In Coates Wines' 2019 Winter Reds event, chef Bec Stubbs is showcasing the best of Kuitpo food and wine in a paired five-course locavore long-table lunch.
There’s more to Kuitpo than mushrooms and pine trees
There’s no better time to be in the Hills than winter, Adelaide chef Rebecca Stubbs tells CityMag.
We’ve driven out to Kuitpo to visit her at Coates Wines’ cellar door, where she runs the label with her partner, Duane Coates.
It’s been a late year in the vineyard, with most of their white varieties stuck on the vine much later than usual. The Kuitpo mornings have been especially crisp this winter.
“The Hills in winter has always got a spot in my heart,” Bec says.
“It’s lush, green, there are trees everywhere. It’s a nice cosy kind of environment. I’ve always related that to the Hills.”
We speak while cocooned inside the Coates cellar door, the warmth of the fire making the cold grey sky above the sprawling vineyard vista seem all the more serene.
Two days out of every week Bec works amongst the cheffing team at 2KW. The rest of her time is spent working alongside Duane, “doing plunging and racking and all the cellar hand sort of stuff.”
She took three weeks off during vintage when the workload in the winery ramped up, but generally she doesn’t get days off, she jokes. She also doesn’t seem to mind.
The Coates business is modelled on a small-scale family-run French winery, with Duane basing his wines around popular European varieties. He was initially drawn to Kuitpo, in 2003, for its climate, or, more specifically, for the cold-climate sauvignon blanc, semillon and chardonnay growing on this property.
In its first year Coates released 200 cases, and in the 15-odd years since they’ve slowly grown to around 2500-3000 – still “the boutique end of boutique,” Bec says.
While the range of wines Coates releases has expanded dramatically (which Duane is now whittling back), the Coates philosophy is about burning low and slow.
Much like Kuitpo itself, Coates has long been a quiet achiever.
“We’re not huge about blowing our own horn or anything like that,” Bec smiles. Instead, they’ve turned to hosting events, like their upcoming Winter Reds Hunter Gatherer Long Table Lunch.
“Being able to talk to people directly when they come up and holding these kinds of events is a lot more in line with what we are,” Bec says.
“So rather than spruiking it and talk and talk and talk and talk, we can actually share a bit of what we’re about with other people.”
The lunch consists of five courses and will be sourced predominantly from within 20 kilometres of the vineyard (with minor exceptions, like scallops), and each course is matched to a Coates wine.
For Bec, the event is an opportunity to showcase that there is much more to Kuitpo than the forest.
“I always wanted to do a hunter gatherer event. They’re always fun,” she says.
“There are a lot of ingredients here that are wild, and friends that live close that have got great fruit trees. The blackberries are literally in the creek down the road, the forest has got the mushrooms, there’s a heap of wild fennel that grows around here as well. The quinces come from the Hills, and the figs are 500 metres away on another property.
“If you’re not familiar with the area, which a lot of people aren’t, apart form the forest, you might not realise what’s out here and how close some of these things are around here.”
The menu for the day moved through scallop ceviche with pickled figs, chestnut tortellini with parsnip and foraged nettle cream, Kuitpo pine mushrooms, and slow-cooked venison, finishing with a tart topped with Willunga almonds and the aforementioned creek-born blackberries.
Hosting a winter long lunch is a homespun marketing strategy. There’s no better way to build a relationship with a brand than to sit with the people who run it, and eat and drink together.
If it’s an icy winter morning, like they have been, the fire will be on. There’ll be a glass of wine waiting for you, a meal laid out, and the most incredible view across the vineyard.