To say that I love the Adelaide hills region is an understatement, so when I was given the opportunity to visit Coates Winery I was thrilled! Little did I know the experience I was in for.
This winery can definitely boast some of the most breathtaking views of any in the Adelaide Hills, and as the car parked I almost couldn’t believe it. The hills seemed to roll like waves, over and over, woven over them the 64 acres of winter-touched vines that call this heavenly place home.
Entering the cellar door, we were checked over and greeted by Cooper; our four-legged companion for the day, and I took in my first view of the room itself. Light and open, the space felt inviting and I immediately felt part of the place; wine barrels visible and from the kitchen the aromas wafting over created a comfortable atmosphere.
It was while enjoying the sights and smells of this lovely cellar door that I was introduced to Duane Coates; owner and maker of the fine wines we would be having with our meal. It was with this meeting that I got a glimpse of the passion he had for his winery and the art of wine making with Duane informing me that the wines for todays meal were a selection of his own and ones he felt were a best match to those selected from other wineries. One of which he had travelled to in order to learn their techniques and bring the knowledge back to expand his own methods.
While taking in the line-up of fine drinks we would be having out came our chef for the days events, Rebecca Stubbs, who was already busy in the kitchen creating those delicious smells flooding the room around us. She gave a warm welcome and showed me to the menu before excusing herself back into the kitchen. The stormy weather was doing its best outside, but the cellar door remained inviting and warm. The rain giving the hills and vines a romantic feel.
Today is the first of (many hopefully) themed meals to be held at Coates Winery, appropriately named So Frenchy So Chic, and they did not disappoint. Even the table itself was set out beautifully; soft linens and delicate white flowers in small vases lined all the way with shining tableware set the scene for a beautiful meal. People slowly arrived and once every one was inside and warm the first taste of Bec’s dishes made its way around.
French Oak Smoked and Cured Venison on a Pumpkin Wafer melted in the mouth; the meat was a perfect pink with a deep flavour complimented by the crispness of the wafer and the bright colour of the pumpkin pieces and wild fennel garnish. The venison itself freshly caught was the hero of this piece and I could not have agreed more. Visually this small dish caught the eye and did not let my tastebuds down.
The second canape switched over to a Chicken Parfait with Whipstick Wattle Seed and Rye. This light and fluffy parfait was surprisingly heavy with flavour and had a peppery hit. The wafer was crunchy yet buttery and the flavour complimented the chicken wonderfully. Garnished with wattle seed the addition of which gave an ending crunch and little pops of their own flavour that really brought this delicious morsel together.
Paired with Champagne Gosset Grande Reserve, a triple blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, of which the light apple aroma and flavour combined with a focussed and refined acidity highlighted both the venison’s and the chicken’s individual flavour. The finish of which was persistent and keep unfolding as you savoured each drop.
Just as I was hoping for more of the canapes the starters arrived and we all took our seats at the table; Pork Rillettes with Brioche, Wild Fennel, Toasted Almonds and Cornichons. Have you ever heard a more beautiful food-filled sentence?
The display on the plate was gorgeous and almost too good to destroy! Almost dissolving in the mouth, the pork was packed with flavour without loosing the meat itself and topped with thin slices of crisp apple was the first taste of a delightful dish. Small pickled cornichons dotted over the dish broke up the mouthfuls, almost so that each bite after began the dish again. Almonds and wild fennel added crunch and flavours that complimented the pork beautifully. The brioche was light and crumbly with a sweet honeyed flavour and a perfect base for the pork, bringing all the elements together.
Paired with this dish was the first of our wine comparisons; Coates the Reserve Chardonnay and Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune both 2016. Both with a smooth warm feeling on the way down, crisp and complimenting the pork individually. The Pierre-Yves seemed to have a honey element that complimented the brioche and the Coates had a hint of lemon that complimented both the pork and added to the freshness of the dish as a whole.
Confit Duck, Caramelised Onion, Flack Seed and Sorrel almost jumped off the plate with its bright presentation. The sorrel and delicate slices of beetroot added a lovely burgundy to the plate balancing out the pop of the green leaves; the sorrel leaf alone was a beautiful visual element, it’s red veins and stem holding the emerald leaf.
Not to be lost, and the hero of this dish, the duck pulled away at a touch of my fork revealing the caramelised onion. Delicate in texture, the duck was cooked perfectly and if the meal had ended there I would not have complained (it was my favourite dish of the day!). These two elements together added a sweet and savoury hit that I doubt could be matched by any other paring. Alongside this was a flack seed crisp that added a lovely crunch to the whole dish and brought all the soft elements together.
The most surprising element of the dish, and not to be overlooked, was the stinging nettle puree! Not something I ever imagined eating and given what I know about the plant I imagined the flavour to be peppery and bitey but it was surprisingly smooth and savoury. A great compliment to the chef here for making a wonderful element out of something so many stay clear of; not to mention how it worked with the duck to really elevate the savoury flavour to another level.
Paired with this was Coates The Pinot Noir 2016; a modern Australian triple blend with a deep clear red colour and woody smells, this wine created a pit of heat going down that heightened the flavours of the duck and onion and gave the light sorrel a real boost. The matching to this was a Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot Vosne-Romanee 2015 tasting almost spicy with a dark colour, velvety and rich much like the flavour of duck itself and was a beautiful edition to the table.
Yet another perfectly plated dish was the Lamb Navarin – a slow cooked lamb with parsnip, Adelaide Hills pine mushrooms and garlic crumble. The warmth and the smell of the flavours steaming up from the bowl was comforting to say the least. Looking at all the elements as a whole it gave me a home-cooked feeling and I couldn’t wait to dig in. The lamb fell of the bone tasting salty and savoury, the garnish of the garlic crumble adding a delicious crunch against the soft meat dissolving in my mouth. Parsnip, cabbage and field mushrooms created the base and each element had a different savoury taste adding multiple depths and dimensions to each bite.
A single sprig of rosemary added a subtle green to the dish and the aroma entered the palate through the nose adding yet another depth to this meal. The very base of the dish was created with a broth; a culmination of all flavours combined it kept the meat moist throughout eating and was on its own a delicate flavourful addition. A hearty, honest serve with all the elements creating a cosy and satisfied mouthful bite after bite. In addition to this there was a delectable side of duck fat potatoes with roast garlic. I couldn’t get enough of these and my self-control was really put to the test. Golden, crisp, fluffy without being oily was a perfect side to this flavour packed lamb giving the palate a balance while also standing out on their own.
A Domaine Jean-Louis Chave St-Joseph 2014 and Coates The Reserve Syrah 2012 stood beside this dish. Each had a darker complexion and peppery, bity accents perfectly accompanying the lamb. The Jean-Louis was a touch hot on the finish and gave a very warm stomach feeling; on the other side of this the Coates Reserve Syrah had sweet notes that became strong and grew the warm feeling over time. Both paired perfectly with the dish and added to the flavors of the meat.
The presentation of the final dish reminded me of a beautiful autumn day and was a attractive, all be it unintentional way of bringing the view onto the plate; the browns and bronzes of the vines and the sun shining through the clouds outside.
Chocolate Marquise with Chocolate Crisp, Quince Compote, Kuitpo Blackberries and Double Cream. Another delectable sentence and a favourite of the chef herself. The smell of the chocolate leaps off the plate at you before you even have time to take it all in and as a whole it can only be described as decadence. The first thing that catches the eye on this plate is the chocolate crisp, made of dehydrated mousse, and knowing it would not fail the test I broke the piece in half – the snap of which could have shattered windows! The perfect light and airy crunch to this soft and gooey plate.
Strategically placed blackberries, handpicked, add a depth of colour to the dish and the sour notes of which help to break up the sweetness. The quince adds a golden orange colour giving opposition to the blackberries and have an almost spiced taste really lifting the dish with their warm flavour. A quince and prune, almost jam-like sauce drizzled along the plate has a savoury taste that again balances out the chocolate along with its own type of fruity sweetness.
The main element and the central focus point of this dish is a shiny chocolate marquise, a good-sized helping of which can only be described as heavenly. Sweet and buttery without being sickly, and although it looked dense the consistency was light and smooth; the surrounding elements taking away from and giving to the chocolate with each mouthful. Just enough cream on the plate to cut through each individual flavour really rounded this dish off and, as it was World Chocolate Day, there could not have been a more fitting end to this delightful dining experience.
Two different ports were paired for this final dish; Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas and Coates The VP both 2008. Taylor’s looked almost black with an intense purple rim in the glass, an almost honey sweet note on the nose, with subtle spice on the tongue the real flavour hit on the lingering finish with an intense fruity flavour. The VP, born from Duane’s time spent at Quinta de Vargellas in 2003, had the same honey-type note on the nose but tasted a little dryer, smooth on the way down and left a lingering warmth. Each lifted and cut through the chocolate making both a lovely pair to end on.
Todays excursion to Coates Wines was both satisfying and informative; with almost each dish Duane was able to point out exactly where the vines were that had made each of the fine drops he had produced along with the knowledge that Bec herself had handpicked ingredients and the venison had been locally sourced makes you feel part of the process and elevated the wine and dine experience to another level. They leave you feeling at home, warm and loved by this food and of course by Cooper who I hope got to sample some of the bones!
Words by Tess Todd
WHERE: 185 Tynan Rd, Kuitpo