Chef Tony Bilson (The Godfather) on Epic Wines
Many years ago, as a young chef, I was introduced to the magic of wine by art dealer and wine judge Rudy Komon. His amazing circle of friends included Australia’s top wine makers including the legendary Maurice O’Shea and many of the best vignerons in Europe. On my first visit to France Rudy opened doors for me to visit these vineyards including Chateau D’Yquem.
As a chef I was asked to cook for these icons whenever they came to Australia and to help promote Australian wines Internationally. I have a photo from a hotel dinner I did in New York, with the owner of the hotel embracing Mr Rupert Murdoch - also a customer of my then Sydney restaurant Tony’s Bon Gout. The hotelier had a playboy type reputation, with many attractive and flimsily dressed young women populating the famous bar. His name? Mr Donald J. Trump. This was all a great deal of fun but the people that I really valued were those of my generation.
The first great friendship with a valued vigneron was with Adam Wynn. Adam had completed his wine making degree in France and had established, together with his father David, the Mountadam Vineyard, Eden Valley; famous for the first acknowledged Australian planting of Chardonnay. I did a dinner for Adam in Japan where his wines received tremendous acclaim - at the time Rupert also made sure the dinners were packed by giving us publicity in all his media. Adam Wynn’s father David had made one of my favourite wines, the Ovens Valley Shiraz in the 50s and 60s. The area had been famous for many years for its fortified sweet wines grown in the rich soil of the lower valleys. It took David’s genius to plant the vineyard in the higher, cool areas. The climate there was Burgundian, here the Wynns planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. When his father died Adam sold the winery to take charge of the wider family business; and I no longer had friends to visit in this iconic area of North East Victoria; an area that I had come to love.
So imagine my joy when I was contacted by a young winemaker asking me to come down and cook a lunch at the winery King River Estate. The King Valley is the neighbouring valley to the Ovens Valley and the King River Estate vineyard was planted in a similar climate and soil to the Wynn’s Burgundian influenced vineyard. The vigneron was a forward thinking individual using bio-dynamic wine making techniques to create wines with strong regional values. His name was Trevor Knaggs. We did the annual lunch together for many years. Our guests included Australia’s premium wine writers as well as other local wine makers and of course, Trevor’s valued clients.
Trevor eventually sold the winery when his father died. And with further contact I soon felt strong sense of déjà vu - can you imagine my delight when he told me of his vision for Epic Wines and asking me to write for the website!?
Over the following months and years I hope to keep you entertained and informed, sharing recipes to accompany the fabulous choice of wines that Trevor has curated for you in his premium wine packs. To kick things off I thought it best to share the recipe for an original dish that has become a classic, first served at one of Trevor’s King Valley vineyard lunches.
Coddled Salmon with Red Wine Sauce
6 x 200g pieces of the best fresh salmon
Skin and de-bone the fish if required.
Season generously with salt.
Cook the fish until it is pink and translucent, approximately 15 minutes.
Red Wine Sauce
1 tbsp butter (for mirepoix)
½ cup of mirepoix (1cm diced onion, carrot and celery)
1tbsp tomato paste
500ml shiraz wine
150g chopped salted butter (to thicken sauce)
4 chopped golden shallots
250g salmon bones (ask your fishmonger)
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
½ tsp black pepper corns
In a medium sized saucepan brown the mirepoix vegetables, then add the fish bones, golden shallots and herbs and peppercorns. Cook and brown the bones and shallots.
Add the tomato paste, sir in and then add the shiraz. Simmer and reduce to half the liquid volume and then strain into another saucepan, discarding the bones and vegetables. Taste to check the seasoning, adjust with salt and pepper to your liking.
Ian the new saucepan, bring the sauce to a simmer and then whisk in the chopped butter. Set aside keeping warm until ready to serve.
Prepare an accompaniment of buttered baby spinach and the smallest new potatoes steamed and dressed in butter, chopped parsley and freshly crack black pepper.
Arrange the spinach in a bed in the centre of the warmed plate. Place the salmon on top, season with ground black pepper. Place the new potatoes to one side, and carefully sauce the dish, spooning the red wine sauce around the base of the spinach. Serve immediately.