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Posted: Tuesday, 10 August 2010 10:08
Wine Dinner: Beleza of Goa with Wine (# 10/162)

The Beleza of Goa is at its apex during monsoons when the greens are greener, breeze by the seaside is more exalting and the frequent rain makes the atmosphere more romantic, but the experience is heightened when you add wine and delicious food to the canvass as the members of the Delhi Wine Club discovered at the historic 3-night wine weekend at the enthralling Beleza by the Beach Resort, writes Subhash Arora .

As the Indigo flight took off from Delhi and entered the sea of white clouds, one felt like being in the fairyland. Pretty soon, the vision of final journey to the fairyland was dancing in our eyes as the turbulence caused the plane to not only shake and rattle, but jump up and down what felt like a thousand feet each time. Members were dying to have a stiff drink to drown the fear and ward off the visions of crashing down.

After the false alarm, the flight was smooth till we landed and as the drizzle welcomed us; everybody was in a positive frame of mind and ready to enjoy wines waiting for them after the welcome drink at the Tentação Restaurant at the Beleza by the Beach Resort, our base for the next three nights. Members had been promised complimentary wines from the Goan wineries Big Banyan and Tonia’s ‘Kandara’ as also from UB’s Four Seasons and a Shiraz and a Rosé from Seagram’s Nine Hills.

Dinner at Tentação Restaurant

The first of the two ‘official’ dinners (#10/162 and 10A/162A) was strategically planned on Friday, the evening of arrival anticipating the level of lethargy in the members on the evening of arrival. The swim in the pool, a walk on the beach and the splash of Goa rain had got everyone ready to enjoy the meal with wines from Spain, Chile, Italy and France imported and distributed by the Torres’ Indian JV- Prestige Wines Pvt Ltd.

The small, cozy and ethnically designed Tentação saw 4 tables laid out for the 32 members and guests, almost all from Delhi. The vice president of the Mumbai Chapter of the Delhi Wine Club Prahlad Kakkar had come from Mumbai specially to show not only solidarity and support for this historic event and represent the Mumbai Chapter, but also to enjoy the evening with unending food from the kitchen with 6 wines and a unique ambience that could have been marred by heavy rains since the restaurant is 3- sided open.

San Medin from Miguel Torres might have symbolized my recent visit to the vintner in Chile but the Sauvignon Blanc had been selected for its easy availability at affordable prices. Not surprisingly, Viña Esmeralda from their Spanish stable was a crowd favourite as white wine- for its delicious tropical aromas and its fullness on the mouth with a nice acidity and length- the intensity of the aromas carrying to the flavours as well. The winemaker has cleverly added 15% Moscato in the Gewürztraminer to give body and weight on the palate besides supplementing honey like aromas. It supported the well-prepared shrimp cocktail deftly.

The next wine in line was the Rosa Rossa Rosé 2008 from Big Banyan. Surprisingly, it was snapped up by the guests most of whom really loved the simple but clean and fruity zinfandel based wine with minor shades of tannins. The next two wines were reds, the ever quaffable Sangre de Toro and Mahler Besse Bordeaux 2004 both of which were served with the main course, Chicken Xacuti and Goan fish curry.. The local Goan bread-made from brown flour, prepared right in the restaurant was as big a hit as many other dishes. The Bordeaux with 70% Merlot and 15% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc had soft tannins and fruity flavours of dark berries, was a perfect choice for the Xacuti, though not for the fish curry.

Throughout the evening a local 3-piece band led by the local lad Victor and his sisters kept the guests dancing on the floor when they were not eating or drinking wine. In an appreciable gesture, the restaurant had been closed for the hotel guests and the bonhomie between the members and their guests made a local journalist exclaim he had never seen such a wonderful ‘party’ before in Goa. True to the club’s objectives, it turned out to be a casual evening of fun with great food- around wine.

The only complaint from guests was that there was too much food and it kept on coming too fast. Chef Sachin did a wonderful job of creating exquisite dishes. The perfect glasses and silverware helped enhance the good mood, briefly dampened with wine service not able to catch up with food service. But when the dessert was served with Bellissima late harvest wine from Big Banyan- everyone was in a jovial mood and heading for the dance floor which was under the control of Victor with ‘pure’ music mostly from the sixties and seventies

Although it was a great team work that made the evening successful, the credit for planning and leading the team well goes undoubtedly to Bhavna Bahl, daughter of the owners Ajay and Radhika Bahl, who had planned the Menu and in fact the whole evening.

Dinner at Martin’s Corner (10A/162A)

The wine event  carried on formally next evening though a bunch of members had gone during the day to the Chitra Museum, which was featured in the Time magazine only last month, and then had lunch at Fernando’s, a local restaurant serving Goan food with the Indian wines provided courtesy of the Club.

Martin’s is a food destination for anyone going to Goa-especially South Goa. Opened 12 months a year, it is a wonder how it remains full during the off-season. Using our local connection (Ajay Bahl who is their favourite customer) we managed to book 3-tables for 32,  in a corner with least disturbance from the customer traffic that flew throughout the evening.

The food here was also huge in quantity and flavours are bold. Lobsters, Calamari, and snappers were all snapped by the members who loved the dishes with the wines paired with them. As is always the case, Verdicchio from Marche- Enzo Mecella was the darling of the evening-surprisingly La Vele was preferred over its more expensive cousin Casa di Fosca- perhaps due to its more minerality, complexity and depth on the palate. Shiraz Rose from Nine Hills was a bit too ‘heavy’ (read tannic) for their palate. Chianti from Piccini was quaffable but the Montepulciano was liked by everyone-so was the Bellissima-second day in a row.

The one-man band kept the crowd humming the favourite numbers of the not-so-young generation. But seeing the young people jiving on the floor, one did feel a part of ‘Goa’ for the brief 3 hours we were there.

A pre-dinner glass of wine at the shack on the beach of the Resort, brought the romance in the air and got the members in the right mood for the evening at Martin’s.

From all angles the Goa Wine Weekend Event was highly successful and there was a unanimous request to do it again next year. An event like this needs months of planning and needs to be heavily subsidised by the club. But it would be worth looking at it again.

Subhash Arora


Menu at Tentação Restaurant, Beleza by the Beach (#10/162)
Menu at Martin’s Corner (#10A/162A)

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