In Oz, they call it “WA.” Western Australia covers pretty well half of the continent and, lately, pretty well the richest half, due to rare-earth mining in the north. To the south, the vineyards sustain surfers in Margaret River and riesling-loving hermits in the Porongorups.
The only problem is, WA is far from here. Two thousand miles from Sydney and about as far from the continental US as you can get. Given the distance, few Americans ever get a taste of Western Australia. Curtis Stone and his team at LA’s Maude have set out to change that—at least momentarily—with a menu built around the region’s wines and foods.
One recent night, the squid ink tagliolini was the stand out, dressed with mud crab, trout roe and a dust made from riberry, a red berry that grows on lilly pilly trees in the Australian bush. Andrey Tolmachyov, Maude’s wine director, described the ingredients as he poured a Voyager 2012 Chardonnay. There was still some Moss Wood 2016 Pinot Noir on the table, which he had poured for a spicy grilled squid. It was from some of the first vines planted after the estate was established in 1969 and it’s hard to say whether the chardonnay or pinot noir was more resonant with the oceanic pasta.
There were plenty of wines from the young guard as well: The Blind Corner Blanc, a chenin, picked up on the exquisite freshness of the hiramasa, a thin slice of kingfish from Antarctica, which was nested under a blanket of tiny nasturtium leaves, crunchy apple and a touch of kombucha.
For dessert, guests decamp out of the 24-seat restaurant, heading next door and upstairs to the wine cellar, settling into leather sofas with glasses of Gralyn Estate’s Rare Tawny, a wine Tolmachyov discovered on one of his drives along Caves Road. Then a bowl arrives with a small scoop of caramel-ginger ice cream surrounded by milk-chocolate-and-wattleseed ganache, macadamia crumble and passionfruit foam—vibrant flavors that power through the aged notes of the wine.
Stone’s team at Maude spent some time exploring Western Australia in preparation for this menu, which runs from January through March. Stone and pastry chef Yesenia Cruz headed north toward Broome, and joined Ben Aviram (the director of operations) and Tolmachyov in Margaret River. Tolmachyov took the opportunity to scope out a range of intriguing wines, many from producers who are little known outside WA, like skin-contact, amphora-aged Dormilona sauvignon and the micro-production cabernet from Cloudburst.
The wines match the delicacy of Stone’s food, creating one of the freshest oceanic meals you can have this winter. If you’re in the vicinity of our own southwest coast, don’t miss it.
photo of food dish by Anne Fishbein; shot of Andrey Tolmachov by Ray Kachatorian
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