Back in the early 2000s while wandering around Victoria on one of my wine adventures, I visited Eldridge Estate near Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula. At the time the cellar door was very rustic (a trestle table set up in the shed), but the setting amongst the vineyards was beautiful and the owners David and Wendy Lloyd a mischievous pair. Plus the wines are seriously good – at the time they were not widely known, but in the past year or two they have begun to receive top-level recognition.
I bought some wine and stayed in touch via their newsletter, and was tempted one year when they had an open call for volunteers to help them pick the harvest. In return for a few hours labour we would get a great feed with their fine wines to drink, discounts off future wine purchases and a good time for all. Although it was extravagant to do this from Sydney (all their other pickers are from Melbourne and surrounds, only an hour or two away), I made it an excuse to have a long weekend on the Mornington Peninsula. It was such a good thing to do that I went back several times in future years!
I lost contact for a few years, but that changed last month when I received an email from David announcing they were about to hold their first winery dinner in Sydney. The date suited and I found a willing companion in James, so off we went last Tuesday to Aqua at North Sydney pool for a wine and food indulgence. The venue is superb, with spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House from the north – better than the view from the city. A special menu was devised to showcase Eldridge’s wines at their best, and with one exception the food certainly was very good. I took some scrawly notes during the dinner, but to avoid embarrassment I will limit myself to a generalised description of the food and wines:
on arrival: sugarcane prawns with chilli and lime syrup, salt and pepper chicken ribs with cucumber pickle, Eldridge Estate 2007 Sparkling pinot chardonnay
amuse: soft egg custard with oscietra caviar. This particular caviar is seriously expensive, but god it is good. Delicate fishiness matched well with the so-creamy egg custard
Moreton Bay Bug risotto with taleggio fontina and tarragon. Served with Eldridge Estate Chardonnays 2007 and 2003, plus a white Burgundy (French chardonnay) of a similar price point. The risotto delicious and creamy, the wines an education. The Burgundy was slightly sharp with good fruit depth, but not a match for the 07 Eldridge which had more fruit depth and lightness. The 03 was better again, great richness and developed flavours. Well-rounded with fine mouthfeel too.
Tarte tatin of braised eschallot with goats cheese mousse and balsamic roasted baby beetroot. Served with Eldridge Estate Gamay 2008 and 2004, plus a Cru Beaujolais (a Fleurie, a gamay from France). The food was as good as it sounds but for me this bracket was all about the wine. Gamay is barely grown outside of Beaujolais in France; in fact David said on the night that only 20 tonnes of it are picked in Australia, most of it by just three or four producers. This has always been one of my favourites of Eldridge and it was great to see a young and older version alongside a comparable French counterpart. I found the Beaujolais quite simple with sweet confected berry flavours (like “Redskins”, as old wine tutor Sharon Wild used to say), the young 2008 Eldridge head and shoulders above it. The 04 was richer but not in an overt way, the development more subtle than we saw in the chardonnays. There is little wonder why this wine features on several top-end restaurant wine lists around Australia, and why their small production of gamay sells out by January each year.
From here on it gets a little blurry – the pours were frequent and generous on the night!
Crown of NZ white rabbit on brussel sprout leaves and pancetta, tortellini of braised leg. Served with Eldridge Estate pinot noir 2007 and 2004. This dish presented extremely well, but I found it overcooked and therefore dry and chewy. A shame.
Baked Barossa Valley cow’s milk cheese with toasted sourdough and asparagus, served with Euroa Creeks shiraz 2006 and 2002. I am going to start baking cheese on a regular basis, this gooey spread was so more-ish. Euroa Creeks shiraz, the only wine not grown on their estate, was very fine as always.
Lime and lychee sorbet – a mercifully light dessert.
The people we met during the night we interesting and chatty, rounding out another fine evening. The only downside? Having to return to Cronulla after midnight – again…