Words by Lisa Holmen, Oakridge Photography by Rick Liston
Last week we made a special road trip to the Yarra Valley for a Spring Soiree at Oakridge Wines. Oakridge has long been one of my favourite restaurants in the region, with Executive Chefs, Matt Stone and Jo Barrett, always crafting a menu which is inspired their surroundings; a showcase of local produce and the seasons in all their glory. Everything from Oakridge Restaurant is made from scratch, from the house made sourdough to the sauces with the chefs sourcing most of the ingredients from the kitchen garden or by foraging in the region.
But this time we weren’t just there for the food (well I won’t lie, that was a big part of the appeal!). The Soiree celebrated all things spring and an exciting schedule of events in the Yarra Valley, particularly an appreciation of the arts, including the Archibald Prize, the Vincent Fantauzzo exhibition and the Gertrude Opera – Yarra Valley Opera Festival.
Comedian, author and ABC Radio personality Michael Veitch, was the perfect host for the evening and held an exclusive Q&A and conversations with 2019 Archibald Prize Winner Tony Costa (in his only Victorian appearance) and four time winner of the People’s Choice award, acclaimed portrait artist, Vincent Fantauzzo. Costa talked about his passion for painting and the importance of falling in love with his subject in his paintings: While Fantauzzo spoke about the struggles of being dyslexic and his discovery of art from a young age, talking about his creative process and the impetus behind his work.
After being treated to canapes and sparkling wine on arrival, we feasted on four hyperlocal courses matched to new release spring wines. To start, sharing plates were laden on the table filled with house bread and pastry, burrata, spring crudites, smoked eel with charcuterie (matched with 2018 Henk Vineyard Chardonnay). For the main event, we were treated to a lamb saddle from Yeringberg Farm with fromage blanc which was cooked to perfection and teamed with spring garden vegetables, Dutch cream mash and butter lettuce (matched with 2019 Pinot Meunier). The Stone and Crow Moonshine cheese was exceptional, paired with a chutney and Oakridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. A Davison Plum Parfait with apple and Geradton Wax (paired with 2019 Harvest gris) was the perfect way to finish an extraordinarily delicious evening.
It was a fun evening interwoven with performances and music , including a theatrical reading of a Portrait of Dorian Grey and a goosebump inducing importance from the Gertrude Opera.
Tony Costa’s Archibald Prize-winning work will be on display alongside 50 other shortlisted works at TarraWarra Museum of Art from 14 September to 5 November 2019 and Vincent Fantauzzo’s 30:30 portrait collection will be exhibited by YAVA gallery in Healesville from 5 September. The Yarra Valley Opera Festival, presented by Gertrude Opera, will run from 18 – 27 October