Category Archives: Wine and Spirits

Chocolate and Wine – A Delicate Pairing

WineChoc_emailWe thought you might like to discover more about some of the wines that were tasted at our wine and chocolate hedonism masterclass on Wednesday evening. Wine and chocolate can be a tricky pairing so it’s worth remembering to avoid Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and other high acid or drying whites. And for red wines, again avoid acidic grapes or cooler regions like Pinot Noir and Gamay or drying reds with bitter or dry tannins, like Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.

Why not join our Chocolate and Wine Matching Dinner on Friday 25th April and discover even more about this delicate pairing?

Schramsberg Blanc de Noir, Calistoga, California 2008

Schramsberg’s best selling wine is almost 100% Pinot Noir and consistently out classes Champagne in blind tastings around the world. Full bodied with rich toasty brioche notes and firm acidity. Our favourite fizz at the moment who’s quality has been consistent since its first vintage in 1965. It has lively aromas of apricot and persimmon, which gracefully lead to nuances of honey and lemon. The fruitful nose is complemented by vanilla spice and candied almond. The palate offers crisp and tart flavors of orange and lime rind, supported by a touch of roasted coffee. The finish is long and lingering

£25.26 per bottle – buy online


Juan Gil Monastrell 4, Jumilla, Spain 2012

A hugely intense nose with fresh juicy blackberry and plum fruit, delicate vanilla spice and cedar. The palate mirrors the nose with layers of lush spicy plum and cherry fruit, more sweet spice, minerality and gentle tannins to the finish.

£8.05 per bottle – buy online


Ferrari-Carano Black Muscat Eldorado Noir, Sonoma, California 2010

Luscious, mouth watering black Muscat with just enough acidity to keep each mouthful crisp and refreshing. Black Muscat is a very popular style in California and we are delighted to represent this one.

£22 per half bottle  – buy online


Holden Manz Good sPort, Franschoek, South Africa 2009

Smooth, soft entry with rich vanilla, coconut and raisin fruit exudes on the palate. This wine is rich and warm and has a long finish. With time, the balance between spirit and wine will harmonise creating a wonderfully complex offering.

£27.50 per bottle – buy online

 

Discover more about Californian Wineries

Vin-de-Cal is the international sales representative for select small family-owned wineries in California; Schramsberg, Ferrari-Carano, Benovia and Talley. Taste wines from all these wineries on Saturday 15th March at The Vineyard from 11am to 5pm and attend masterclasses throughout the day for just £40 for two tickets. Discover more

Schram - old imageSchramsberg was originally founded in 1862 by Joseph Schram, who made still wine. When he died the winery lay dormant until Jack and Jamie Davies bought it in 1965. The Davies’ plan was to make sparkling wine the same way that Champagne is made as no one in the U.S. was doing this. In 1972 President Nixon chose their Blanc de Blancs to toast Premier Zhou Enlai when the U.S. re-opened relations with China.

Schram - bottle displaySince that day Schramsberg has been poured by every President at the White House. The wines are frequently mistaken for Champagne in blind tastings. The wines are all vintage dated. The J Schram is Schramsberg’s signature wine and is the perfect balance of acidity and richness. The Blanc de Blancs is the most popular wine and works well as an aperitif and as an accompaniment to food. The winery is now in the hands of the Davies’ youngest son, Hugh.

bottle display - FCFerrari-Carano was founded by Don and Rhonda Carano in 1981. Both Caranos are of Italian descent and the rolling hills of Alexander Valley reminded them of Italy. They chose to add Don’s grandmother’s name, Ferrari, to the name of their winery as a tribute to her. Ferrari-Carano began by making Chardonnay and Fume Blanc. They established a highly acclaimed reputation for these wines. They added their red wines a few years later and are now known for both red and white wines.

FC - coupleThe Fume Blanc continues to be one of their best loved wines. A well rounded, flavourful wine that is highly regarded by consumers and restaurants, and often served as a wine-by-the glass. On the red side, the Merlot is a favorite having rich berry fruit with firm structure, able to have as a glass,but perfect with duck or beef.

Benovia owners - hi resBenovia is a small winery owned by the couple, Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane, and the winemaker, Mike Sullivan. They founded the winery in 2007 when they bought the land in Russian River. They now also own a vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. Mike Sullivan built a reputation for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay before joining Jo and Mary in this venture.

Benovia offers Russian River Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as several vineyard select Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. The wines are consistently regarded highly by well-respected critics year after year Although the winery is small its reputation is growing for the balance of fruit and texture the wines provide. The Russian River Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are bright, full-flavoured wines on their own, but a great accompaniment to meals. The individual vineyard select wines are distinct in each case, reflecting the terroir where they are grown. Enjoy a vineyard designated Pinot Noir with fowl or heartier fish and the combination proves that the marriage of wine and food makes both better.

Talley coupleTalley began in 1948 when Oliver Talley founded Talley Farms and started growing specialty vegetables in the Arroyo Grande Valley. During the 1970s extensive planting of wine grapes began in the neighbouring Edna Valley and Santa Barbara County areas. After observation and extensive analysis, Oliver’s son, Don Talley, was convinced of the potential to grow high quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the steep hillsides above Talley Farms. Don planted a small test plot in 1982. Over time the varietal and clonal selections were refined and planting expanded to a total of 165 acres in the Arroyo Grande and Edna Valleys.

Talley Vineyards produced its first wine in 1986 with the production of 450 cases. Today the third generation, Brian and Johnine Talley, own and operate Talley Vineyards. Producing only Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays fromtheir vineyards, the Talleys have put Arroyo Grande on the wine map. Their goal is to produce distinctive wines of consistently high quality that best express the unique character of each of the Talley family’s six vineyard sites in the two valleys.

Talley’s wines are highly regarded for their character and balance. The vineyard specific Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are frequently singled out by wine writers for their reflection of the vineyard where they were grown. The wines are full-bodied, rich in fruit and exceptional in their pairing with food.

How the Wine World has Changed

Over the last few months I have been working alongside James Hocking of The Vineyard Cellars on the new Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses that we are able to offer. It was while studying and preparing for this, when it struck me how much has changed in the 15 years or so since I originally started in the wine industry.

When the old world was dominant
Back then France was still the dominant country, with Spain and Italy close behind. Germany was having real problems shaking their cheap, sweet wine image and Austria was still suffering from the disastrous effects of the anti freeze scandal. Meanwhile in the New World, Australia was just seeing its gutsy Shiraz and Oaked Chardonnays gather momentum, New Zealand was on the rising tide of Cloudy Bay and its gooseberry laden Sauvignon Blancs, South Africa was stuck with Apartheid, California was overpriced and difficult to source, while South America couldn’t quite work out what it was producing!

We now have so much choice
Now though, the wine industry, and particularly the choice available in the UK, is booming! The choice from Europe has grown massively with new wines from old areas, but also increased competition arriving from the east, with Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Bulgarian wines improving immensely. Particularly at The Vineyard we have seen a dramatic increase in Austrian wines with Gruner Veltliner and Blaufrankisch being of great excitement. Germany has seen a massive increase as their style of wines has become more commonly bone dry in style, with the sharp zesty citrus fruit appeal that works beautifully with Oriental influenced sashimi style seafood.
As for the New World… well we certainly weren’t seeing as many wines from China, Japan and India on our wine lists as we do now! New Zealand has moved on, to produce top quality Central Otago Pinot Noirs and Gimblett Gravel Cab blends. South Africa now offers some of the best value and most interesting wines around, especially from the burgeoning Swartland District, then we come to California…

How California has changed
It is quite easily apparent the huge steps that have been taken to not only improve quality but also value for money. Cooler areas like Sonoma coast, Monterey and the hillsides above and around Napa instead of the valley floor are providing some excellent examples of varietal wine making. Meanwhile a touch of delicate acidity from this mountain fruit has added balance to many of the hottest Cabernet blends around.

Of course, the best way to notice these changes and improvements is to taste it yourself, so why not join us for our Californian Wine Weekend on 14th and 15th March. There’s something for everyone. So whether you’re wanting to try as many wonderful Californian wines as you can, or are looking for a really special evening where you’ll have the rare opportunity to try some of the Peter Michael Winery best and highly sought after wines, you won’t be disappointed. Discover more – www.the-vineyard.co.uk/CalifornianWineWeekend.asp

What I’m really looking forward to is the Les Pavots vertical tasting at 4.30pm on 15th March where you’ll get the chance to try some of the more recent vintages. Be sure to sign up soon as I know this will be the most popular of them all.

Cheers

Alan

Best of Britsh – February 2014

pinkster gin

This month we introduce:  Pinkster Gin

Pinkster gin is said to be ‘agreeably British gin’ and is a mix of 5 carefully selected botanicals at the Thames distillery in London. Stephen Marsh, the gins founder then takes the gin and infuses the spirit with fresh raspberries which gives this gin its distinctive pink colour and fresh taste.

Stephen stumbled upon this recipe and his love for gin after finding out he had developed an allergy to yeast which meant he could no longer enjoy his vast wine cellar so he turned from grape to grain and fell in love with gin.

We love our gin here at The Vineyard just as much as Stephen and Pinkster fits perfectly into our selection. The raspberries give it a slight sweetness, but the heavy juniper notes of the original spirit help to retain a dry and distinctive gin character that works well in both cocktails and mixed with tonic.

We have twisted two very classic cocktails with this gin; The Cosmopolitan and The Martini, and our team have also created a ‘Perfect Serve’ gin & tonic that you can find on page 10 of our Bar List.

Pinkster is the perfect gin to enjoy in the springtime with and we hope you enjoy it as much as us.

Pink Cosmo
Pinkster gin shaken with lime, Cointreau and cranberry juice

Rhubarb Martini
Pinkster gin stirred with Chase rhubarb liqueur

Perfect Serve
Pinkster gin with Fever-tree Mediterranean, juniper berries and a twist of lemon

Cheers

David Coveney
Head Barman

My Trip to Bordeaux

Bordeaux blogI had the great opportunity to travel to Bordeaux for the first time this year, at the end of October. I think most of us have this idea of Bordeaux wines being expensive and with reason; most of the wines we see on wine list are, but are mainly Grand Cru Classe (Great Growth) and they only represent less than 5% of the total production in Bordeaux.

The goal of this wonderful trip was for us to discover smaller and lesser known areas of this fabulous wine region as such as Saint Emilion satellites (like Montagne Saint Emilion, Saint Georges Saint Emilion…)

It started with a course at the Bordeaux Wine School for a tutorial covering history, geography, the different varietals and the Controlled Appellation areas.This followed with a walking tour of this amazing city; and a lunch at a local restaurant with a tasting of dry white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

We then drove to Chateau Le Grand Verdus (Bordeaux AC) for a visit and tasting. A beautiful, family owned estate producing exceptional wines around £10.00, their Grande Reserve (best cuvee) is around £15.00. After this interesting discovery we went to Cadillac to an estate owned by a Lebanese family, Chateau Biac. We started with a presentation of the Cotes de Bordeaux AC followed by a sweet wine presentation.

We later went to their cellar and to dinner. Starting with an aperitif and canapés (the highlight being a toast of peanut and dried apricot) on their terrace with a view on the Garonne river and a beautiful sunset. At the dinner we had the chance to taste some incredible wines as well as some lovely food mixing French and Lebanese cuisine.

The next day, we drove to Pomerol to visit one of the greatest estates of the area, Chateau Gazin (one of the first top Bordeaux wines I tasted was Chateau Gazin 1988) where we tasted 2005 and 2011 vintages. We also had the opportunity to see some of the best Chateau like Petrus and Lafleur Petrus.

On the way to Saint Emilion we also saw Evangile, Cheval Blanc, Figeac and Angelus before arriving at Chateau La Couspaude where another surprising tasting awaited us. After a very good lunch there and a quick, but wet visit of Saint Emilion we left for one of its satellites, Puisseguin Saint Emilion.

We arrived at a 55 hectares organic estate called Chateau Guibeau where again the quality was impressive and yet again the prices of wines were around £10 to £12. The rest of the day was spent in Pessac-Leognan, in the Graves region (named after the very gravelly soil of the vineyard) at Chateau La Louviere, property of Andre Lurton. The visit started with a little explanation of the Chateau followed by a tour of the winery and the impressive cellar. We moved to a great tasting showcasing about 20 different dry white and red wines with a fantastic dinner later (where we tasted a Chateau La Louviere white from 1994, incredible!).

For the last day we drove up to Chateau la Lagune, in the Medoc district were again we drove past Latour, Pichon Comtesse de Lalande and Margaux to arrive to this beautiful old Chateau. There we again tasted about 10 different red wines from several areas. We enjoyed our best lunch of the stay there cooked by a great young Chef, she specially cooked Joel Robuchon’s special mash potatoes, just delicious!

After four amazing days in this fantastic area, we had the chance to visit and taste a great panel of wines normally ranging between £5.00 to £15.00 and really understand that Bordeaux is not only about expensive Great Growth, but that small, less known estates or region doesn’t mean less in term of quality, I think it means the complete opposite. The smaller estates are fighting to produce amazing wines that worth knowing and should be drunk. This trip was fantastic and I look forward to go back very soon!

Romain Bourger
Head Sommelier

Best of British – December 2013 – Bruichladdich Distillery

Bruichladdich Distillery                                       There is such an abundance of exceptional distilleries and producers cropping up in the UK now, that here at The Vineyard we wanted to give you the opportunity to taste the best of them. Each month throughout 2013 we’ve been with a different distillery to showcase the best of what Britain has to offer. This month we introduce Bruichladdich Distillery.

Close up of dram in glassThe people of the Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay, Scotland have always been the mavericks of the Scotch whisky world. The founders have a background in the wine trade and because of this their way of thinking has always been a little different.

They produce a number of different styles & expressions at their distillery on the southern coast of Islay. We have chosen to focus our cocktails on just a couple. Their Islay malt & The Botanist gin.

Along with this we have sourced two of their most sought-after expressions; Octomore, which is renowned for being the peatiest whisky in existence and the newest edition of Black Art, which is a very special secret bottling from their master blender taken from the depths of their ageing house. This is a closely guarded secret and an exceptional whisky, every time.

Jim with Port Charlotte casks (2)Many people enjoy whisky on its own, sometimes with ice and sometimes with water, but we have made a fantastic winter warmer from their magnificent Islay Malt; the Islay Flip. We have some of the rest of the range to sample on our display so please do let us know if you would like a taste.  Alternatively, please see page 10 of our Bar List for The Botanico – a great twist on a gin & tonic.

Islay Flip
Bruichladdich Islay Malt, Frangelico, plum infused Sake and yogurt liqueur

The Botanico
The Botanists gin stirred with lime, mint, sugar and ginger ale

Cheers

David Coveney
Head Barman

Master Sommeliers dinner on 24th November

Discover more about the Master Sommeliers hosting our dinner on 24th November

With just over a week to go before our Master Sommelier Dinner, we thought we’d share a bit more about the Master Sommeliers who will be joining us for what will be a very exciting wine fuelled evening. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see all five Master Sommeliers in one place and quiz them on their wine knowledge

Discover more about the menu and wines

Please call us on 01635 589407 to reserve your place

Dimitri Mesnard MS

Dimitri is a leading wine expert for Jackson Family Wines and their Prestige Account Manager for Europe. Prior to working for the Jackson Family, Dimitri worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and was for several years, Head Sommelier of Hotel du Vin, Tunbridge Wells.

Nigel Wilkinson MS

Nigel is the Fine Dining Account Manager for Boutinot Wines. Nigel became a Master Sommelier in 2005 and is now the Assistant Secretary for the Court of Master Sommeliers European Chapter. Before entering the wine trade, Nigel was twice runner-up in the UK Sommelier of the Year Competition and was named ‘Young Wine Server of the Year’ in 1999. Nigel lives in North Wales with his wife Joy and his two sons Owain and Aled.

Matt Wilkin MS

Originally from Adelaide, Australia’s 1st Master Sommelier Matt Wilkin arrived in the UK December 1998 following a number of years learning his trade in Australia and France.

Matt has held a variety of prestigious roles including Executive Sommelier at the Michelin two-starred Capital Restaurant and Hotel Group Knightsbridge, where he oversaw wine purchasing, liaising with suppliers, staff training, private wine tastings and cellar management for 6 operations. He now jointly owns and runs London-based wine company H2Vin ltd specialising in the Loire and Rhône Valleys whilst successfully building a serious collection of great Burgundy.

Gearoid Devaney MS

In 2010, Gearoid joined Flint Wines and  is one of the most well-known and qualified sommeliers in the country, having passed his Master Sommelier qualification in 2009 and having worked in some of the top restaurants across Europe. Food is as much his passion as wine so he’ll happily answer any questions regarding matching the two together. Previously Gearoid was Head Sommelier at the famous London restaurant, Tom Aikens.

Claire Thevenot MS

Claire was born and raised in Besancon, Franche Comte like Daniel Galmiche! She worked a bit in France, Germany and Switzerland before moving to Brighton 10 years ago for the opening of Hotel du Vin there. She also worked here at The Vineyard for a number of months.After 5 years, she took on the wine training role for both Hotel du Vin and Malmaison. She currently works for Enotria, a specialist wine supplier, where she gets to meet so many people and taste nice wines with the best sommeliers in London.

Discover more about the Master Sommeliers Dinner 

November 2013 – Best of British – Black Cow Vodka

There is such an abundance of exceptional distilleries and producers cropping up in the UK now that here at The Vineyard we wanted to give you the opportunity to taste the best of them.  Each month throughout 2013 we are working with a different distillery to showcase the best of what Britain has to offer. 

This month we introduce:
Black Cow Vodka is produced in Dorset and made from 100% cows’ milk.  This is a totally unique concept that farmer Jason Barber took from a nomadic Siberian tribe called Tuva who have been using milk from their herds for many centuries to then ferment and make a spirit.

Although the idea may sound crazy, it is actually quite simple – you begin by making cheese.  During this process you will separate the milk into curds and whey.  Jason will take the curds and send them off to be made into his award winning cheese. The whey, which is usually considered a by product and discarded, is fermented into something much like a beer using a very special strain of yeast that converts the natural sugar in the milk to alcohol.  This is then distilled, triple filtered and then bottled.

Only 300 bottles are produced from each batch of this brilliantly hand crafted and artisan vodka.  It has an amazing mouth feel, which lends itself well to enjoying on its own or also in cocktails. Here at The Vineyard we have created some fantastic cocktails using this brilliant vodka. Alternatively we recommend drinking it with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water, plenty of ice and a slice of lemon.

Black Cow Martini  – £13.00
Black Cow Vodka stirred with dry vermouth; garnished with a twist of lemon

Milk & Honey  – £13.00
Black Cow Vodka shaken with honey, lemon, apple and clove syrup and egg white

Cheers

David Coveney
Head Barman

Wine Festival Weekend Round Up

We had an amazing start to the Wine Festival on Friday 18th October with an opening Wine Festival Dinner. Created by Daniel Galmiche, each of the five courses were matched with fantastic wine suppliers’ choices and their introductions caused plenty of discussion around our table.

Greek Viognier versus South African Chenin Blanc with the parsley root velouté certainly surprised most people with the outcome on my table! My personal favourite though, I have to say was the Habla del Silencio red wine, selected by Georges Barbier to go with the Veal main course. Although it was up against stiff competition against Ma Danseuse from the Peter Michael Winery, I found it a delightful combination that was unexpectedly good for such a good value wine. A lesser known area that certainly was punching well above its weight!

Marmite choice of the evening had to be the Leonor 12 year old Palo Cortado sherry with the cheese; a wonderfully nutty style of sherry by Gonzalez Byass with it dividing the audience into loving or hating it!

The Nyetimber wines showed extremely well at all showings and received rave reviews and comments, both at the dinner where we showed the Classic Cuvée and an older vintage of the Blanc de Blancs. While at Saturday’s masterclass, the rosé 2009 won over the audience hands down against Schramsberg and Taittinger rosés, much to everyone’s surprise.

I particularly enjoyed doing the Call My Bluff masterclass with Daniel O’Keefe (Hallgarten-Druitt) and James Hocking (The Vineyard Cellars) as it was a chance to lie, cheat and befuddle our way to victory in a bit of fun, as we each described a wine while guests had to taste and see who was telling the truth. Great fun!

Of all the events that I have been involved with this year, this certainly was the most fun and entertaining, and a definite date for the diary for next year, as there was just so much going on, so many great wines to try and I don’t believe anyone left without trying something new or learning a little more about wine in general.

A huge thanks has to go out to our suppliers and supporters though, as without their assistance and effort over the weekend, this would not be such an unmissable occasion.

Keep a look out on our website for details of next year’s Wine Festival Weekend dates. We still have a number of events still to come this year including wine dinners, wine schools, ladies’ lunches and our Christmas gift fair.

Cheers

Alan Holmes

Restaurant and Wine Director

Rioja Alta Dinner at The Vineyard Hotel

When you think of Spain and red wine, then the immediate thought turns to Rioja.

This classic region in North-Eastern Spain has been producing consistent, high quality, rich, robust red wines for many years.

So we were delighted when one of the top estates, Rioja Alta, joined us for the evening of 27th September.

Francisco Corpas, Export Area Manager, introduced us to a variety of their wines, not just from Rioja, but also their Albarino from Rias Baixas in Galicia, a Ribera del Duero and finally a wonderful pair of Riojas.

This charming man, enthused, delighted and enthralled our guests with his inside knowledge, history and amusing tales of Rioja and Spanish wines evolution over the last 100 years.

Once again, our Executive Chef Daniel Galmiche had pulled out all the stops to produce a variety of dishes, with an Iberian influence that matched perfectly the choice of wines, so much so, that Francisco proclaimed he’d never had a better matched menu! Praise indeed! If this was anything to go by, then our next two big wine events should also be a success. As we look forward first of all to our Wine festival weekend on the 18th & 19th October, and then to our hugely popular Master Sommelier Dinner, when 5 master Sommeliers will battle it out for your votes as to the wine pairing of the evening.

Taking part on Sunday 24th November, not only will you get an amazing insight into what it takes to become a Master Sommelier, but also you will hear many points, tips and interesting facts on how to get the most from your wine. I can’t wait….

To find out about up and coming Wine Dinners at The Vineyard please click here. Or call us on 01635 589407 to find out more.

Santé

Alan