Misha and Andy were invited to one of New Zealand’s – and the world’s – most iconic luxury lodges!
Well it wasn’t just Misha’s Vineyard who were invited to be part of the Italian Opera Weekend in June of this year – we were in fact part of an amazing group that included celebrity chef Stefano Manfredi, who flew over from Sydney, Jonathan Alver (artistic director of the New Zealand Opera) and five up and coming stars from the New Zealand Opera School! This special weekend was billed as an opportunity for guests to be “enriched and inspired by beautiful voices, fine cuisine and stunning wines”.
After joining in to watch the cooking demonstration for Huka Lodge guests by Stefano Manfredi on the perfect risotto, Andy and I then hosted guests in the Main Lodge Room and introduced Misha’s Vineyard and shared with them the story of how a background in opera and ballet became an inspiration for our brand. We finished just in time for pre-dinner cocktails where guests were able to try our first 2 wines – ‘The Starlet’ Sauvignon Blanc and our ‘Impromptu’ Pinot Noir.
Our degustation dinner commenced at 8pm in the main dining room which was full and in fact over-flowing – with in fact a few guests on an additional table in the library room. We were all still sitting at tables at nearly midnight after our four-hour (5-course) feast! The evening was broken up into segments of amazing food, performances by the opera stars, explanations of each course by Chef Manfredi and of course introductions to each wine by yours truly! Given that our wines all have names inspired by the opera or the theatre, it seemed only right that we were introducing wines like ‘The High Note’ at this opera-inspired dinner. After a sumptuous meal, everyone retired back into the Lodge Room for drinks, petit-fours and coffee.
The next morning at 10am, I utilized my training as a musicologist and hosted a casual session we called ‘Divas and Doughnuts’ in The Trophy Room for those guests keen on hearing and understanding a bit more abaut opera. I presented a couple of short excerpts from Lucia di Lammermoor – one of the great tragic operas by Gaetano Donizetti – which featured Dame Joan Sutherland. This particular opera inspired the name of some of our wines and also it was an opera I had performed in (as a dancer) whilst my mother was singing as part of the Australian Opera. And this was at the time that Dame Joan herself was singing the lead role of Lucia.
The excerpts presented included ‘The Mad Scene’ which has one of opera’s most famous Cadenzas (in fact a double cadenza for voice and flute) which seemed appropriate given ‘The Cadenza’ is the name of our newly-released dessert wine. Then as one of the examples of “The High Note’ (the name of our main estate Pinot Noir), I played the sextet from the end of the second act of Lucia di Lammermoor, “Chi mi frena in tal momento” which has Dame Joan hit one of the most stunning high notes I ever heard! Other opera segments I presented demonstrated different aspects of opera that relate to our sub-brand naming including some particularly poignant opera arias from the ‘Verismo’ period – the name of our reserve Pinot Noir.
By the way, we absolutely adored everything about Huka Lodge and are fortunate to be spending a couple of days back there in November – but purely for relaxation purposes!