THE FINAL CHAPTER
The People You Meet
I was one of only three women guests at the lunch on the Friday and we did gravitate towards each other. It was fantastic. Fiona is studying her Master of Wine (MW) and had just arrived in Singapore a few weeks earlier with her husband (also a MW student working for Penfolds). I was lucky enough to sit next to her.
The other amazing woman, Vivian, is a Writer and Food Stylist who has lived in Singapore for 11 years. They are both a hoot and we got on famously. I love the fact that we are all from different parts of the world and are now all living in Singapore. We have since been in touch and have launched our “Grange-infused” friendship. Our parting photograph together from the lunch was the three of us proudly bearing matching “Grange-teeth” smiles!
On the day, from the moment we walked in, the air was thick with anticipation but eerily quiet. Guests were standing or leaning against the back wall of Burnt Ends trying to pay attention to each other’s conversation but not really listening, as they were watching the kitchen team finalise preparations. The first Magnum of 1979 was being poured and we were all giddy with excitement (well I was for sure!)
In the meantime, I was handed a glass of Penfolds Riesling (also from a magnum by the way) chatting to Max Allen (a well renowned Australian wine writer and author) and my new Master of Wine friend, Fiona. I had been in the restaurant for all of 5 minutes and already I was in some serious wine industry company. I couldn’t be happier!
Photographers with massive lenses and lighting equipment were racing around high and low, scooting between guests, chefs, and service staff, capturing insitu food and wine shots as the dishes were being prepared and attended to. There was no styling or manufactured photos anywhere.
Once we were seated and the first four wines had been poured, we heard from Peter Gago, Chief Winemaker of Penfolds (his resume I will include later). He excited us more about the wine history, the choices they’ve made over the years and just how passionate their love of this label and the wine is!
And of course, Burnt Ends needed to make sure the menu was worthy of such an array of vintages: a challenge for sure! Nothing too over the top but nothing too subdued either. And they delivered!
We were treated to scallop and marron stuffed “wing”; crab and caviar sandwich; kingfish, avocado and pink pepper shallots; pork belly, sweetbreads and apple compote; wagyu strip, fried broad beans and mustard; pigeon and sweet pickled berries; grilled cauliflower and lemon; and finally, fennel tarte tartin.
Need I go on…?
TO ROUND OUT THE STORY!
To put Peter Gago’s experience and reputation into perspective, here’s a short biography:
“After graduating as Dux of Roseworthy College (in Adelaide) for his Bachelor of Applied Science (Oenology), Peter joined Penfolds in 1989, initially making sparkling wines, before moving on to reds. With a natural affinity and passion for winemaking, Peter quickly became an integral part of the winemaking team and in 2002 he succeeded John Duval as Penfolds Chief Winemaker.”
“Engaging and energetic, Peter has a dedication that is unsurpassed. He spends the first half of the year labouring from winery to vineyard, ensuring that Penfolds viticultural practices are world-class, and understanding the nuances of each vineyard and region. Post vintage, he enthusiastically embarks on his other role as an ambassador and natural educator. As only the fourth custodian of Grange, Peter is in high demand internationally and he relishes bringing Penfolds wines to the world.”
Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Peter Gago 2005 Winemaker of the Year. He has been celebrated by the wine fraternity for shining a spotlight on the successes of Australian wine and in 2012 Peter received the Winemaker’s Winemaker Award, presented by the Institute of the Masters of Wine and UK industry publication –The Drinks Business.
Peter was most recently appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia, in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for eminent service to the Australian wine industry as an internationally acclaimed winemaker, to the global promotion of excellence in oenology, marketing and research, as a mentor, and to the community of South Australia.
As my son, Aidan, once said of Mark Webber the Australian Formula One winner, I can now say about Peter Gago: “I have him on speed dial….”