The desert sounded decadent - a chocolate truffle slice with a cherry compote. It was styled by Rex Morgan of Citron Restaurant in Wellington. But I was not in Wellington, I was sitting in a very expensive Air New Zealand aeroplane seat, 10,000 metres above sea level in the sky, flying from Auckland to Brisbane, and relishing the food and wine as I passed the time. I thought the cherry compote would be interesting to try with the Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Pinot Noir 2006 (see blog 25th July) that was still in my glass.
"Would you like the desert wine?" asked the stewardess.
"Mmmmm, yes," I replied.
She showed me the bottle then took it away to remove the cork.
Meanwhile I tried the Pinot with the dessert. So-so with the chocolate slice that was soft and creamy and mousse-like in texture - Brown Brothers Dolcetto Syrah would be better, but yummy with the cherries that were more bitter than sweet in style.
Then my dessert wine arrived. It was Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Noble Semillon 2002 and looked a deep burnished gold colour in the glass. Like the previous wines tasted in the air, the aromas were more delicate and subdued than I would have expected, with hints of apricot jam and some woodiness too. Then the taste - such delicious flavours full of concentrated thick nectar - so much more intense than the nose would suggest - powerful flavours of plumped-up dried apricots, a hint of orange honey, toffee, some volatile acidity in line with oak-aged wines of this style with the oak adding complexity while playing a very subtle supporting role in the background. This fully botrytised wine, carrying 13.5% alcohol, was fermented in new French oak where the fermentation was stopped when the desired sugars were reached and then matured in the oak for 14 months.
While this would work with the chocolate truffle slice at a pinch, it was with the cheese and biscuits that I was also given where the match came to life, especially the blue cheese - origin unknown - and dried fruit including apricots. Blue cheese, apricots, sweet wine - just divine.
On release this wine cost about $33-$35 a bottle. I first tasted this in 2007 and again in 2008, now a third tasting in 2009 and the development of the wine is absolutely fine.
'Would you like another glass," asked the stewardess.
"Yes please," I replied.
Find out more from - www.churchroad.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
26 Jul 2009