle lit room and presented with a lovely menu which we perused whist sipping our choice of still or sparkling rain water…and champagne. Alas we missed out on the special bi-monthly 10 course wine flight tasting menu and had to “settle” on the 6 course degustation menu which edged out a very sexy al la carte menu listed from light to heavy in flavours for ease of choice. On with the show.
Yellow tomato gazpacho
2009 Peter Lehmann Cuvee
First the bubbles. Barrel fermented for 2 years, the nose came of quite complex both buttery and zesty like a lemon curd tart. A very fresh sparkling, makes u think of green cut grass. On the palate, a fine green apple acidity is prominent with a background of pineapple and shortbread. Finishes like popping candy, joyful and playful on the tongue. There is a general feeling of summer in this sparkling, I feel this would go smashingly with prawns on an Asian green salad with a sprinkle of lemon juice.
Now the gazpacho. Go to the market and dump your head in the tomato section. Add some cut cucumber, a crack of garlic and splash in some olive oil and you would get what you’re seeing. So fresh I feel like I’m in Jamie Oliver’s kitchen. There is a lot of Spanish onion which competes with the yellow tomato flavours along with a sidekick of butter and lemon juice here and the crunchy toasted bread adds a nice textural element. Overall, the dish just felt like deconstructed bruschetta but it highlighted the quality of the produce.
The dish softened the cuvee, made it less fresh but more creamy and the acidity of the dish brought out the sweetness of the cuvee added a more rounded mouthfeel.
Little pie of smoked kingfish and leek with creamy horseradish soup
2006 Maverick ‘Trial Hill’ Chardonnay
Now this is a Chardonnay, with fruit grown in a high, cool climate vineyard. Gorgeous French oak on the nose evoking memories of Montrachet. Fleshy stone fruits, yellow peach and apricot along with brilliant balance and luxury. Attack is more acidic that expected, slightly sharp. Mid palate adds honey with kiwi fruit, violets, chilli with roast pork all the way through to a med long finish. Tip top stuff with a dish to match.
Hot damn this is what a pie should taste like. The leek and horseradish cream is superb. Pie has a lovely flakey pastry with an almost pheasant like filling. Brilliant textures of popping roe in the mouth and a slight crunch of leak.
Flavours of the wine interact playfully well, almost integrates the creaminess of the dish to it. I really enjoyed this dish.
South Australian Snapper with caramelised shallot and red wine butter sauce
2012 Mill About Vineyard ‘Tinto Rosso’ GSM
Not your usual GSM, this is a very exclusive wine made with a blend of Grenache, Saperavi and Martro. Produced on an ultra biodynamic vineyard, fermented in claypots and only 12 dozen produced a year. Yes, that’s only 144 bottles a year. The sommeliers at Appellation are only able to secure a dozen per year.
The wine is very closed at first glance so you really need to swirl and aerate this as much as you can. It comes with red aeroplane jelly colours or stain glass window red. Nose is dusty, redskins, glace cherries, red wax or crayons with a small semblance of mint and frozen peas in the back. It really brought out a picture of a red stain glass window in my mind and took me to smelling the inside of an old church.
Attack is like a red wine jus, slightly thick with a background of very red ripe cherries. There is a confectionary taste to it, again the redskins, little musky and sugar grains in the finish. Actually finishes a little sticky and waxy and leaves a very sugary lolly rose water sensation in the mouth.
Not only was this wine interesting, it was paired with fish. Even more interesting! Snapper was cooked perfectly; meat flaked off oh so sexily. There are no bold flavours here, just a very balanced concert with the sweetness of the fish accented by the shallots. Very sold dish showcasing the fish with potato supplying a contrasting texture.
With the dish, the wine loses its confectionary side and from it come big earthy tones, brown shirataki mushroom, fleshy cherry, dried cranberry, flower petals and a little bit of black tea at the back. I definitely enjoyed this wine more so with the food and with air.
A verjus sorbet palate cleanser with a cool looking spoon. Nothing much to report here, zippy, cold and refreshing, though I did find it weird that there was still another dish to come before the desert.
Coorong Angus beef three ways with potato puree and marrow glaze
2010 Two Hands ‘Bella’s Garden’ Shiraz
A highly regarded wine with big Barossa flavours. Salivating to nose; milk and dark chocolate coated cherries with ground coffee, smoked green peppercorns, bay leaf and star anise. Mouthwatering and luscious colour. Smooth attack, tingly and prickly tannins; green nettle leaf. Almost oily in the mid palate with good harmony of chocolate and fruit sweetness, balanced out with a pinch of acidity though an unfortunate bit of alcohol presence. Finishes milky and lingering. Very big wine and for my tastes, I would let it sleep for maybe 4 more years.
This wine was matched with an equally rich dish. There were three cuts of beef; tongue, fillet and cheek with a thick red wine marrow glaze. I started with the tongue which was a major disappointment; very rubbery and tasted like spam. The fillet was soft and juicy, good but not great. The check was my favourite piece; fatty, full of flavour and melts in your mouth. The flavours were certainly bold without being too salty and extremely rich, almost too rich. The dish did its job matching the wine bringing up the acidity whist dulling the prickly tannins but not impressive otherwise.
Elberta peach, Jersey cream, raspberry sorbet
2012 Flaxman Wines ‘Dessert’ Semillon
Another exclusive wine with only 120 dozen produced per year. Fresh and vibrant nose with straw, dry grass, apricots and stone fruits coming out of the glass. Not viscous on the palate, light attack and great balance of sweet and sour. A big fat ripe peach with juices running down your hand makes it way in the mid palate and finishes with a dash of crème. Very fine, very lean and very pleasing for a desert wine, almost like a sweet Riesling.
The desert looked wonderful and tasted just as nice. The raspberry sorbet, crushed hazelnuts and sugar caramel swirl candy are the highlights of this dish whist the centrepiece, the peach, playing second fiddle. Textures of crispy and crunchy, soft and meaty in the mouth makes the dish what it is and brings some further floral and apple notes to the wine.
All in all, I found the food a solid dining experience. I was swept away with the pie and peach, enjoyed the snapper but found the gazpacho, beef and verjus wanting. I found the wine matching spot on (keeping in mind that they only used local wines) and the quality of the wine and ingredients were very impressive. What made this night memorable was the staff. All the staff was extremely friendly, knowledgeable, accommodating and professional and I cannot speak highly enough for these guys. Thank you very much.
If I were to come back I would recommend going with a la carte (highly recommend the signature duck three ways) with a recommended wine pairing or if you’re lucky, give the 10 course wine flight a go!
Hope you had a good read, finished with a petit four of Jelly.