Second Life: A Wild Degustation with Fervor and Sandor Katz

There’s nothing quite like the quiet delirium of hosting a dinner. Finding an excuse to welcome family and friends to the table was, and, arguably still is, one of the main drivers behind the Vine Collective. Good food, good wine, good stories, good people, it’s this universe of the shared bottle that’s always marked the dining table as our gastronomic tabernacle of sorts.

March 5, 2020 | Vine Collective LC-Fervor-125

So, with our 2019 vintage bottled, and our second anniversary looming, we’ve decided to celebrate by doing what we enjoy most, and that’s commandeer the MacDonald family farm and host a wild degustation dinner for the Vine Collective family. 

Centred on the theme, ‘fermentation’, we will be joined by close friend Paul Iskov and the Fervor crew, who will be working the pans, preparing a special five-course menu matched to our new 2019 vintage.

Also joining us at the table will be our special guest, fermentation mystic and preservation expert, Sandor Katz. Described by the New York Times as “one of the unlikely stars of the American food scene”, Sandor has inspired chefs, chocolatiers, winemakers, cheesemongers and ferment-sorcerer’s-apprentices everywhere.

Sandor will be in Margaret River to host an exclusive fermentation workshop at Riversmith on Friday March the 6th, but on the Saturday, he will down the mason jars and join us at our farm table as we pair saltbush-fed lamb, koji-cured kangaroo, fermented quandong, and wild rosella vinegar with minimal-intervention wines and wine-pickled conversations. 

We briefly sat down with Paul Iskov from Fervor, and VC winemaker Lachie MacDonald, to talk about the evening, the new harvest, and the legend of Sandor Katz.

VC: Okay, so why is fermentation the theme for this dinner?

Lachie: Fermentation plays such an integral part in winemaking and in everything we do at Vine Collective. From making local produce such as oils, salt and honey, to our love of food, what makes fermentation so special is that it’s an always evolving and exciting process, and, as a winemaker, it’s fascinating to be able to watch, taste and smell that process in our wines. To not rush things and just let time run its course. And knowing that Sandor was going to be in town, we thought it’d be a good excuse to meet him, celebrate the new vintage, and an even better excuse to hang out with Paul, Steph and the Fervor crew.

Paul: Having Sandor over is a huge honour, and so it only made sense for this dinner to be based around fermentation. We have such amazing produce in the Margaret River region, with a lot of it being fermented: wine, bread, chocolate, and so on. We’ve been fermenting at Fervor since the very beginning, as it not only helps us build a flavour library, but brings a special quality to the ingredients we use.

VC: Paul, Sandor Katz. What’s his legacy, and how do you feel about cooking for him? 

Paul: Sandor’s a huge inspiration to us and has changed the way we think about fermentation – one may say he’s a fermentation revivalist. It’s definitely an honour to cook for him, and I look forward to him trying some of our native Australian-focussed ferments. I’m sure he has tried heaps of garums, misos and shoyus in his time, but I’m hoping this is the first time he has tried ferments using marron, kangaroo, wattleseed, sandalwood nuts, stingray, emu, and a host of other ingredients.

VC: Lachie, can you tell us a little about this year’s vintage?

Lachie: The 2019 vintage in Margaret River had cool conditions over the ripening period, so we set out to source and pick earlier ripening varieties earlier in the season. Although it was a challenge at the time, as we had to become creative with our sourcing and stretch contacts, it was the right move, and we’ve ended up with five pretty exciting wines – which we look forward to revealing and sharing at the dinner.

VC: Speaking of the dinner, what can we expect?

Lachie: For us at VC, the dinner’s going to be a great celebration of fermentation, collaboration and community, and showcase not only what we’ve been up to at VC, but what Paul has been developing in recent months at Fervor. It’s not often we get to host evenings like this, so I’m looking forward to hosting Paul, Sandor and all our guests at the family farm, and sharing stories around the table.

VC: What led to the decision to host the dinner at the family farm?

Lachie: Growing up on the family farm here in Cowaramup, it was the place I learnt about growing produce, raising animals and respecting the land. It was here, where winemaking sort of started for me too – even though we don’t grow vines here ourselves. I was fortunate to meet family friends in the industry and our neighbours had vineyards, so it just encouraged my interest. And one of the overarching tenets of VC is to celebrate local producers, and local landscapes, so the family farm just automatically felt like the obvious location. It’s also just a bloody lovely part of the world.

VC: Okay, so why is fermentation the theme for this dinner?

Lachie: Fermentation plays such an integral part in winemaking and in everything we do at Vine Collective. From making local produce such as oils, salt and honey, to our love of food, what makes fermentation so special is that it’s an always evolving and exciting process, and, as a winemaker, it’s fascinating to be able to watch, taste and smell that process in our wines. To not rush things and just let time run its course. And knowing that Sandor was going to be in town, we thought it’d be a good excuse to meet him, celebrate the new vintage, and an even better excuse to hang out with Paul, Steph and the Fervor crew.

Paul: Having Sandor over is a huge honour, and so it only made sense for this dinner to be based around fermentation. We have such amazing produce in the Margaret River region, with a lot of it being fermented: wine, bread, chocolate, and so on. We’ve been fermenting at Fervor since the very beginning, as it not only helps us build a flavour library, but brings a special quality to the ingredients we use.

VC: Paul, Sandor Katz. What’s his legacy, and how do you feel about cooking for him? 

Paul: Sandor’s a huge inspiration to us and has changed the way we think about fermentation – one may say he’s a fermentation revivalist. It’s definitely an honour to cook for him, and I look forward to him trying some of our native Australian-focussed ferments. I’m sure he has tried heaps of garums, misos and shoyus in his time, but I’m hoping this is the first time he has tried ferments using marron, kangaroo, wattleseed, sandalwood nuts, stingray, emu, and a host of other ingredients.

VC: Lachie, can you tell us a little about this year’s vintage?

Lachie: The 2019 vintage in Margaret River had cool conditions over the ripening period, so we set out to source and pick earlier ripening varieties earlier in the season. Although it was a challenge at the time, as we had to become creative with our sourcing and stretch contacts, it was the right move, and we’ve ended up with five pretty exciting wines – which we look forward to revealing and sharing at the dinner.

VC: Speaking of the dinner, what can we expect?

Lachie: For us at VC, the dinner’s going to be a great celebration of fermentation, collaboration and community, and showcase not only what we’ve been up to at VC, but what Paul has been developing in recent months at Fervor. It’s not often we get to host evenings like this, so I’m looking forward to hosting Paul, Sandor and all our guests at the family farm, and sharing stories around the table.

VC: What led to the decision to host the dinner at the family farm?

Lachie: Growing up on the family farm here in Cowaramup, it was the place I learnt about growing produce, raising animals and respecting the land. It was here, where winemaking sort of started for me too – even though we don’t grow vines here ourselves. I was fortunate to meet family friends in the industry and our neighbours had vineyards, so it just encouraged my interest. And one of the overarching tenets of VC is to celebrate local producers, and local landscapes, so the family farm just automatically felt like the obvious location. It’s also just a bloody lovely part of the world.

VC: Paul, you’ve been doing this for quite some time now. What’s the unique takeaway you hope to experience from this event?

Paul: We choose to collaborate with like-minded individuals and find that these individuals each bring their own charm to the table, and so, we take away and learn something different from every person we’ve had the opportunity to work with, this dinner being no different. 

Learning about the VC wines and pairing the food has been really  exciting. With minimal intervention in their wine making methods, they focus on the produce, a similar outlook we have with our cooking. We’re also really looking forward to meeting Sandor and the team from the Fermentory, and sharing our food with them at the table,.

VC: And finally, Lachie, up to this point VC has been all about the wine… What else is in the pipeline?

Lachie: Wine has been the main part of our story so far, but with each new vintage release, new farm produce is joining our range. Our extra virgin olive oil from the family farm in Cowaramup is now stocked on shelves in Perth. We also have salts and honey in the works, which will be available shortly. We think VC should be wine, but also the world around wine – as staples in the kitchen; whether you cook with our produce, or pour them over salads, or open with a corkscrew.

We’re lucky to live in a special part of Australia. We grow and make some pretty good produce in the South West. So, I guess we’re always looking at new ways to sustainably manage our farming practices to cause less impact on the land and waterways around us, and improve our craft – whilst making what we love.

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