Saturday just passed, we wined and dined under the front porch of The Stirling Hotel: a favourite (and newly renovated) dining destination in the Adelaide Hills. With the company of wine maker John Hughes, we were spoilt with eight fine wines from the Rieslingfreak selection curated from grapes grown across Clare Valley, Eden Valley and Polish Hill River regions. Beginning with the sparkling No. 9 (a personal favourite), guests were dazed by an elegant display of fresh greenery, white décor and sparkling glasses waiting to be filled.
A single-minded focus on the Riesling variety has allowed John to refine the flavours exhibited in each bottle. Offering discernible freshness and diversity across the range, the ‘iconic winemaking style’ adopted by Rieslingfreak is representative of the entire brand. John has successfully encapsulated the beauty of the Barossa for people all over South Australia to enjoy. The wines are ready to drink upon purchase but are equally as enjoyable as the flavours mature with cellaring. Bottles are sold by boutique-style wine distributors such as Langton’s and Different Drop, and tasting appointments are welcome at Rieslingfreak’s charming barn-style cellar door in Tanunda.
As a foodie himself, John Hughes chose to pair his wine with pork because of its rich fatty flavour, which wonderfully complements the zesty fruitiness of the Rieslingfreak selection. Fortunately, this was a welcome challenge for Chef Brendan Boothroyd who is no stranger to handling the meat. The result: four dishes which showcase diverse preparation methods, exotic flavours and prove that every part of the pig has a place on the plate. As those of German heritage will tell you, pork is an age-old delicacy which boasts indulgent flavour through and through; right down to the curly tail. To wash down the feast, John had pre-selected wines from the Rieslingfreak range to correspond with the flavours in each dish.
First up on the menu was Pigs Head Terrine served with orange, hazelnut and radish—paired with the No. 3 and No. 4. The fruitiness and nut-crunch cut through the rich meatiness of the terrine; offering an unusual flavour combo that was highly favoured by guests. The No. 3 Riesling in particular was a winner; boasting hints of lemon and lime that worked with the plates elements and cleansed the palate ready for round two.
Next up was the Spiced Barbeque Hocks, edamame, cauliflower and mandarin. This delicious dish was served alongside Rieslingfreak’s No. 2 and No. 10—two of their dry-style wines. Chef Brendan had blended the cauliflower to create a creamy base for the bite-sized pieces of marinaded hock, which were crisp and full of barbeque flavour. Bright green edamame beans added both freshness and colour to the plate; making for an insta-worthy meal. While the No. 2 Riesling was a treat, the No. 10 was a noteworthy pick with a special story behind it. John and partner Belinda created an interesting blend of grapes from different regions to formulate the ultimate wine to be served at their wedding in 2017. After a trial that saw them two bottles-deep, the pair realized the No. 10 packed the perfect punch.
Our third dish was a combination of Pork Belly, Ribs and Leg, charred peaches, peas and sage—accompanied by the No. 5 and No. 8. This dish replicates a modern Sunday roast. The sweetness of the charred peach paired surprisingly well with the salty-crunch of the crackle and fried sage. To remain consistent in theme, the two wines were of the sweet variety; early harvest grapes fill the bottles to create a less alcoholic product with additional sweetness. The No. 8 (a Polish Hill River Kabinett) was quickly consumed in preparation for an equally indulgent dessert.
Lastly was the Sweet Chocolate Blood Pudding served with pork crackling ice-cream and the No.7. Blood was used as a thickening agent in place of eggs to create a rich, chocolatey filling. While crackling and ice-cream don’t sound like an ideal combination, chef Brendan’s innovative approach proved effective once again. Rieslingfreak’s No. 7 is fortified using 3-year-old brandy—resulting in affluent hints of caramel with a kick. Guests couldn’t help but comment on how well the syrupy blend went with the ice-cream!
The Stirling Hotel staff were the perfect hosts for the Pork v Riesling luncheon, which was a delicious way to showcase the quality wines produced by Rieslingfreak. We were lucky to catch John for more than one friendly conversation about the diverse flavours in the range, and his passion for viticulture is both clear and inspiring. If you consider yourself a Riesling Freak, a tasting among the vines awaits! Contact brand ambassador Mark Thomas via firstname.lastname@example.org or 0406427500 to secure a booking at the cellar door. The Stirling Hotel can be found in Stirling; a great location for both casual and refined dining with premium service.
Words by Kimberley Goodman
WHERE: 52 Mount Barker Rd, Stirling