Voyager Estate Winemaker Dinner

Despite not knowing Voyager Estate wines very well when I got the invite last fall, the omens were promising as it was being held at Vinoteca, one of my favorite wine bar/shops in London.

The Vinoteca empire has expanded of late but this Masterclass dinner with Steve James was in the fabulous cellar dining room at the original venue in Farringdon.

 

Now most folks would agree that to be a great winemaker you must make great wine. No argument there. But I would say in addition to that, they also must be a consumate communicator. Whether their audience be hardend wine writers, skeptical bloggers or their adoring fans the ability to express themselves with insight, knowledge & passion for me is of vital importance.

Steve James is one of such winemakers. He has an easy way of speaking, is warm, articulate and uses his hands a lot when he gets to talking about the terrior in beautiful Margaret River, Western Australia. Steve been heading up the team at Voyager Estate for 14 years now and they are crafting some cracking wines out there. What impressed me was how quietly confident he was with what they are producing and what better way to demonstrate that than standing them up against the best in class from 3 other labels.

We tasted their 2009 Chardonnay first from along with Kumeu River Mate Vineyards from New Zealand. The Voyager Estate won out for me with its flinty, smoky green melon nose & clean bright citrus, fresh fleshy oak & creamy cashew nut palate.

 

We also tasted two recent extreme vintages of Voyager Estate Chard. The hot difficult 2008 & 2006, their coolest on record, with very low yields. The ’06 definitely fared better showing green olive & cedar sauna aromas w/ fresh granny smith, peppery oak & good length on the palate. Sadly the ’08 was a bit of a jumble. Lumpy in places, flat & flabby in others. However not unpleasant.

Next was the turn of mighty 2010 Shiraz and this time it was matched up against Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier from Canberra in New South Wales. Again for me Voyager Estate won the day, there was simply more harmony and subtlety to it. Smelling very perfumed of black liquorice, blackberry juice, dried fig, dates, cocoa & on the palate it was sleek, firm, subtle damson plum, hints of leather & blueberry. Very good indeed. Their Shiraz really comes into its own after a few years in bottle as the 2009 & 2007 vintages showed. Complex, earthy, spicy, ripe, gamey and totally divine. Brought to my mind good Cote Rotie or Hermitage.

Finally we came to the darling blend of Margaret River, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot.  The 2008 vintage, this time squared off against Wynns Connawarra John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon from South Australia. Yet again I found myself preferring the Voyager Estate for its nuanced nose of green pepper, peppermint, smoky lead & truffle leading in the mouth to meaty, dense, wonderfully weighted, gravelly minerals, dark fruit & a clean finish.

The older vintages of Voyager Estate Cab Sav/Merlot this time were from 2005 & 2004 with the ’04 stealing the show. Roast rabbit & plummy spiced fruit nose plunging headlong into a curiously gamey yet fresh, full, sexy(easy boy!), peppery, deep mineral & mature plum brandy finale. Super stuff!

After all that tasting dinner I had worked up an appetite and right on cue was Dinner entering stage right.

 

For me the Smoked Mackerel with Apple, Celery, Frisee & Horseradish was the star with the 2009 VE Chardonnay a gorgeous match as well.

I was so excited about this Roast Partridge with Celeriac puree, Beetroot & Guanicale (unsmoked Italian bacon) but sadly the bird was a bit overdone. Thankfully the VE Shiraz was on hand and really did soften the blow.

For afters I went with this Chocolate pot with strawberries which was velvety and rich and just fine on it’s own.

 

 

 

The night drew to a very satisfying denouement as we said goodbye to Steve. He had been a fabulous host and the Voyager Estate wines not only shone in their own right but showed their individuality and class up against some very good competitors.

A very good night indeed…

Voyager Estate Wines are available in the UK through Justerinis & Brooks

Pic St Loup: Part Two

I wanted to get Part 2 & the final instalment to mark the year (plus a few months) anniversary of my very special trip to Pic St Loup in Coteaux de Languedoc.
After falling in love with the south of France on a trip to Roussillon a few years back this trip was another memorable adventure in gastronomy, culture and of course wine.
The passion & warmth of the people of this region will be with me for a long time and for that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Beers for Holiday Cheers

With that festive time of year bearing down upon us robed in fairy lights I thought I would throw my paper hat into the ring and recommend a few beers that would grace any creaking holiday sideboard.

I have 4 beers from 3 of my favorite breweries in the UK, who happen to be at opposite ends of the country from each other. Which I know sounds wrong as there are 3 breweries, so how can they be at opposite ends? What I mean in my geographically challenged way is that Sharps Brewery in Rock, Cornwall is way down south and Harviestoun Brewery in Alva & Williams Brothers Brewing Co. in Alloa, are both way up north in Scotland. Still a bit foggy I know but you get my drift.

Right so getting this sleigh off the ground first is Harviestoun and their comically festive Mr Sno’Balls Copper Ale.  This is a great all rounder that makes a fab session ale at 4.5%abv. It has some biscuity spicy notes with a cozy malty caramel finish, but also shows off citrus hints of freshness from the duo of Challenger & Styrian Hops. A word of warning, Mr Sno’ Balls is very moreish and will have you reaching for more than one. It’s also a great nibbles beer for things like pork pies & piccalilly, hummus, bread  & olives or cold left over turkey & crudités (That’s raw veg & dips for the Philistines out there).

I found it at my local Morrisons for £1.89/50cl or try Harviestoun direct info@harviestoun.com

Staying with my Scottish roots (seriously I am 1/4 Scottish) we move onto Williams Bros. Froach 22 Vintage Heather Ale which actually comes in a rather attractive 75cl bottle, as opposed to the sample bottle they sent me, due to Froach 22’s scarcity and high demand. This beautiful golden amber liquid spends time in ex sherry/Auchentoshan whisky cask. So you are greeted on the nose by almonds, aged wooden staves, peat & as you’d imagine whisky. Your first sip barks at your palate to pay attention, the texture is creamy, but then a complex flavour conga line kicks in with thistles, Demerara sugar, TCP, Moroccan spices, burnt caramel, dried pineapple & smoky dry salty herbs. Matured to 11%abv treat this like a fine aged sherry but keep it simple. After dinner on it’s own or with almonds or sea salt dark chocolate.

From the Williams Bros Brewery or from Beer Ritz for about £12 a bottle.

Now to Sharps. Stuart Howe their head brewer spoiled me last time I was in Rock by taking me & some friends through a massive range of their beers. These two are both from their Connoisseurs Choice stable were real highlights for me.

Checking my notes for No. 2 Single Brew Reserve 2011 that day I have simply written “Apricot Breakfast Beer (though I believe that was a quote from Stuart), dry thyme, totally delicious”. This 100% Saaz hopped stunner only comes in at 4.5%abv but is crammed full of class & character. Pale golden & cloudy in the glass, the beer is perfumed, has lovely balance of sugars & rich mouth hugging feel. Due to the exceptional yeast structure this is really a regal ale in champagne clothes. Perfect as an aperitif and with sweet smoked fish, but would be dyno-mite with your Christmas turkey, chicken or goose. Absolutely love this beer.

From the brewery £35.00 for 12 bottles at 50cl or Highbury Vintners £2.65/50cl

 

Last but far from least is No. 1 Quadruple Ale 2011 which marries pale, crystal & chocolate malts with 3 strains of yeast and Centennial, Hallertauer and Aurora Hops. It’s then matured on fresh Simcoe Hops which produces a unique & serious ale. Black treacle on the eye, minimal but heathy mocha foam head. Nose of Swedish salty liquorice, dark moist rye bread, kirsch & ginger snaps. The palate is immense, bold black raspberry, that salty liquorice, dark chocolate follows on and coats your mouth with a gentle lingering boozy forest fruit blanket. This is a beer to be savoured. It continues to evolve in the glass so make sure you pour it into a decent bowl shape receptacle. I’m not going out on a limb here when I say this baby could take the place of the Port with your stilton. Less hangover than Port as well as it’s half the alcohol at 10%abv

£49.99 per 12 33cl bottles  (approx £4.15 a bottle). I highly recommend buying a case and  laying a few down as this rare and beautiful beer (stored properly) will age gracefully over the next 10 years.

 

If you are looking for a great Xmas prezzie for that beer lover on your list then Sharps also offer a gift pack that includes a lovely cristal bowl glass and the 2 beers I have mentioned along with their seductive Honey Spice Ale in either 3(1 of each) or 6(2 of each) beer pack.

Have a Happy & Safe Holiday Season!

Mr D n E

 

Brawn Restaurant Review

Well this is my 1st attempt at turning a meal into a video restaurant review. I shot the whole thing on my iPhone so quality insn’t amazing, but I think it turned out ok.

The venue in question is Brawn in Shoreditch, sister to one of my favorite London restaurant/wine bars Terroirs. Brawn is more laid back in it’s decor and feel but the
food and wines are still top notch. We worked our way through 3 different natural wines. A fizz, white and red all from the Loire Valley.
We were treated to many delicious plates of food from Beet Salad to Duck Hearts to Cauliflower Risoni.

Sipping in Slovenia Pt 1

I travelled to Slovenia this year invited by winery Puklavec & Friends to sample the wine and food of this much underrated wine producing country. My first 24 hours were spent on the Istrian coast near the town of Portoroz. We stayed at the beautiful Kempinski Palace Hotel, sampled wines from Vina Koper, Tilia Estate and ate at Solni Svet. More to come…

Camden Town Brewery USA Hells Lager

Now twas some months ago that I trotted along to North London to see my pals at Camden Town Brewing for the launch of their new American style Hell(e)s Lager.
The Camden Town beers were flowing, the boys were taking the good folk on Brewery tours, Big Apple Hot Dogs were sizzling and staunching the hunger pains in real NYC style and there was a real party atmosphere about the place.

Canada Day Canadian Craft Beer: Lighthouse & Philips Brewing

With it being Canada Day on July 1, I thought it only fitting that I shoot a little tasting with a couple craft beers from my native land.
I bought these beauties when I was home last summer and was very proud that they were both brewed in Victoria my place of birth on Vancouver Island.
I was extremely impressed with both Lighthouse Brewing’s Deckhand Belgian style Saison & Phillips Brewing Hoperation Tripel Cross Belgian IPA.

Harpers Champagne Summit

I went along to the Montcalm Hotel for the Harpers Champagne Summit a few months back to taste the fabulous fizz on offer. The biggest highlight was most definitely getting a near private session with Stanislas Roccofort, Moet’s International Brand Manager as he took me through a vertical tasting of vintage Moet’s in magnum including my birth year 1975. An afternoon of tasting I will not soon forget.

Beer & Pork Scratching Matching

This episode I am back at my favorite local the Stormbird in Camberwell to taste the wonderfully fresh moreish “Half Bore” Session Ale from Hunter’s Brewery in Devon and the sensuous savoury citrusy “Inedit” Wheat Beer, which is the lovechild of the famed El Bulli chef Ferran Adria in collaboration with Spain’s mighty Estrella Damm Brewery. To chuck into the mix I brought along some Mr Trotters Pork Crackling which is another collaboration albeit not as headline grabbing of Rupert Ponsonby & Tom Parker Bowles. Very posh scratchings indeed.