Thursday, October 13, 2011




By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA--Autumn just began, and I celebrated with some great wines from this emerging wine-producing nation. A nice afternoon tasting wines at Atlanta’s St. Regis Hotel with winemaker Simon Fell of New Zealand’s Villa Maria Estate provided an introduction into his new Riesling along with New Zealand staples like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. One thing New Zealand wines have down to perfection is food-friendly wine.

Villa Maria was founded in 1961 and Mr. Fell continues a tradition that led Villa Maria to become a New Zealand wine icon, often pushing the boundaries of winemaking in this country.  Villa Maria was the first wine company in New Zealand sealing all wines from the 2004 vintage onwards with a screw cap and was also the first New Zealand producer to employ professional viticulturists. 

Simon Fell revealed that he sources grapes from New Zealand’s grape growing regions of Marlborough, Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and Waipara and produces wines in Auckland and Marlborough. “The Villa Maria portfolio,” he said, “consists of four wine ranges-our private bin, cellar selection, reserve and single vineyard.” We sampled glasses of wines representing each of the four, pairing them with Deep South gourmet staples including cheeses, soups, scallops and vegetables which showcased the fruit-driven New Zealand style.

Inspired by this delightful experience, and because autumn is here, I asked the accomplished Chef Derek Barnes who owns the award-winning Derek’s Culinary Casual restaurant in Sarasota, Florida to provide an October recipe that pairs with the white wines of New Zealand. From Sauvignon Blanc to newcomers like Riesling and Viognier, you will discover some taste thrills with this combination.

                                        ROASTED PUMPKIN BISQUE
                                           Derek’s Culinary Casual, Sarasota, Florida

3# pie pumpkin, halved, seeded and roasted
4 c. vegetable stock
2 T. aged sherry vinegar
5 T. butter
1 small onion, small dice
5 garlic cloves, minced
¼ t. cloves, ground
¼ t. mace, ground
¼ t. ginger, ground
¼ t. allspice berry, ground
kosher salt & white pepper to taste
1 c. heavy cream
In a medium size soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic cloves in the butter until translucent, about four minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the vegetable stock and the vinegar and add the roasted pumpkin.  Add the spices and simmer for 1 hour.  Take off the stove, purée and add the cream.  Season and enjoy.

NOTE: I will be at the incredible Jack Daniel’s International Barbecue Competition in Lynchburg, TN on Oct. 22, serving as a judge. Stop by and say hello and I’ll introduce you to some of the BBQ champions from Switzerland, Ireland, Canada and the good old USA.
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