Photos By:: Adil Arora
As you enter the small non-descript white iron gate with ‘Zorba’ meshed on it, the first impression is that of other farm houses which are let out for weddings. But as you walk towards the building at the back you pass a beautiful grass amphitheater on your right with lots of undulating greenery and soft lights around making it a potential venue for various performances, especially the musical types.
At the center stage last Sunday when it was the venue for our 197th wine club event, there were 5 Cavas and 7-8 still wines to taste from the Spanish organic farm, Castello d’Age. Even the regular Cava, Anne Marie Comtesse was quite impressive with its fruity flavours and bread-crust notes that persisted. Chardonnay variant has been a relatively new entrant to the Cava appellation which has been traditionally made from Parellada, Xarello and Macabeo which is also a popular varietal for the still wines a couple of which we were able to enjoy during the wine tasting, a special addition to the evening’s proceedings. The Tempranillo 2006 was a universal hit with its plum and molten chocolate nuances very predominant. All the Castello d’Age wines were very clean and should find a willing clientele, especially in those who suffer from headaches after drinking wines-ostensibly due to excessive sulphites and of course those discerning drinkers who appreciate sustainable farming.
Zorba had laid more than a hundred tasting glasses at the bar where the wines for tasting were displayed. Unfortunately, due to some earlier miscommunication these were not the tasting stemware that we presumed them to be. The nice and proper white and red wine glasses had been already placed on the tables while a set had been kept aside to pour the star wine of the evening- Barbaresco. So we had to improvise and convert tasting into speed-tasting, short-circuiting the nosing of wine, an important aspect of a normal wine tasting.
However, this did not prevent members to spot a delicious Tbilvino 2010 Saperavi from Georgia and a non-descript Chianti Classico 2005. Another interesting highlight was a bottle of Castello di Nipozzano Chianti Classico 1981 that would normally be ‘dead’ by now. Though slightly oxidized, earthy and with sherry-like flavours that many members noticed, we were all surprised and impressed by the longevity of the wine as it was still drinking quite well after spending 30 years in the bottle.
The starters had been generally good to very good but taste was outstanding with Cava- a classic example of what wine and food can do together. A bruschetta is a bruschetta and whether it is with mushroom and garlic or chicken pepper, but the Blue Cheese and Poppy Seed Naans were clearly outstanding when served piping hot (though they could have done with more poppies) and could well be termed as the Indian fusion equivalent. Though a non-beer drinker, I loved the beer battered fried fish with tartar sauce- a perfect combination with the Chardonnay based Cava, though some complained about the thickness of the batter while complimenting the fish quality. My personal favourite was the Crispy Vegetables in hung curd dip- simple yet charming, and it went beautifully with Cava and even Parellada white wine.
Wild Mushroom Cappuccino was a perfect soup to start the dinner. There were mixed reactions to the Henschke Tilly’s Vineyard White wine (a blend of 55% Semillon, 25% Chardonnay and 20% Sauvignon Blanc) which was like an elegant ol’ Dame, past her prime but still showed the class of a super Aussie producer. The watermelon, feta cheese and balsamic salad was well balanced like a fine wine, with cheese and fruit getting just the right amount of tanginess with the roasted peppers making it nicely piquant. The miscellaneous red wines we had selected from the Spanish Castello d’Age and Chilean and Italian wineries- all medium to full bodied but soft and ripe tannins were in fact ideal for the Mains but could be drunk on their own too.
The main course turned out to be a two-in-one: both the chicken and lamb served with condiments at the table, with the vegetarians getting an extra mushroom dish instead of the two non-veg. dishes. Roasted Stuffed Lamb Leg with Mint and Wine Jus and Chicken Parmigiana (not the Southern Italian style by any stretch of imagination) were served at the table with Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and Brazilian Beetroot Pickle, accompanied by Stuffed Squash with Almond Ragout and Cottage Cheese with Corn Relish-a great combination with the red wines served with the previous course and heavenly with the ‘allocated’ supply of Michele Chiarlo Barbaresco 2004. However, the texture and colour combination could have been different and better. Each of the dishes and the ‘Sides’ looked similar in colour- some contrast in colour and texture would make it better and it would be my preferred choice if I were to do it all over again.
The soft spoken and introverted Chef Ankush Bhatia generally did an excellent job of cooking- forking out food for about 60 people when the estimated number is 50 and that too, on a sit-down basis. It can be any Chef’s nightmare in a stand-alone restaurant especially when it has not completely established itself in the catering sector. But the General Manager Anil Kaka, leading from the front, saw to it that the service was very good with waiters willing to run the extra mile to please the guests. As one of our members of long standing put it succinctly, ‘ the problem is we (DWC members) have been spoilt by the dream service at the likes of Hyatt Regencies and anything less just does not feel right’.
This would be like saying that once we have had the iconic Gaja Barbaresco (last year at Oberoi-Gurgaon), no other Barbaresco would please us-fortunately the Michele Chiarlo Barbaresco 2004 as the starred wine, was a raving success- and this when we could not decant the bottles (I would strongly recommend an hour or two in the decanter even if it may be bottled back) and had to be satisfied with leaving the opened bottles to breathe a couple of hours in advance.
The evening could not be described as complete without a paragraph on the Jazz experience. When I had an initial meeting a month ago with their Celebrations Officer Harinder Singh, to look at the possibility of organising a wine evening, I was very impressed with music being the focal point of the venue per the co-owner Ranjan Chopra who likes to call himself the CCO (Chief Celebrations Officer). I had consented only if we could have a live jazz band playing exclusively for the club as a part of our ongoing 10th Anniversary celebrations. ‘The Lucknow Experience’ is a young Trio, two of whose members are studying in Boston and their passion for music oozed out during their performance which we had timed so it won’t be interrupted by my talk about the wines of the evening. We were fortunate enough that it did not rain in the evening but Ranjan had personally seen to it that the raised platform for the performers was sheltered with tarpaulin so that the rain would not have disturbed the performance.
As I often like to say, wine dinners of the Delhi Wine Club are not meant to be hands-on training to learn about wine but we offer an experience (surely, wine is the protagonist whether we serve 5 or 25 labels) which is different every time and hopefully educational and memorable at times. If matching food and wine gives synergy, adding the jazz music and the natural ambience made it a truly magical evening; not only my experience but almost unanimous verdict of those who chose to share their experience.