Sitting Down (Virtually) with creative, cook, collector and wine maker Jayden Ong

Last week, we were lucky enough to sit down (virtually) with long time collaborator, craft collector, winemaker, cook and creative Jaydon Ong, who graciously answered our wine queries and shared a delicious and simple recipe which he routinely makes at home. 

Jayden is someone who we’ve worked with for a number of years at Craft, whether it's been creating unique pieces for Cumulus Inc (which he co-founded and owns with Andrew McConnell), artist wine labels and yes, even custom spittoons — he’s someone who deeply values and appreciates the handmade and understands the fundamental work and care that goes into making.

Jayden’s winery is situated high on Mount Toolebewong, looking out over the beautiful Yarra Valley, just over an hour north-east of Melbourne, Victoria. Together, with his partner Morgan and their new baby, they take a gentle approach to wine-making, respectful of the land on which they farm ad using organic practices to create their bespoke wines. As a first-generation, family-run winery, the importance of time and place to their wines allows them to celebrate the unique characteristics of soil and weather. 

His two vineyards, Forest Garden and Chestnut Hill are indicative of this thoughtful approach, the former is planted over rocky soils, dry-grown nearly 700m above sea level on a south-facing slope, while the latter is planted over heavy grey clay loam. 

It's been over ten years since Jayden started his first wine label, One Block which has since grown to include the playfully titled Maison de Ong, Moonlit Forest and the eponymous Jayden Ong ranges. 


 

What do you love about making wine?

Grapes are very good communicators of where they are grown. Each vintage poses new opportunities and challenges, experiences and emotions, stories which are captured in the bottle. 

Can you give us some of your best recommendations for learning more about wine: 

Buy wine direct from the winery or their online shop. Most good winemakers would be happy to field questions to assist you in your purchase. Otherwise, go to a trusted independent retailer like Blackhearts & Sparrows where the staff are well trained and happy to assist you in finding the right wine for your taste and budget.

Embrace diversity. Drink widely. It will help you understand what you truly like and assist in finding other wines with similar qualities and attributes. 

Temperature is very important to growing, making, storing and drinking wine. The same wine served at two different temperatures will taste different. 

How do you take care of wine? 

When cellaring wine, remember it is better to drink a wine too early than too late. There are a lot of queries about the best time to drink a wine, and it is difficult to pinpoint the exact pinnacle, but based on my note below you should achieve many positive outcomes.

How do you go about choosing the right wine? 

Wine is somewhat like music, where you have music for moods, I prefer certain wines at particular times of the day depending on what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, what I’m about to eat and with whom. I enjoy drinking all sorts of good wine, and they each have a story to tell. 

Do you have a recipe to share with us? 

Absolutely! This is simplicity at its best. 

Jayden's Simple Cauliflower 

Ingredients

1/2 head of cauliflower 

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 or 5 fillets Ortiz anchovies in oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed well with back of your knife

1 teaspoon caper brine

Freshly ground black pepper

+ pickled shallot (optional)

How to make it! 

Blanch half cauliflower head (1 piece) in a well-salted pot of boiling water, 4-5 minutes

Refresh in an ice bath for 4 minutes (Don’t leave in the ice bath for too long otherwise it will get waterlogged) then drain well. 

Heat olive oil and butter in a saucepan over low heat

Add garlic and anchovies and cook 3-4 minutes, mashing & breaking up the anchovies and garlic 

Raise heat to medium and stir/whisk in brine. Turn off heat.

Season with black pepper.

Serve cauliflower with plenty of sauce on top. Add a few rings of pickled shallot (optional)

 

And what would you add to drink with that?

Anything you wish really, but I would drink 2019 Moonlit Forest Pinot Gris ’SC’ (skin contact). The colour of the wine pops right out of the glass, the wine itself is fragrant and dry, a wonderful foil for this minimalist dish.  Available at Blackhearts & Sparrows or direct from the winery/online orders@jaydenong.com