June is a great month in the Hunter… it’s the annual Wine and Food month where wineries, restaurants and producers host a vast range of events. Chef’s Plate lunches, port and cheese tastings by the fireside, paella cooking classes, chocolate and shiraz pairings, dinner and wine around the open bonfire and so on. We were invited to one such event… the annual Whispering Brook Olive Long Table Lunch at the winery at Broke. It was a brilliant day and absolutely worth seeking out next year.
Okay, let’s start with the winery. It’s a boutique operation (they produce about 1000 cases annually) in a wonderfully tranquil setting. The winery is quaint, set in among the vines and olive trees, surrounded by mountains and craggy bluffs. It’s pretty idyllic … really peaceful with kangaroos hopping among the vines. Aside from producing good wine – the semillon and shiraz are both impressive, and they’re also the first Hunter winery to produce Touriga Nacionale, a Portuguese variety that is showing great promise – they also do a roaring trade in olives and olive oils. The owners, Adam Bell and Susan Frazier, are lovely people and terrific hosts, so everything was in place for a great day. After a quick tour of the olives grove and vines, complimentary sparkling in hand, of course, we get down to the serious business of a four-course lunch matched with Whispering Brook wines and live music for those who are feeling energetic and may want to get up for a dance.
The olive long table lunch, which has been running for a few years now and continues to grow, this year catered for 120 people (Susan feels this is probably the ideal number and plans to restrict it to that).
The table itself is positioned at the back of the winery between two long rows of olive trees - a beautiful setting, no doubt. The food, prepared by Andy Wright of The Cellar Restaurant in Pokolbin, was inspired by olives and guest speaker leading Australian cardiologist, Professor Len Kritharides, spoke about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. The lunch doesn’t cater for kids, just a friendly crowd of adults looking to enjoy the day. And enjoy it we did. So did the young woman, drink in hand, in the cellar door towards the end of the day who was belting out John Farnham’s You’re The Voice at the top of her voice to the surprise of others. Did we mention the wines were impressive too? The day was such a hit with us that on the way home we were talking about getting a crew together to book a few spots for next year. Forget the fact we were complimentary guests, we had a great time, and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a leisurely lunch in the sunshine.
Okay, for those who are into food and wine, read on. Otherwise, you get the drift. Book early for next year (tickets about $110 each, www.whisperingbrook.com.au), you won’t regret it. For entrée, platters of Chistorra chorizo, flame-roasted pimentos, pardons and Whispering Brook chilli-and garlic-infused olive oil, and Hiramasa kingfish with pickled vegetables, labna, dukkah and Whispering Brook lime-infused olive oil were matched with Whispering Brook Semillon or Rosé.
Then for main, a huge serve of osso bucco with chargrilled polenta, Sicilian green olives and gremolata with Whispering Brok olive oil, roast heirloom carrots with pine nuts and parsley was matched with Whispering Brook Chardonnay or Shiraz (the 2010 Shiraz was the highlight for us). And to finish, a Whispering Brook Shiraz poached pear and lemon myrtle frangipane tart with Whispering Brook port cream and candied zest was served with a generous glass of port. If that line-up doesn’t tempt you, you’re hard to please.