November 20th, 21st and 22nd saw some of the world’s best chefs wine writers and most enthusiastic foodies /wine lovers descend on Margaret River for the 2015 Margaret River Gourmet Escape.
The spring weather gave us blue skies, sparkling sunshine and a warm breeze to show off Margaret River at its absolute finest. At Cullen Wines, our festivities kicked off with a glorious lunch amongst the vines, enjoying the exquisite food from the wildly creative mind of Jock Zonfrillo of Orana Restaurant in Adelaide, which was recently named South Australia’s No. 1 Restaurant in The Advertiser.
Jock Zonfrillo and his team, alongside the Cullen Dining Team presented a menu created by Jock based on his passions for creating a true Australian taste using native ingredients. Vanya and Jock sat down for three hours and tasted all of the wines at Cullen to ensure the perfect synergy between the Australian natural food and Cullen natural wines.
The lunch began with the ‘Alkoopina’ – a tasting plate of amazing flavours including Macadamia & native thyme, Prawn & Davidson plum and Alexander palm, native honey & green ants, accompanied by the Cullen 2009 Sparkling Chardonnay. This was followed by charred kangaroo, gubinge, grasses and the delightful crunch of wild garlic, with a glass of 2013 Mangan East Block.
The sensational 2011 Kevin John Chardonnay was a huge hit with guests, which they enjoyed with WA marron, watercress and Geraldton wax – a wonderful burst of fresh flavours. Perhaps the most original astounding and spectacular dish of the day was saved for the fourth course – magpie goose, native cherries and smoked potato and leek, along with the 2014 Preservative Free Merlot. The intense flavour was unique and unexpected, and we have it on good authority that this dish was the talk of the Gourmet Escape Village the following day!
Finally the meal was rounded out with a delightful dessert of set buttermilk, strawberry and the distinct flavour of eucalyptus. Lunch guests were treated to a glass of ‘The return of Kissing the Pink’ – a rare sparkling rose, which was named and had the label designed during a lunch at Cullen by Adrian Gill, food writer extraordinaire.
The lunch went on long into the afternoon.
For a peek at Day One highlights, see the video here https://youtu.be/Fprku9JX8QQ
The second event on Saturday evening set a different mood again, with the interior of the restaurant festooned with lights and guests arriving looking elegant and filled with expectations of a wonderful evening. Matt Stone, Paul Iskov and Joost Bakker combined their culinary skills to present Brothl & Fervor at Cullen Wines.
From worms to crickets, kangaroo to marron, the evening’s food was a true journey for the foodies in attendance.
Highlights of the evening included the introduction of artist Ashley Jones, whose works adorned the walls and who was responsible for designing the Cullen Wines labels. Ashley presented the original oak leaf and acorn which Diana Cullen had given him many years ago, which was the inspiration of the familiar oak leaf and acorn label still in use today. He also told the story of how the new Vanya Cabernet Sauvignon label had come into being, with the original print and colour pencil drawing included in the exhibition.
The evening also featured the launch of the new Vanya 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon wine, with guests treated to a tasting of this extraordinary vintage. Finally, the event concluded with a moving tribute to Vanya Cullen from her brother Rick, who praised her passionate dedication to winemaking and the success of entire Cullen businesses.
What a great way to finish the evening with thanks to everyone all round.