Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Wine Society - Buyer's Favourites

We've been members of The wine Society for just over a year, during which time we've visited the shop at Montreuil in France but not managed to take part in a UK event. That changed last night when Hubby and I took the train to Leicester for a wine tasting evening based on The Wine Society's Buyers' Favourites.

The venue, The Ballroom, City Rooms, was in the older part of the city centre. A lovely, if a little tired, building with huge chandeliers in the foyer and a double aspect stairway leading into The Ballroom.
City Rooms, Leicester
Emma Briffett and Joe Granger, members of the Events Team greeted us at the door, explaining the layout of the room along with a booklet detailing all the wines. The venue was a large spacious room with four tables for the wine along the longest walls and a cheese and biscuits table at each end of the room; it was very easy to move around and sample the various wines.

Tasting booklet 
Wine selectors - The Buying Team
The Buyers were asked to chose their favourite wine in four categories: Alfresco, Party Faithful, Food & Wine and New Discoveries. From their choices 20 wines were selected for this tasting.

We began with the two sparkling wines on offer: Cava Conde de Haro Brut 2012 and Crémant de Limoux Cuvée Saint-Laurent Antech 2013. Both fine examples of sparkling wine made in the traditional method, the first having larger bubbles.

The nose of the Cava reminded me of my Dad bringing in a large red glass bowl of gooseberries picked from the garden, it's amazing how wine can evoke such memories.

Of the two sparkling wines I preferred the Cremant with it's fine bubbles and delicate fresh flavour.

We decided to try the white wines first, something we cannot always do at other tastings as the rooms are often busier and it's harder to move around. The Wine Society had perfectly spaced the wines so all were accessible and so our first white was Tabali Reserva Especial Espinal Limari Chardonnay 2015 followed by The Society's Vin d'Alsace 2014.

The Vin d'Alsace had a mainly riesling taste with a hint of gewurztraminer. As Mark (buyer) suggested it would make a 'refreshing aperitif'.

Changing tables our next white was The Society's Vinho Verde 2015, a lovely refreshing wine with a light fizz. I would happily serve this instead of a sparkling wine as a pre-dinner drink when friends come round.

Wine number 8 was Stoneburn Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015, bringing a smile already as sauvignon blanc is my favourite grape.

Although from New Zealand it was a light wine with a good nose and a mid finish. It was chosen by Sarah Knowles and I really liked its crisp citrus flavours.

Picpoul de Pinet has been a favourite of mine for a few years, where previously it was a wine to bring home from our holidays in southern France it is now becoming popular and easily available here in the UK. It is the best wine with shellfish, I have yet to find a better match and the Domaine Félines-Jourdan 2015 on offer was no exception.

Moving tables again and to the other side of the room our next white was a bit of a surprise. Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese, von Kesselstratt 2008. A riesling from the Mosel I was very surprised how sweet it was, full of apricots but very sugary, not at all to my expectation.

The Society's Gruner Veltliner 2015 was our penultimate white, an Austrian white with a white pepper nose ans a dry crisp long finish. I seem to be on the same taste level as Sarah as it was another one of her choices and one of my favourites from the evening.

Our final white was from Gloucestershire's Three Choirs vineyard, Payford Bridge 2014. Another crisp white with a dry finish - it was nice to see English wine being included.

That was our first tour round the room so time for a pause, cheese and biscuits, glass of water and a little comparing of notes. Hubby and I have similar but not exactly the same tastes and it's always interesting to see what each of us discovered.

Time for the reds, this time we worked back down the tables so started with wine number 20, Ventoux, Martinelle 2013. My overall favourite, so rich and fruity with a hint of spice and conjured up instant memories of holidaying in France. I did go back at the end of the evening for another tasting, just to check!

Moldova is not a wine country we know very much about but have seen more wines starting to appear in the UK. This red was plentiful in dark cherries and for me had a slight liquorice flavour. not the sweet type but root liquorice. I quite liked Individo Feteasca Chateau Vartely 2014.

Chile was the source of our next red, Koyle Cerro Basalto Alto Colchague 2013. The most expensive wine at the tasting and one of the most popular. A great blend of mourvedre, grenache, syrah and carignan with a musky nose, dark fruit and a lengthy finish.

Pinot Noir is not a grape I am drawn to but the Pedroncelli Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2014 was a light example with red currant flavours and as suggested would go very well with pizza although it was 14%

We recently tried and enjoyed Sicilian wine for the first time, another opportunity with The Society's Sicilian Reserve Red 2012 being the next red for us to taste. This was slightly tannic with a kick of peppery spice amongst the dark fruits.

Back to France for another of my evening's favourites, Corbieres Rouge, Domaine du Trillol 2011. From the southern region of Languedoc this red was full of cherries and plums and  instantly transported me back to many sunny holidays.It was a lovely full bodied red at 14.5% which would be amazing served with a juicy steak dinner.

Our final two reds were from opposite sides of the globe; Te Mata Estate Hawke's Bay Syrah 2013 from New Zealand and The Society's Beaujolais-Villages 2014 from France. Opposite tastes too with the Te Mata being full of sour cherries, blackberries and a spicy finish, and the Beaujolais being lighter with dry red fruits. Both good examples of their given varieties but given the choice I would chose the Syrah.

Our first Wine Society wine tasting evening came to an end all too son, having had a great time tasting and comparing wines as well as chatting to Emma, Joe and Robin McMillan (CEO).

Thank you to everyone involved for an educational, enjoyable wine journey.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Near, a little further and a glass of wine

Favourite pubs/restaurants come and go, change hands, become familiar, lose their specialness, and so new pubs/restaurants are found and enjoyed - the cycle of many patrons, us included.

This is the case for us with Miller's - a country pub/restaurant/hotel just 6 miles away in Sibson that we have visited many times in the past but sporadically - meals before having the children with parents and grandparents, special occasion meals, treats with the children, tribute nights with work colleagues, always a good time. However in recent years we just haven't been ....

.... until a few weeks ago when I discovered them on Twitter (and again since which shows in itself how impressed we were). I booked online through Twitter DM and our table was ready, reserved in style rather than a plastic triangular notice.

Reserved in style

The bar area has been decorated and feels so relaxed. The fireplace, with it's logs, leather armchairs and barrel tables add to the pubs ambiance with the gentle sound of the waterwheel turning actually in the pub adding to the atmosphere.

Fantastic fireplace
Turning waterwheel inside the bar 
Miller's has a variety of menu's including their 'value menu' with prices starting from £4.99 and their 'Golden Years' menu for over 60s; 2 courses for £5.99

Over our two visits we've enjoyed a sharing platter, fish and chips, lamb shank, sizzling fajitas, and salad nicoise - all delicious, nicely cooked and served in good time. We'll certainly be visiting again.

Our 'little further' visit was to Melton Mowbray, no reason other than a Saturday drive and a place we had not visited before. Just under an hour away it was a mixed journey starting with motorway driving and ending with a country A road over rolling hills.

As it was lunch time when we arrived we decided to pop into Mrs B's Deli - to be honest it looked almost closed from the outside as the windows were low and the interior appeared dark. All became apparent upon entering as you go down a few steps so the shop/cafe is lower than the road. Such a lovely shop filled with homemade deli specialties including a variety of scotch eggs. There's a small cafe at the rear but we decided to eat at the table in the deli area so we could look around at the many delights.
A lovely array of homemade goodies
Coffee time  
Our lunch platter with stilton cheese and pork pie
 Lunch was really good, we both chose a mixed platter so we had stilton cheese and pork pie, both delicious. The variety of scotch eggs was amazing and we decided to bring home a Stilton one, they are huge so one is plenty. I also spotted my absolute favourite crisps - Brown Bag Crisps - so they had to come home too !
Stilton Scotch Egg
My favourite !
 After lunch we had a stroll round the small town that's full of history. The Corn Cross in the middle of the town is where farmers used to lay out their corn samples on market day. It was market day when we visited but I didn't see any corn samples - lots of pie stalls though

The Corn Cross
Just across the way is Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe, a lovely black and white building standing along the row of shops in Nottingham Street, next to The Corn Exchange. Inside there's quite a lot of information about the origin of the pork pie and how it's made. The shop was built in the early 1600s and pork pies have been made here since 1851.

Melton Mowbray is famous for its pork pies
'how they are made' display inside the shop
Our stroll took us down Burton Street along the rear of St Mary's Church. On the left was a beautiful old building named Bede Houses and was actually almshouses founded in 1641, and on the right a building that is now a pub but in the 1300s was a Chantry Priests' House. The house was given by Henry VIII to Thomas Cromwell (Lord Chancellor of England) until his fall from favour when it was given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement.

Bede Houses
Founded in 1641
Anne of Cleves house
History of the building
Thomas Cromwell fell out of favour with Henry VIII
Beautiful plaque on the building wall  
St Mary's Church was in a very old lane with small cottages opposite, picture postcard setting, very quaint. There has been a church on this site for centuries, some of the oldest stonework dates to 1100. It's a Norman church with beautiful stained glass windows.

St Mary's altar
The window above the altar
Intricate patterning 
We had a really lovely day in Melton Mowbray, sometimes impromptu visits are the best. Of course we could not come home without bringing the traditional pie - delicious it was too !

Melton Mowbray Pork Pie 
And so to the third element of my blog title ... wine! This actually relates back to my previous post Cuvée Reserves Wine Weekend and my mystery bottle, Gran Montana Malbec from Dave.

Gran Montana Malbec decanted 
I decanted the wine about an hour before drinking. The colour was an inviting rich red with flashes of scarlet as it flowed into the decanter. Once poured the nose was full of dark fruit with a background hint of spice. A lightly oaked palate revealed more fruit with the hint lingering on the finish.

Malbec is one of my favourite wines being fruity with spice but without heavy tannins and this was a Malbec I really enjoyed, thank you Dave.