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Wine of the Week for week ending 10 Jan 2010
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Gladstone Vineyard Viognier 2009
Wairarapa, New Zealand

I chose this wine for our Christmas Eve feast because I had liked past vintages of the Gladstone Viognier so I had high expectations. I wanted a wine that would go with a variety of seafood and I was hoping this wine would have the versatility to match every dish. It did.

As my sisters were supplying the protein for Christmas Day, I was responsible for the Christmas Eve feast and seafood was approved by all. It is quick and easy to cook, it is a lean protein and is packed with vitamins, minerals and oils like Omega. It's one of the healthiest options for feasting. I also wanted to share some delicious white wines for our small family gathering.

I ended up with five courses and we each had a turn in preparing and cooking a course.

I started by filling mini short crust pastry cases (I had made these the previous weekend) with a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream with enough Greek yoghurt to bring the mixture to the right consistency and chopped fresh dill from my sisters garden for flavouring. The creamy filling was topped with generous pieces of cold smoked salmon.

I designed the next course, which was scallops sauteed in a little butter with kaffir lime leaf (off the tree my husband was receiving as a present the next day) and a splash of coconut cream. What a heavenly combination. The bright orange roes plumped up beautifully and I still cannot understand why this part of the scallop is missing on most of the cooking programs I see. It is only the roe, after all, and fish roe is one of the world's great culinary delicacies.

Neil cooked whitebait fritters. The whitebait came his sister who had netted them at Port Waikato near the mouth of the Waikato River on the west coast, south of Auckland City. They were delicate and needed delicate wine. The Viognier was the best match.

Christine cooked snapper fillets. I had asked the fishmonger to prepare them with the skin on and Christine's brief was crispy skin snapper. They were served with baby vine tomatoes and copious amounts of Thai basil from my garden. Delicious.

Linsey took charge of the Alaskan King crab legs. They were wrapped in foil and steamed on the barbecue. Served with butter melted and sizzled to just that 'nut brown' stage, we picked at the flesh and savoured every heavenly mouthful.

It was a slow food night. Food and wine enjoyed outdoors without overindulging. It was an early start the next day - and that day would be long.

Wines we drank tonight were
Champagne Pol Roger Vintage 1998 - this was going to be consumed on Christmas Day, but we decided to open it on Christmas Eve instead. What a fabulous Champagne - deep, rich, bready with a perfect touch of vinous sweetness. Loved it with the salmon tarts and the scallops too.
Lobster Reef Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 - a perfect seafood wine, especially the snapper and the crab.
Gladstone Wairarapa Viognier 2009 - the best all round match for all five courses.
Church Road Cuve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006 - a rich oaky wine that would have been better with bolder food.

The week's Wine of the Week, the first for 2010, Gladstone Wairarapa Viognier 2009, has a light citrine hue with a vitreous lustre. It's aromatic and heady with fragrant scents reminiscent of creamed nuts, spiced pears and hints of musk (as in smoker lollies and old fashioned roses). It's dry to the taste with an impression of ripe stonefruit and is smooth and gentle in attack with a texture that is viscous and glycerolic. There is none of the oakiness of the Chardonnay, nor the pungency of the Sauv - it's simply an all round good fellow that seems to meld into every seafood's comfort zone and leaves you with a warm feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.

Notes say the Viognier grapes from the company's Dakin's Road vineyard were hand picked and fermentation took place in both stainless steel and older oak barrels. The oak adds complexity rather than flavour. The alcohol is stated as 14.8% on the label and the recommended retail is $29 a bottle. Find out more from the Gladstone Vineyard website.

This vineyard is on our 'must visit' itinerary next time Neil and I drive down that way. It's evidently a beautiful vineyard setting and Summer Shakespeare is held here. This year it is the Merry Wives of Windsor in the early evening on the nights of 4th to 6th February.

Check out my "Wines of 2009" by clicking here.

© Sue Courtney
2 Jan 2010

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