10 November, 2009
South African Wine Dinner at Nana’s (Durham)Posted in : Dining in Durham - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez
Last Tuesday, we went to Nana’s with a couple of foodie friends for a South African wine dinner. Hope Valley Bottle Shop hosted and a representative from the wines’ importer, Cape Classics, went to bat to handle the sommelier duties. We met an absolutely wonderful couple at our table who forced us to give them recommendation after recommendation of our favorite restaurants in between their travel and cooking tales. With the first glass of wine in hand, Buitenverwachting Rhine Riesling 2008, and excellent company, I knew a great evening was in store.
Buitenverwachting translates to Beyond Expectations and while the wine was pretty good, I wouldn’t go that far. It was full-bodied, dry, and consisted of lots and lots of lime. This was served as a pre-dinner palate wetter. Two slices of bread came next. One was dense, mildly sour, and had a thick, seasoned crust. The other was soft and yeasty.
The second wine, Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2008, had a warm, floral nose. There were plenty of floral notes while sipping also. It was slightly sweet at first, then became bright and full of vanilla and grassy layers, and finished with a mineral aftertaste. It paired quite well with our first course, Creamy Celery Root Soup.
It was creamy, of course, dense, and very flavorful. It was the favorite of the night for a few at our table. I especially enjoyed the smattering of thinly sliced celery and the presentation.
Wine #3, Rustenberg Five Soldiers Chardonnay 2006, had the same vibrant, floral nose as the sauvignon blanc. It was surprisingly sweet, to the point that I would call it a dessert wine. There was a lot of oak and buttery caramel. I did not think it paired especially well with the second course, Monkfish “Osso Bucco” in Tomato-Dill Broth with Crispy Calamari.
This dish was an interesting experiment in texture, though lacking in flavor. Dishes with a lot of broth often end up soggy but the chef wisely chose to undercook the potatoes, creating an interesting contrast. Otherwise, the fish was fluffy, the broth could have used a bolder component, and the calamari was extraneous.
For the fourth wine, red finally entered the equation. The Rustenberg John X Merriman 2006 is a bordeaux blend with a huge nose of warmed potpourri. It was medium-bodied and medium dry, with plenty of spice including clove, cinnamon, and allspice. Persimmon was our best guess at the fruit though Drew of HVBS offered black currant. There was a burnt flavor also in play. This was a big wine. To pair with it, we were served a big, rich dish: Soft Polenta over Mascarpone with Wild Mushrooms.
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I’m a sucker for seemingly messy presentations like this dish’s. The mascarpone was ridiculously good and combined nicely with the broth. The polenta, strangely enough, seemed MIA, though I’m sure that’s only because it was overpowered by the mascarpone. The walnuts were essential to the dish and I would have liked more, in smaller pieces. The big news, though, is that I actually ate a few of the mushrooms. I could only handle about four but they didn’t disgust me! Hold the presses!
The next wine, Rudi Schultz Syrah 2006, was just as big as the one before it, though perhaps more dry. It was vibrant and pungent with tobacco, juicy apricot, tamarind, and a hint of chocolate. Lemon seeds floated to the back of my mouth. The Roasted Wild Boar Shoulder over Flageolets and Organic Carrots simply couldn’t compare.
I think we all agreed that this was bottom of the heap for the evening’s dishes (obviously, it’s an attractive, tasty heap). Now, most of you know that I’m not a meat aficionado, so feel free to take that into consideration. This was my first boar and I thought it tasted like rabbit but then it was just too much for me. The carrots were overcooked, which was disappointing as they reminded me of carrots cooked in a stew, one of my least favorite dishes. I’m not usually a bean fan, either, but the flageolets were good as was the light, unsalty broth.
The last wine of the evening, Kanu Kia-Ora Noble Late Harvest 2005, was a great dessert wine. It was yellow, orange, and rose colored. I found it crisp, with plenty of apricot and light brown sugar. Lemon rind and toffee were also present in smaller amounts. It went pretty well with the dessert, Persimmon Creme Brulee.
For me, this was the best dish of the evening, though that’s not surprising: I have always loved persimmon and well, anything sweet. The inclusion of pulp made for a great texture. My only complaint was that it was a tad too burnt, but really, persimmon and creme brulee is a perfect pair.
I was amazed at how much nose and body the wines had this evening. The whites were not up my alley, but the reds most definitely were with lots of spice, character, and layers of fruit. For the food, I think I enjoyed the presentations more than the dishes themselves, the creme brulee excepted, but they fed me well and kept me happy. It was a lovely evening of wine, conversation, and food and priced well at $55/person. Thanks to both Nana’s and HBVS for putting it on.