And to finish off nicely in Wollongong…….

7.45pm, same day, same place

(2)THE YALUMBA DINNER with the KOLLARAS BROTHERS at THE CITY BEACH FUNCTION CENTRE.

The City Beach Function Centre is the ‘big room’ for special events attached to the Kollaras Brothers’ ‘Dunes Brasserie & Bar’ – which is where we did our first dinner in Wollongong last year. The team did a great job of setting up the tables, and even switched on the ‘starry starry night’ romantic roof lighting for our dinner! We ended up with 130 wine interested locals, including the whole Kollaras brothers wine retail team, and Simon was our MC and wine order ’rounder upperer’. And then there were the five food courses!! I actually missed getting photos of the last two, as we were flat out around the 13 tables of 10 people each – who all had 20 questions to ask!! Which is a good thing…..but there just wasn’t enough time before midnight to get them all answered!! So here’s what I did see:

: 2010 Yalumba Vermentino with canapes where “Prawn, lemongrass, chilli & coriander mini fritters” sat on cucumber cup bases that were hollowed out and filled with a sweet chilli sauce!! Fresh and fresher when the fritter met the Vermentino! We wanted to bring something along for ‘on arrival’ that folks hadn’t seen before, and the Vermentino being one of our newer projects fitted the bill, especially when you’re talking a town that has access to excellent seafood. Vermentino holds it’s acid and aromatics well in warmer climate winegrowing areas, and is tailor made for these sorts of foodie flavours – and what a great way to start the event!!

:With the 2009 Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz – “Coq Au Vin, shitake & asparagus tartlet with beurre blanc”. Now I didn’t get to try these, but according to most of the room, it was a toss up between this and the rabbit pie course as to the star of the night.

:With the 2007 Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon – “House Made Black Puuding with Cherry Tomatoes and White Bean Cassoulet”. This was the chef’s first attempt at their own black pudding – looking for something to fill out the leaner Menzies palate, but fit with the cassis and mint eucalypt aromatics and savoury berry flavours. Result?? Not much went back on the plates. Again, I didn’t try any because I was talking as the folks were eating!

:With the 2006 Signature Cabernet Shiraz – “Slow Braised Rabbit Mini Pot Pies with Roast Pimento and Smoked Eggplant”. This I did get to try, and the really bouncy juicy fruit berries and depth of the shiraz cabernet LOVES the slow cooked meats. Especially in this case with the smoked eggplant.The pies were ‘cocktail’ size but honestly didn’t need to be any bigger. This ‘degustation’ style dinner is really a great way to go, with small bite size courses showcasing food and wine aromas, textures & flavours that really get on well together.

:With the 2006 Octavius Old Vine Barossa Shiraz – “Crisp Pork Belly with Carrot Puree, Lardo Green Peas & Pear Cider Jus” Sorry folks, not even a photo. But I can tell you that there were oohs and ahs from everyone at the table I was working when the plates were put down.Makes sense, as the heavy fruit laden Octavius has some nice grainy tannins and acid that would cut through the pork belly, and I did try the sauce. The pork cider was sweet and tart and set the whole thing off.

:With the 2009 FSW8B Botrytis Viognier – “Vanilla Plum Compote with Sticky Meringue and Clotted Cream Romanoff” Yes folks – the big sweet and sour fireworks finish!! The Botrytis Viognier is flying! All nougat, apricot, honey and luscious. Just the ticket for slightly tart plum and meringue!! Enough said – and you had to be quick because the leftovers were attacked as well as the plated desserts! I’d say that made it a winner of a dish.

It was a great night out in Wollongong, and we’ve now set the bar very very high. It will be tough to top this next year, but it looks like everyone that came along is pretty serious about backing up for more in 2012!! So thanks Wollongong, thanks Simon, thanks Mitch for setting it all up, thanks to Kerry Skinner from the Illawarra Mercury for the continued support, and thanks to the whole extended Kollaras clan. In fact I was starting to call the town Kollarasgong on the night, because there just seems to be so many of them in the business. So K – Gong it is. See you all next year when we’ve got the stellar 2008 vintages of Signature and Octavius on board, and I’ll work on rounding up some more Yalumba and travel stories to keep you entertained. Promise!!!

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