Monthly Archives: September 2012

Anything but Bordeaux

I am just coming to the end of a whirlwind tour of the US – representing Bordeaux and Medoc wines to the great and good of the distribution and education wine world here. Thank-you to everyone who has been kind enough to receive me, listen to me and taste with me over the past few weeks.

We have tasted about 200 Bordeaux wines and that’s just in class. However when school is out I have been doing my best to taste other things and mainly wines from the regions I have been visiting – which hasn’t been a hardship as everyone is more than keen to show what their region produces, or serves.
It started in the Finger Lakes with some delicious Rieslings, then of course some Napa whites and reds, some spectacular Burgundies – I know they are not local but my American wine enthusiasts friends in New York always seem keen to give me a Bordeaux break when they are entertaining! Not to mention some local tequila in the odd margarita in Texas (of course) and even a Klein Constantia in a great pairing with fish at The Sand Bar Fish House in Saint Antonio.
In my obligatory stay in Healdsburg some lovely Pinots from Russian River as well as discovering the beautiful vineyard Wattle Creek Winery  who have a great tasting room in San Francisco  in case you don’t have time to make it up to Wine country .
Altogether is has been quite a line up.

I had already had a preview of Washington Wines in upstate New York, having been treated to the Walla Walla wines of Gramercy Cellars
(and I thought with a name like that they had to be from Australia!)
When visiting Washington a range of wines particularly caught my attention. I taught class at the South Seattle Community College, home to the North West Wine Academy. The academy was created in 2004 to teach wine making and appreciation to young people starting out on a career in the wine industry.

Just in case you thought you had come to the wrong class 

Still sharing a facility with the welding department (I almost had to wear a helmet to teach class) not only do they teach wine they make it, the students practice what they are taught. From production through marketing to wine and food matching all the students pull together to make their own range of wines. After studying here many go on to learn more about wine at the Wine Science centre at Washington state University, others become wine makers and the school shop proudly displays and sells some of the wines now made by former students.

Washing state is interestingly the USA’s largest state for wine production and the first vines where planted here in 1825 and the industry which currently has over 700 wineries produces $3 billion of wines. Not Microsoft exactly but still a force to be reckoned with.

Some of the previous students wines in front of plans                               for the new wine making and teaching facility.

The success of the wine department is shown by the fact they are relocating and hope to leave the welders next year to move into a purpose built facility of their own. This is however an expensive project so please feel free to support them; buy some of their wine to help finance the project.

Getting slaughtered.

After a very cool, wet summer England was delightful under the early autumn sunshine this week, and what better area to enjoy this weather than the glorious Cotswolds.

Fitting snugly in lovely valleys between Birmingham and Bristol this bucolic corner of England is spread between Gloucestshire and Oxfordshire in some of the most picturesque villages of  England, famous for their warm ochre stone houses.

The names of these villages only add to the fun. Our first night was in the Slaughters – Upper Slaughter to be precise, in the Lords of the Manor. A rambling country house whose rooms are spread throughout several buildings and where guests find each other at the central bar. The chef creates a delicious, although slightly busy, interpretation of the produce from the local farms. We loved the fact that the young sommelier’s was called M. Guiruad – he should go far with a name like that!

The discreet atmosphere was a welcome respite after pressing our noses against so many antiques and souvenir shops in Moreton in the Marsh. However the Cotswolds is not only dedicated to history and kitch souvenirs, for a more upmarket and ecologically correct approach visit Daylesford farm shop. Started as a ‘outlet’ for the organic produce of Lady Bampfords 2000 acre sustainbly farmed estate, the shop has now expanded into a lifestyle destination with satellites in London’s trendy Notting Hill and even this summer a pop-up on the rooftop of Selfridges.

The Restaurant at Daylesford.

At Daylesford they mainly sell products from their own farm, bakery and dairy and of course wines from their organic vineyard Chateau de Leloube  in Provence. You can either shop to take away or sample at their restaurant, you can also sign up at the cooking school and learn either a modern or a traditional twist to preparing the local cuisine after a farm tour to see where it all comes from. As if that was not enough call into the Barn Spa and yoga studio or combine it all with an Ayurvedic day of healthy eating yoga and massage. They know you’ll need a lie down after all that, so you can stay in one of the farm cottages – forgotten a change of clothes – they can solve that too with their Bamford collection of sustainable zen clothing and toiletries – a one stop shop.

Fancy something closer to a traditional english country pub? Then try the nearby Greedy Goose which lives up to its name matching the best of  tradition with modern take on local ingredients.

On further South across the rolling hills and secret valley to the very smart town of Tetbury, famous for its royal neighbors at Highgrove  where you can visit the gardens by ‘royal’ appointment or shop at the Duchy shop in town. Calcote Manor  is a few miles down the road, a charming interpretation of local style, discreet and elegant with a choice of two restaurants and a terrific spa cafe where the centre piece is a lovely jacuzzi to soak in next to an open wood fire.

The Spa at Calcote

Another perfect spot to explore this discreet royal shire and no need to get slaughtered.