Love Wine? Annata’s ‘Wines of’ dinner series brings food and wine lovers together

Where we live is home. Through COVID we have got to know our neighbours, cafes and restaurants so much better, perhaps we are more connected citizens because of this experience. Annata had this feeling of it’s unique role in the community before we even knew we needed it.

Owner John Bligh left his corporate life at IBM to follow his passion into wine and food. Over the years, an impressive team has assembled around him led by Francisco Ramirez – General Manager & Sommelier. Their mission is to deliver ‘the best dining experience north of the Harbour Bridge’. We have never been…but we’re drawn to the promise of their monthly wine club evenings.

We arrive on the night of a special Bordeaux and the Loire Valley dinner. Annata is a beautiful space. The restaurant is moodily lit with candles flickering against dark walls and the bar to our right has an illuminated wine wall which seamingly reaches to the heavens. There is no doubt that this place anchors itself in its love of the grape. Locals are chilling out with a glass of wine, sitting on leather sofas and given the rain tonight, neither man (nor pooch) is outside in their alfresco area.

We step up to the mezzanine level where others are gathering and taking their positions (aka tables). Our wine master host Gavin Lennard, welcomes us with a glass of sparkling NV Pichot Vouvray Brut ($38 RP). A 100% Chennin Blanc which is rich, smooth and has lots of creamy character. A share platter of Sydney rock oysters, delicious whipped ricotta zucchini flowers and warm bread are passed around as ‘mmm’s and arrrhs’ become the soundtrack to this course, then a delicate blini topped with a smoked salmon rillette arrives. This is a great start.

Mezzanine level of dining where our wine dinner unfolds…

The first course is a dish which is rather shy. Hidden under lashings of fluffy ricotta salata are layers of sweet spanner crab remoulade with peekaboo flashes of green avocado. So delicate, so thoughtful. Two wines are paired; a 2020 Vincent an Pinard Sancerre Nuance and 2021 Arnaud Lambert Saumur Clos de Midi which is a big citrus and fruit led wine. The tables grapple over which they enjoy more.

Executive Chef Jordon Garcia really shows his creativity in these dinners. He also has free reign on Chef Tasting Tuesdays where locals rate his new creations which could go onto the menu. Yes! You can live your dream of being a masterchef judge at Annata. Having worked in reputable restaurants across Melbourne, Canberra and North America his food isn’t bound by any country or cuisine, but here tonight, it is anchored in French classics.

Pressed ham hock is handsomely topped with green apple choucroute (a french style sauerkraut)  with a quenelle of pickled mustard. We head over to the Loire Valley with a 2020 Château de Coulaine Chinon a 100% Cab Franc which is deeply coloured it’s like a romp through a bramble bush whilst the 2020 Yannick Amirault Bourgueil Cote 50 is a new cuvee from hand picked small baskets with indigenous yeasts.

Third course of duck is a painting on a plate. A perfect circle of puree is topped with two slices of szechuan Grimaud Duck Breast, cumquat is crowned with baby carrots and two green lily pad like leaves. It is paired with 2016 Chateau St-Georges and 2018 Châteaux Maucaump, Medoc.

At each course, Gavin takes us through his own personal memory book of the regions and tasting, from an 18th Century Chateaux at Maucaump, the sorting tables and how a winemaker de stems their wines then cellars it. Each comes to life with the story it has lived and the tales of those it owes its heritage too.

You can tell it’s a good night as the tables get more vocal in their opinions on which wine is more perfectly paired, or more enjoyable. The fourth course is a roast lamb backstrap. It’s a fun dish with a crown of richly braised onion and a swirl of pumpkin. 2016 Clos du Marquis ($233) and 2019 Labergorce ($110) fight it out. Both are Cab Sav prominent. It’s a privilege to try wines which are rarely available by the glass and you always question is it better for the price point? They both had lots of blackcurrants, spices even chocolate. Our table was divided we loved them both! The good news is that on any given night 25 or more wines are available by the glass.

desert with roast pineapple

We finish with what feels like a homage to the Opera House (though we are in France). Twp deconstructed biscuity mille feuille sails architecturally lay against sections of sweet roast pineapple and creme fraiche. A 2018 Carmes Rieussec from Sauternes shows off its  lemon-gold looks and marzipan characters. It is a great pairing.

With only petit fours to go, diners are filling out their forms and ordering up a storm. It’s been a wonderful night exploring the vignerons of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley and their varieties of Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre), Chenin Blanc (Vouvray), Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

More than that, its lovely to be around others who share a passion for food, wine, learing, which is open, inclusive and also a lot of fun.

Next Dinner – 5 course degustation celebrating wines and cuisine of central Italy Wed & Thurs Oct 26th/27th

Annata Restaurant & Wine Bar, 69 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest NSW 2065
Pet Friendly? – YES! in the garden area

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).