Food, wine and stories are the focus of a new book that shines the light on celebrated Central Otago wine producer Amisfield and its award-winning Amisfield Bistro.
The book draws together 25 years in the wine business and a decade of running a Queenstown bistro, reflecting everything that is good about Amisfield's wine and food - fresh, simple and, in many ways, untouched.
Dr Stephanie Lambert, Winemaker
What makes Amisfield farm so good at producing wine?
Different soil types flowing through our land giving us different and complex flavour and texture profiles in our wines.
We can plant similar clones of pinot noir in different areas around our estate and get very different nuances in the wine. The terrace above our winery, with its free-draining rocky soils, allows for perfect growing conditions for our aromatic whites.
Amisfield hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge earlier this year. What wine did you serve them?
The 2011 Amisfield Pinot Noir. William commented that it was the year of his marriage so it was a good year all around.
We hear this word all the time when it comes to wine and the earth. Explain Terroir.
Terroir is about the land and the place where the grapes grow.
Terroir is about the environment and biodiversity where the grapes are grown, the weather, landscape, the yeast that survive on the vines and make it to the winery. It is concerned with the soil, its structure, its construction, its history.
A vine grows very differently and expresses itself differently in different terroirs.
From picking the grapes to opening a bottle for dinner, how long does it take?
This depends on the wine. The white wines can take a shorter time, with sauvignon blanc ready after about four months. However, we also make a sauvignon blanc that we keep in barrels for 18 months. There are no rules here. It is important to think of the style of the wine or, in most cases, to leave the wine to take its time.
Wine needs time to meld into one balanced experience. The pinot noirs need a long rest time in barrel and then, ideally, they should have a rest when in the bottle. Time for the fruit and the tannins to go about their complexity, little understood chemical reactions and finally balance in harmony.
When is the most critical period of winemaking?
Absolutely the harvest and knowing when to harvest the grapes. Then it is the daily tasting of the wines during and after harvest to determine when it is best to press to barrel, lees stir, or just to leave them happily to mature.
Which variety of wine is Amisfield most known for?
Wines true to their Pisa site. Wines that should express the personality and Terroir of our Estate, our Pisa sub-region. We try to grow the most beautiful grapes that form into wine that is pure expression of the grape.
If we have good grapes and a good growing season then the wines will make themselves. Our most known wine is Amisfield Pinot Noir.
In five words describe a sip of this awesome wine.
Compelling aromatics, silky tannins, persistence.
Jay Sherwood, Chef
Do you talk about Terroir when it comes to food as well as wine?
Absolutely, it's undeniable that food reflects where it is grown and how it is cared for.
Amisfield has won best winery restaurant awards on more than one occasion. What's the secret?
Consistency of overall dining experience is key - the beautiful location and locally sourced ingredients constantly inspire us. Being able to create a menu to complement our wine is made easy by our winery and vineyard crew, who carefully manage our site and the production of our wine.
What meal did you serve the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge?
Central Otago wines were matched with some of the region's most famed delicacies, such as Bluff oysters, Stewart Island salmon, Fiordland venison, local cheeses and seasonal Central Otago fruit.
You cook by the seasons. How difficult does this make setting menus?
It's actually quite easy as the seasons change your cravings for different produce changes, too. We embrace the seasonal change here and really look forward to what our suppliers turn up with.
What's the most popular item on your menu?
Our signature Trust the Chef Menu.
And the most obscure?
The Amisfield charcuterie is definitely not something you find in most restaurants.
In six words, describe dining at Amisfield.
Unique, Central Otago, relaxed, friendly, atmospheric.
• Amisfield Food, wine and stories from Central Otago, Random House, $59.99.
Zucchini trifolati bruschetta
Makes 16 bruschetta
These bruschetta have been on the menu since the bistro opened. Most keen Central Otago gardeners grow zucchini in autumn and this is a great way of serving them. The mixture will keep in the fridge for a few days.
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• Canola oil for cooking
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 3 zucchini, grated on a mandoline
• Zest of 1 lemon
• Pinch of chilli flakes
• 1 sourdough baguette
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 sprig of rosemary
• 100g goat's cheese
For the trifolati
1. In a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic cloves and mix with half the extra virgin olive oil.
2. Add some canola oil and a generous sprinkle of salt to a large frying pan. Saute the garlic on medium heat until cooked slightly, then add the zucchini and turn up the heat.
3. Cook until al dente, constantly moving the pan so that the zucchini doesn't stick or become brown. Season with salt to taste while cooking.
4. Spread on a tray to allow the zucchini to cool quickly. Place the cooled zucchini in a bowl with the lemon zest, chilli flakes and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
1. Cut the sourdough baguette into slices 2cm thick and grill. Rub the grilled bread with the garlic clove and rosemary.
2. Place a spoonful of trifolati on to each piece of grilled bread and top with 2 crumbles of goat's cheese and extra chilli flakes if desired.
Crispy pork belly, apple & currant chutney, watercress, balsamic glaze
• Crispy pork belly
• 1.5kg (approx) pork belly, skin on
• 1 handful of flaky sea salt
• 20ml canola oil
• 2 large onions, cut into rings
• 2 lemons, sliced
• 1 handful of sage
• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 1 litre milk (approx)
• Apple and currant chutney
• 60g sugar
• 250ml white wine vinegar
• 200g currants
• 2 tsp mustard seeds
• 5 apples, peeled and diced
• 100g brown sugar
• 100ml balsamic vinegar
• 1 handful of watercress
• freshly sliced chilli
For the pork belly
1. Preheat the oven to 220C.
2. Score the belly 2mm to 3mm apart with a sharp knife and massage with salt and oil. Rest for 30 minutes to allow the salt to season the skin and draw out the moisture.
3. Place the onion rings on a metal rack and place in a roasting pan large enough to fit the pork belly. Place the belly on top of the onions and pat the skin dry.
4. Cook for 1 hour, or until the skin is crispy all over, opening the oven every 15 minutes to let the steam out and to pat the belly dry. Once the skin is crispy, place the belly in a separate roasting tray with the lemon, sage, fennel seeds and milk.
5. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C and cook for 1.5 hours.
6. Remove and rest in the liquid for 15 to 20 minutes until cool enough to handle. Then cut the pork belly into sections.
For the chutney
1. Place the sugar, vinegar, currants and mustard seeds in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a simmer and turn off the heat.
2. Rest for 15 minutes to allow the currants to plump. Add the diced apple and cook on low heat for 15 minutes until the apples have softened. Pour the chutney on to a tray and place in the fridge to cool.
For the glaze
• Put the brown sugar and balsamic in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce until the consistency of honey.
• Serve the chutney with the pork belly and garnish with watercress, sliced chilli and balsamic glaze.