David wanders into New Zealand's gourmet cooking school. It'll tickle and tantalise your tastebuds.
Sileni featured in Roman mythology alongside Bacchus, the God of Wine. Together they celebrated good wine, good food and good company.
New Zealand's Sileni Estates is a winery and vineyard created by Graeme Avery, Chris Cowper and Grant Edmonds and they are committed to crafting world-class fine wines.
Hawkes Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand's north island, has latitude of 39º and a climate similar to that of some of the world's great wine-producing regions. It is a centre of agricultural and horticultural excellence. The Heretaunga Plains, at the confluence of three rivers, is New Zealand's most prolific producer of stone and pip fruits, process crops and market gardens, with olives and lavender all making an impact on the area. The surrounding rural areas produce excellent quality lamb, beef and venison, and seafood has a significant presence.
The wine varieties include Merlot, cabernet franc, Malbec and semillon from Bordeaux, pinot noir and chardonnay from Burgundy. Traditional techniques are used to create the best possible vintages from the state-of-the-art winery. It can crush over 1000 tonnes of fruit using high-tech and traditional methods.
The estate has two restaurants. Mesa is on a covered terrace which has views across the vineyard and offers casual dining. RD1 is more formal and chef Jenny Parton offers a degustation menu which changes daily according to local produce.
Jenny's aim is to offer a balance of texture, colour and flavour without being limited by any particular country's cuisine. She prefers simple dishes with fewer components and more flavour, being light on fat and cream and leaning towards yoghurt and olive oil.
The skills of Jenny Parton are passed on through her cooking classes at the estate. The idea was part of the vineyard's original plan and the property has a purpose-built kitchen with four stoves and room for hands-on experience. So successful have the classes been, they are running structured tutoring with three entrees, two main courses and one dessert.
Like all good cooking courses, part of the fun and pleasure begins with shopping for produce, and full-day classes begin with scouring Hawkes Bay for the best and freshest produce. All hands-on classes end with everyone sitting to eat the food and enjoying Sileni wines matched to the food.
Sileni Lodge is 15 minutes from the main estate. On one side are park-like gardens, with vineyards on the other. It is secluded at the base of the ranges and has four rooms, each with ensuite and all opening to a lounge. There is also a honeymoon suite with lounge.
Hawkes Bay, near Napier in New Zealand.
Sileni Estates cooking classes start at around $70 per person.
Qantas flies daily to Auckland with Air New Zealand connections to Napier starting at $923 from Sydney; $972 from Melbourne and Brisbane; $1234 from Adelaide; $1300 from Perth and $1546 from Darwin, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Box 2234, Stortford Lodge
Hastings, New Zealand
Ph: 0011 64 6879 8768
Fax: 0011 64 6876 firstname.lastname@example.org
Qantas: 13 13 13