527 Church Street, Richmond (map)
I was lucky enough to be invited along to the book launch for Jeremy Oliver's Wine Annual (2009 edition) - and yes, that's Jeremy Oliver the Australian wine writer, not Jamie Oliver the once-naked chef! The launch took place on Thursday over a six course degustation meal at Church St Enoteca, accompanied by the wines that were Jeremy's Wine of the Year finalists plus the Wine of the Year, and interspersed with interviews with a few of the wine-makers themselves. As you can imagine, after 13 glasses of wine on Thursday night my Friday was a bit of a struggle.
I was doubly happy to accept my invitation once I knew that the launch would take place at Church St Enoteca. I love this restaurant - the Art Deco facade and interior are both gorgeous (check out the online gallery of their vintage posters), the Italian food is of excellent quality (the memory of the zucchini flowers I had there a few years ago still lingers) AND it's only four minutes walk away from my house. Score!
The evening started in the Gallery (the larger of the two function rooms, out the back). I stood around chatting to friends and to a chap that does marketing for Chandon, and we were served two dry sparking wines in succession: the Dal Zotto Prosecco 2006 (scored 90/100) and the 2005 Chandon ZD Blanc de Blancs (94/100). These were matched with Long Nose Point oysters with superfine shavings of prosciutto and dollops of watermelon sorbet - a really fantastic combination of salty and sweet.
Thanks to Rumpole, my first hand model! :)
With the first of the seated courses, we were given two rieslings: the 2007 Mountadam Riesling (96/100) and the 2007 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling (also 96/100). Once Jeremy had stood up and spoken about each of these two wines, a third glass of Mystery Wine was brought out for each of us - Jermey Oliver's Wine of the Year (drumroll.......) - the 2007 Seppelt Drumborg Riesling!
Jeremy entertaining us with a very funny story about how he got started in wine writing.
With the rieslings we had a green pea soup with foie gras. I'm not wild about pea soup as a general rule, but this one tasted lovely and fresh, and the foie gras gave it a nice savoury earthiness.
With the next course we had the 2005 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay (96/100) and the 2005 Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay (96/100). I must say that I found the former to be a great disappointment: don't get me wrong, I'm not averse to wooded chardonnays, but I felt this one really knocked you over the head with broad oak - no subtlety! The Yattarna (the so-called 'White Grange'), by contrast, was marvelous - it had a really great burnt toast and oyster character.
The chardonnays were brought out with a salad of raw artichoke, fennel, broad beans and pecorino, served over shaved Fratelli Galloni prosciutto. The salad reminded me a bit of that I had a few months ago with the tuna a la plancha at Cumulus Inc. The flavours were all pretty delicate, which helped to emphasise the quality of the prosciutto.
The fourth course was a pigeon raviolo with radicchio di Treviso, walnuts and parsley. The Northern Italian in me is always a fan of the bitter flavour of radicchio, and loved with with the nutty/gamey raviolo filling. The dish was accompanied by two Victorian pinot noirs - the 2005 Kooyong Ferrous Pinot Noir (96/100) and the 2006 Epis Pinot Noir (95/100). The Epis was particularly fabulous, with hints of five spice.
A round of applause for A, my other glamorous hand model!
I was still working through the pinot when two glasses of shiraz (or Syrah if we're to be Un-Ostrayan about it) arrived. The first (pictured below) was the 2006 Clarendon Hills Astralis Syrah (97/100). The second was the 2006 De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Syrah (97/100)... it had great liquorice and fairy floss flavours.
They were matched with a damn good roasted Angus eye fillet, served with porcini and briciole di patate. My steak was still pink and I loved the crunchy crumbs. Overall I must say I was extremely impressed with the quality of the food Church St Enoteca put on for us, especially considering the number of servings required.
We finished with cheeses (the one thing about wine-oriented dinners is that you'll almost always get a cheese course instead of a dessert... not that I'm complaining about the cheeses we were offered) - Tourrée de l'Aubier (soooooooooo good) and Casa Madaio Calcagno Liscio (not usually so enamoured of hard cheeses, but loved it), served with the appropriate accoutrements.
It was, all up, a lovely night out. In addition to being open for dinner every night (except Sundays), Church St Enoteca is open for lunch on weekdays, with a $24.50/$31.50 two/three course lunch special.