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Archive for the ‘Wine Shops’ Category

What better time to get up to speed on what wines you like, love and covet than when you are preparing for upcoming festivities with family and friends? There are a million ways to start brushing up on your skills: Head to your local supermarket/wine shop and ask lots of questions (many times they will have tastings available while you browse – just ask), Attend a tasting (lots of places offer tastings – speciality shops, wine shops, liquor stores, etc. Keep your eyes peeled), Talk to your friends (many people have a favorite bottle of wine that they use as their ‘go to’ tipple for any celebration. Ask people you know for suggestions and you may just discover a new gem!).
For my part, I will be hosting, attending and conversing about all things wine in the next two months (have a look at what I’m up to here and sign up if you’re interested). As always, if you want to swap ideas – pull up a chair and let’s chat.

Essentials for any successful holiday: 
Brandy – my favourite is Hennessy VSOP. Top it with a bit of ginger ale for a spritzy buzz or some spicy eggnog for a classic holiday treat
Sparkling wine – the holiday favourite in my household is Prosecco because of its light body, balanced flavour and general yummy-ness (plus it can be enjoyed at any time of day…)
Good, full bodied red wine – this is the absolute must have. I love picking a few favourites each year to share with my family. I am still in the discovery phase for this year’s celebrations and will be using my upcoming tastings to explore a few pre-selected Malbecs, Petit Syrahs, Bordeauxs and Tannats. Stay tuned…

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My two lovely friends got married last Monday in London with 20 of their closest friends from around the world looking on. Our troupe was then shuttled into cabs, whisked away to the Champagne bar at St Pancras station and herded into Coach 15 on the Eurostar bound for Paris. After a quick transfer to the regional station in Paris, we were on our way to Dijon. Hop, skip and a 40 minute drive from Dijon, we entered our home for the next week: Chateau du Tailly, a gorgeous 18th century block of three buildings (all of which could have been individual houses)…

So many stories, such a wonderful week. Ultimately, it was about two people: Joel and Marc whose love brought all of us together for this incredible experience. We wined and dined our way through an awe-inspiring week throughout Puligny, Chassagne, Beaune, Mersault and many more. More updates to follow but will leave you with this for now.

  

The main Chateau and my two lovely friends, Joel and Marc, who hosted us during the week:

My home for the week:

        

The winemaker at Chateau Lahaye allowing me to ‘break through the must’ on their newest harvest.

  

Cheers!

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I arrived back from Paris last night to a heat wave in London. Even though it was 11PM, I was sweating in my brown leather jacket and sundress. This morning, I woke up to the sun shining through my window, made coffee, ran a few errands and made my way into the office. Ridiculously warm – thermostat says 25, feels like 32. I absolutely love this city in the sun. Everyone (I mean everyone) is happier and a bit more jolly. It feels like people just blossom a bit when the sun comes out.

I’m heading to dinner this evening with a group of friends, my former classmates from WSET. We are going to 28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen in Farringdon. I am so very much looking forward to seeing them again – fun group of people. I am a little nervous though…I haven’t heard my results yet from the exam (not supposed to hear for another two weeks) and I am scared that perhaps I will discover that others have already heard their results and I am the only one who hasn’t and thus…(heavy sights)….I have failed! Deep breaths…..

I will let you know what glorious tipples we try out – usually there is some kind of a competition between “old world” – our French contingent – and “new world” our American (i.e. me)/Scottish/Aussie-loving contingent. Pick a bottle between a certain price point and whichever team picks the ‘best’ bottle wins. What do they win you ask? Respect.

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I did something not-so-common last weekend. I spent a very pleasant Friday, Saturday and Sunday getting to know a wine estate in the south of England. Just 50 minutes outside of London, I took a train on a dreary Friday evening in the hopes of escaping the craziness of London and embracing the calm, quiet, wine-filled village of Bolney.

Now, I will preface with the note that I really really really needed a break. To be honest, I would do better to take a week out ASAP. But given demands of work and life, I had to settle for a weekend…I’m sure this is falling on deaf ears as many of you have just as busy lives, if not more so. Alas, I am horrifically self focused when it comes to energy levels and pretty much always crave some relaxation time. But enough about me – let’s get on to the wine….

I decided on and planned this trip approximately 48 hours before arriving in Bolney (see above) so was pleased to have found a nice place to stay (run by a friendly and hospitable couple) and was able to reserve a spot on the vineyard tour at Bolney estate for Saturday afternoon. After an expensive cab ride (they always gouge you when you don’t know where you’re going…I found out later this trip cost me 2x as much as it should have…) I arrived at a cute cottage style house and was greeted by Beverly at her home, Broxmead Paddock. She showed me to the ground floor room. Best thing? I had asked her to place a bottle of the local red wine in my room on my arrival so I was able to immediately drop my stuff and put my feet up. The wine itself? Nothing to write home about. It was more the experience of it rather than the actual quality. It was a bit harsh, slightly unbalanced with a very strong taste of unripe cherries (made from Dornfelder and Rondo grapes). After a few sips however, it goes down just fine…

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I went to the local pub for dinner (Beverly and her husband Brian dropped me off on their way to the theatre – so cute!). Had a gorgeous Venison dish with some really tasty Chilean Merlot. The pub itself had a relatively lively crowd for early on a Friday evening with a roaring fire and very warm feel. I didn’t want to leave but alas, exhaustion took over and I made the 10 minute trek through the very dark road (Beverly had given me a torch (aka a flashlight) earlier so that I could find my way home).

On Saturday morning I awoke to a big breakfast of eggs benedict cooked to order by Brian (ridiculously good) and set off for a long walk around the local area. One thing that struck me beyond the beauty and quaintness of the village was that even though you are in the country, you can always hear the motorway. Its a low buzz in the background no matter how far away from it you feelyou are. I loved this town – but seriously – that motorway would drive me crazy. Anyway – I got lost (of course) and thankfully used my phone to find my way back to the house, tired and ready for a nap…and a cheeky glass of wine in preparation for my vineyard tour!

After a few hours of chill, Beverly drove me out to the vineyard and dropped me off (making sure I was armed with my torch for the 30 minute walk home). One note: I could tell that this tour is not a common thing for wine-lovers to go on. Know why? They price it out by couple. There was no single person pricing available. Result? Me, alone with 4 couples, all of whom received the tour as a gift. That said, the tour itself was brilliant. We started off with a glass of their house sparkling, Bolney Bubbles. Distinct elderflowers and a gorgeous mouthfeel. Really a highlight.

We toured through the vines, learned about how the estate has been managed and a bit about the winemaker, Sam. Our tour guide then took us step by step through the process of making the sparkling (and to a lesser extent, the still) wines. First up was the fermentation tanks and the oak barrels used for aging. We were also given a taste of the Rondo wine in its partially fermented state to see what it was like (don’t recommend it…). Next it was on to the room for riddling, disgorging and bottling – which was my personal fav. They stack all the bottles up in a time intensive and consequently expensive process of extracting the dead yeast from the sparkling wine. Eventually they remove the yeast by freezing it at the top of the bottle and taking it out. They quickly replace the lost liquid and cork the wine.

We rounded out the tour with a tasting back in the tasting room followed by a ploughmans dinner. The main standouts were the sparkling wines and I ended up going home with 6x Bolney Bubbly (£17.99 per bottle – bit pricey but it was amazin’). After being the only singleton and meeting most of my fellow tour-ers, a very nice couple from Reading offered to drop me at the Broxmead Paddock so that I didn’t have to walk home in the dark. People are so nice outside of London!

After an early to bed Saturday night and another of Brian’s spectacular breakfasts on Sunday morning, I had a local esthetician come to the house (as you do!). After a long and relaxing facial & pedicure, I wandered down to the local pub for a cup of soup and another glass of that yummy Chilean merlot. I then made my way to the train station after hugs with Beverly and promises of returning soon. 50 minutes later I was dumped back into the center of London and immediately started planning my next wine holiday….

Spain? France? Perhaps somewhere a bit further afield like South Africa? Decisions decisions.

 

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Hold onto your glasses…Alaska airlines taunted me this morning by sending a great wine related deal through my inbox.
I a) live in Europe and thus have no ability to take advantage of this offer and b) don’t really like Alaska airlines anymore…even their 1st class feels like cattle class these days. But discounts on flights to Sonoma and Walla Walla from Seattle with discounts on hotels, free tasting tours and the ability to lug your case of wine home – checked in for free? That’s kind of exciting…
Can they get someone in Europe to pick up this trend? Please??

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I love Oregon wines…and Oregon in general actually. Beautiful, green and lots of open spaces. Plus they make a KILLER pinot noir. Its been a few years since I’ve been back there but given my most recent experience with their produce, I desperately need to make it back.
I went to visit Scott Paul’s tasting room (literally just a room (albeit a pretty one) with very little on the walls and just wine – no cheesy trinkets) around 2006. They are a small boutique winery in Oregon’s Williamette Valley and are located in a little town which, when I visited, had very little going on except for 5 – 6 tasting rooms. I tasted a few of his Pinots (which was all he had on offer) and was impressed. The wines were quite expensive so I was a bit tentative to buy anything. While I was pondering they pulled a bottle from the back that was their top of the line. They had just 1 bottle left and it was only a few dollars more. I think wineries do this on purpose – its a marketing trick – and it always works. I bought the bottle, feeling like I’d won a prize, and happily sauntered on to my next tasting. Fast forward 5 years and I realise that I really did win a prize – this was an incredibly good bottle of wine. I opened the bottle over Christmas with my soon-to-be-mother-in-law. Yumm-O. Smooth, rich and deep. Everything a lightly aged high end Pinot Noir should be. I just wish now that I had been able to buy more of it…

Scott Paul 2005 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon
“Audrey”
A few notes from their website: Inspired by the cinematic icon of classic beauty and elegance, Audrey is a barrel selection of the finest, most elegant, silkiest wine of the vintage in our cellars. The 2005 bottling is sourced from our blocks of the Maresh Vineyard in Dundee Hills, originally planted in 1970.

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Just discovered an interesting approach to the wine business – set up a facility in the middle of a city full of wealthy entrepreneurs, silicon valley-esque millionaires where the more eccentric of the lot can make their own wine. Dogpatch WineWorks (http://www.dpwineworks.com) is doing just that. They leave their model open to some interpretation however – if you were so inclined you could create your own Wedding wine or a namesake wine for your restaurant.Potentially a cool idea – though that’s got to be an expensive operation. There is a tasting room on site which I am sure will be the primary money making operation.

What wine would you create if you could use any grape from anywhere in the world? And, what would you call it? Do you have different ideas for different things in your life?

My wedding: Prosecco from Italy; Petit Verdot from the Hunter Valley; Pinot Noir from Dundee, OR; Brandy from France…

First born: Pinot Gris (OR) or unoaked Chardonnay (WA), Sparkling from Dundee

Family reunion: Sparkling rose from Barossa, Muscadet, Shiraz from McClaren Vale/Barossa

Hhhmmmm I wonder if they have lifetime memberships at this place???

 

 

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