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    MCC Long Room Wine and Food Society - September Luncheon

    Where else would you want to be in the last week in September other than enjoying canapés and pre-lunch drinks in the Long Room followed by an enticing lunch in the Members Dining Room at the Melbourne Cricket Club?

    More than 200 members and guests of the society really appreciated the opportunity to attend this function overlooking the grand final arena, and the Epicure staff members were wearing the jumpers of the two competing teams – Hawthorn and Sydney Swans – to add to the atmosphere of the event.

    We were greeted by a 2009 Lili St Cyr Chardonnay Pinot Noir (alc.12.5%). Not many knew of this sparking but we found it to be a good starter. From the Montana stable, the fruit was sourced from the Strathbogie Ranges and benefited from ageing on lees for 36 months, which enhanced the smoothness and fullness of the Pinot Noir while the Chardonnay provided a refreshing acidic base. The wine was clean and dry and was a great aperitif style.

    The canapés were excellent – chicken wings and rice, Vietnamese spring rolls and coconut vanilla prawns that were magnificent in preparation and the taste buds really lit up.

    We moved into the Members Dining Room for the main event chaired by society president John Campbell. The wines were from the society’s cellar and were selected by wine and food master Paul Kinross and cellar master Ian Maguire. Guest chef of the day was Paul Johnson who had four years’ experience in Vietnam before joining Epicure. Paul is currently sous chef for members’ dining at the MCG.

    The entrée was a new experience with shared tapas to the table comprising prosciutto and melon, chorizo and potato frittata, whitebait and aioli, chilled tomato mussels, Spanish vegetable salad and capsicums and goat’s cheese. The tapas prompted much discussion as something new always does, but the general opinion was favourable. However, with so many flavours the concern was whether or not the wines could match the food. Two whites were up for the job:

    The 2010 Wynns Coonawarra Chardonnay (alc.13.5%) was a pale straw colour with a slight greenish tinge around the edge. It had a clean, dry finish with an aftertaste of spice, peach and tropical fruit. It was paired with a 2007 Plunkett Gewurztraminer (alc.12.5%), a light and refreshing wine with perfume and lychee on the nose. The palate was soft and fruity with a sweetness balanced by crisp acidity.

    The main course was also a new experience – guinea fowl two ways with buttered Brussels sprouts, pancetta and carrot parsnip crisps. Parsley potatoes were served to the table. The different treatment of the buttered sprouts did complement the fowl, although some reflected that the bird was somewhat dry without an additional sauce.

    Two Pinot Noirs accompanied the guinea fowl, both from the 2006 vintage. First was the Bay of Fires Pinot Noir (alc.13.5%) from a warm, early vintage with low yields. Hence the quality of fruit was reflected in this wine which was rated 94 by James Halliday. The palate showed a medium-bodied wine of pure red fruit of cherries, spice and sweet vanilla oak – an excellent Pinot.

    The second red was a Mount Riley Pinot Noir (alc.13.0%). This winery is named after the predominant peak in the Richmond Ranges, the craggy mountain range that overlooks the Wairau Valley in New Zealand’s Marlborough district. The wine is described as moderately concentrated yet elegant with flavours of plum violet, red cherry, mixed spices and classy oak.

    Now special mention should be made of the cheese dish, a Roaring Forties blue fondue with crisps and pear. Many of us thought this was really one “out of the box”. The flavour and texture were outstanding and our enjoyment of the cheese was added to by the “wine of the day”, a 2003 Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (alc.14%). This was Katnook’s top Cabernet with a profound depth of fruit aromas and flavours resulting from 38 months’ maturation in new French and American oak.

    The dessert was most interesting, a bread and butter pudding with raspberry sorbet and fresh raspberries. There are those who love B&B and some who don’t like the heavy, doughy pudding that some can be. However, with the extra raspberries most thought this was a good result.

    The dessert was accompanied by a Chateau Reynella 16 Year Old Rare Tawney (alc.19.5%). Copper mahogany in colour with a nose of figs and spice, the palate was soft with sweet spicy fruit that finished toasty and dry. The fruit was sourced from the McLaren Vale.

    What a great time it was to be in Melbourne and be privileged to attend this function during grand final week. We went off home singing “We’re a happy team at Hawthorn”, perhaps an indication of things to come!

    Thanks to all those who did so much work to make our grand final week so special.

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    MCC Long Room Wine and Food Society - August Luncheon

    The Long Room was full of members and guests which was a good attendance as the MCC’s Bradman Luncheon was being held “in competition” in the Percy Beames Bar and the Members Dining Room.

    One of the guests for the Bradman Luncheon went the wrong way on the draft, had a couple of wines and enjoyed the canapes before finding out he was at the wrong function because there was no table No.23! Oh well, he must have been disappointed when he had to leave.

    This occasion was another lunch of high standard in both the food and the wines, a function marked by the enthusiasm and confidence of both guest chef Rosie Utteridge and winemaker Kevin McKay.

    It was Rosie’s first appearance at our luncheons and she certainly showed us why she has already notched up many awards since beginning her apprenticeship in 2005 and later moving on to Epicure at the ‘G. It was during this time that she won the Spotless “Apprentice of the Year” award. She then moved on to New York to work with celebrity chef Adrian Richardson. More recently, she won two gold medals at the prestigious Hunter Valley Competition.

    The wines were from Forester Estate vineyard in WA’s Margaret River region and were presented by winemaker Kevin McKay. Kevin not only gave us the pleasure of enjoying his wines but also hearing of his personal life at Margaret River, from surfing to winemaking and making his own wine on his father’s  property to Abbey Vale and finally to Forester Estate, where he enjoys creating wines from, as he describes, the brilliant fruits of Margaret River.

    Kevin also praised the assistance he received from his mentors who taught him to focus on attention to detail and maintain an emphasis on producing a consistent, super-premium product. This was borne out by the quality of the wines he presented.

    Kevin and wife Jenny purchased Forester Estate in 2001 after grapes had been planted on the property in 1995. Since taking over the vineyard they have built a magnificent renaissance-style winery and with more than 20 years’ experience in the area Kevin has built up relationships with key growers, sourcing fruit from up to 14 vineyards as well as the home block.

    But back to the food. The canapés were outstanding both in quality and quantity. Firstly, we loved the duck pithiviers with burnt fig jam, another new experience although we enjoyed them so much that some of us had too many! Secondly, there was the slow-roasted cherry tomato with whipped Persian feta, equally as good, but we were overcome by the Western Rock Oysters with an onion and sherry vinaigrette. The excellent canapés gave us an insight into what was to come.

    Complementing the nibbles was the 2013 Forester Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (alc.13.5%), awarded 94 points by James Halliday and the winner of two gold medals. This blend really gives the Sauvignon Blanc more flavours and adds to the texture of the wine. It was an excellent choice as a starter.

    It was then on to the entrée of Shark Bay scallops with celeriac cream and prosciutto. This was when we appreciated the detail that Rosie went to in presentation on the plate, something that was evident throughout the meal. Everyone also appreciated the quality of the scallops that were enhanced by the celeriac cream without overpowering them.

    Two whites were served with the entrée. First was the 2012 Forester Sauvignon Blanc (alc.13.5%, rated 95 pts by Halliday and a gold and silver medal winner). The grapes were hand-picked from the home block, with 43% cold fermented in stainless steel using a yeast tailor-made for sauvignon blanc and the remainder fermented in used French barriques, 14% with wild yeast. This illustrates the attention to detail that Kevin McKay goes to in producing his wines.

    The 2012 Forester Chardonnay (alc.13.5%, 96 points from Halliday and on his “Best of Chardonnay” list). There was an opinion that this is what the new chardonnays should be like, somewhere between the unoaked and the older style. The medium lemon to gold-coloured chardonnay was very ripe with a buttery nose and peachy richness.

    The main course another of Rosie Utteridge’s classics – a veal fillet with potato fondant, wild mushroom ravioli and cabernet jus. It was top-quality veal, cooked through to perfection with the added flavours from the ravioli and the jus. Once again the plate presentation was just right to whet the appetite. The dijon mustard also gave the dish additional flavour.

    The reds with the main were rated highly by Halliday. The 2008 Forester Yelverton Reserve Cabernet (alc.13%, 94 points) was described as crimson purple with a deliciously perfumed bouquet of cassis and blackcurrant with a satin-smooth, medium-bodied palate and featuring fine tannins with high-quality oak.

    The 2011 Forester Shiraz (alc.14%) was an example of a three-year-old wine that may improve over the next three years matched with the Cabernet which was already six years old and may be at its best. The Shiraz was of deep red colour with purple hues and full of fruit, soft and well-structured with soft, fine tannins featuring plum and blackberry flavours.

    The cheese dish was a washed rind with a wonderful pear jelly and small walnuts. Accompanying was the 2010 Forester Home Block Shiraz (alc.13.5%, 92 points), a deep red wine with aromas of blackberry, aniseed and chocolate with the palate reflecting the same flavours.

    Next came the dish of the day, Rosie’s “Oaks Day Favourite”. Don’t worry about this dish being the favourite, it was the outright winner. Listed as strawberry, rhubarb, champagne and white chocolate, on the side was a dollop of gelato. The presentation alone would have won gold medals, but the dish was magnificent and the gelato cleansed the palate to conclude a most enjoyable lunch.

    We never cease to be amazed how the Epicure kitchen staff can deliver such outstanding luncheons, especially with the Members Dining Room being full to overflowing with Bradman Luncheon guests.

    This function was a great example of Melbourne being the world’s most liveable city at one of the world’s best sporting stadiums, plus the combination of an up-and-coming young chef and a winemaker/vigneron both striving for excellence in their chosen fields.

    It was no surprise that the final question to Rosie Utteridge from one of our members was: “Are you married?”

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    MCC Long Room Wine and Food Society - July Luncheon

    July brought a double-barrel function for the society. Wednesday July 30 featured the usual afternoon luncheon for members, followed by the annual waiting list dinner on Thursday night, July 31.

    The chef for both functions was Jerome Mulryan who started his culinary career in the U.K., moved to Australia in 2003, where he spent time working for the Sofitel Group before joining Epicure in 2010.

    The wines for the two functions came from one of Australia's oldest family owned companies - Angoves Family Winemakers - and featured wines from their McLaren Vale and Clare Valley vineyards in South Australia. Angove Chief Winemaker, Tony Ingle, was our guest speaker and did a mighty job telling us about The Angove Company, its history and the wines we enjoyed. Some 360 members, waiting list people and their guests attended the two functions which featured the same menu and wines.

    Canapés provided the first course and were much appreciated for their flavour and variety. A sausage roll stuffed with Mandagery Creek venison (N.S.W.) and served with a beetroot relish was followed by  a Gippsland beef pithivier (mini pie) and a spiced tomato dip. Then, fresh Tasmanian oysters and  a "gin & tonic" dressing provided a real contrast to the warmth and spicy flavours of the other two hot canapés. All were accompanied by a Charles Pelletier Blanc de Blancs wine from France. This wine was made in the traditional method from mainly Chardonnay grapes and was an excellent accompaniment to all three canapés.

    The entree course was fantastic. Certainly one of the best entrees I have had the pleasure of eating over the past 26 years of the society.

    Chef Jerome Mulryan produced a Victorian free-range chicken terrine with celery,  hen's egg, mushroom soil and potato aioli. The chicken had been slow cooked at 74 degrees for 16 hours, then pressed overnight to form the terrine. The mushroom soil was a amalgam of field mushrooms, shallots, garlic and almond meal braised overnight and dried. Really - quite simple.

    To wash this down, we enjoyed a 2013 Angove Family Crest Chardonnay from McLaren Vale and a 2008 Angove Clare Valley Riesling; the Chardonnay, fresh and light while the Riesling, much more complex as it ages in the bottle. Both wines matched the entree very well.

    Main course was a Riverina lamb rack, perfectly cooked, that simply melted in the mouth. It came with delicious minted peas, a pumpkin fondant, fig relish and a 24 hour braised lamb in a shredded and moulded form. The only thing missing was a roasted potato.

    The wines were, again, a contrast. A 2013 Alternates Tempranillo was a real surprise. Light and flavoursome, it had a distinctly Pinot Noir flavour and was much appreciated by many of the younger members attending. In fact, I later found out from the Angove people that it was the biggest selling wine over the two functions. An Angove Warboys Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz was the other main course wine. Though relatively young, it had great depth and complexity and will cellar extremely well. Certainly one for the little black book!

    The cheese was a Spanish Manchego served with a marmalade and onion chutney. The companion wine was a 2013 Angove Alternatus Grenache sourced from their McLaren Vale vineyards and was a great example of this under-rated varietal.

    Dessert featured a rich chocolate ooze cake plus apricot and rosemary sorbet and a salted cashew crumble. It looked wonderful and tasted the same-rich and quite decadent and prepared with imagination and flair. Served with this "melting memory" was an Angove Premium Vintage  Fortified Shiraz (2010). This port like wine was dark, rich, smooth and fruit driven and a fitting partner to a memorable dessert.

    Winemaker, Tony Ingle, gave a lively, interesting and comprehensive review of all the wines and impressed both functions with his knowledge and presentation.

    Chef, Jerome Mulryan was equally impressive in the detailed way he explained how each course was developed, prepared and served. The Epicure team led by Sam and Ian, were, as usual,
    attentive and efficient. Two very memorable, satisfying and successful functions.

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    MCC Long Room Wine and Food Society - June Luncheon

    As we’ve said before, the society’s functions are always full of surprises and this occasion was no exception.
    Members were advised to get together in the Percy Beames Bar but on arrival it was empty. Some wondered if they had come on the wrong day. However, with Melbourne experiencing a real winter’s day Epicure had moved the pre-luncheon experience to the rear of the Long Room to provide warmth and a cosy get-together.

    Guest chef Gittima Sasela is well known to the society for her achievements in the Culinary Centre’s pastry kitchen resulting in numerous medals and awards, so it was great to have her select and prepare the menu for this function.

    The wines were from John Geber’s Chateau Tanunda vineyard and winery in the Barossa Valley which was represented by winemaker Stuart Bourne, who not only presented some outstanding wines but delivered a great commentary on them. He also recognised that he felt it was a real honour to be able to present in the Long Room of the MCC but left us in no doubt as to his love for Port Power!

    The grand bluestone cellars of Chateau Tanunda were established in 1890 and the property is known as the “Icon of the Barossa”. The Geber family purchased it from Southcorp in 1998 and set about restoring it to its former glory and the complex now features the Barossa Ranges Terrace, the basket press winery, a cricket oval and croquet green, the Long Room, an impressive grand ballroom and a cellar door outlet housed among hundreds of barrels of maturing wine.

    In 2012 Chateau Tanunda won 42 medals including 23 gold, while at the Berlin wine show that year they won premium gold for their 2009 old vines Shiraz.

    Two of the canapés selected by Gittima were seafood based and one from the high country. They were Tasmanian Spring Bay mussels with bean sprout salad and citrus dressing, salt cod brandade with saffron aioli and finally Thai High Country pork dumpling with garlic, pepper and peanuts.

    We did enjoy the 2012 Chateau Tanunda Blanc de Blanc (alc.12.5%). The winemaker let us know where his heart was with the comment: “If you don’t like Champagne there must be something wrong with you!” The grapes came from high in the Eden Valley at more than 400m above sea level and were carefully picked in the cool of the night to refrain the fresh citrus flavours and natural acidity.

    This time we didn’t have to move to the Long Room for the commencement of the lunch as we were already there! The entrée brought out definite preferences as the seared yellowfin tuna with cucumber jelly, confit of fennel and lemon was highly praised by those who love Japanese restaurants and treated with reservations by others. Nevertheless, these functions are all about experiences for the members and guests.

    The first white from Chateau Tanunda was a 2013 Eden Valley Riesling (alc.10.5%) from a single vineyard. It displayed elegance and finesse with a nose of citrus fruits. The palate showed length and natural acidity.
    The second wine was the 2012 Old Vine Semillon (alc.11.5%). The winemaker thought that this Semillon goes well with oysters. However, we might have to wait until the cocktail party in December to see if we agree! James Halliday rated this lovely wine at 91 points.

    The main course was enjoyed by all. It featured an outstanding Gippsland beef fillet with sautéed mushrooms, cabbage balls, pommes maxin and a bordelaise glaze. The meat industry has certainly improved over the years for us to appreciate such tender and tasty beef in the middle of winter, and our guest chef had cooked it just right for the 160 attendees.

    With a good beef fillet there has to be some good reds and Chateau Tanunda of the Barossa provided just that! Their 2012 Bethanian Shiraz (alc.14.5%) showed aromas of blackberry and black pepper with spicy, dark berry fruits on the palate. The wine was matured for 18 months in both American and French oak.

    Also accompanying the main course was the 2012 Terroirs of the Barossa Ebenezer District Shiraz (alc.15%) and it was the feature wine of the lunch. Made from grapes off 80-year-old vines at the Lowke family vineyard at Ebenezer, which is located in the northern area of the Barossa, the palate was full of red fruits and fine tannins. The wine won a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge in 2014.

    The traditional cheese dish was a combination of Calendar Farmhouse cheddar and Meredith ashed goat’s cheese with poppy seed lavosh, an excellent dish to separate the big beef of the main course from what was coming for dessert.

    With the cheese we enjoyed the 2012 Chateau Tanunda Cabernet Sauvignon (alc.14.5%). The grapes were grown on the sandy soils of block 16 in the Bethany vineyard which was first planted in 1960. The wine featured deep, rich purple and red hues and a bouquet of blackcurrant, redcurrant and spice.

    It’s funny that when we go to a restaurant and the waiter presents the dessert menu, most of us say no thank you. This doesn’t happen at our functions because the desserts are different and exciting and this was no exception – a vanilla cream brulee with blood orange jam and almond butter cake. What would you expect from a Gittima Sasela creation? The sticky was the 2011 Chateau Tanunda Botrytis Semillion (alc.10.5%).

    To sum up, it’s no wonder that our waiting list continues to grow when we experience the work of some of the best chefs in Australia coupled with world-recognised wines as instanced by Chateau Tanunda’s success at international wine shows.

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    MCC Long Room Wine and Food Society - May Luncheon

    After a superb annual dinner, in May the 170 members and guests enjoyed the traditional format of gathering in the Percy Beames Bar and adjourning to the Long Room for luncheon.

    These events continue to present many surprises and this occasion was no exception. Who would have thought of a classic Riesling coming from the south of Tasmania? However, this was only one feature of the day as the canapés were considered to be among the best of many lunches.

    Mention should also be made of the chef of the day, Patrice Merdy, who successfully matched the fine Pinot Noirs of Tasmania with fresh produce from that state.

    The Pooley wines were from the Coal Valley winery south of Hobart. Winemaker Anne Pooley is the third generation of her family involved with the winery. Her grandfather started growing grapes originally to the north of Hobart, but later moved to the Coal Valley district which is noted for its Pinot Noir.

    Anna has had extensive experience in the industry since graduating from Adelaide University in 2003. She initially worked at Wolf Blass before heading off to Europe. On return to Australia she became head winemaker for Heemskerk before taking over at Coal Valley. Anna was named the Wine Society Australia’s young winemaker of the year in 2010.

    Chef Patrice Merdy is well known to the society. Born in Versailles before migrating with his family to Melbourne, he later returned to France to complete an apprenticeship and develop his passion for fine food. Patrice had extensive experience in many fine Melbourne restaurants before joining Epicure in 2011 and is currently sous chef – functions at the MCC.

    It is worthy of note that both the chef and the winemaker of the day had experience working in Europe and this was borne out in the quality of food and wine presented at the luncheon.

    The canapés started with Tasmanian oysters with kataifi beignet and pernod mayonnaise. Next was a petit choux with dill and goat’s cheese and finally we savoured a chicken and wild mushroom vol au vent. Each was excellent.

    The greeting wine was a 2009 Pooley Matilda Vintage Pinot Noir Chardonnay which showed lemon curd aromas and flavours from the chardonnay and when combined with the pinor noir gave texture and length. It was a very pleasant sparkling to go with the canapés.

    Then it was off to the Long Room where a full house enjoyed an enticing entree named “parcelle de trompettiste” which comprised Tasmania trumpeter, prawn and chive mousseline with a bisque sauce. This really gave the dish an extra bounce of crayfish flavour. Well done, chef!

    Accompanying the entrée was the surprise white, the 2007 Pooley Riesling (alc.13.2%). Normally our members would think such a classic came from the Clare or Eden valleys, but the palate of zesty lime, intense, pure honeysuckle and granny smith apple gave it a remarkable depth of flavour and yet it was still crisp and youthful despite its age.

    It was a little unfortunate that the 2013 Pooley Pinot Grigio 2013 (alc.12.5%) came alongside the Riesling, but nevertheless the wine showed varietal characteristics true to the Italian style of freshness and primary fruit aromas. The palate was vibrant and delicate with green pear, lemon rind and apple flavours.

    Having earlier sampled the Pinots, chef Merdy selected his main course – “magret de canard avec une sauce a l’orange”, slow-cooked Wimmera duck breast with pomme anna potato, broccolini and orange glace biscuit. The dish went well with the two Tasmanian Pinot Noirs, the first of which was a 2012 Pooley Butchers Hill Coal River Valley Pinot Noir (alc.13.6%).

    An outstanding wine full of the characteristics of the region, it was described by the winemaker as the most expressive produced at the vineyard. The wine was dense, dark with balance upfront and concentrated fruit and oak spice over supple tannins, a big wine from a very low-yielding vintage.

    Then second red was a 2013 Pooley Pinot Noir (alc.13.4%) and once again the Pinot Noir flavours came to the forefront with aromas of red and dark fruits followed by tobacco leaf and cedar spice. The generous palate featured mulberry, raspberry and cherry flavours with a hint of spice on the finish.

    The cheese – “fromage en croute lavee” – again from Tasmania, was a washed rind that came with roasted figs and candied pecans and a sourdough baguette. The fromage was matched with a 2010 Pooley Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot (alc. 13.5%), a traditional blend of 50% Cabernet and 50% Merlot and at four years of age showed intensity on the black palate of red fruit, dark chocolate and cedar spice.

    The members always love the excellent desserts that they never get at home, and the “epices d’hiver chocolat crème” or burnt mandarin caramel, Tasmanian leatherwood ice cream with salted cashew crush, certainly didn’t disappoint.

    The dish was accompanied by a 2012 Pooley Late Harvest Riesling (alc.10.4%) which was medium gold in colour but quite intense. It was a blend of ripe Riesling grapes combined with Pinot Noir with the skins removed to provide texture and length.

    What a function. The combination of fresh Tasmanian produce and a chef dedicated to fine food with impressive plate presentations and a balance of flavours was a masterpiece. Added to this was a Tasmanian winemaker of undoubted talent who is also an elegant speechmaker.

    Congratulations to the chef Patrice Merdy and to Pooley wines for providing yet another society function that was not only thoroughly enjoyed but also added to our experiences in the world of wine and food.

    Finally, we thank the waiting staff of Epicure and the Melbourne Cricket Club for allowing the use of the club’s excellent facilities.

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    MCC Long Room Wine and Food Society - Annual Dinner

    There should have been a band playing “Oh what a night, it really was such a night” at the conclusion of the society’s annual dinner as this would have adequately described the function which drew a full house to the Members Dining Room.

    At the end of the meal chef Robert Castellani spoke with great passion of the enjoyment he had in putting this menu together, balancing the food with the wines and how he used all his past experiences to create such a wonderful banquet. It really showed that Robert’s time at Fanny’s, Stephanie’s and as head chef at Florentino before a stint at Donovans was time well spent.

    As is a tradition at our annual dinners, presentations were made to the outstanding student in winemaking at the Adelaide University, Simon Mussard, and to the society’s Chef of the Year for 2013, Shane Freer, as judged by a panel from the committee. Shane will have his name added to the honour board in the kitchen at the MCG. We also presented our Winemaker of the Year for 2013 award which went to Brokenwood Winery, represented by Rob Arkesteijn.

    Members and guests assembled in the Long Room for pre-dinner discussions and were met by three excellent canapés – scallop ceviche with carta di musica, home-made mustardela with parsley and apple salad and a pumpkin croquette, all of which went well with the Arras Brut Elite NV (12.5% alc).
    All of the wines for the evening came from the society’s own cellar and we commend wine and food master Paul Kinross and cellar master Ian Maguire for the collection they presented.

    After a good chat we moved to the Members Dining Room where it was soon apparent that this was going to be a special night. The entrée was a crepe of calamari filled with sultanas and rice and then finished with a tomato-based sauce. It was a most unusual combination but enjoyed by the members as the flavours complemented each other. Who would have thought of a calamari dish with a tomato-based sauce that would merit a “that was really tasty” reaction!

    The two whites with the calamari invited plenty of discussion about which was preferred as they were both Gewurztraminers. The 2005 Delatite Dead Man’s Gewurztraminer (13.5% alc) won a gold medal at the National Wine Show in 2006 and James Halliday rated it at 94 points. He described it as a delicate wine albeit with clear varietal character with spice and rose petal flavours.

    The 2004 Lillydale Estate Gewurztraminer (10.5% alc), rated 92 points by Halliday, was crisp with vibrant acidity and good length but lacked the varietal character of the previous wine.

    The main course was roasted northern rivers veal with mushroom duxelle and a quail egg on top, with WA freshwater marron, wild rocket, green beans and anchovy dressing served with roast chunky potatoes that were really crispy on the outside. If you reached for the butterknife you could have still cut the veal, it was that tender yet firm and full of the real veal flavour. The members considered this to be outstanding in presentation and also commented how well the flavours went with the two shiraz offerings. One of the reds had 10 years’ age on it and the other eight years, yet the members considered that the 2006 year would improve even further with more age.

    This was the 2004 Blackjack Shiraz (14.0%) from the Bendigo region’s Harcourt Valley. The wine won a trophy and gold medals at the 2007 Rutherglen Wine Show for the best dry red. Established in 1987, the winery has won numerous awards and was rated a five-star winery by James Halliday in 2006. The wine could be described as a smooth shiraz of full to medium weight showing aromas of fresh red berries and plums.

    The 2006 John Duval Entity Shiraz (14.9% alc) was made by the well-known winemaker behind vintages of Penfolds Grange for almost 30 years. The wine was rated 96 points by Halliday who described it as saturated crimson-purple featuring a density of fruit that would guarantee a 30-year life.
    The cheese dish that followed was very different as it was served on a larger plate featuring soft, spreadable gorgonzola with truffle honey, muscatels, pear paste and toasted rustic bread. We enjoyed this with a 2002 Yeringberg Cabernets (13.5% alc), a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and malbec.

    Yeringberg is owned by the de Pury family who are renowned for wines of finesse and elegance that epitomise the finest the Yarra Valley region can produce. This wine with 12 years of ageing displayed the classic blackcurrant and cigar box tapenade aromas which are reflected in the lively finish.
    At this time we appreciated the address by the head chef of Epicure, Peter Haycroft, who spoke brilliantly about how Epicure goes about putting these grand lunches and dinners together for the society. He emphasised the discussion and thoughts that go into the meetings prior to the event to co-ordinate the operation, and how much the chefs and the kitchen staff enjoy preparing the society functions.

    The final act of the evening was the hazelnut bombe alaska served with a hot chocolate sauce. Although the MCG ground staff had heating lights on the main arena, the bombe alaska wasn’t flaming, perhaps because we didn’t want to be known as the society that burnt the members’ stand down! This didn’t detract from the very filling desert. Perhaps the dinner suit may need letting out! Adding to the sweetness was the trophy-winning 2008 McWilliam’s Morning Light Botrytis Semillon (10.0% alc).

    The night finished with compliments all round, but in particular to chef Robert Castellani and the waiting staff who did a great job. A special accolade should also go to society president John Campbell, who was an excellent MC.
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    MCC Long Room Wine and Food Society - April Luncheon

    Function No.284 started pleasantly in the Percy Beames Bar with a glass of Fume Blanc on arrival. Fume Blanc? As winemaker Robert Paul later explained, the tipple from yesteryear was made entirely from Sauvignon Blanc grapes but “in our own style”, which is the Yarra Valley’s Squitchy Lane style.

    The wine went well with the innovative canapés on offer – togarashi shichim-spiced tuna, pork belly with miso mayonnaise and a pan-fried artichoke, brie and rosemary crepe. A minor quibble might be that the pork belly was a little more than a mouthful but all the canapes were very tasty.

    The entree was a masterpiece of deep-fried paella croquette married to Harvey Bay scallops with fennel skordalia and Japanese slipper dressing and the accompaniments came together brilliantly.
    The entrée wines were a duo of Squitchy Lane Chardonnays from 2008 and 2011 and both were rated highly, emphasising what the Yarra Valley does so well.

    At question time the much-criticised 2011 vintage was described by a diner as “poison”, a point conceded by leading winemaker and show judge Robert Paul who nonetheless wasn’t shy in producing two wines from that year – the Chardonnay and a Pinot sampled later. Robert was quite sure the 2011 would evolve into what we were seeing in the 2008 white, simply a nice drink.

    Main course was for the Greg Malouf fans – perfect meat with spicy accompaniments, in this case harissa-spiced Riverina lamb rump with chickpea ratatouille, tomato reduction and garlic yoghurt. Does lamb get any tenderer?

    The lamb dish was matched with two Squitchy Lane Pinots, the 2012 and 2011. A fan of the grape on one table rated both wines as nine-pointers, so we can only assume they’d done their job admirably. They certainly were very drinkable.

    So, too, were the 2010 Squitchy Lane Cabernet Sauvignon and the Red Square blend served with the cheese, particularly the Cabernet which had a lovely mouth feel. The cheese from Timboon was a L’Artisan Mountain Man washed rind, a delicious, softish strip served with poached quince, crackers and lavosh.
    Dessert was embellished by a 16-year-old Rare Old Tawney from Chateau Reynella, one of those drops you could drink forever. It was coupled with a steamed fig and bittersweet chocolate pudding with salted caramel ice cream, an unlikely combination we hear you cry, but it all came together beautifully.
    Epicure’s super chef Shane Freer has wowed the society before and he continues to produce a rare standard of fare for members and guests.

    He certainly comes prepared. Winemaker Robert Paul told the audience he had never come across a chef like him because at the planning meeting a month or so beforehand, Shane had come armed with a list of more than 120 items that would be at their best in March/April.

    He picked the cheese especially because the washed rind would be at its absolute peak, quinces would be available, the scallops would be prime, the lamb tender and artichokes plentiful.

    Shane then was able to work the various foods around the range of wines selected and, voila, another fine wine and food experience was enjoyed in the Long Room.  
     
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    MCC Long Room Wine and Food Society - February Luncheon

    The society’s February function is the first for the year for members and guests and started with the traditional gathering in the Percy Beames Bar before adjourning to the Long Room for luncheon. The chef of the day was Sam Calderone, who had cooked for us previously in May 2012 and June last year. Sam is a sous chef in the MCG Culinary Centre, having joined Epicure in 2011.

    The wines came from the Coonawarra region which is famous worldwide for outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon based on the terra rossa soils of the area. However, the wines provided some interesting and pleasant surprises. Two wineries were invited to join us, the whites coming from Patrick of Coonawarra and the reds from Zema Estate.

    Patrick was established by Patrick Tocaciu on the home block in the seventies and has been expanding since that time. The business is now managed by his son Luke Tocaciu, who is rapidly receiving acknowledgment from the industry and consumers alike. Luke represented the winery at the lunch.
    Zema Estate sprung from humble beginnings in 1982 when Demetrio and Francesca Zema purchased a small block in the Coonawarra. After many years of hard work by the whole family including sons Nick and Matt, Zema Estate has grown enormously while still strictly adhering to their policy of estate-grown, hand-pruned, minimally irrigated, hand-crafted and estate-bottled.

    Highly regarded winemaker Greg Clayfield represented Zema at the function. Greg was adjudged International Winemaker of the year in 1988 and joined Zema in 2006.

    There were four canapés to greet us on arrival. We could choose from a zucchini, red capsicium and gruyere tart, a terrine of cured salmon, snow pea spout and fennel pollen on a rye croute, a homemade beef, Guinness and smoky bacon pie with tomato chutney or Chinese roasted pork belly and baby herbs. We all know how much work there is in preparing canapés and we did enjoy these tasty starters. All of this was complemented by the Patrick Mother of Pearl Chardonnay Pinot Sparkling (alc.11%). This traditional blend was fresh and fruity with a medium straw colour.

    On moving to the Long Room a real treat awaited – the entrée of ocean trout tartare with chilled cucumber and tomato consommé. This was something really different and was praised for the presentation and in particular the flavours of the consommé.

    Many thought this was the outstanding dish of the day and so were the white wines that went with it. Not many of us associate outstanding Rieslings with Coonawarra, but Patrick Wines certainly added to our education.

    The 2012 Patrick Riesling (alc.11%), a winner of three gold medals and a trophy, came from both the Coonawarra and Wrattonbully vineyards which produced this wonderfully complex wine.
    The 2010 Patrick Riesling (alc.11%) was voted the preferred of the two Rieslings. It had been cellared for three years prior to release and shows an intense aromas of lemon butter and a distinctive toasty character. It was amazing that both wines were so low in alcohol.

    The main course, titled “Duo of Duck”, comprised roast duck breast and confit duck tortellino on soft polenta with baby vegetables and red wine jus. Duck is always viewed differently by the members as to whether it is cooked rare, medium or well done, but there was no difference of opinion on the presentation and accompaniments that went with the dish. They were excellent.

    For the main course Zema Estate provided two reds, both Cabernet Sauvignon from the famous terra rossa soils of Coonawarra. The 2009 Cabernet (alc.14%) was made from fruit which was harvested at its optimum maturity and matured in hogsheads for 14 months.

    The 2006 Zema Estate Family Selection Cabernet (alc.15%) was deemed the outstanding red of the lunch and was the right choice to go with the duck. The 2006 vintage featured a sustained warm and dry ripening period which produced outstanding fruit.

    The cheese was a cloth-bound cheddar served with fig and walnut log, quince paste and fresh grapes. It was excellent, typical of the cloth-bound cheddars which are so popular around the world, featuring a creamy yet nutty flavour. Fresh grapes with wine are always a great choice.

    The 2006 Zema Estate Family Selection Shiraz (alc.15%) was selected to go with the cheese. Featuring a deep dark purple colour with reddish hues, it showed a typical Shiraz touch of spice and black pepper with underlying ripe berry fruit.

    We finished with a magnificently presented dessert of mocha and lemon cremeaux with lemon sorbet and cappuccino ice cream. This was an excellent dessert to balance the meal – sweet, light and full of lemon flavours. It went well with the 2006 Patrick’ Jessie Botrytis Semillon (alc.11%) which Halliday rated 92 points.

    The lunch also appreciated the address by the club’s CEO Stephen Gough who spoke about what has happened in recent times at the MCC and what we can look forward to in 2014.

    Once again this was a most successful function with special thanks extended to chef Sam Calderone and winemakers Luke Tocaciu of Patrick of Coonawarra and Greg Clayfield of Zema Estate.

    Also worthy of special mention is our wine and food master Paul Kinross who has a comprehensive program in line for 2014. And let’s not forget the Epicure and MCC people who make everything work – many thanks.

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    Wine and Food Society Old Bottle Day - Wednesday January 29, 2014

    The Old Bottle Day was the brainchild of committeeman Ian Kerville who in 1997 suggested that the society’s rule of not having a lunch in January be reconsidered. The theory was that people were at Sorrento, Lorne or maybe camping at Rosebud, but Ian thought why not do something a bit informal, so in 1998 a January luncheon for about 40 members was held with such success that it soon became an official function.

    To quote from The Lunch Group That Grew discussing the Old Bottle Day in 2000: “Alan Podger and Laurie Thompson decided to salute yesterday and had a bowl of Pimms-based punch for the unwary on arrival. I may have managed a sip or two of this awful concoction before repairing hurriedly to the delicious drops awaiting us at the table. It’s been a Pimms-free affair ever since.”

    Jeremy Oliver, an MCC member, keen member of the XXIX Club and more importantly a celebrated wine writer, author and wine judge, has been associated with the Old Bottle Day since its second year, amazing us all with his skills in tasting, appreciating and commenting on all the wines on offer before finally selecting his best whites and best reds.

    This year the 89 members in attendance were offered on arrival a choice of Seppelt Amontillado DP116 Barossa Valley (alc.22%), which carried five gold medals, or the Sir James Sparking Shiraz (alc.14%). Both wines were appreciated by the members as they went well with the chef’s selections of hot and cold canapés.

    The food was outstanding in presentation, quality and balance. We do hope the chefs from EPICURE get as much pleasure in preparing the meal as we do enjoying the result of their hard work.

    The entrée was Australian East Coast prawns with hot smoked salmon rillettes, squid ink and beach herbs. This dish deserved a quality white wine to complement it. Our group enjoyed a Best’s Riesling 2006 from the Great Western region which earned praise from Jeremy Oliver.

    The best of the whites were:

    1st – 1985 Hugel Gewertztraminer produced in the Alsace region of France by the Hugel & Fils winery, which was established in 1639. Courtesy of Dariel Saleeba

    2nd – 2004 Pipers Brook Riesling presented by Paul Finn.

    3rd – 1997 Tahbilk Marsanne presented by Judith Ryles.

    There were many more bottles of red than whites and perhaps more members could be encouraged to bring along a good white to go with such fine entrees.

    The main course was prime Riverina lamb rack served with cotechino sausage, carrot fondant and buttered spinach with redcurrant glaze accompanied by a summer salad of rocket, yellow and red witlof, lamb’s tongue lettuce, zucchini ribbons, green and purple basil, mint, radish and roasted pine nuts with a white tarragon vinegar dressing.

    The rack of lamb was tender, tasty and succulent, true to the menu’s description of “prime Riverina”.
    There was no shortage of outstanding reds to accompany this brilliant main course. Jeremy Oliver commented on how the depth of excellent red wines improves each year, a reflection of the members’ knowledge and their eagerness to be part of the function.

    The results in the red wine section were:

    1st – 1999 St Peters Shiraz from the Great Western region. The wine is recognised as an outstanding Victorian Shiraz produced by Seppelt, which was founded in 1851. Bruce McDonald brought it along.

    2nd – 1998 Mt Langi Ghiran Shiraz provided by Tony Height.

    3rd – 1983 McWilliams Pleasant Shiraz from Wal Nicolson’s cellar.

    Others mentioned were a 1991 Hill of Grace Shiraz and a 2004 Normans Museum Release Cabernet.
    After the announcements we enjoyed the Victorian cheese dish with Cabernet paste, candied walnuts, lavosh and crackers. This was followed by a dessert of yoghurt bavarois served with strawberry meringues, frozen strawberry yoghurt and basil sprouts.

    Could we have had a muscat to follow this wonderful lunch? Yes, but we had so many red wines to get through. It’s been said that this was the best-ever lunch we could remember for an Old Bottle Day.

    Thanks to all the EPICURE staff and the Melbourne Cricket Club and special thanks to Jeremy Oliver for his sterling job and constructive appraisals. He said the job gets harder every year with such high-quality wines being presented.

    So a New Year starts for the society with great expectations for the remainder of 2014.

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