A picnic with friends, Beatles music, and good wine & food

Last night, as part of the Wellington Summer City Festival, we went with our friends Dave & Amy White to the ASB Gardens Magic Concert event ‘Revolver: The Beatles Band’ held at the Wellington Botanic Gardens.  These events are free to the public and always a lot of fun.  It was a gorgeous evening and it was one of the most subscribed events I have ever seen at the Concerts.

We packed a Mediterranean style picnic dinner with some fine wines to match.

Over the course of the evening, we shared and matched  the wines pictured above: Torres Viña Esmeralda 2011,  Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 2011 and Cantine Pellegrino Pantelleria Moscato Liquoroso 2005.

The first wine we tried was the Torres Viña Esmeralda 2011 with the appetizers of crackers with hummus, roasted red capsicum and fried Cypriot halloumi. 

The Esmeralda matched alright with the appetizer but was even better with the citrusy Quinoa Tabbouleh

This Spanish wine is 85% Moscatel de Alejandría and 15% Gewürztraminer and initially tasted  dry and crisp when matched with the savoury, salty and creamy halloumi but the citrus acidity of the Tabbouleh brought out more tropical and stone fruit notes with honey and white flowers.   Delicious!

The second wine we tried was the Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 2011 which actually is a Zinfandel blend from California.   We paired this with a Lamb Kofta served with tzatziki.   The Kofta was lean and flavourful with spices of ginger, coriander, garam marsala, red chili (deseeded) and cardamom mixed with greek yogurt, a little sugar, oil and water.

The Geyserville is 78% Zinfandel, 16% Carignan, 4% Petite Sirah, 1% Alicante Bouschet  & 1% Mataro (Mourvedre). 

After two hours of breathing and paired with the lamb, the wine opened up beautifully showing a bright nose of oak, dried herb, black pepper and berries.  The palate was rich and layered with mocha and licorice initially that became sweeter with red berries and plum fruit but no prune jam here as is often found in California Zinfandel.   Long, lingering finish that was savoury with silky tannins and more mocha.   This was an excellent match to the lamb and all of the picnic fare.

Some of Italy’s best sweet wines come from a Mediterranean, volcanic island of Pantelleria just 60 km from Tunisia.  The island is only 15 km long and hosts over 1400 hectares of vines.

The Pantelleria that we had was from Cantine Pellegrino and was the 2005 vintage of the Moscato Liquoroso.  The grape is the Muscat of Alessandria (locally called Zibibbo) which is the same grape as is in the Vina Esmeralda.   However, this wine is made in a dessert wine style similar to a Beaune de Venise -- late harvested to get the natural sweetness of the Muscat grapes and then fortified to 15% alcohol and 140mg residual sugar.   We paired this with orange and almond Neopolitan Biscotti which Amy prepared for us.    The match was perfect – bright yellow in colour, the nose had toasted almond and caramel.   The palate held nice body and acidity with flavours of apricot, peach, and vanilla on the palate.   Gorgeous match!

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