Made in Mudgee

Words by Gregor Stronach I received an invitation a couple of weeks ago, by email – and it took me all of about 20 seconds of frantically stabbing at my keyboard to type “Yes please, of course, I would love to be there, it sounds amazing!” to lock in my seat at the Crow Bar for the Made in Mudgee event on August 25.

And then, the unthinkable happened. I spent the entire day attempting to move house – and by the time I was meant to be leaving to attend, I was half-moved, half-dressed, very-stressed and wondering which box my ‘nice collared shirt’ was in.

Luckily, I seemed to have been blessed by the gods, because even though I arrived a teensy bit late, there – at my designated seat – my entrée and first course wine were waiting. Beetroot, prepared four ways by chef Anna Borna, paired with a Rosé produced by winemaker Rob Black from Mudgee winery Bunnamagoo.

Now, those that know me will know that I’m not the type to be over the top about things when I write. I’m a journalist by trade, and it’s been drilled into me to be honest, forthright and pursue the truth with every word I put on a page. So…

From the first taste of the food that Anna had prepared, I knew I was in for a fantastic evening. And the wine, carefully selected from Rob’s range, was a brilliant match – the light sweetness of the Rosé melded perfectly with the sugars of the beetroot, dancing across my palate. My only regret from the opening course was that I got there late, and rushed my way through it in order to catch up with everyone else at my table.

The next course arrived promptly – salmon cured in rosemary gin, with radish, peas, leeks, fennel and an avocado cream that defies description – matched with the 2015 Bunnamagoo Sauvignon Blanc Semillon.

And, again, Anna’s food and Rob’s wine went hand in hand. And I wasn’t the only person at my table to think so. When I arrived (late, as I’ve described), I rushed through the first course, to the accompaniment of my table-mates chattering excitedly amongst themselves.

But as we all delved into the second course, the chatter stopped – except for the occasional quite grunt of appreciation, or a very quiet exclamation about how well the wine paired with the food upon our plates.

Conversation sparked up once the food was consumed – convivial and loads of fun. Despite being seated at a table of people I’d (mostly) never met before, I found myself engrossed in chatter with a really remarkable group of individuals, with the topics of our conversation ranging from the benign to the sublime to the ridiculous and all the way back again.

And then… the red was poured; the 2011 Bunnamagoo “1827” Cabernet Sauvignon – which came with a short, but extremely informative explanation from winemaker Rob Black.

It also came with a plate of charred lamb backstrap on a bed of celeriac and potato puree, with spiced carrots (everyone at the table was guessing cardamom, but even if we were wrong, we didn’t care – they were delicious) and a port jus that balanced the dish perfectly… and once it was tasted along with the wine, the only sounds I heard at my table were “mmmmph”, “oh my god”, and “….. <rude words of happiness>”.

Having consumed an elegant sufficiency at this point – but happy to explore the near boundaries of gluttony, I prepared myself for the dessert course. Luckily, dinner was interrupted in a most pleasant fashion by a charming parlour game, involving a “Mystery Wine” – which we all got to taste, and then answered a series of questions.

Sadly, my knowledge of wine was insufficient to win that particular contest – but the delight on the winner’s face was a joy to behold.

Dessert arrived soon after – olive oil ice cream, a dark chocolate mousse, salted honeycomb (which I could have happily eaten about ten kilos of, because it was 9000 different kinds of amazing) and strawberries, paired with the 2013 Bunnamagoo Autumn Semillon, which had recently taken on the big guns of the Australian dessert wine scene, and knocked them all out of the park.

Once the meal was done, I felt like I was old friends with my new friends from around my table. I had eaten a spectacular meal, paired with the best Mudgee wines I’ve had in a very long time, in the company of a brilliantly entertaining and friendly group of people.

Many, many thanks to John Cantle from the Crow Bar for having the event in his venue, and a truly massive thanks to Anna Borna and Rob Black for providing food and wine so perfectly matched.

And last, but so far from ‘least’ that I suspect I should have thanked her first – my enduring and heartfelt thanks to Lakiesha, the brains (and the beauty, if I might be so bold…) behind Taste.E.

I’ve been to many events like this over the years – but this one in particular struck a chord with me… because the venue was perfect, the food was amazing, the wine spectacular, and the company at each table made the night a hugely friendly and brilliant night out.