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Wine of the Week for week ending 30 January 2005
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Herons Flight Il Rosso 2003
Matakana, New Zealand

When springtime came, so did the bunny rabbits. They'd come into the back yard and nibble on the grass. When I first noticed the baby rabbit Neil said we should let it grow to a reasonable size before it was sacrificed for our dinner. I would call to it from the back window. "Hi bunny, bunny". Perhaps it was because the chooks didn’t worry that the bunny would stick around rather than run away. A sitting duck, er bunny, if ever there was one.

The bunny kept coming, it got bigger, then disappeared for a while. More bunnies came. Sometimes whole families. It was usually in the early morning. If it was a weekend, Neil would still be in bed. If it was a work day, he'd be busy doing other things. By the time he got to the vantage point in the back room, they'd be long gone.

This weekend just past the rabbits came back again. A mother cottontail with three rabbitkins. It was late morning and the bunnies were in bunny food heaven as they feasted on the long grass.

Neil was ready this time. "Rabbit for dinner", he said and primed up the gun.

It was just a slug gun but Neil has a good eye and a good aim. The mother rabbit was the perfect target, sitting up, staying perfectly still. It didn't have a chance.

I heard the shot from the next room and looked out the window. "Quick Neil. It's not dead. Do something." It had fallen and was squirming and bucking, then all I could see was its tail twitching in the long grass. Now I felt remorse and sadness. Poor babies. Lost their mum.

It probably was dead but Neil went outside and put another slug through its head just in case. The tail still twitched. He came inside and put the gun away before he got round to the task ahead.

My challenge now was to find some recipes. And of course wines to match.

I chose a NZ pinot noir, an Aussie shiraz and a locally produced sangiovese for the taste test.

Herons Flight Il Rosso 2003, the locally produced sangiovese, was the one that impressed me most, probably because it had a point of difference in its flavour. It had a medium depth pinky red hue the colour of fresh black cherry flesh, and a smoky, slightly tarry aroma. Sweet fruit filled the palate with juicy fresh black cherry flavours aided and abetted by the tartness of cherry skins and red cherry guavas. Add to that a tomato savouriness, creamy vanillin oak, soft tannins and a tarry earthy kick to the spicy finish with good acidity to carry the flavour and you have a very characterful wine. It is an attractively presented wine made from 100% Sangiovese, but aged in older oak and made in a lighter style than the top tier Sangiovese from Herons Flight – (see Wine of the Week April 2004). It carries 12.5% alcohol by volume and at $22 a bottle, compared to $50 for the top wine, it is also much more affordable. Its soft, easy drinking, forward style is perfect for the Herons Flight café and another endorsement that David Hoskins made the right decision when he pulled out his Bordeaux grape varieties and replaced them with Italian.

Rosso is Italian for red but David also says the wine is named in honour of the lighter sangiovese wines that come from the Rosso di Montepulciano appellation in Italy. He said it is great with pasta.

So pasta would accompany one of the recipes. This would be rabbit limbs cooked in the style of 'coq au vin' - floured and sauteed rabbit pieces braised in a juicy liquid flavoured with garlic, mushrooms, onions, chicken stock, red wine, tomato paste and parsley. I wanted to stuff the saddle but there wasn't time, so it would be cut into pieces and cooked with herbed potatoes, carrots, whole garlic cloves and bacon.

Well it was only partly a success. Perhaps you've heard the story, "How to cook a Pukeko" (in Australia this would be "How to cook a cockatoo"). You boil up the bird with an old leather boot, then when it is ready you throw away the bird and eat the boot.

Well our rabbit was tough as old boots. So we threw away the rabbit and ate the rest of the meal. The pasta with the red wine and mushroom sauce was delicious and a perfect match for Herons Flight Il Rosso. And the potatoes were absolutely scrumptious. I'll definitely cook that recipe again and forget about the rabbit. The recipe follows.

Herbed Potatoes without Rabbit
Modified from Rabbit Hunting Online.

Take 4 to 6 small to medium potatoes, wash them well but do not peel. Dry and cut into halves or quarters. Peel a large carrot and cut into chunks.
Place the vegetables in a shallow roasting pan with 6 to 12 whole garlic cloves. Sprinkle over a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of a dried Italian style herb mix made from marjoram, basil, red bell peppers, rosemary, oregano, parsley and thyme (this can be purchased as such) and the fresh leaves of a sprig of rosemary. Toss well to coat the spuds with the herbs and oil. Bake for 30 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 190 degrees C.
Roughly chop 4 slices of bacon and cook over a low heat in a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. As the bacon starts to wilt, set aside with the drippings.
When the vegetables have roasted for their first 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and add pepper, coarse salt, a little more rosemary, the bacon, the reserved pan drippings and another 2 tablespoons of oil Toss thoroughly. Lower heat to 170 degrees C. Return pan to oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
Toss the vegetables around again and bake for another 20 minutes. The potatoes should be golden and crispy but deliciously soft inside.

Find out more about Herons Flight from

© Sue Courtney
23 January 2005

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