There are a number of things I feel passionately about. They include eating healthier (starting this year, at least… Not getting any younger!), the concept of farm-to-table (a bunch of chef friends did a rather organic research up in Baguio to understand what it’s like for farmers and their produce straight from the source), a cheeky sense of humour (because life is way too boring without it), learning new things, and of course… Wine.
These were the reasons why I was a little too excited to attend the Farm to Table Dinner hosted by Holiday Inn & Suites Makati, which featured “seasonal vegetables from (the) Lucciole Family Farm, Potenciano Farm, and Malagos Farms.”
I found out that some of my fun wino friends (Jojo Vega of Don Revy, and my fellow wino Chef Rhea SyCip) would be there, so I knew that the cheeky humour part would be covered.
Naturally, the side of me that’s all about vino got really curious as to whether or not the food went well with the featured Sally’s Paddock wines. What struck me most is the fact that the wines come from Pyrenees, a region that, up to that moment, I honestly knew nothing about – save for it being located in Victoria, Australia. As far as I understood it, they tended to veer towards the cooler climate styles owing to the climatic conditions of the area.
I also read somewhere that Pyrenee is actually famous for full-bodied Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon… Not at all what I’ve gathered from my textbook’s teeny portion on Victorian wine.
I got confused… But I figured that the best way to really understand it is through actually drinking the stuff. Luckily, we were having what I believed to be some of the best wine examples of the region. Sally’s Paddock is, after all, part of the famous original (OG, baby!) eight 1970s/1980s wineries of Pyrenees. We were even luckier that the evening’s wines were curated by founder Neill Robb himself (talk about drinking with history), and one of my new favorite people, Sasha Fair, Winemaker of Sally’s Paddock.
We kicked things off with a very fresh (I can’t adequately describe just how wonderfully green and healthy it tasted) Watercress Soup, followed by Kale Salad with Malagos Mangoes… Both of which paired well with the Sasha Brut, a sparkling wine which I’m actually raving about. It’s not the most expensive on earth, but the handcrafted, predominantly Chardonnay (with a touch of Pinot Noir) sparkler was pleasant and had good structure. I thought it was a perfect, versatile appetiser wine.
Then, a sign that Sasha (the winemaker, not the Brut) and I would hit it off: After sitting next to me (I’m such an annoying dinner guest for asking so many technical questions about the wine, the winemaker had to sit next to me :p), I started to wax poetic about Philippine mangoes (because it was a component of the salad).
I mean, c’mon… There’s absolutely nothing on earth like it.
She then told me about wanting to finally try a mango daiquiri with Neill, and I knew it just had to happen.
Of course, it wasn’t my hotel (or event, for that matter), so I kindly asked Mr. Andy Belmonte, Hotel Manager for Holiday Inn & Suites Makati, if she can hook her up with some. Ever the bastion of hospitality, he did.
Nothing like alcohol to forge new friendships.
Obviously, there was serious wine business to get back to, and it was in the form of the next course: The very Thai-like Seafood Pasta, paired with the Sasha Pinot Noir. It seemed unusual to pair something that delicate, I know, but what made it work was the fascinating complexity of the wine. While it possessed an old world, borderline tertiary depth of character on the nose, it also had gentle red fruit (i.e., ripe cherries and strawberries) flavours on the mouth. I’d personally drink it on its own, or enjoy it with – of all things – my mother’s adobo.
That’s when things got interesting. I told Sasha about the concept of adobo and the fact that it’s such a traditional pinoy dish that we would argue about whose mother’s adobo is the best… Then, I found out that she’s never tried adobo. In an effort to highlight the wine and do a little research, we tested the theory. It didn’t work out as expected -my bad, I should have tried the adobo, knowing that it comes in a myriad of interpretations (I can and am allowed to be wrong!). It was fun though, as evidenced by our conversation:
Ah, the Sasha Shiraz… When I wrote my tasting notes on it, I said, “a coy interpretation of an Australian Shiraz,” which is anything but a bad thing. Adhering to my initial idea that Victorian Shiraz tends to be a fresher, mellower take on the grape, it ended up pairing marvellously with the Rack of Lamb (Australian lamb, obviously, much to Sasha’s delight). The dish also ended up pairing well with Sally’s Hill Cabernets, a wine I thought to be a quintessentially Pyrenees take on a theoretically left bank Bordeaux wine (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc… Hence the name).
On sweet endings… I confess that I’m generally not a fan of dessert. We had carte blanche of the buffet table, but the kind people of Holiday Inn brought the desserts over (perfect for my lazy, wine-soaked self). I ended up loving the award-winning Ube Cheesecake, which went well with the Sasha Moscato and its refreshing, sweet flavours (extra points for the koala on the bottle).
So, to recap: An event that highlights our advocacy to support farm-to-table activities (preferably with healthy food)? Check.
Great company (with a wicked sense of humor)? Check.
Delicious wine? Check.
Holiday Inn & Suites Makati is located in Palm Drive, Ayala Center, Makati City (perfect for a staycation/Christmas shopping/food trip, it’s attached to one of the largest, interconnected malls in Makati).
Special thanks to Ms. Marie Jehan Balbanero