As first impressions go, it was a beauty.
We’ve no sooner arrived when a glass of 2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc De Blancs is placed in our hands. And it was gorgeous. As a matter of fact, as soon as we arrived home I was on the computer checking if I can afford this stuff, such was my enjoyment. Oh, okay - I can but I can’t, if you know what I mean. Very special occasion-type stuff.
But back to business. We were at our first Mt Pleasant Maurice O’Shea lunch – an annual event in the Hunter and always widely anticipated.
As there was no 2015 Maurice O’Shea shiraz – for those who don’t know, it’s Mt Pleasant’s absolute top red at a none-too-miserly $250 a bottle – they had instead decided to pull out some cracking back vintages. Serious quality drinking.
Aformentioned Champagne washed down canapes of natural oysters (yum!), hazelnut macarons with smoked trout, and brioche with beef tartare and white anchovy.
By the time we went inside for the lunch itself everyone was in a pretty good mood.
So, food and wine matching – and I should point out food was prepared by Andy Wright of The Cellar Restaurant at Pokolbin (menu below). And yes, you should be jealous!
So, without getting bogged down, let me say the food was absolutely spot-on. Scallops juicy and cooked to perfection, suckling pig in the form of a terrine that had great texture with chunks of flesh dotted within. And the crackling … well, it crackled all right. Delicious.
Roast lamb and brie, again, spot on. Lamb pink and moist, brie soft and beautifully perched between firm and oozy. In a word, food was outstanding.
I should point out we left before dessert as we had another commitment. Never mind, we’d already been won over.
Ah, now for the wines. And we’ll keep it reasonably short.
The two semillons: the 2017 1946 Vines Lovedale is a good wine, all lemony tartness and youthful but that few years in bottle for the 2011 Lovedale put it in another league. Entering that prime drinking window (where it will stay for years to come) it had toasty development, greater richness but was still intensely vibrant. A star.
For the second course we were amazed at how tasty that Mothervine pinot was. It’s generous and full flavoured, but kept in check – no hint of jamminess, instead picking up savoury notes at the end. Hunter can’t do pinot? You’re not listening. This was impressive all right.
The Mountain C had zing and red fruited freshness – it really is light framed – and real kick of spice to finish.
The Old Paddock Old Hills were interesting. The 1998 was good, but to be truthful the 1990 blew it out of the water. It was gorgeous. Earthy, dark fruit, dark chocolate starting to peep through, layers of flavour and that leathery note you see from old Hunter shiraz. Yet for all that the berried fruit was still there for all to see. It was a stunner.
The 1998 was good, no doubt, but bigger and chunkier – not as elegant. On any given day you’d be more than happy with a glass of this in your hand, but who wants to bat after Bradman, or run the 100 metres after Usain Bolt? Tough acts to follow.
The three Maurice O’Sheas… this was the perfect example of how the Mt Pleasant reds are evolving – becoming lighter and more fruit driven. More modern, if you like.
The 2003 was far and away the biggest and densest of the three. It was good drinking and still with years ahead of it. It wasn’t my style though. I preferred the others, but should point out that a seasoned wine drinker opposite who likes his reds that bit bolder loved it. He thought it was a notch above the others.
The 2011 was lighter and ageing well. As a matter of fact, the Hunter 2011 reds seem to be ageing really well in general from what I’ve tasted. It was seen as a pretty good vintage at the time, but I suspect its rating will continue to climb judging by the way these wines are ageing so effortlessly and gracefully.
And then came the 2014. Maybe a touch lighter again – hard to say, not much in it – but boy oh boy, the length. Lip-smacking goodness that just lingers. Bright flavours too, but in a restrained way. This guy is going to live a long, long, l-o-o-ong time.
So there you have it. A wonderful day, food as good as I’ve had at a function like this for some time, and some amazing wines. The placecards were a hit as well (see below).
If I was going to open the wallet (and I suspect I will) then the 2011 Lovedale Semillon, the Mothervine pinot and the 1990 Old Paddock Old Hill shiraz would get me for sure. I’d love to be around when the 2014 O’Shea hits its straps too, but suspect I’d need to live a healthier lifestyle to achieve that. And I’m happily too set in my ways.
Thanks Mt Pleasant, the pleasure was all ours.