McLeish Estate is one of four venues taking part in the inaugural End 2 End Festival in September

TOP DROP: Jessica McLeish at home in the vineyards of McLeish Estate. Picture: Dominique Cherry
TOP DROP: Jessica McLeish at home in the vineyards of McLeish Estate. Picture: Dominique Cherry

McLeish Estate will come alive on September 15 as lovers of all things gourmet flock to the vineyard as part of the inaugural End 2 End Festival.

Spread over four venues, the festival will incorporate more than 20 wineries. Shuttle buses will run on a hop-on, hop-off basis all day.

The McLeish Estate hub will offer visitors a “Semillon 2 Seafood” experience with gourmet platters, food stalls, live music, an animal petting farm and helicopter flights. Chef Matt Dillow will be cooking up a lunch-time feast on site: think wood-smoked trout salad; slow-roasted beef cheeks; lemon curd tart; and chocolate Muscat and almond cake. Also, celebrity chef Ed Halmagyi (Fast Ed), of Better Homes & Gardens fame, will host four masterclasses there on the day.

McLeish Estate is renowned for its award-winning semillon. 

“The Hunter and semillon are the perfect fit,” vigneron Jessica McLeish told Food & Wine. “The region is in a unique subtropical climate where we expect late summer rains and higher relative humidity.”

The aim of wine and food pairing is to create a balance of flavours where the wine supports and lifts the dish. Together, semillon and seafood “both shine”, she says. 

“The elements in a simple seafood dish such as a squeeze of lemon over whiting or oysters is going to be the same experience as what a glass of young Hunter Valley semillon will deliver. The pairing all comes down to the texture. Delicate oysters, kingfish or scallops will be a much better match to lighter, youthful semillons, while semillons with five years of age are ideal with more textural, oily fish such as tuna or salmon.

“Match the intensity of the protein and use sauces with the dish to bridge the wine to the food. Cooking light white snapper with zest of lime will complement a wine’s acidity and make it seem richer or mellower. The sauces also play a big part in bridging the right flavours. For instance, lobster mornay and 10-year-old semillon would show a harmony of rich, complex layers of flavour and one wouldn’t overwhelm the other.”

The big tannin reds that need bottle age to settle, though, would overwhelm the more delicate seafood dishes.

“If red wines are your preference I would recommend using a different cooking technique. Instead of butter poached white fillet fish you would be better to roast salmon that gives fuller flavour,” she said.

“Grilled tuna can handle a slightly bolder wine. Ideal reds would be a crisp rosé and lighter styles of merlot or pinot noir. It is all part of the experimentation and discovery to find the perfect match.”

The End 2 End Festival begins at 10am and finishes at 5pm. Early Bird Tickets are $43.95 (youth 13-17 $33.95). Shuttle bus tickets are $11. Pre-booking is advised for masterclasses.