Thursday, 10 September 2020

September celebrations

It's my birthday - whoo hoo I made it đŸ€— although there will not be much celebrating as l'll be spending most of the day here at the hospital having my sixth chemotherapy treatment. 

September is always a special month for me and I like to make the most of my birthdays, sharing the chance to have good times with others. I have been looking back at some of my great September celebrations over recent years, lots of links and lots of photos. 

I cannot believe it was ten years ago that I celebrated turning 45 with my first ever brand new car - I loved my C1 Splash with all its pink accessories. For no real reason we had a party; looking back I realise it was the last party with my Dad, a night to cherish. It was a great chance to catch up with friends and family and I love the little cake my friend made me - New Car and a Party

Back in 2012 Hubby and I were in London on my birthday watching the Olympic Parade and sharing the celebrations with our daughter who had been a Gamesmaker for the Paralympics at the Aquatic Centre - Birthday and Olympics  It was a superb day, such a great atmosphere and lovely to see all the competitors.

My 50th birthday was a really super celebration starting with a delicious meal at home with friends followed the next evening with a large party when I surprised everyone by announcing Hubby and I would be doing the London Marathon in stages - Clare's Challenge 50

I've always wanted to do the Marathon but I knew with having MS it is something I could not do .... so we did it in 8 stages, starting each one from where we finished before. 

As part of my 50th celebrations Hubby surprised me with a trip to Prague, what a beautiful city. Our hotel was superb, having views over the city and serving sparkling wine with breakfast, my kind of start to any day. It's a place we'd love to visit again - Surprise trip to Prague

2016 was an amazing year with our eight visits to London to complete the Marathon route and in the process raising a superb amount for my four chosen charities. Thank you to everyone who supported us. 

The final route was on my 51st birthday, a family trip to London where we met up with friends and completed the last stage - Tower Bridge to The Mall.  

After enjoying a meal with everyone Hubby and I went to Proms in the Park, a super way to celebrate not just my birthday but completing Clare's Challenge 50. I always like my birthdays to last, 50 to 51 was a whole year of celebrations 😁

We were just home for my birthday in 2017, it had been a difficult year as in April I broke my left ankle and right foot. It was a challenging time, sleeping downstairs and being in a wheelchair, but we still managed a super holiday in the South of France where my amazing Hubby pushed me around everywhere ... French pavements are not always smooth. 

We met up with my school pen friend, playing petanque on crutches was such fun, and we spent a super few days with friends we had met the previous year. The celebrations started in France and continued once we were home with my friend turning 50 - party time! 

Two years ago was a very special September, we had a family holiday. The first time the four of us had been away together for many years due to all our works and studies commitments. We decided to do something new, a villa holiday in Portugal. The villa was amazing, so lovely to have our own pool and we certainly made use of the bbq. We were not far from Cliff Richard's vineyard, a great place and to ensure we celebrated my birthday once home we brought back a bottle of his aptly named sparkling wine - Portuguese Food and Wine

And so to turning 54, nothing special in the number but as my ankle was finally mended it was time to 'Move On'. We had a great garden party with all our friends, our daughter and partner came home for the weekend and our son managed to get a night off from the bar! 

My birthday was actually a Tuesday and Monday saw Hubby and I making our way to Portsmouth to catch Brittany Ferries Normandie overnight crossing to begin a few weeks in France. This is my favourite cross channel ferry having first sailed on her in 1992 when we had a holiday in France with my Dad and son who was just seven months old. To my amazement and utter delight we were upgraded to a Commodore Suite with a double bed, no bunks and I awoke on my birthday to room service breakfast before we disembarked and set off for our destination ..... Sancerre!

What a day, my favourite ferry, travelling through my favourite country and staying in a village whose wine I just love - Our Petite Tour de France.

So today I turn 55 and I'm not quite where I thought I'd but as it's my birthday, and that means celebrating, I've bought a few goodies in with me to share with the amazing doctors and nurses.

No bubbly or favourite wine tonight but I will be with my Hubby and our son, and will be video chatting with our daughter - they are the best things in my life!

It has been lovely to look back over my previous birthdays - I am such a lucky lady to have had such amazing times with amazing people. Life is good, parties and holidays will happen again ...

... in the meantime enjoy a glass of something special for me - Ă  votre santĂ©!

Friday, 21 August 2020

All things Welsh

Wales has always been a big part of my life; from when I was born our holidays were Scout Camps in St Asaph. My parents were both involved in Scouting, I still am. 

When we first met Hubby and I spent many of our holidays at his parents's caravan in Llwyngwril on the Cambrian coast. We explored most of this beautiful coastline by car or by taking the superb scenic railway which travels along cliff tops so close to the sea, such spectacular views.

Years later we had our own caravan a little further down the coast at Tywyn. We had 10 very happy years spending as much time as possible in this lovely Welsh community with our children. 

When we sold our beloved caravan our Welsh dragon took pride of place at home thinking our link with Wales from then on would be the occassional holiday....

... however 8 years ago our daughter studied at Mid Glamorgan University in Pontypridd, graduating 3 years later in Sport Management with a BAHons (first) and our regular trips to South Wales began. 

She stayed in South Wales and now lives in Cardiff Bay. We've visited so many times in the eight years, staying in many hotels and airbnb rentals. Being a huge city Cardiff has plenty of choice; after some unexpected finds and some disappointments we have our favourite places and I'm certainly hoping to be back there soon. 

For my birthday last year her partner, who is Welsh, gave me a dragon for the garden. My dragon has pride of place on the wall, keeping an eye on all around and reminding me of such a lovely country. 

I've always been a rugby fan, I used to watch it on tv with my Dad on a Saturday afternoon; rugby is a huge part of Welsh culture and I've always had a soft spot for the Welsh boys. Every Welsh game my 'sheep hat' is hugged, my eyes watching the game with full focus and my voice loud enough to be heard across the miles. The 'sheep' was taken on holiday to France last October where it was worn and hugged throughout the World Cup games ... wet early mornings in the bar!

Earier in the year Hubby saw a larger dragon for sale on the internet ... it's taken many months to arrive but well worth the wait. He sits perfectly in our garden, it's so lovely to see him, he has such a lovely smile. 

As you can see Wales is very important to us and as I have missed our visits this year I was delighted when it was Welsh Wine Week, a week highlighting Welsh vineyards. 

Through Brad Horne's superb #winesocial at 8pm on Instagram and catching up on IGTV, I have discovered many more Welsh vineyards.... and have asked myself how I have missed them before! 

To my surprise and absolute delight I was a winner of two bottles of wine from White Castle Vineyard and even more delighted to discover they are near Abergavenny. This means a visit is very very high on the can do list as we pass by here on our way to see our daughter. Hopefully it will not be too long before our travels resume. 

Robb and Nicola Merchant celebrated 10 years of wine production in May 2019, and to mark the occasion planted a further 2000 vines of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. 

Siegerrbe and Regent were my prize bottles, I am so I intrigued by both. Siegerrebe is a grape I have not known before and according to the tasting notes it's a dry white wine with a nose of peach, orange blossom and nectarine with flavours of lychee and a soft spicy finish. 

Regent is another new grape to me, it is a light Beaujolais style and as I enjoy Gamay wine it should be super. The tasting notes suggest dark berry in colour with rich cherry aromas with excellent fruit on the palette and balanced tanning.


I'm saving my wines until I can appreciate them properly, life just now is mainly soft drinks or alcohol free beer. I need my tastebuds to be working 100% too before I open these Welsh wines. They will be very well looked after in our cellar although they do look good next to our dragon. 

Thank you Brad, Robb and Nicola - lechyd da!

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

FĂȘte Nationale

The 14th July is Bastille Day - France's FĂȘte Nationale, a national holiday with parades and celebrations.

Bastille Day is a holiday celebrating the storming of the Bastille - a military fortress and prison. It happened on July 14, 1789, in a violent uprising that helped usher in the French Revolution. Besides holding gunpowder and other supplies valuable to revolutionaries, the Bastille also symbolized the callous tyranny of the French monarchy, especially King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette.

The France’s tricolor flag is flown high, the French motto LibertĂ©, EgalitĂ©, FraternitĂ© cheered and La Marseillaise sung with passion — all popular symbols of France that had their origins in the heady days of the French Revolution.

Traditionally since 1880, in one of the world’s oldest annual military parades, French troops march along the Champs-ElysĂ©es in Paris before French government officials and world leaders.

However this year there was no parade, instead 2,000 soldiers gathered at the Place de la Concorde where France held a tribute to those working hard against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Hubby and I always celebrate, I love France; it's a chance for us to enjoy some of our favourite food and wine. It was especially nice just now to do something special. My arm is not fully mended but together we managed to put together a super 'journée française'.

Cellier des Dauphins is our favourite French wine and we were delighted when they sent two bottles of Cotes du Rhone wine to help us celebrate Bastille Day, thank you Cellier des Dauphins.

Our day began with croissants and coffee imagining we were on the banks of the Canal du Midi, when in fact it was the Oxford Canal. Safely cocooned in our picnic chairs between our car and the water it was lovely to sit and watch the boats go by. 

Back home we had thought of a light pique-nique in the garden with a glass of our wine but the weather was not joining in our French day. 

However we did enjoy a superb evening dinner, a selection of our favourite food. We made tapenade which was delicious on French bread. Our lentil, apple and walnut salad was great with the brie cheese, although I liked the roquefort more. We've really missed our usual trips to France but our sharing mussel pot brought back lovely memories. 

Tarte tatin is one of my favourite desserts, Hubby did a super job peeling the apples whilst I did the caramel. I'd like to say we made our own puff pastry but life's too short and ready made tastes great. 

There is nothing more satisfying than turning the pan and voila the tarte tatin comes out looking golden brown. It was delicious .... and there's some left for today.

So even though this year's celebrations were different due to my radiotherapy appointment, my broken arm and restrictions keeping us all safe, Hubby and I had a lovely Bastille Day.

Bonne fĂȘte mes amis đŸ‡«đŸ‡·

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

English Wine Week

A little note to say this post is full of links to previous posts, wine events and winemakers ... so settle in with a glass of something nice and enjoy my English wine experience!

If anyone asks me if I have tried English wine I reply with a resounding 'yes'!

However I hadn't realised how many different wines until I looked back over my blog posts. That's the primary reason I write Aimetu's - wine, food and travel; it's full of our adventures and wonderful memories.

Those great memories include visiting Love Wine in BirminghamGuildford and Birmingham again the following year with friends, it's where we have discovered and tasted many English wines. Unfortunately this year's Guildford Love Wine was postponed, we're looking forward to the new dates when we can again meet with some fantastic winemakers from near and far.

From our visits in 2017 and 2018 we discovered these English winemakers; always in holiday mood I'm already planning a few mini breaks with vineyard visits for when life allows.

Our first actual tour of an English vineyard was in September 2015 and was the start of my 50th birthday celebrations. Driving north early on a Sunday morning in my new car with it's perfect 65 plate, I was filled with excited anticipation; Wroxeter Vineyard did not disappoint. We had a brilliant day, walking the vines, discovering new grape varieties and tasting superb wines whilst enjoying a super lunch.
Our first English vineyard visit 
Looking back over our travels I was surprised to read that we didn't visit another English vineyard until 2018 .... however we made up time by visiting four over the year.

Our first 2018 visit was to an English winemaker you've probably read about in my recent writings - Oatley Vineyard. As part of our wine weekend holiday with friends I arranged a visit to this, at the time, unknown vineyard tucked away in rural Somerset. It was an absolute delight and a treasure to find.

I have fond memories of our visit in early 2018 and thanks to our recent online order we are now enjoying Oatley wines with friends here in the Midlands, virtually of course!
Our visit to Oatley Vineyard
Virtual Oatley tasting in lockdown
Having discovered The Bolney Estates wine at Love Wine and realising they were located on our route to Newhaven for our ferry crossing, we thought it would be rude not to call by for a lunch stop.

We were amazed by their wines, especially their new Rosso vermouth, and equally amazed by their beautiful vineyard. Set down a small leafy lane The Bolney Estate has a great cafe with balcony seating overlooking the vines. Their wines are elegantly laid out in the shop, so much choice, all so inviting. The Eighteen Acre restaurant follows on from the shop and offers a great range of food. We had a very enjoyable lunch with a glass of wine and would have loved to have stayed for a tour, we will certainly be visiting again.

Our lunch stop visit to The Bolney Estate
Our next tour was at Dedham Vale Vineyard, a retirement gift for Hubby from our daughter. We set off east, not our usual holidaying direction, early one sunny Sunday morning in July.

Essex is not an area we had thought of for wine making however Dedham Vale grow a variety of grapes around the vineyard and in the neighbouring area. We had an extensive tour of the vines followed by a tour of the working parts of the vineyard; our tour ending with a super wine tasting with views across the beautiful English countryside.

Dedham Vale's beautiful setting 
Our final visit vineyard visit of 2018 was actually two visits in one. Hubby and I had an impromptu week in Dorset, the home of Langham Wine Estate and popped over the border into Devon to also visit Lyme Bay Winery, both super experiences although we didn't tour the vines.

At Langham we treated ourselves to lunch accompanied by a glass of their delicious Blanc de Noirs.  Another superb vineyard producing a great range of sparkling wine, with drinking restrictions due to driving we just had to bring some home. This English wine estate is stunning example of the beautiful countryside we have in our country, our next visit will definitely include a tour and longer time to enjoy not only super wines but the super food too.

My glass of Langham Blanc de Noirs
The shop at Lyme Bay Winery was full of goodies, fruit wines, liqueur wine, sparkling wine, still wine and spirits. I have known of Lyme Bay fruit wines since a young girl as they had a shop at Lulworth Cove, a favourite holiday place my Dad and I often visited. It was lovely to visit the actual winery but with so much choice it was hard to decide what to bring home. With Christmas approaching we bought a variety of fruit wines and liqueurs to give as gifts, as well as a bottle of Sandbar made from 100% Bacchus for us to enjoy at Maison Hearnden.

2020 has certainly been a different year, no vineyard visits, no wine events but that hadn't stopped everyone talking about, sharing and discovering wine .... especially with superb live wine chats hosted by (amongst others) Brad Horne - Wine Time London.

Thanks to Brad I now have more English winemakers to add to my visit/tasting list, an ever growing list that now includes:

With shopping online and nationwide delivery there is no reason to not enjoy English wine at home, Hubby and I will certainly be ordering more to enjoy here whilst looking forward to when we can spread our wings and go visiting again.

As I said this post is full of links to our past adventures and the variety of English winemakers we have discovered, however I could not finish without mentioning the best English wine

...... it's priceless ...... and is of course .....

I have over the years made many wine, following in my Grandfather's footsteps. 2014 was a good year resulting in Dandelion, Rhubarb and Elderflower wines, each receiving compliments from those who have tasted them. I have since made Tea Wine and Rhubarb Wine .... bottled ready to drink!

Chateau Hearnden
Dandelion, Rhubarb and Elderflower 
I currently have two demi-johns of Beetroot wine in the garage ready to bottle when we have saved enough empties ..... that's my lockdown activity sorted!

Cheers everyone .... enjoy English Wine Week đŸ„‚

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Our Virtual Wine Tasting

Every Saturday Hubby and I have been meeting online with our friends using Messenger for a virtual quiz night. It's great fun with the quizzes varying from Trivial Pursuits to Mr and Mrs.

Of course bottles of wine are opened (although I'm not drinking much just now) and snacks eaten. All our wines are different which led us to thinking it would be fun to have a virtual wine tasting and enjoy the same wines together - we did just that yesterday enjoying an English white and Italian red.

In early 2018 we visited Oatley Vineyard, tucked away in the Somerset countryside it was a superb place. Iain and Jane welcomed us with a tour of the vineyard and tastings of their super wines. It's a beautiful peaceful setting, a place we hope to visit again soon.

Our purchases from our visit have all been enjoyed so we decided to place an online order jointly with our friends; currently Oatley Vineyard are offering free delivery UK wide and twelve bottles were soon making their way up to the Midlands.

Our order was a mix of Jane's 2018, Leonora's 2017 and the cellar aged Leonora's 2014. I was disappointed there was no Elizabeth's wine available, it was my favourite on our visit and obviously everyone else's too.

Iain and Jane have decided to no longer put foils on their bottles, to be honest they are not needed and it's quite nice seeing the cork nestling in the bottle neck.

Our English white was the Leonora's 2014, we noticed how clean and crisp this wine was; I remember from our visit the cleaness of the wines being a delight. Leonora's was a wine everyone enjoyed, finding orange blossom, apricots and honey in it's elegant finish, a new wine to some but visiting an old friend for others.

Oatley Vineyard is one of many that have been featured on WineGB West's live Instagram. In lockdown live broadcasts have opened up the world of wine to more people and have helped our English Wineries in these difficult times. I have met so many new growers and producers and have already started a list of holiday possibilities with vineyard tours being the focus.

Brad Horne at Wine Time London has also been doing the superb Wine Social live chats with wine makers from all over the world. I was delighted to see Laurent again from Cellier des Dauphins but a highlight for me was meeting Tickerage Wines, their story is amazing, it's a place high on my list to visit.

I'll be keeping an eye on Brad's wine chats, 8pm on Instagram with the added bonus of catching up on IGTV. I'm missing many things right now; being with family and friends, enjoying good food and wine, but mostly being on holiday with my Hubby discovering new places, new wines. Wine Social Live has certainly been a boost to me right now - thank you to everyone in our new virtual world.

Back to our own virtual Saturday nights, I cannot believe we have been doing these fun evenings for 12 weeks. As mentioned we've played Trvial Pursuits (very technical to set up), set our own quizzes and most recently Mr and Mrs .... thankfully no divorce papers have been issued!

Our Italian tasting was Squinzano Rosso from Lidl. It is usually £5.99 but was on offer the other week at £3.99 so our friend purchased and doorstep delivered a bottle for us all to try.

Hubby and I have tried it before, looking in the extensive wine reviews at Cuvée Reserve it seems we first discovered it in 2016. CuvÚe Reserve is not only a great wine forum for chatting about and discovering wine, but also a superb record of wines tasted by using the review library.

We all liked this although the ladies not quite as much as the white. There were plenty of sour cherries in its deep flavour, along with hints of licorice and herbs, it's nose was quite smokey and there were some light tannins on the finish.

We thought Squinzano Rosso was a wine best served with food as a little sour on its own. It's not always available in store, even less likely at the reduced price but worth picking up if you do see it.

Thank you to our friends for another great night ... here's to week 13 ... I'm thinking of opening some bubbly as it's Father's Day weekend and nearing our wedding anniversary  ..... cheers!

Monday, 8 June 2020

Laithwaites in lockdown

A few weeks ago Hubby and I decided to place a Laithwaites order. Although we are not drinking as much just now, we both decided that during lockdown we needed a treat.

Laithwaites have some very good wine monthly plans but we like buying wine from various suppliers so rather than sign up to a plan we decided to place a one off order. It was really enjoyable browsing through Laithwaites extensive range.

We decided to make up a box of 12 wines but as an extra treat and a little bit of excitement we also ordered one of Laithwaites Mystery Cases.

I have to admit when receiving a Laithwaites delivery in the past I have not paid much attention to the actual packaging but looking closer the Laithwaites boxes are a work of art in their own right.

Each box has a road going round with a delivery van making it's way past well known landmarks and wine bottles. The bottles are labelled with popular grapes; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Malbec to name but three.

The well-known landmarks include the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum, Tower Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, a windmill and Big Ben. As well as the landmarks the images include, sun, rain, snow, an aeroplane, even a hot air balloon.

It's very clever artwork depicting wine from around the world and indicating wine can be enjoyed any weather, any time and anywhere. I thought they were great fun and was surprised I hadn't looked closer before.

And so to our wine choices, I haven't included tasting notes for each wine but I have mentioned some reasons behind our purchases, and added links (if available) to each wine.

Our 12 bottles were mainly reds with just two whites because at the moment I'm not drinking much and Hubby prefers red wine. The other reason is, on inspection of our wine cellar, we still have quite a few white wines from our various holidays but as winter is now passed the red wine selection is looking a little depleted!

Our red wines wine selection: 

The Waxed Bat Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2019 from Mendoza, this is one of our favourite red wines from Laithwaites.

Hubby enjoys Spanish wines and one of his choices was Copa Real Tempranillo 2018; he also bought two bottles of Camino de Seda from Vendimia 2019

Le XV du President 2018 has a very simple yet striking label and was the reason for our purchase, it's a French wine but one we haven't had before.

Yarrunga Field wine from Australia is one of my favourite. I really enjoyed their white and so we decided to add a bottle of their 2018 Shiraz from New South Wales

One wine that eludes both Hubby and I is Bordeaux.  We have tried many bottles, both on holiday and at home, but have yet to find a bottle that makes us smile. Fingers crossed we added a bottle of Chateau Bel-Air Le Perriere 2018, could this be the one.

Having had a super enjoyable family holiday in 2018 in Portugal we decided on a bottle of Aluado 2018 made from Alicante Bouschet, one of our favourite Portuguese grapes.

Recommended for BBQs we added a bottle of Grillhouse Western Cape 2019 Shiraz Pinotage from South Africa. We both enjoy South African wine especially Pinotage.

Final bottle of red was a tribute to my Dad, he enjoyed purchasing wines from the Sunday Times Wine Club which is the sister company of Laithwaites. His favourite wine was Il Papavero Vino Rosso - cheers Dad

The two whites we chose were ones that we haven't had before,  the first being Chain of Stones 2018 Chardonnay from Moldova. Quite a distinctive label with the words written on pebbles, I'm looking forward to try this one.

The other white wine was the Gaillac Perle Tres Cantou.  I have had this in France but I've never brought one back home. I'm saving this for a lovely sunny summer's day when life feels better than it does just now.

As well as our chosen dozen we also bought a Mystery Case of 12 wines. Averaging out the prices of all 24 bottles, including our addition discount on the Mystery Case as we'd already purchased 12, the price per bottle was around £6.50 which we feel is a great buy!

We opened the Mystery Case with great excitement not knowing what we would find. It's a great way of trying wines we probably wouldn't choose ourselves and looking at our selection I'm keen to try all of these.

The Mystery Case included 6 reds and 6 whites, the red wines were:

Mr Anderson Far and Wide 2018 Merlot from South Australia

Prestige du Capitole 2018 a Cabinet Sauvignon from the Southwest of France

Venta Vieja Malbec 2018 from Spain

End of the Line 2018 Malbec from Mendoza in Argentina

Chante-Clare from France, with its distinctive French cockerel label, is a wine we have had this wine before.

Cerro Nevada is a Cabernet Merlot wine from Chile.

The 6 white wines were quite a variety, some new some we didn't

Albastrele Chardonnay 2017 wine from Moldova.

A second bottle of Albastrele, this time Sauvignon Blanc.

Cerro Nevada from Chile 2018 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc

I was very pleased to discover a bottle of Il Papavero Vino Bianco, another of Dad's favourite.

Cite de Carcassonne does not produce much wine so I was delighted to find a bottle of Chasan 2018, La Revelation.

 And finally a South African Sauvignon Blanc 2019 labelled Halfway

During this time of lockdown it was great fun to both choose some wine and receive mystery bottles, delivered to the door meaning I was still shielded. 

Over the next few months we will be opening our Laithwaites purchases, enjoying old favourites and discovering new - cheers Laithwaites!