I had thought it best I arrive in Glenorchy with an empty stomach, a dry palate and a willingness to try something new. After a 40-minute drive along Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown, darkness may have denied me the panorama of the Humboldt Ranges and Mt Earnslaw, but the views could wait until daybreak.
I was not at Camp Glenorchy for the views. I was attending Pasture & Pinot, a weekend workshop at which a whole lamb (the Pasture part of the equation) would be carved up, cooked in various ways, eaten and enjoyed with wine (pinot, naturally). The workshop was one of a series of courses that run regularly at this luxurious Otago eco-camp - from yoga camps to wellness retreats. But this weekend, meat and wine.
I was already in the company of Hannah Miller Childs, aka The Lady Butcher, who was there to represent the Pasture side of proceedings.
We had arrived at a similar time (Hannah with her brewer husband, Andrew Childs of Behemoth brewing fame) and been rounded up by our host Kath Cahill of Camp Glenorchy and been invited to partake of a beer and some dinner.
And over beer (made by Kath's husband at his nearby Glenorchy Brew Co microbrewery), Hannah talked about The Lady Butcher philosophy of nose-to-tail eating. The approach comes from a respect for the animal, which means every cut and joint is used and very little is wasted - resulting in a more sustainable practice and making for some, at times, adventurous dining.
And it was with this approach that a 25-strong group gathered the next morning, having taken in the impressive local scenery, to watch Hannah disassemble a whole lamb.
Mercifully, the head and insides had already been jettisoned and it was pre-peeled, meaning we wouldn't need shearing clippers. But other than that, it was in its entirety.
But not for long, and while talking us through her procedure, Hannah described which cuts were what, which joints worked best for which style of cooking, and why.
Not that they all needed cooking. The first bite of the Pasture experience was lamb fillet tartare - prepared with shallots, olives, capers, parsley, olive oil, egg yolk and salt. Some of the crowd are apprehensive but the majority agreed it was a stunner, and even went back for seconds.
Before long all were involved in the preparation of the cuts of meat - the loin chops sauteed and devoured for lunch, the legs and shoulders placed in roasting pans and joined by onions, olives, oranges, lemons, oregano and chopped tomatoes where they would spend the afternoon, in the oven, before emerging in time for dinner.
And so with the Pasture under our belts (literally), it was time to see what the Pinot was all about.
Grant Taylor represents the Pinot half of the event. He likens the lifespan of a grapevine to that of a human. In its early years it needs care and nurturing, come the teenage years it's unpredictable and not particularly productive, get a bit older and it will give many years of diligent and fruitful service, and by the time it hits 80, it's vulnerable and ready for retirement.
Grant's winery, Valli Wines, produces a number of varietals in the Cromwell area on the other side of Queenstown from Glenorchy and he had brought a few here to try with The Lady Butcher's charcuterie.
This was where the real pairing of food and wine happened. Three cured meats (prosciutto, pancetta, bresaola) were matched with three Valli pinots.
The wines were made with grapes from different vineyards (Bendigo, Waitaki, Gibbston), each with its own microclimate which impacts how the wine tastes and smells in the glass. Bendigo has a slightly warmer climate that produces thicker skins on the grapes and results in a heavier wine. Waitaki is cooler, meaning a lighter wine with less alcohol. The Gibbston is more fragrant due to the low cropping of the vines.
Though the differences may be subtle, they each have characteristics that marry to the charcuterie - a hint of pepper matches a faint spiciness, a velvet texture enhances gentle sweetness.
The wines and meat are as good a double act as Hannah and Grant, who were entertaining scholars of their crafts. Not one question - whether scientific or gustatory - went unanswered, and was more often than not delivered with a joviality that put everyone at ease.
By dinner time, fellow guests began to feel like old friends and afterwards everyone was beginning to make themselves truly at home in Camp Glenorchy's lounge room, discussing aspects of the day and partaking more of a favourite wine.
A perfect time then for Grant to produce a bottle of Longrow single-malt Scotch whisky, which has been matured in pinot noir barrels sent from Valli Wines to the Scottish Highland distillery before a few bottles of the finished product was dispatched back to Central Otago. It's a fitting end to the day.
• The next workshop at Camp Glenorchy is a women's wellness weekend from November 21-22. Pasture & Pinot will run again Sept 11-12, 2021. Visit campglenorchy.co.nz for more workshops.
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