Hemingways was the perfect venue to showcase some impressive Chilean wines from that country’s most prolific of wine producers – Concha y Toro, brought to diners by Blackbeard’s. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull was in attendance at the sumptuous seafood feast and reports.
For fish and seafood lovers the recent wine dinner at Hemingways was a real treat, with course after course of exquisitely presented and expertly created fish dishes that certainly affirmed the restaurant as one of Cayman’s best, with a menu inspired by author Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.
For this particular event we were fortunate to have the expertise not only of Blackbeard’s very own wine expert, Jodie Petts, but also Concha y Toro’s Karine Mollenhauer, who did a splendid job explaining the delights of her company’s wines on a course by course basis.
Concha y Toro is Latin America’s major wine exporter with presence in over 130 countries, and as such is one of the world’s most important wine brands. The winery is present in all of the main winegrowing valleys of Chile and Argentina, with nearly 17,300 acres of plantings.
As an excellent ambassador for Chilean wines in general, Karine explained that there are few better places for producing wine than Chile, a country, she says, whose geography and climate are exceptionally suitable for grape growing. Cooling breezes from the Pacific Ocean, shelter provided by the Andes Mountains, perfectly balanced soils and mountain rivers’ crystal waters combine to create ideal climatic conditions for cultivating the noblest grape varieties, as well as acting as natural barriers which protect the vineyards.
In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, Hemingway’s bar staff had prepared Mojitos to get the impressively large crowd into the party mood. After taking our seats, as is customary with such dinners, we were then presented with a glass of bubbly – this time Concha y Toro’s Cassilero Del Diablo Sparkling Brut Reserve. Karine explained that this wine was made from 100 per cent Chardonnay from vineyards situated around 400 km north of Chile’s capital Santiago.
“The minerality of the soil makes this sparkling wine, which is reminiscent of a French blanc de blanc, fresh, crisp and elegant,” she said.
Chef Shetty and his team did an excellent job in pairing the wines with their cuisine and the first course in particular was a really excellent match – an amuse bouche of tuna tartare and a lightly spiced fresh oyster.
Next on the agenda was a glass of Concha y Toro’s Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc from 2008. Grapes from the El Triángulo Vineyard in Casablanca Valley make up this fine Sauvignon Blanc. Its coastal Mediterranean climate means maritime mist contributes to slower, more gradual grape ripening, while the eight months the grapes spend in stainless steel add to the development of this crisp wine that is again full of minerals as well as herby and citrus notes.
Diners enjoyed a pan-seared black cod atop greens, carrot and pumpkin puree with an ancho chilli sauce and lemon and basil oil. The light touch of the latter two additions to the dish did not overpower the delicate succulence of the juicy white cod flesh and simply enhanced the overall flavour of this excellent dish and again, this dish paired perfectly with the wine.
Sticking with the whites for the moment, Karine then introduced us to Concha y Toro’s Amelia Chardonnay from 2007, again made from grapes from the El Triángulo vineyard in the Casablanca Valley. Slower ripening again only enhances the flavour, although this time the wine spent nine months in French oak barrels. Stronger in both the nose and the palate, this wine has good balance in the Burgundy style of Chardonnay.
Karine noted the wine’s honey, hazelnut and complex vanilla notes along with buttery tropical fruits.
“This is the best Chardonnay in Chile!” she proclaimed.
Diners enjoyed a delightful plate of orange scented scallops with baby arugula, pickled diakon and a blood orange drizzle, the latter flavour adding an exciting oomph to the dish.
Even though this was a fish menu Karine said that she thought our next wine, a Marques de Casa Concha Merlot from 2006 and (therefore a red) would pair excellently with the chipotle rubbed swordfish which was grilled and served with asparagus, truffle fingerling potatoes and a spicy rum vanilla foam, thus dispelling the myth that only white wine ought to be drunk with fish. The swordfish was robust and flavourful enough to pair extremely well with the wine (however I can always do without vanilla flavourings in my entrees, even though I know it’s the trend).
Karine described the wine: “This wine scored 90 points with the Wine Spectator and is a real winner. It’s made from grapes hand picked from the Peumo Vineyard in the Rapel Valley and is aged for 18 months in French oak. The result is a soft, fruity wine with chocolate notes and round tannins.”
Karine thought the key to the brilliance in this pairing was the spicy notes of the wine mingling beautifully with the spicy chipotle flavours in the rub.
Hemingway’s culinary brigade did themselves proud with a dessert trio that was memorable – passion fruit torte, chocolate opera (a layered chocolate cake) and my favourite, a cardamom-scented crème brulee. Topped off with a glass of Concha y Toro’s Sauternes-style Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (90 per cent Sauvignon Blanc and 10 per cent Riesling/Gewürztraminer), this was a show-stopping end to a fitting tribute to Hemingway’s Old Man of the Sea.