Tell us a little bit about your background in wine, and how your passion has evolved?
Wine has never been a passion of mine. It wasn’t something I was acquainted with when younger. It wasn’t something my parents drank. Growing up in India, the only thing wine related I’d be introduced to was sweet locally made ‘port’ wine. So when I started working in the industry, the first table wine I had, would have been the Te Whare Ra Gewurztraminer. I was, by no measure, hooked at that stage. I found the industry incredibly daunting and felt that there was too much to learn. It just so happened that my restaurant manager was a gentleman named John Logan, who really force fed me information. I didn’t pick up on flavours, but I did understand tannin and acidity. just watching the senior wait staff talking to tables about wine, it really was fantastic to behold. They really took them places. I wanted to provide that sort of experience as well and since then pushed myself to learning more and more. I think the most defining time in my career has been when I moved to Melbourne and tackled the wine industry there. Found myself working as a junior sommelier at Vue de Monde with close to 1,800 bins with verticals of some of the most sought after wines in the world. It was a time to put up or shut up and the team that I worked with were sensational. No Master Sommeliers or Master of Wines among them, but just people who loved wine and loved service. Within the team, we covered just about every part of the world as a speciality. We all had our weaknesses of course, but we were able to compliment each other well. Working there for 2 years, you got introduced to some of the best wines in the world on an almost daily basis. You can’t not fall in love with wine in that environment. Picture 4 grown men in a wine cellar, in suits, with a little gold leaf on their lapel, all huddled over a bottle with a splash of wine in their glass. Standing in silence with their nose buried in the glass just smelling. They taste, they still don’t speak, they drink, still no need to speak. They look at each other with smiles on their faces and almost in unison claim ‘F*#k me, that was good”
Where did you stay during your visit to Martinborough?
Larry was kind enough to put me up for the 3 nights I was down there.
Did you get to see all of the Escarpment Vineyards during your stay?
I saw a lot of vineyards, can’t say that I saw them all. It’s a small town but, I’m sure there were a few that we missed along the way.
What hands on work were you involved in within the vineyard, and has this hands on work giving you more insight into Viticulture?
Simple things, like pigeage, which was done twice a day. Measuring specific gravity of wine, as a way to calculate sugar levels and pH levels in the wine. Filling up barrells. Removing nets and sorting fruit. All of which is stuff that I knew happened and have done some before, but to see the impact they make was massive. Comparing whole bunch ferments to de-stemmed ferments was another cool insight. Think the most insightful, would have been calculating sugar levels in wines.
Did you experience much time in the barrel room with the winemakers? What did you learn from processes involved in Winemaking?
Not too much of time spent there unfortunately. We did taste some of the 2015’s that were in barrel, just to see how they were coming along and whether they’d be ready to be bottled. It was really great to see Larry and Huw, be so critical about the wines they made. No rose-tinted glasses in sight.
How did you find the barrel tasting experience at Escarpment? And which of the wines really stood out to you.
I’ve always rated the wines and the experience only heightened that for me. Tasting Kupe Pinot Noir in the Kupe vineyard was a highlight, there was something romantic about the Kupe Pinot Noir
Give us your opinion on the current prices of Escarpment wine? Do you think it is within the right market prices?
I believe they are fair to low priced. Believe with the demand for the wines going up so much internationally, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to mark the single vineyard series higher, otherwise it’s the restaurants that are making all the money!
Did you manage to meet most of the staff at Escarpment? What do you think they learnt from your visit?
Yeah I did. The digital consultant was off on holiday at the time (the busiest time of the year I might add).. But beyond that met everyone. They were all great to work with and incredibly accommodating. Noel definitely is the best tractor driver in New Zealand! As far as what they learnt from me, I’m not entirely sure. I hope they saw that there are trained sommeliers in Auckland that want to treat wine with the respect it deserves, and maybe an insight into what goes into writing a wine list.
How was your overall experience at the Escarpment Vintage Camp?
Absolute blast. It gives you a new found level of appreciation for the hardwork that the team go through during vintage and respect for the finished product of what you see in your glass.
Would you recommend the experience to others…and if so why?
Yes absolutely, for the reason mentioned above. Beyond that, tasting wines with one of the best producers in the country is not an opportunity that should be passed over. To see the analytical way they taste wine and how they look for quality levels, is fascinating.
Wine / Recipe Match:
Escarpment Pinot is a great match with one of our starters at Clooney. Plum, beetroot and shiso. The plum and beetroot are lightly cooked together and served with a whey gel and shiso, which works great with the savoury style of pinot from Escarpment.
A massive, massive thank you to Larry, Huw and the entire team at Escarpment and to Vintners NZ of course for offering this opportunity.
Jarryd Menezes – Restaurant Manager and Sommelier – Clooney Restaurant