Meeting the Winemaker Mark Conroy

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It was intimate gathering and a gleeful exchange of stories over glasses of good wine and good food at Acqua of  The Shangri-La Mactan’s Resort and Spa. Making the night even more enthralling was sharing the table with the winemaker himself, Mr. Mark Conroy.

Being a noob about wines, it was edifying to be with an au fait crowd on the same table, drinking in as much knowledge as I can about wines. But before quaffing on some good glasses, let us get to know our winemaker first.

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The Winemaker, Mark Conroy.

Currently on his 35th year in the wine industry,  he is genetically destined to be in the wine industry with his Great Great Great Grandfather John Wrathall Bull planting 7,200 vines of Tokay (Muscadelle), Malbec, Mouvedre, Shiraz, Grenache, Riesling, Verdelho, Carignan, Mourastel (Graciano) in 1858 at Glen Osmond, near Adelaide in South Australia.

His  interest in wine arose at a very young age, through visiting the Barossa Valley wineries with his father. At 14 and 15,  he would regularly raid his father’s cellar with great success, until the inevitable. His next foray was managing fine wine stores and then hotels, at the same time tasting and collecting wine.

Every opportunity he would read, learn and taste wine, especially sensory evaluation. His first wine industry position was in sales with the Thumm family in the Barossa Valley at Chateau Yaldara in 1982.

Currently, he is  at the historical family owned Pirramimma Winery overseeing Sales, Marketing and Winemaking. Changed all winemaking, oak regime, fruit purchasing and blending, instantly gaining 5 star status with Halliday. It is his responsibility to taste and blend all wines. For the barrel select International Trophy winner, 2007 ACJ …(worlds best blend London, 2011 IWSC), he tasted over 500 barriques, the wine was a blend of 11 components. Recently they won Top Golds with their 2010 White Label Shiraz Viognier, 2012 White Lable Reserve Merlot, 2010 White Lable Cabernet and scored 96/100 with their 2010 War Horse Shiraz.

Since commencing at Pirramimma, he made and developed the War Horse, Ironstone, ACJ, Eight Carat, Lions Gate, Gilded Lilly, Grey Nomad, Black Label Vineyard Select, Heritage Edition, Wattle Park brands. Also developed the Katunga range, with the GTS becoming a successfully exported red blend.

Once tasted 987 wines at Wine Australia, his diminishing cellar has 2500 bottles and a regular judge for Winestate Magazine.

 

Food and Wine Pairing

Unquestionably Shangri-La Mactan serves a great fare, and the dinner was made more delightful with Pirramimma  wine pairing. I  sampled 5 out of the 9 Pirramimma wines launched that night paired with delectable dishes.

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Started the meal with Roasted Pecking Duck with scallions, cucumber and Hoi Sin Sauce wrapped in thin pancake. Mark Conroy paired the dish with Pirramimma White Label Petit Verdot – 100% Verdot, it’s deep purple in color. Lifted sweet black cherry and delicate violet and floral nose. The palate displays complex fruit with lingering soft ripe tannins well balanced by American oak. A clean finish and conductive tannins.

Peking Duck

Peking Duck

I love smoked ham and arugula, which is both found on the next dish I savored, the Buffalo Pizza – buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce, parma ham, rocket and truffle oil. Mr. Conroy chose to pair the pizzas with Pirramimma Stock’s Hill Chardonay – 100% Chardonnay  showing qualities of the vintage offering aromas of citrus, papaya, baked apple pie and flint. On the palate it is ripe and round, with flavors of lemon custard and toasted almonds that lead to a balanced and delicate finish.

Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Parma Ham, Rocket, Truffle Oil

Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Parma Ham, Rocket, Truffle Oil

Moving on to the third dish, the Seafood Pasta paired with Pirramimma White Label French Oak Chardonnay. That’s Farfalle pasta  salmon, mussels, tiger prawns, white wine sauce, cherry  tomato, onion, garlic, fresh basil, shaved parmesan and pesto sauce and paired with a glass of 100% Chardonnay with complex nose display of nutty, smoky oak, melon, peach and citrus aromas, with hint of apple and with the palate delivering rich peacharine, butterscotch, smoky almond, rock melon, tinges of mandarin and cashew. A multifaceted wine with fruit, oak and natural acidity in harmony, finishing with great length of flavor.

Saefood Pasta

Saefood Pasta

Sated and gorged, I moved to a lighter dish and made my own Rocket Salad – Arugula with white cheese, a sprinkle of parmesan, a handful of pistachios and cashew, finally topped with dried mangoes dressed in balsamic vinaigrette. This was paired with Pirramimma Stock Hill Sauvignon Blanc Semillon – 77% Sauvignon Blanc and 23% Semillon, pale straw with green tinges in color, with an aroma of passionfruit and pineapple. The palate follows through with tropical notes and a citrus backbone, giving a clean and refreshing finish.

On special occasions, I always end my dinner with something sweet. It somehow puts a great sway on my mind diet and gets me in a happy mood. So for dessert, I had petite servings of some of my favorite confections, nuts and cheeses paired with Pirramimma War Horse. Cheesecake and trifle, orange and ripe mango slices, cashew and pistachios, brie and cheddar cheeses, and dried mangoes paired with a glass of 100% Shiraz, displaying a boquet of satsuma plum, spicy morello cherry, infused with bramble, pepper and mocha notes. The intense palate delivers loganberry, spicy mulberry, star of anise, dark chocolate which is enhanced by the quality vanilla/cedar oak and hints of ripe blackberry. Balanced by firm tannins, well integrated oak, and great length of flavor.

A rookie wine drinker, I could not give a complete and detailed impression on how  the wine would smell and how the notes  would taste just yet. Most of the wine impressions I mentioned on the blog  are from the winemaker himself. Though some notes and smell can be detected even by a novice like me. 😉

It was a chummy affair, that started with low-key laughs to burly giggles, but still maintaining a polished composure. From Doc Nestor and Tito Jayme’s stories of how they enjoyed drinking beer without ice during their teenage years and recalling the most awesome tasting mollusk they ever tasted in Cebu, to Ms. Mildred and Rochelle’s exciting Shangri-la updates,  to  Tita Mayen’s lesson on wine tannins, to Joanna’s fun experience winning a few bucks on Australian Horse Race and of course Mr. Mark Conroy for sharing with us his Award-winning wine creations and a few lessons on food and wine pairing – for real it was a night to be grateful about. Cheers to the  good life!

 

 

 

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