There are times when thank you does not quite say what you mean and this is one of those occasions; huge gratitude and 'thanks' to Yalumba, Negociants, Joseph Benjamin and Tesco Wines for an amazing evening.
As a member of Tesco Wine Community I have tasted and reviewed many wines and our recent challenge was to review two Yalumba wines; Y Series Shiraz Voignier and Old Bush Vine Grenache. Both lovely red wines, you can read my reviews on my previous blog King Richard III and Yalumba.
From my review we were invited to a pop up dinner 'Butcher, Baker, and Winemaker' at Joseph Benjamin in Chester with Yalumba Wines' winemaker Louisa Rose. Chester is about 100 miles away so we took the opportunity to stay over but more about that at the end of my blog.
Joseph Benjamin is a restaurant run by brothers Ben & Joe. Front of house is expertly managed by Ben with a warm welcome and knowledgeable wine conversation, whilst Joe's kitchen produces amazing locally sourced seasonable food.
The restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere which still provides an intimate feel, even when full of 35 enthusiasts all sharing wine tips and recommendations. The acoustics and decoration provide just the right level of noise so although sitting in a 'hum' you can easily chat to your table companions.
We were greeted by Ben and a chilled glass of Yalumba Y Series Riesling 2014. Its lovely light bouquet matched the light golden yellow of this non oily Riesling. A fresh palate of pears and slight citrus with a smooth finish made this a beautiful wine to sip whilst meeting fellow TWC members and other guests.
The very efficient, polite and professional waitresses mingled amongst us offering delicious canapes from Joe's kitchen: homemade pitta breads with feta & pistachio and hummus, just perfect with the chilled Riesling.
Our window table for two was great, with other diners close by without invading our space. The pop up dinner highlighted Yalumba wines with the experienced and much acclaimed Chief Winemaker Louisa Rose being in the UK to share her knowledge of their wines. It was a pleasure to meet Louisa and chat about wine, Australia and her visit to England. Throughout our meal she shared much information about the individual wines; Yalumba as a company and its vision; all of which left me with an even stronger desire to visit Barossa Valley.
Our first course was Jamon Iberico and cured beef Cecina with celeriac remoulade, guindilla chilli and nasturtium flower; superb food which was superbly matched with two wines, Yalumba Eden Valley Rousanne and Yalumba Barossa Old Bush Vine Grenache.
Eden Valley Rousanne is a young wine made from vines originating in the Rhone Valley, France. It has a slightly oily nose with vanilla highlights. It is a syrupy wine without being sweet and has a palate full of fresh fruit with just a hint of vanilla.
Old Bush Vine Grenache was already one of my favourite Yalumba wines being one of the wines reviewed. These vines are some of the oldest in Australia and it certainly has mature characteristics. A medium red wine full of fruit with cherries being the highlight both in nose and palate. Its light tannins and complex flavours leave a warming finish and a deep appreciative sigh.
Our fish course was scallop, baba ghanoush, mango salsa, pickled cockles and agretti. So many elements new to me, I was amazed at the complexity of flavours on my plate all of which complimented each other perfectly. Yalumba Eden Valley Voignier was the match for this dish and Louisa's favourite wine being the grape she has focused on over her 20 years with Yalumba.
Again these vines originate in France with Viognier being little used a sole variety. In fact until a few years ago my only knowledge of this grape was from a vineyard in La Clape, France, where a vintner had added it to his 1996 chardonnay to lift the wine.
Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier was full of ginger, peaches, apricots with a light biscuity finish, a great wine with our scallop.
Two red wines accompanied our main course of lamb rump, crushed Cheshire new potatoes, peas and asparagrus a la Francaise, bacon, chargrilled gem lettuce and pea shoot. Yalumba Patchwork Shiraz was a deep crimson red fruity wine with a spiced, woody nose. A sharp zesty palate full of fruit finished with spice but without tannin. This Barossa Shiraz had a subtle hint of chocolate which enhanced its cherriness and was beautiful with the lamb.
The second red, Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, was also a dark crimson in the glass. The Signature is a significant wine full of rich fruit, woody notes and full tannins. A special 2010 wine that I would like to try again in a few years once the flavours have intensified even more.
Louisa spoke about the harmony between the land, the vines and the wine. Yalumba work towards a natural balance between the birds, pastures, animals; the balance of nature is a very important aspect of this Australian winemaker. Joe and Ben also believe in the balance of nature which is shown in their excellent dishes, the vegetables for which were supplied by The Natural Veg Men. Matt, a co-founder, spoke about the importance of growing and eating seasonal vegetables, how what we eat matters and how we need to work in harmony with the land: the same ethos as Yalumba, Joseph Benjamin and John Bourne, cheesemaker.
Cheese making has been in John's family for over 90 years with the pastures on his land being undisturbed. His cows graze in pastures, again in harmony with the land and his cheese is traditionally made using methods passed down through generations. John reiterated the evening's overall message ' butcher, baker and winemaker', all working hand in hand with the land, be it in the northern or southern hemisphere.
Before trying John's cheese came dessert; lemon, polenta, pistachio and olive oil cake with strawberry sorbet. This unusual sounding cake was delicious, so moist with a lemon, nutty flavour, perfectly accompanied by the sorbet and our final Yalumba wine: FSW8b Botrytis Viognier. This sweet wine, produced by allowing Noble Rot, has all the characteristics of the voignier but with a clean syrupy finish, full of honey flavours.
Honey featured in our final dish, Bourne's blue Cheshire cheese with caramelised walnuts and Joe and Ben's own honey. A perfect end to an amazing night - well almost, just as we were leaving Alex from Negociants surprised me with a beautiful Yalumba apron. The waitresses had worn them all evening, much to my admiration and I had questioned if they were available via Twitter - sucj a surprise and seriously appreciated.
The entire evening was amazing; Joe and Ben's restaurant, Yalumba's wine with Louisa's expert knowledge, Matt's vegetables and John's cheese -
as I said before 'thank you' does not say enough.
Staying over in Chester was also a joy, we booked in at The Pied Bull a few doors away from Joseph Benjamin. A pub that dates from 1155 with a staircase that was quite a challenge with it's uneven treads and depth, but not surprisingly so as it dates back to 1533. Our standard room was lovely, with an amazing en-suite shower room. The pub also has a four-poster room, deluxe rooms and a penthouse. Our light lunch and breakfast we delicious, as was their beer - the Pied Bull is also a microbrewery.
A place we will be staying at again as Chester is a beautiful city, the accommodation lovely and we intend to visit Joseph Benjamin to enjoy Ben's hospitality and Joe's amazing food. .
|Joseph Benjamin through Chester's Northgate|
|The Pied Bull|