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September 2015.
 
 
Local cook and  caterer, Janet Davies has recently opened The Langwathby Station Café on the Settle-Carlisle line. If you are driving along the A686 (from Penrith to Hexham via Langwathby, Melmerby, and Alston - be sure to call in for coffee and cake, a sausage bap (my own particular favourite; as they are made from nearby Edenhall pedigree, organically raised pigs) or a goat's cheese salad. See Janet's facebook page: Langwathby Station Café.
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 Last night I won a bottle of wine in the raffle at the village hall barbecue. Usually, donated wines are fairly ordinary.. like Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.. so I was astonished to read the label and discover it was a Chardonnay from Gisborne in the North Island of New Zealand...a place I visited many years ago. When I taste it I'll write a tasting note. I have a feeling that it may be rather good!

In April, 2015 I joined a group of fellow members of the Association of  Wine Educators for a vineyard tour of Romania.  It was my first visit and very exciting it was too.  We visited many vineyards, some large, some small, right across the country from Timisoara in the west to Bucharest and Dealu Mare in the east, not to mention a night in the snow clad Carpathian mountains. In the main, the wines we tasted were way above expectations. More about this trip later....
 
Wednesday 26th February, 2014
 
 I've always been a fan of the Italian red, Valpolicella, especially the Amarone and Ripasso versions, so when I saw a red wine from Verona on The Wine Society's lists made from partially dried Corvina and Merlot grapes, I had to get some for Katrina's Hen Party tasting at Irton Hall last Saturday. It was under £6.00 a bottle, and did not disappoint! It was very fitting that the 'bride to be' was a clear winner in the Quiz and scooped up the prize - a half bottle of Madeira. (see the pic's on the Hen Party page.)
 
Sunday 16th February, 2014
 
What a struggle it's been to arrange a Champagne vineyard visit in September! It's understandable.It may be harvest time so that can create problems, especially if it's a small family vineyard  and it's a case of 'all hands to the wheel'. But the added complication is that we cannot be flexible as we are travelling from Zeebrugge to Alsace. We dock at 9.00am and will be travelling past Reims at 12-30 pm so that has to be our arrival time - and we must leave at 3.00pm to get to our hotel in Molsheim, in time to check in at 7.00pm,and in time for dinner at 8.00pm at the 16th century Metzig (Butcher;s Guildhall - now a restaurant). Eventually, after contacting about ten vineyards, I struck gold. We will be calling in at the tiny Grand Cru Champagne Domaine of Thierry Rodez in Ambonnay, Montagne de Reims.  We have been offered the use of picnic tables for our packed lunches.  Jessie said that if the harvest was on the tasting will have to be less formal! Are you visiting Reims this summer? If so, read the rave reviews about this vineyard on Trip Advisor!




Sunday 17th November 2013

Enjoying a very well balanced and flavourful Claret; A Chateaux Breillan 2010; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc acquired on the Bordeaux trip in June, from Chateaux Dillon at Blanquefort in the Haut-Medoc.
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Wine, of Course!
Wine, of Course!
In a bar in Osuna, Andalucia, Spain

This is me relaxing and enjoying one of my favourite wines in a bar in Andalucía.  It's a chilled, dry Montilla, from Cordoba.

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Friday June 15th 2012.

Cold and dull as ditchhwater.  On the other hand the wine I'm enjoying is quite the opposite, it's a Saintsbury's Petit Chablis and it's not half-bad considering it's modest price tag.  c.£8.00.  Now, a word about Chablis. The Grand Cru's and the Premier Cru's are brilliant, concentrated, with that steel ball -bearing quality that makes them formidable and noble. Chablis is similar but to a lesser extent, not coming from the prime south facing slopes, and Petit Chablis are the 'also rans;  These are the cheaper wines from the outlying vineyards, made from Chardonnay grapes grown on similar soils.  This particular wine is a good one, A lovely fresh breezy nose. tasting fruity; of apples, and a hint of lime. Although zesty the acid level is not excessive at all, and the wine is nicely balanced with a slightly bitterish minerality at the finish.  Time for another mouthful! 

Wednesday 11th July 2012

A few years ago, M.Serge Doubs, the sommelier at 'L'auberge d'Ill', one of the very top resaurants in France, was awarded the accolade of Sommelier of the year and was therefore the top wine man in France, officially! 

He was described as 'the top wineman in France' when I was introduced to him back in 1986.  It happened like this:  We were having a family holiday at 'Paradis', a 'Swiss; style chalet on the edge of Thannenkirch, a village perched 3,000 feet up in the Vosges mountains.  

The ground floor of 'Paradis' was the holiday home of the owners, who lived near L'auberge d'Ill. The upper floor was the holiday property we were renting.  By coincidence, the owners were in residence the weekend of our arrival for our two week stay in Alsace.  On the Sunday afternoon, seeing the owner in his garden, I went down to have a word with him.  I had this idea of visiting a vineyard, tasting some wines and buying some to take back to England; at that time this was something I hadn't done before, (though I have done this over a hundred times since!).

The owner smiled when I put my request to him. 'Just a moment', he said, 'I'll get the 'top wineman' in France', he's in the house', and added as he retreated towards the door, and turned, ' we had a barbecue earlier, and he's still here'.  A few moments later he introduced me to him. I seem to remember saying, 'You lucky man, living here surrounded by such good wines.' He smiled and replied, 'well, you are lucky too - all those wonderful Malt Whiskies!" 

When I asked him for the name of a vineyard to visit, he pointed to the east, down below and said, Lorentz in Bergheim. A disappointed look must have crossed my face, as he raised an eyebrow and frowned. I explained that Alsace wines were difficult to find in England, but that back in Penrith, Lorentz wines were stocked by Threshers, so though they were good, I was hoping to try something different, something special perhaps?  He understood perfectly.  'Go to Rolly-Gassmann, a few miles north at Rorshwihr, and tell them I sent you' .

I tasted 14 different wines later that week, at Rolly-Gassmann's; all brilliant, if you like a full, opulent style,  but one I singled out was the Auxerrois Moenshrieben. Yes, the very same one we sampled at the private tasting near Kirkby Stephen at the end of last month.  It did not disappoint! It was delicious tasting of ripe pear juice, rich and sensuous, with a touch of spice and a minerally finish. In fact it was pretty much the star of the show! If you live in Scotland you are doubly lucky - you have all those wonderful Malt Whiskies and at Raeburn Fine Wines in Edinburgh - Rolly-Gassmann wines! I have just checked their website - they have a Pinot Blanc, which may, or might not be similar wine, since Auxerrois is often blended with Pinot Blanc; but they do have a Muscat Moenshrieben... an entirely different wine and one worthy of discussing when I come to making my next blog post. 
Wednesday, 25th July 2012

Muscat

This is one variety which actually tastes of grapes!  It is often used to make sweet dessert wines. One of my favourites is the richly equisite Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. 

When I first tasted Muscat d'Alsace I was slightly disappointed. Although it had a marvellous flowery bouquet, mainly elderflower, it was bone dry and had a very short and abrupt finish.  However, I've come to like it very much as I understand it's place in the scheme of things. It is the perfect aperitif. That dry, short finish, is unsatisfying and that is exactly what is needed in an aperitif; the appetite needs to be aroused! 

I don't consider it to be a food wine, however, there are two particular foods it goes with very well; these two notable exceptions are; asparagus and melon. Strangely enough these two are difficult to partner with wine and often seem to induce a strange metallic taste, though Muscat partners them brilliantly and the metallic taint is not evident.









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