Neil brings a glass of wine into the room where I am working. The deeply coloured, saturated purple-red coloured liquid with ruby-crimson edges, smells rich and sweetly vinous just sitting on the desk beside the computer, but so much more provocative when the wine is 'nosed' with the glass up close to the sensory receptors designed for that purpose.
Smoky cedar, black cherry, black currant dark black fruits, dried roses and violets - concentrated and voluptuous. Neil says it's like walking through a herb garden on a sunny day - all those wonderful aromas and I get that too with its inviting flavours.
Tight in the palate, tight yet wanting to be released, as then it does release its pleasures in generous waves of vinous delight. Concentrated and complex, deep and flirting, a treasure trove of flavour with a purity of concentrated, ripe red and black fruits mingling with vanilla, cedar, liquorice, mocha and dried herb nuances and a deep, shimmery, earthy undercurrent which becomes the focus on the long savoury finish.
This wine is Babich The Patriarch 2004, which states on the label a 'Premium Red Wine' from Hawkes Bay, and it has come on in leaps and bounds since being entered in the Air NZ Wine wards 2007.
I say that because in the Air NZ Wine Awards, the wine from the bottle that was entered scored a bronze medal. The wine from the bottle I am tasting from is so much better than that. In my glass is a wine to shout about from the rooftop. It is impeccable quality and gold medal / five stars standard in my book.
Babich The Patriarch 2004 is 39% Cabernet Franc (which no doubt contributes to the amazing aromatics), blended with 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot and 19% Malbec. The separate components, fermented in small open top fermenters, spent a year in a combination of French and American oak and after blending spent another 4 months in barrel. It has 14% alcohol according to the label and is sealed with a natural cork. It costs about $60 a bottle - a fair price for the flagship wine named after the company's founder, Josip Babich.
I had some Bridge Hill Dried Cherries, from Central Otago, which I was going to match to a Central Otago pinot noir, but the temptation to match them to this wine - after the cherry flavours in the wine were so pronounced, was just too much. Besides I picked up the dried cherries from Meat King in Albany (a butcher selling dried cherries - strange but true) and they are only $3.95 a pack ( compare that to $9.95 a pack from Gourmet Direct online sales), so I'll be down there later in the week to pick up more.
Try Babich The Patriarch 2004 with a slice of creamy Brie topped with a dried cherry - a winning combination. But we wanted something more substantial than that. And it was the racks of lamb that we had also picked up from the butcher, that were chosen.
Rack of lamb is so easy but if it hasn't been prepared by the butcher, take the fat and skin off first. Season both sides with salt, freshly ground pepper, crushed garlic, chopped rosemary and chopped mint. Brown the racks in butter on both sides then place on a baking sheet-covered dish to bake for 15 minutes in a hot oven. Then rest.
The sauce took a little more thought because I was thinking how I could use flavours that would complement the vinous delights of the wine?
Ah, a wine reduction - red wine and herbs a la Millton - I used about a cup of red wine and rosemary, mint and sage in the reduction but no sugar as I was adding the remains of the previous night's leftover redcurrant and wine jus, which had turned into a glorious jelly, overnight in the fridge. Then the pan drippings from the initial browning of the rack of lamb - the drippings had been deglazed with a little water and stirred to combine all the goodies. Then a dozen of the dried cherries (yes, we will count them out so we get equal cherries each) and five buttons of cooking chocolate. There was no sugar added to the reduction and the herbs offset the sweetness of the chocolate and the cherries. Once the chocolate had melted, the sauce was left to sit to plump up the cherries.
To serve, cut the racks into individual chops but place them on the plate together. Top the rack with the cherries, drizzle the sauce (which has been reheated, if necessary) over the top and around then plate (helps if you have a flat plate, then it won't run down like mine did) and sprinkle over a little more rosemary for colour and garnish.
Serve simple vegetable accompaniments on the side. Touché.
Find out more about Babich and 'The Patriarch'. www.babich.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
2 Jun 2008