Sunday, 23 January 2022

Superb wine week

Well we've certainly enjoyed some great wine, and beer, this week partly because our friends joined us for dinner on Friday to celebrate Hubby's birthday. Although we celebrated on his birthday in Falmouth we have delayed meeting friends and are having a few small dinners rather than having lots of people at home ... how life has changed!

However some things are back, I loved planning and cooking our dinner especially our wines. But beforehand I just want to mention this super dark beer from Williams Bros Brewing Co.

Not one for the faint hearted, or a session beer, as this creamy chocolaty stout is 4.9%. It is full of deep flavours with notes orange left behind every sip. It was superb on a cold winter evening whilst watching the rugby.

On to the wine, knowing Hubby enjoys Rioja our friends arrived with a bottle of Marques del Norte Gran Reserve which the chaps enjoyed with dinner. I'm not a fan of Rioja wine, I like the rich fruit and heady spice aroma often with notes of tabacco but I just don't like the flavour. I've tried a few and I'm undecided on whether it is the Tempranillo grape I dislike or just red wine from this region ... more research is needed I think!

The other red we opened was Willy Willy 2020 Shiraz from Laithwaites. This deeply coloured red from Australia has plenty of fruit and a super kick of pepper accompanied by a hint of vanilla. I love how the label reflects the swirl of the wine, I can imagine the plums, blackcurrants and spices mingling together.

I took a bit of a gamble with our white wines. I usually drink whites within 3 or 4 years of their date and with me not drinking much the last few years I have a few whites that were getting old. We had a superb holiday in France in September 2019 visiting Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé where we purchase quite a few wines. This Old World style of Sauvignon Blanc is my absolute favourite so for me it was the perfect place to visit. 

One of the bottles I still have was a 2018 Gilles Langlois Pouilly-Fumé. I was a little nervous opening it but it was absolutely delicious. A dry, light wine with slight acidity it had a balanced amount of fruit and was very elegant in its finish. It's on the purchase list for when we re-visit this super village east of the Upper Loire.

Our other white was a purchase from Love Wine, again a few years ago. Chenonceaux is my favourite Loire chateau, it's quite famous as it is built across the River Cher and was used as a hospital during WWI. This part of the Loire is under the Touraine appellation which covers a large area and as such gives a variety of terroir including limestone with chalk beds. 

There is quite a variety of red grapes grown in this appellation and although Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc white grapes are grown it is Sauvignon Blanc, around 80%, that is dominant. Our bottle of Touraine Chenonceaux was a darker colour than the lighter wine from the Upper Loire. It was full of tropical fruits with a floral hint of honeysuckle. A lovely wine, refreshing with a lengthy finish that certainly brought back memories of our Loire Valley holidays. 

During the week we also enjoyed another couple of the Gloucester Brewery beers. DIPA at 7.5% was a weighty drink, Double India Pale Ale is a little strong for me in flavour as well as alcohol. However the American Pale Ale at 6.4% was much more to my liking with its mango and tropical fruit notes.

Have you noticed anything about my post? It's certainly good to be able to taste wine again and to enjoy time with our friends .... as you can see because all the bottles, including this lovely Cabalie Blanc, are empty! 

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Two reds, a white and a new beer

The first red enjoyed this week was from Majestic and is a favourite of ours. The label is very striking, the passion flower artwork so intricate. 

Tarima is 100% Monasrell from the Alicante region of Spain. Grown on a lime soil which holds little water this grape grows in very dry conditions which helps force the rich flavours into the fruit. 

After fermentation in vats the wine is matured in French barrels for six months. This Monastrell wine is a deep red in colour with inky purple highlights, its aroma gives notes of liquorice and floral notes with its flavour being cherry fruit, chocolate and herbs edges. It's a smooth full wine with a lovely depth and good length to its finish. 

Yarrunga Field is a wine we have purchased before from Laithwaites but a white wine. This was the first time we had tasted Yarrunga Field Durif and it has certainly now been added to our wine list. 

Another deep red purple wine filled with blackberries and plums. There's a soft sweet spice with vanilla notes to the lengthy finish of this Special Reserve Australian wine, it's certainly a good wine.

Sauvignon Blanc is my favourite white wine, I do enjoy many other grape varieties but, even including reds, it is my top choice. Ara Pathway is from Marlborough, an area renowned for producing full flavoured Sauvignon Blanc wine. 

The Ara aroma is full of citrus, orange and herbs, its pale yellow colour leads to a palate of green apple and lime. It's a strong crisp wine with citrus high notes and a medium finish. Although I lean towards the softer French Sauvignon Blanc wines this was superb and will be added to our next Majestic purchases.

This week we also enjoyed a beer from Gloucester Brewery, a place we visited whilst on a mini-break in late November last year. 

We purchased a variety of beers to try at home and chose Neipa as our first tasting. A New England IPA it is quite a hoppy beer with tropical edges of flavour which was very refreshing. I'm looking forward to trying the others.

This next week brings a sense of normality as on Friday our friends are with us for dinner. I always enjoy planning our food and pairing drinks, I've a few ideas already!

Friday, 7 January 2022

Into 2022 we go ...

At the end of 2021 I was very lucky to be chosen as one of the winners in #ukwinehour Bordeaux wine competition. The case of six wines from Bordeaux Wine UK arrived just before Christmas, a busy time as we were just back from Cornwall celebrating Hubby's big birthday, so after a quick look we put the wines back in the box until after the festivities. 

Usually we celebrate New Year's Eve with our friends at their traditional house party but sadly this year's plans were altered. Thankfully more for precautions than illness but a shame as we would have all appreciated a get together. 

So plans at home were quickly made ... a bbq! 

It was so mild, almost lime a summer's evening. Our electric grill is perfect when it's just us and gives added warmth under the gazebo. To accompany our winter burgers and sausage we opted for one of our Bordeaux wines and Chateau Constant Lesquireau was duly selected. 

After a bit of research I discovered this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It's aroma certainly had dark fruits with a hint of earthiness. I loved it's rich fruity blackcurrant and plum flavour, with a touch of spice and soft tannins. It was perfect with our unusual end of year dinner, enjoyed outside in the unusual 15 degree temperature. Thank you Bordeaux Wine UK.

A New Year task that I absolutely love doing is writing up the year's calendar with birthdays and special events. This year we have a very special calendar full of family photos; a superb gift from our lovely daughter. 

I had a very enjoyable time filling in the events of 2022, accompanied by a glass of Les Dauphins Cotes Du Rhone Blanc. Produced by Cellier des Dauphins this, and their red, is my go to French wine. It's always good, matches to most food, and always makes me smile, which I think is the importance of any wine! 

All too soon Christmas and New Year come to an end, although the decorations do stay up until Twelfth Night which is a festival in some branches of Christianity marking the beginning of Epiphany. A count of exactly 12 days from December 25 arrives at 5th January: this is Twelfth Night. The day of Epiphany is January 6th, the day the three wise men came to see the new born King. 

It's always good to mark occasions, be for religious reasons, family traditions or just because you want to. We marked Twelfth Night with a wee dram of Chivas Regal from our visit to Strathisla Distillery when we in Scotland in September, accompanied by the last few chocolate liqueurs.

Chivas Regal is not a whisky I would normally choose but this was lovely. A rich amber colour with a nose of dried fruit, coffee and dark chocolate. It's a very smooth whisky with velvet chocolate flavours and a subtle smokiness, but not peaty. It's certainly one I now have on my 'have again' list. 

I'm not one for New Year resolutions or setting goals as most of the time I fail, but there are things I would like to change or do in 2022. One such thing is more walking, a simple exercise for others but for me with my MS, past injuries and medical issues it is something that gives me a boost. I feel very accomplished when I have managed a good walk: a year ago I was finding 1/4 mile a challenge.

Today Hubby and I completed a 5 mile walk in our local area. I think I was spurred on by our planned stop at Popular Farm on our way back towards home, a local Farm Shop. Today and tomorrow they have Urban Cheesecake street food vendors at the farm. Their cheesecakes are very rich with loads of topping. We chose two different ones and shared them with our son once we arrived home .... delicious and the perfect treat after our 2 hour stroll. 

Our first week of the new year has been fairly quiet but we've made the most of our time at home. Tonight we'll be settling in to watch the new series of one of our favourite tv programmes ... Death in Paradise. I'll be sipping a Southern Comfort, Amaretto and Orange Juice cocktail and thinking of warmer days 😉

Friday, 31 December 2021

Thank you 2021

Well what year, for me it felt like normality was returning but there were still many many restrictions and sadly plans cancelled. We did however spend time with our family, have some great times virtually with friends, and managed a few holidays in quieter locations. I had lots of fun too online with the wine crowd and Hubby and I made our own gin in the summer. 

Here's our 2022 highlights starting with one of our online quiz nights with our friends. In January Hubby and I added some mini bottles of wine to our online shopping order and doorstop dropped them at our friends so we could have a wine tasting night. We had all missed our wine tasting evenings, this was such fun even if the wines were a little limited.

Still in restrictions February was a little sad as we could not visit our daughter in Wales for her birthday, of course we had a lovely video call. We did have another virtual quiz night with our friends, this time all about cocktails. I  made up the spirit part of four different cocktails and reusing the mini bottles from before we did another doorstop drop - cocktail spirits, mixers and garnish ... cocktails have never been such fun! 

I have always taken the opportunity to have a special food or drink for any saints day, festival day or anniversary. March 1st is St David's Day, the patron saint of Wales, and so we had a glass of Welsh whisky and I made some Welsh cakes. 

April came, still with restrictions although a little lighter. Hubby and I met on 10th April 1985 and being as we couldn't go put to celebrate we enjoyed a glass of Sancerre (bought in the village in 2019) in our garden.

Hurrah a holiday, the end of April saw us travel up north to Berwick-upon-Tweed. It was now permitted to stay self catering and as we thought most people would go south for the warmth we travelled north. Berwick was new to us, it's a lovely place with walled ramparts that gave us plenty of walking opportunities. We stayed very much to ourselves other than shopping and, to our delight, enjoying a drink in the pub beer gardens (indoors was still not allowed) We did however cross into Scotland one day as their rules allowed you inside a pub for food but not alcohol, that was still outdoors. 

The first few months saw me increase my walking, it was a long road but my strength and stamina began to return. There aren't many places to walk to near us but we do have the canal with the unusual telegraph pole landmark. 

Finally in May we could visit Wales and see our daughter and her partner. We visited White Vastle Vineyard near Abergavenny on the way as for our Christmas present she had adopted us a vine. We had a great tour, it was super to see our names on a plaque on our vine.

Back home I was invited to take part in an online quiz by Brad Horne and Cecchi Wines. We know very little about Italian wine but I watch Brad's Instagram videos, read about Cecchi and listened carefully to the presentation by Ben, Hannah and Brad before the actual quiz questions. To my utter amazement we won and are now the proud owners of a case of Vecchi wine. 

One of the sad parts of all the restrictions has been not being able to visit Hubby's mum in her care home. As soon as we were allowed we booked a slot. We had to do a lft,  wear PPE and meet in the dedicated room but it was so nice to see her. We took a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling wine and some nibbles. We've been able to visit every week since, taking something to drink and eat each time. The range has been gin, wine, tea or coffee with various treats including homemade scones, rock cakes and mince pies. We are now allowed to meet in her room and although we still need an lft we only need to wear a mask. 

June also saw us spend a few days in Swindon for our wedding anniversary and Nick's driving experience at Castle Coombe. It was a birthday gift from me, he drove three cars round the circuit: Porsche 911 Turbo, Ferari 456 and Audi R8 V10. It was a great day to end our mini break and start another few days away with friends in Portishead. We have been using Premier Inn hotels for our stays, they have been so good throughout this difficult year.

Hubby and I love a road trip, it's something we have certainly missed, so we decided to go to Skegness for the day. A couple of hours drive away it was a super day. The sun shone, we had a small beer, ice cream on the beach, played on the penny (now 2p) amusements and had fish and chips ... oh we'd missed those days, it was fabulous. 

Our son gifted us a gin making day at Bond Street Distillery. He was their head barman but is now focusing on his degree studies. Hubby and I took the bus, something we have not done for years but it stopped right outside. It was a super experience learning all about distilling and choosing our own botanicals to make our own gin ... it's quite good, even if I say so myself.

An addition to our garden came in July, a hot tub. I love it, it was the perfect way to celebrate Bastille Day with a bottle of Les Dauphins Vinsorbes. 

Our daughter and partner finally came to stay, it was so difficult with England and Wales restrictions being so different. We had a super night out at the gin distillery ... we all took the bus hee hee.

In August we had a virtual wine tasting with our London friends. We both went to Aldi at the same time, had an instore phone chat to choose the wines and then a few days later had a very enjoyable evening tasting the same wines. It was not quite the same as meeting up but it was a great night.

Wanting a break away but still conscious of staying safe we decided to take a short trip to Hartlepool. It isn't somewhere you would think of for a holiday but the Premier Inn in son the harbourside and there's a Navy museum with HMS Trincomalee. We had a lovely few days away.

September is my birthday month, our friend's birthday is the day after mine so it's celebrations all round. The four of us went to on a tour of Scotland which started on my birthday which of course meant we were away to celebrate hers too. Before we went though Hubby took me to Rhuddlan in North Wales to see the castle, it was very special to me growing up. He also treated me to a canal trip with afternoon tea on the Llangollen Canal over the Pontcycyllte Aqueduct.

Scotland was amazing, it felt quite safe as we travelled in our own cars and most places we visited were quite quiet. Scotland had a few more restrictions which actually made it better. The highlight for me was seeing The Kelpies. 

We had two trips in November, both staying in Premier Inn Hotels. The first was with our friends who came to Scotland, they came with us to Cardiff and we had a great time walking Cardiff Bay.

Our other trip was to Gloucester Docks to meet up with our London friends. It was another super time, so nice to finally be able to meet in person.

December means Christmas Tree Festival at my family church. Last year it was a virtual event but this year the church was again filled with 60 real trees. My theme this year was a Bouquet of Flowers.

Our final trip of 2021 was very special and we were on tenderhooks days, weeks, beforehand. We all, Hubby, me, son, daughter and her partner, went to Falmouth to celebrate Hubby's big birthday. After everything that has happened, personally, nationally, it was so so nice to all be together and to celebrate in style. 

Whilst 2021 was not the best of years it was a year that improved as it progressed, as did I. Whether at home, staying local, days out or short breaks Hubby and I have had some super times. 

I hope 2022 brings as much fun, more family time and more opportunities to share a glass or two with our friends.... Happy New Year 🥂

Trains and automobiles

Trains was our trip to STEAM - Museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon. It was during restrictions so was very quiet which was lovely as we felt we had the museum to ourselves. 

The exhibits were superb; old workshops, ticket offices and platforms as well as the trains themselves. Caerphilly Castle was a huge engine, it was a little spooky walking underneath but worth seeing how the engine worked. 

The automobile part of this post is when Hubby had a Driving Experience Day at Castle Coombe. It was a birthday gift from me a few months earlier, it was hard to fit a date on with all the restriction changes but be fi ally went in June.

He chose three cars to drive; Porsche 911 Turbo, Ferrari 456 and an Audio R8 V10. I'm not a car girl but they all looked amazing, went fast and made lots of noise hee hee. I was on camera duty and managed to capture photos and videos of his driving ... it was a great day.

It was a great two days in June, nice to have the memories. I wonder where we'll be going in 2022.