Domenic Mondillo was due to fly into Wellington this afternoon, but the big chill put to rest any plans to try to travel out of Central Otago. That left his proposed attendance at Adam Newell’s cooking demonstration at his Zibibbo restaurant in the air, so it seemed the right thing to do to step in for him! Not only had I visited his Bendigo vineyard, but I have sold his wines over a number of years.
Originally a restaurateur, Domenic became passionate about growing grapes once settling in Queenstown in the early 1980s. He trained and qualified in viticulture and settled into tending the vines for a number of growers in both Central Otago and Oregon in the Pacific north-west of the U.S.A. As viticultural people do, he and his wife Ally purchased 22 ha of land, and planted 10 ha of Pinot Noir and 2 ha of Riesling, on a site in Bendigo, on terraces overlooking the eastern shores of Lake Dunstan. From his first wine releases of 2004, the Mondillos have won top awards, including the 2010 Royal Easter Show Wine Awards ‘Champion Wine of the Show’ trophy with the Mondillo Pinot Noir 2008.
Wellington can count itself lucky as being the home for Adam Newell, one of only two Michelin star chefs in New Zealand. Adam and his wife established Zibibbo restaurant in 2000, and they have carved out a fine reputation for excellent food, in particular, his renditions of tapas, which have a zealous following. Adam conducts regular cooking demonstrations where three items are cooked in front of you, then a meal follows with the demonstrated foods, matched with the appropriate drinks. The demonstrations are intimate and truly close-up, and Adam’s commentary is educational and shows his good humour.
The attendees, including us, thoroughly enjoyed the demonstration, the food, and the selection of Mondillo wines presented. My impressions of the wines, food and interaction follows:
An arrival the Mondillo Riesling 2007 was served. Crisp, limes and minerals, with lovely tautness freshness, this is just starting to show a little toastiness. This seems to be developing at a snail’s pace, so should keep another 5-6+ years easily. This successfully accompanied the salmon mousse in a miniature cone.
The first food course was Rabbit and ham croquettes served with the Mondillo Pinot Noir 2008. The croquettes fine and crisp skinned with meaty-moist floured textures which absorbed the weight and structure of the wine. Both the wine and the croquettes become sweeter and the flavours of the ham and rabbit as well as the fruitiness of the wine were enhanced. The 2008 is a big, rich wine, a hedonistic softie and a real crowd pleaser.
The second pairing was the Wild mushroom fricassee en croute with the Mondillo Pinot Noir 2006. This was a sensational dish that had the bold earthy flavours of the mushroom ensemble underlined by the creamy sauce just flow out and fill the palate. The pastry base and cover were there for structure and texture, as well as the cheese piquancy, but could not keep it all together both literally and figuratively. The 2006 Mondillo Pinot Noir has always been a more delicate wine, but whereas many 2006 wines are now entering their full maturity, this seems as fresh as ever, with red florals and bright acidity lending a lovely elegance. Unfortunately the food was too rich for a great match.
The final course was Confit Wairarapa duck with prune and pine nut ragout served with the Mondillo Pinot Noir 2010, the new release. Adam Newell’s confit duck is perfect as it can be. Moist, fall-apart tender, with rich oiliness perfectly cut with spices. The ragout was just as rich, the prunes and red wine reduction enveloping the vegetables and pine nuts. A portion of mash helps to soak it all up. The Mondillo Pinot Noir 2010 is reminiscent of the 2008, big and fulsome, with fresh berry flavours and acidity helping cut through the duck fat. Both the wine and duck were flavoursome expressions, balanced in degree. How the soft red berry character of the wine went with the duck earthiness or raisiny prune component would be subjective…
Domenic Mondillo believes his wines, especially the Pinot Noirs are showing a similarity which is attributable to the site; this expression commonly referred to as ‘terroir’. Certainly there is a brightness of dark cherry-berry fruit, a sweetness allied to a core of structure that comes through to me. They seem a little more approachable than other Bendigo wines, and that may be their trademark? I’ll be reviewing the latest Riesling and Pinot Noir wines from Mondillo fully soon. Keep an eye out for the reviews on this website.
Adam Newell will be conducting his cooking demonstrations at noon the first Saturday of every month into November, and at 6.00 pm on Mondays, every other month. I can recommend them as entertaining and a great leaning experience. For more information, telephone 04 385-6650, or email [email protected]
Zibibbo Restaurant & Bar, 25-29 Taranaki Street, Wellington