Monthly Archives: September 2009

Château Yquem 2009 – a work in progress.

What a fascinating time to visit Château Yquem, Pierre Lurton gave us the low-down over lunch today on the 2009. Of course wearing his 2 hats; Cheval Blanc and Yquem it was a great insight into the peculiarities of the vintage – every year has them.

2009 has been exceptionally dry and hot here. What a change from 07 and 08 where is was the fabulous Indian summer in September and October that saved the harvest. This year it is the late rains that are saving the day – just to keep us on our toes.

For the reds it was almost too hot and dry, the reds love the sun for the ripeness but lack of water can shut down the maturing process of the skins so sugar can increase but at the expense of polyphenolic complexity. This could mean that there will be alcohol and extractable tannins but a lack of complexity.

So the rains at the end of August and then again 10 days ago saved the day for the reds, allowing the complex maturing of the skins to kick in. The harvest saved by the rain – that makes a change!

At Yquem they have already harvested a first selection. They have picked some ripe grapes that have been affected by passerillage i.e. a drying of the grapes by the action of heat and wind without the effect of Botrytis. The team at Yquem, under the guidance of Sandrine Garbay, decided on a first selection of these grapes over a week ago in the interest of keeping the particular style of these grapes especially their higher acidity which can add freshness and complexity if used in the final blend.

The real deal will begin any minute now; tomorrow or Friday – watch this space. And given the degree of ripeness and the fantastic development of Botrytis since the rain a few passages should do it. He has his 200 pickers on standby. I’ll go back to morrow and check out if they have started.

Discover the wines of Bordeaux with me in Dublin

On the Monday 12th October I will be speaking in Dublin at Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street, the theme being ‘An Introduction to the region’ a tutored tasting of 5 Bordeaux wines from from 7.30 – 8.30pm will be followed by a four course dinner with more Bordeaux wines.

Come and join me. Cost is €65 per head all inclusive

To book contact Barbara or Sarah at Fallon & Byrne :01 472 10 11 or mobile: 086 399 11 26 or by email:

I look forward to seeing you there.

Cooking in the Cotswolds.

The Daylesford Organic Farmshop is known for its fine food locally sourced that also makes its way to the London shop and restaurant in Notting Hill.
As of this month you can learn how to prepare the food served at both their country and town restaurants with.
Beware however before starting the raw food version if you have a sensitive stomach!

San Francisco’s Foodie Heaven.

San Francisco’s Ferry Building is a foodie heaven, as well as the daily farmers market outside this historic building on the water front, inside is a collection of up-market food outlets, restaurants, cafés, specialist stores and organic markets. Spoilt for choice and sadly limited by time I only managed to sample the ’s take on Vietnamese cuisine and the great coffee at the Blue Bottle Coffee Company, Oh and breakfast enjoying my last rays of Californian sunshine in the shadow of the Bay Bridge at Cane Rosso this morning.
Check out the programme of events organized by The Centre of Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture . Coming up; Harvest festival from 23rd-25th October and Sunday supper on 4th October.

The Sustainable Food Market on the Ferry Building Plaza

A DD in Californian wine country.

The drinking and driving laws are being strongly enforced in California and there is a big US- wide advertising campaign to encourage designated drivers with special offers at certain restaurants for the DD;
Another option is to take a taxi. The wine country has not been strong on taxis, the only option being a limo. However The Healdsburg Cab Company has changed all that with their fun cars that specialize in winery pick-ups after tastings in and around the town. A much more affordable option than a limo.
Tel : 707 433 7099

Shopping in Healdsburg.

The wine may be labeled as Sonoma but Healdsburg is the shopping and foodie centre of Sonoma County, situated at the heart of 3 of the most prestigious wine valleys : Russian River, Alexander Valley and Chalk Hill. A great place to spend my day off between tasting classes. The Plaza has a selection of restaurants, cafés and boutiques that puts Saint Emilion to shame and free Wifi access for all so I can sit in the park and blog away! The Plaza also has the clothes store where all the lady wine makers tell me they shop : Susan Graf on the Plaza. and Susan also is part of the wine community with her small Adorada vinyard.

Susan Graf in front of her eponymous store on the Plaza, Healdsburg

Italian Cuisine in the Alexander Valley

Quite a surprise to find an Italian cooking school in the hills overlooking the Alexander Valley.
Andrea Mugnaini has cooking schools in Tuscany and here in Alexander Valley specialised in using the wood burning ovens she imports from Italy. She invited us into her home for a celebratory dinner all cooked in the ovens – and not just pizza –although they were delicious too. After drinks on the terrace by the pool overlooking the valley we sample, beef, fish and vegetables all cooked to perfection with some of the delicious Pinot from the region.

Andrea with her famous wood burning oven

Sip and Stretch

What do you get when you combine your two passions in life – Yoga and wine? Sip and stretch. Yogini Suzi Potts has created the concept of combining wine tasting and yoga poses that she has christened Sip and Stretch. Taking place in different wineries in Northern California, each session matches the poses to the wines – bends and bubbles for example and the tree pose has be renamed as the vine pose !!
All that deep breathing over the glass at the end of the sticky mat will help to identify the aromatic complexity of each wine. Only in California !

Suzi Potts in vine pose !

Wining and dining in Chicago

After a hard day’s wine tutoring what better way to relax than wining and dining high above Chicago’s city centre. NoMI is a fusion restaurant with a window on the city, specializes in food and wine pairing and offers ‘Cellar Notes’ tastings with wine makers every Tuesday and regular wine dinners designed by executive chef Christophe David. More details on