MANILA -- (UPDATED) Ginza Japanese Restaurant and Cloudy Bay Wines recently took diners on a trip to the vineyards of New Zealand by way of Japan through a one-night-only wine pairing dinner.
The Cloudy Bay winery is based in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand. The cold climate together with the mountainous regions contribute to the grapes that produce intense aromatic wines that are indicative of the New Zealand style.
Back in the early '80s, Cloudy Bay put New Zealand on the map, with several wine writers declaring their first Sauvignon Blanc vintages to be the best in the world. It is now included the wine portfolio of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
For this dinner, the Sauvignon Blanc and the limited-edition expressions, Te Koko and Te Wahi, were on the spotlight as they were paired with Japanese entrees from the kitchens of Ginza Japanese Restaurant. Ginza just opened its doors to the public April 1 of this year and is attracting a following for their take on modern Japanese cuisine using premium ingredients like Omi beef imported straight from the source.
Pepper Guanio, one of the owners, is a big fan of Cloudy Bay, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc, which was recommended by her wine supplier during the pandemic lockdowns.
This is now always in stock in the restaurant and has become a preferred pairing with their sushi. Guanio just relished the opportunity to try out the limited-edition bottles and pair these with Ginza’s offerings.
A trio of Salmon Belly Robata, Agedashi tofu, and Salmon Uni Aburi with a glass of Whispering Angel was a nice prelude to the main event.
The second course's featured wine was the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. The fruity sweet aroma was already evident even as the wine glass was still some distance from my nose. The nose translated to the palate, making this a delightful light sip paired with Sanriku oysters prepared two-ways -- fresh oyster dressed with light ponzu sauce made in-house and a dash of wasabi, and a torched oyster with miso.
The Cloudy Bay Te Koko is the Sauvignon Blanc aged in oak barrels. The difference between the two is better felt than tasted. This one was richer and creamier, with a fuller body that produced a momentary sensation of a that wine coating the palate.
Only the best grapes are given the Te Koko oak barrel treatment. The winery’s standards for these grapes are so high that there are years where they do not produce this particular expression. Thus, the Te Koko has similar, but much more intense fruity notes. It did wonders to cut through the buttery rich Teriyaki Unagidon that was served with Clam Miso soup.
Ginza ended the dinner with a bang with their indulgent Gyu Katsu. This is high-grade Omi beef katsu with a generous side of Japanese potato salad. It takes much skill to still cook this medium rare, and the Ginza kitchen successfully delivered the crunch and tenderness in one flavorful bite. Add some rock salt, a dab of wasabi, and some tonkatsu sauce to get its full potential. The last featured wine, the Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir, matched this bite as its fresh fruit notes still shone through that explosion of flavor.
Cloudy Bay does have a base Pinot Noir made with grapes from their home region in Marlborough. Te Wahi means "The Place" in Maori and that is what makes this particular Pinot Noir extra special. The grapes used here come from Cloudy Bay’s vines in Central Otago on the southern part of New Zealand, reputed to be the southernmost wine producing region on the planet. These grapes produce a fresh balanced wine that isn't as acidic as other bottles of Pinot Noir that can be mistaken for a much more expensive red wine from Burgundy in France.
Dessert was a nice Japanese twist on the Brazo De Mercedes. Instead of frozen custard, Ginza used matcha ice cream for this frozen sweet ending.
Amy Tan, LVMH’s wine development ambassador for the Southeast Asia Market, flew in from Singapore to talk about the Cloudy Bay wines currently available in the local market. She noted that there is a market for high end wines locally.
"Even though the Philippines is a developing market, I see a lot of potential in people's taste of wine. For example, if we talk about high end wines, some of the other developed markets may not be so open to these new wines. But it looks like Philippines are ready to embrace such interesting ones," Tan remarked.
For Cloudy Bay, the regular bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot are more readily available. However, bottles of Te Wahi and Te Koko are in high demand because of Cloudy Bay's reputation for quality and the limited production of these select bottles. Less than 50 bottles each have been allocated for the Philippine market. For a limited time until supplies last, these are directly available from the local office or on-order from selected online distributors.
Ginza is located at 2307 Chino Roces Avenue (inside Fashion Interiors) and is open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more details about Ginza and Cloudy Bay, check out their social media pages.