Thomas Hardy comes to the Royal Cliff

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Even though he was a young man with a vision, I am sure that in 1853 Thomas Hardy never imagined that his wines would be the subject of a dedicated wine dinner in Pattaya, Thailand.  The world has become a smaller place since Thomas Hardy spent months on board ship to come from Devon in the UK to Australia, to seek his fortune.

The Royal Cliff’s deVine Wine Club, in association with Ambrose Wines, presented the Hardy’s Winemaker’s Dinner at the end of July, a tribute to Thomas Hardy and as always with the deVine dinners, it was a sell-out affair.

When wine connoisseurs meet (l-r) Christoph Voegeli GM Royal Cliff Hotels Group, Lt Somphon Charumilinda, MD Ambrose Wine Limited, Chan Vathanakul, Panga Vathanakul, MD Royal Cliff Hotels Group, Lt Chawalit Techapaibul, Chairman Ambrose Wine Ltd, Travis Brown, Dr Iain Corness and Vathanai Vathanakul VP Royal Cliff Hotels Group.When wine connoisseurs meet (l-r) Christoph Voegeli GM Royal Cliff Hotels Group, Lt Somphon Charumilinda, MD Ambrose Wine Limited, Chan Vathanakul, Panga Vathanakul, MD Royal Cliff Hotels Group, Lt Chawalit Techapaibul, Chairman Ambrose Wine Ltd, Travis Brown, Dr Iain Corness and Vathanai Vathanakul VP Royal Cliff Hotels Group.

New GM, Christoph Voegeli welcomed the guests and introduced the young Australian envoy Travis Brown, the Asian regional director of Accolade Wines, who spoke with knowledge and enthusiasm on the wines which would be drunk that evening.  He brought to the attention of the diners that when Thomas Hardy began his first vineyard, he was only 19 years of age.  Hardy’s Wines was also the first to export wine from Australia to the UK, and these days in the world, two million glasses of Hardy’s wines are drunk every day.  We were to add to that total!

Travis Brown, the Asian regional director of Accolade Wines, spoke with knowledge and enthusiasm on the wines which would be drunk that evening.Travis Brown, the Asian regional director of Accolade Wines, spoke with knowledge and enthusiasm on the wines which would be drunk that evening.

The secret of success with these dinners is in the skill of the chef in marrying the food with the wines, and Executive Chef Walter Thenisch is a master at this.  Quite honestly I do not know how he does it, time after time, and never repeats a dish.  It would just be so easy to flip back a few years and present something, but he never does.  Bravo Walter!

We began with a poached lemongrass flavored king prawn on a bamboo shoot carpaccio with white peach-pear salad.  This was enjoyed with the first wine of the evening, a Hardy’s Nottage Hill Riesling, 2010.  An Australian style Riesling, not sweet, but quite acidic and crisp with a medium finish.  I enjoyed both the king prawn and the Nottage Hill Riesling.

The second course was a pan-seared duck liver medallion on a pineapple-raisin compote.  The next Hardy’s wine was the popular Nottage Hill Pinot Grigio, an interesting wine with a wonderful long finish.  The more powerful Pinot Grigio grape was needed to get past the sweetness of the pineapple-raison duo, and it did this with ease.  This wine is growing in popularity, and one can appreciate why.

The next course was roasted barramundi fillet on an aborigine confit and spiced tomato coulis.  The wine was Hardy’s The Riddle Chardonnay 2011.  I questioned Travis Brown on the name given to this wine, and he enigmatically suggested that the art in the blending of the grapes is always a riddle.  Whatever, this rather young chardonnay seemed to be universally popular with the diners, as was the barramundi.

Christoph Voegeli, GM Royal Cliff Hotels Group and Acting President of the deVine Club welcomes guests to the Hardy’s Winemaker’s Dinner. Christoph Voegeli, GM Royal Cliff Hotels Group and Acting President of the deVine Club welcomes guests to the Hardy’s Winemaker’s Dinner.

A palate freshener in the Sour Cherry sorbet was next up, and it was an opportunity for Travis Brown and Christoph Voegeli to mingle and meet the members of the deVine wine club that evening.

The main course was a herb-mushroom crusted Victorian (Australia) beef tenderloin on green and red pepper sauce with sun-dried tomato and Arugula risotto.  This was taken with the strangely named Oomoo shiraz 2007.  According to Travis Brown, “oomoo” is an Aboriginal word and means “good”.  It was also a label that had been used by Hardy’s in the 1880’s through to 1900.  In 2003, for the 150th anniversary, the decision was made to re-release the Oomoo label, which is still being done today.  The wine was full-bodied with a good structure and acidity and was a perfect match for the very tender Victorian beef.  I enjoyed both the beef and the wine.

Vathanai Vathanakul (centre), VP RCHG, and Vitanart Vathanakul (left), Executive Director of the RCHG present tokens of appreciation to Travis Brown (2nd right) and Lt. Chawalit Techapaibul (right), Chairman of Ambrose Wine Ltd as GM Christoph Voegeli looks on.Vathanai Vathanakul (centre), VP RCHG, and Vitanart Vathanakul (left), Executive Director of the RCHG present tokens of appreciation to Travis Brown (2nd right) and Lt. Chawalit Techapaibul (right), Chairman of Ambrose Wine Ltd as GM Christoph Voegeli looks on.

The desserts were amazing culinary expressions with a chocolate trellis that looked like the launching pad at Cape Canaveral for some multi-colored macaroons.

It had been a very pleasant evening, laid back in true Aussie style, with a selection of eminently quaffable wines, in which the Oomoo was a stand-out.  To join the deVine Wine Club contact [email protected]

The Royal Cliff Hotels Group, 353 Pratamnak Road, Pattaya, tel 038 250 421, fax 038 250 511, www.royalcliff.com, secure parking in the hotel grounds.

Executive Chef Walter Thenisch (4th right) leads his team to take a bow at the end of a sensational evening of fine dining. Executive Chef Walter Thenisch (4th right) leads his team to take a bow at the end of a sensational evening of fine dining.

The Grill Room came alive again as wine lovers gathered for an evening of fine wining and dining.The Grill Room came alive again as wine lovers gathered for an evening of fine wining and dining.