Saturday, January 30, 2010

Trip To England - Part 2 The South

If you are reading this...not having read Part 1...then scroll down. Of course...if you buy the daily paper and automatically go to the back page..then there is no hope for you (or me either...I always go to the BACK page first!...only crime, problems, politics and religion over the first half of papers nowadays)

Monday morning I set off from the North...and the 4 hour journey of mostly motorway comprised of 3 hours with roadworks....but the last hour was more fluent.
I stayed with friends Mike and Gil.....and on Monday evening there was a rendezvous at a nearby pub with all the old gang. Mike, knowing my love for wine...had gotten a copy of the wine-list. It did not make for good reading...again the old vintages, no property details, etc...but there again...they sell BEER to most visitors...although if you offer any drink..surely you should try to be more professional...but I was just glad to get to see the old faces. It had been 7 years since my last visit....
Bristol is where I spent my bachelor days.....after leaving home at 20. I was part of the 'swinging' 60's and the 'sexy' 70's.
Wonderful times.....parties...singing live in as well as the day job. How the hell did I have the energy?
The photos are of the 2 places I used to live in...still standing...if those 'bedroom' walls could talk!
I certainly never drank was it. A bottle of Blue Nun was about all that passed my lips.

Tuesday...I drove around...checking old haunts. BOUGHT SOME WINE.
Tuesday evening was spent at 'home'..Gil & I watched soccer (Manchester City) on TV...I didn't touch a drop of anything...

Wednesday...again, I drove around. BOUGHT SOME WINE.
Played Snooker with an old friend Peter Small.
In the evening I met up with a friend John Jackson... who I had played music the early 70's...on Saturdays and Sundays...sat in the pubs...playing for free beer....happy days.
We went to a restaurant called 'Bordeaux Quay'...down by the harbour in Bristol. It had been recommended for it's wine-list in a recent Decanter magazine.

I had been there a day before to check the list (as one does.....well...this one does!)..and had seen a Grüner Veltliner from Nikolaihof....and also a Pinot Noir from New Zealand. On arriving...when asked if we wanted the wine-list...I just reeled off the 2 wines. The waiter returned, sheepishly, to say that the GV was no longer available. Grrrrrrr!...a quick puruse...and a substitute was found.
Albariño Viña del Alba 2006
Riax Baixas, Spain
I wanted something spicy but delicate...and this fitted the bill. Peaches and apples...touch of citrus...but with a soft layer to please all the food.
Points 15.5

Hunters Pinot Noir 2007
Marlborough, New Zealand
This week my 'substitute' for German Pinot was going to be 'down under'..New Zealand's version.. This was nicely priced in the restaurant...actually...I was a little worried it would be thin. Not the case....cherry fruit...earthy but soft on the palate...medium-bodied....I even had some liquorice...enjoyable.
Points 15.5

The food was good...but to be honest...we could have eaten the conversation with John & Jane was infectious. We memorized..laughed..and took a taxi end a fine evening.

Thursday...played cards...Piquet... with Gil in the morning...later...BOUGHT SOME WINE.
Robin & Isabel...who I had met with on Monday....called and ask to take me out to dinner. I asked if I should take a bottle with me...'no..we have booked a wine-bar' reputation is ahead of me. They collected me and we drove to Clevedon..about a 20 minute drive from Bristol.
'The Cellar' is a Bistro, wine bar and off-licence all in one and was originally a chemist’s and still has the original counter, and drawers with legends such as Poison, Opium and Wax writ large. The menu is simple, with continental tapas, salads, jacket potatoes and pastas and a 100 different wines from around the world. The list of (mainly locally sourced) beers and ciders is no less impressive, with over 100 to choose from.
There are the usual tables and chairs...but also a couple of couches. Very attractive and inviting..rather like a living-room with the wine cellar incorporated. The wines were spread could buy and take...or choose and pay the corkage if you drank there. A great idea. Robin said to choose the wines....and I held back...but nevertheless we had two pleasant wines. We kept choosing Tapas....and a surprise evening ended with laughter and memories.
Tinpot Hut Pinot Noir 2008
Marlborough, New Zealand
Tinpot Hut is a new venture with winemaker Fiona Turner. She has spotted the potential of a new vineyard area called Blind River, which lies south east of Seddon. The site is warm, but very windy and grape growing wouldn't be viable if not for the Blind River Irrigation Scheme which was established in 2003.
Crushed red fruit...cherry & raspberry..dry style...tangy...touch of smoke...juicy...
Points 15

It was perfect with the was the

Nauta Monastrell Crianza 2005
Alicante, Spain
Wine is made from old vine grapes...from the Monstrell variety of Villena in the area of Alicante.
Following the Pinot...this has a little more body and fire...medium tannins and decent fruit...plums...
raisins..and a trace of vanilla. Still room to grow...
Points 15.5

Friday..last day..BOUGHT SOME WINES!!!!
I decided to visit the Wine Merchants 'Reid Wines' in Hallatrow...south of Bristol. They are no longer in the Mill...which looked cold, wet & nothing like I remember. No doubt the upkeep was the problem. I knew Bill Baker well..he sadly passed away two years ago. The company continued with Dadid Boobbyer taking over the reins. I used to buy rare gems for years.....old Burgundies...60's & 70's....some bottled by the legendary Bristol Merchants 'Averys'. The cellar is organized chaos...they still buy from private cellars...I was given a list...but would have been there I said to David...give me 5 Burgundies with age....that might give pleasure still...and not break the bank. We will wait and see if the risk was worth it....

Friday evening I took Mike & Gil to a thank-you...'Culinaria'...which is run by Stephen & Judy Markwick.
They had an upmarket restaurant years ago in the bank area of the city. This is more easy-going as they are semi-retired. We decided on 2 halfs of white..and a red.

Dampt Chablis 2007 should have been more the grower's style is more open. It was not forthcoming with a touch of metal...not we quickly disregarded it and chose a Soave...can't remember the property...but it was soft, round...and didn't hurt....

All I was interested in was the red....

Felton Road Pinot Noir 2007
Central Otago, New Zealand
No disappointment here...lovely forthcoming aroma...class Pinot...spices and brambly...strawberry & cherry...complex.......silky on the palate...oh yes...a good 'last wine of the holiday'.
Points 17.5
The food was OK....I was disappointed in the was rather like a Sunday lunch.....the plate was filled..and a large chunk of cabbage as was enormous..filling a third of the plate. Mike & Gil had more luck..and said it was all delicious.
Back home...early to bed......
Saturday morning early....set off...through the Eurotunnel (litres of water above your head)..and arrived home after a 900 kilometer drive.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trip To England - Part 1 The North

Snow all over Europe....and the English were having difficulty dealing with it on the weekend before I was due to travel. By monday morning things looked brighter everywhere..and I set off from Germany to Rotterdam (450 Kilometres) to take the ship overnight to Hull. Roads clear and music to accompany me..I arrived late onto the ship...and found my cabin...this time slighly larger..and very important..'in a quieter part of the ship'...previous cabins situated where 'lager louts' were also accommodated had meant sleepless things turned out...I slept very little anyway.
UPFRONT: The quality of some photos are not up to the usual high standard...wouldn't you just know it...the flash was not now at the repair shop!

Dinner in Langan's Bistro...the 'better' choice...the other place is full of people heading for the buffet...your plate is removed before you have finished..not for me!!!! I chose the wild mushrooms on brioche which actually tasted better that it looked. The 'green decoration' looked 'half-dead' it returned with the, otherwise, empty plate to the kitchen. It was to return (that's what it looked like)..even more dead...with the Casterbridge steak. This was OK....but that green stuff never passed my lips. The wine list comprised of the usual 'no information' grower vintages. I had asked said to the Philippine staff..I would like to drink a 'good' which the reply came 'everyone takes the Rioja' I did...and glancing around to other tables....either they had all decided this was the best bet...or they had been given the same advice. A 'classic' English dessert had to be tried..'Spotted Dick'
ontefusta Crianza 2005
Rioja, Spain

Mid-weight...earthy fruit....developed when the food arrived...spends a year in oak....

Points 14
It was OK...better with some air..and paired well with the steak.....but all I wanted was half of it. Back to the cabin...thinking an early English time is an hour earlier..and you were warned that the tannoy sytem would wake you next morning at 6am. Turn on the TV I thought...and wow...they were showing on Dutch television the live game of soccer...featuring my team (over 50 years a fan)...Manchester City. What happened..well..I ended up watching the whole game...very exciting..and, of course, couldn't get off to sleep. As threatened...the blaring tannoy aroused me at 6am...quick shower..cup of tea...and down to drive to car off the ship. The roads in England were clear...only crossing the Pennine hills could you see the amount that had fallen. Arrived at my mum's place(near Blackpool) late morning...happy...but 'knackered'. Mum lives in an idyllic village called Thornton.....

I had planned restaurants for the whole trip..and my mum had been 'warned' she would not be cooking. Tuesday evening...and we were off to a Thai..The Mews. It was very cold as we walked there...and it was VERY cold inside. The marble glass tables didn't the iced-water. The food was good...and the place warmed up as people came in....but the funny moment came when the owner collected the soup dishes...'Was it good?'..he asked...I replied positively and then said' but it is very cold in here' which he replied' Yes...I know'..turned away and went to the kitchen. You had to laugh!!! The green and red curries were fine...and I had chosen the only good wine on the list..Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. No vintage on the list..and it arrived with 2009 on the label...which of course should not have down under the vintage is 6 months earlier. Thankfully the style has changed...the gooseberry dominance I remembered had been reduced...this was soft..creamy smooth...with the right balance. Mum loved it....

Next day Mum & I set off to Lytham....a complete opposite to nearby Blackpool...we had a Fish & Chip lunch at the legendary Seniors Restaurant. On the way back home I wanted to check 2 restaurants I wanted to visit. Both I waited until 5 pm and called them both. Answering machines telling me they were both closed. A third choice was called..'Anon'...the owner was on the phone...was he open..don't know..why not...heating not again in 30 minutes. He called back at 6 pm...heating working....table for 2 I said...can I bring a you have a good wine glass...yes..he is the reason I started the restaurant. I had taken with me 3 Spätburgunder(what did you expect me to take?)...and the one for this evening was a recent find. The owner Tim..greeted else in the restaurant...and that was how it stayed. Midweek...and it was cold outside. He is very amusing...and was fascinated by the wine...and impressed after having a taste.
Weingut Michel Achkarren Schlossberg Spätburgunder *** 2007
Baden, Germany

Loads of sweet ripe fruit...earthy strawberry....soft tannins and excellent value at € 19,--
Points 16.75

The food was delicious...the duck strips on a plum compote..and the Lamb in mint was also very good. It was a lovely, cosy evening....and as we waited for our 'taxi'( my niece and god-child had agreed to collect us)..I tried the cheesecake.We said goodbye...thinking we would not see Tim again.

Thursday was a lazy day...and mum said she would prepare some salmon. Off to the supermarket to get a bottle of white. All of them have a large range....but the whites were mostly Australian. I finally chose the Banrock Station Reserva Chardonnay Verdelho 2008
The first glass was pleasant..then the oak set in....I struggled to enjoy anymore...

Friday...and I wanted to take my brother, his wife, my niece..and my mum out to dinner. After much discussion...they asked if we could go to 'Anon'. I was more than a table for 5 was booked. We arrived...the place was full...which I was glad to see. The food was again delicious...I ordered a white from the list..and had the red I had brought along opened to air.

The white was from the Penedes in Spain...
Gran Clot Dels Oms Chardonnay 2008
Penedes, Spain
It was non-oaked...crisp green fruits with a refreshing dry finish ..racy and spicy...and found it's partner in the Aberdeen Haggis
Points 15

The red....
Claus Schneider Pinot Noir trocken Barrique
Weiler Schlipf 2005
Baden, Germany
This was as good as ever....see here

The main course..Goosnargh (the area where they are reared) Duck honey glazed in a rum sauce...from the 'specials of the day'...was a perfect foil.
Mum(85 years old!) & I look happy enough....

Saturday evening and a table for 2 in a restaurant across the square from my mum's place.....stagger home! It is called 'Twelve'..and has been there for many years. Modern..with young bouncy staff....maybe not really fully informed....but not a problem. I took along my third wine....

The food was good...Starter was Foie Gras on toast...followed by herb crusted Lamb.....well presented....and the wine was very good...the third of those that traveled with me.

Weingut Seeger Heidelberger Herrenberg Blauer Spätburgunder 'R' 2007
Baden, Germany
This is Reserva quality...more weight than many...nose leapt from the glass...the vintage makes it already approachable..but there is power age and pain to drink now though...
Points 17.5
Not good...thick weighty wine glasses......should be others on case a wine nut like me arrives....

The cheese plate was nicely presented..

Sunday was what it should be in England...if I remember rightly...a trip to a pub for was cold but sunny...which my mum loves....then a lazy morning I left for Bristol.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Reliable Alzinger

Leo Alzinger Grüner Veltliner
Loibner Steinertal Smaragd 2003
Wachau, Austria
The 2004 vintage had impressed.....and the style of Alzinger is much to my liking. The year before...2003...was like many throughout Europe....could be good...but sometimes a touch too 'hot & heavy'. I'm pleased to report that Alzinger's version reins in that heat...slates and steel...apricot bouquet...honey melon....the 'vintage' weight just nicely integrated with bouncy acidity. I preferred the 2004..but this was, nevertheless, a delight.
Points 16.75
PS...I am off to England for a holiday...snow everywhere...looking forward to visiting my mum...and some old friends from my misspent youth. I will no doubt be taking in some restaurants and drinking fine wines....will try to report from underway....

Brazil Nuts

Our eldest daughter and her hubby returned from 5 weeks!! in Brazil.....she claims they lived mostly from rice & beans. She needed some 'good' the four of us visited one of our regular favourites. I took along the Valduero...and we tried two from the restaurant list. Just have to mention...the choices..were perfect. We are rarely disappointed here...but this was one of those nights where everything just clicked. My starter was cold Foie Gras with marinated Artichokes..followed by Ravioli with white Truffle filling...and some Lamb-Carré in mustard sauce rounded it all off.
Feudi San Gregorio
Fiano di Avellino 2008

Campania, Italy

Apricots, peaches and pears..a real fruit bowl...a balance of spiciness counteracts the ripe fruit...light mineral smell...never a heavyweight..this is good...and a wine that will develop...

Points 16.25

Braida di Giacomo Bologna
Barbera d'A
sti Bricco dell Uccellone 2006 Piemonte, Italy
Complex aromas...cherry and liquorice...a delicious feel of lively acidity...earthy...peppery...a really delicious bottle.

Points 16.5

The Valduero I had asked to be decanted...2 hours of airing. You have to smile when the bottle is sold with the Parker points around it's neck. The points alone worry he tends towards worries were not founded.

Valduero Reserva 2000
Ribera del Duero, Spain

The nine years have reduced any fear of head-banger liquid. Real eye-opener of a nose....elegant oak...vanilla..this reminded me of the Spanish wine berries...smoke and leather. A lovely weight to it....ready...but no way heading downhill. A pleasant surprise...and shows how wonderful Tempranillo mature
Points 17.5

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Rhini, Jaspis & The Empty Case

The title sounds like something from Sherlock Holmes or Monsieur Poirot.

The area of South Baden...near the Swiss Markgräflerland...and the improvement over the last years will surely mean a change regarding Grosses Gewächs. Until then...the likes of Claus Schneider and Hans-Peter Ziereisen continue to produce wines that please.
I have already mentioned how the Rhini 2002 I was not sure if this bottle was ready.
Ziereisen Rhini 2005
Baden, Germany
It was quite open...and shows real promise..a fruit-driven wine..soft chewy tannins and reserved oak...earthy feel...but a day's airing and it had knitted together. Leave it 2 years...

Points 17

Wine & coincidences are regular with me. I was down in the cellar...for no real reason. I also have some old wine books there..and a wooden case was helping to keep them stable. I had presumed..ages ago..that it was for 'decoration'..from the time a few years ago when I had decided to tidy my 'second home'. I knocked on the box...hey...this doesn't sound hollow! Slightly lifting it...this is not empty! In is VERY full. As I forced open the top...there a hamster in it's straw bed..was the label Jaspis. Now...I thought the 2 bottles in my cellar were all I had...but suddenly there were EIGHT!
Multiplication..that's the name of the Game.
Ziereisen Jaspis Pinot Noir
Alte Reben 2004

Baden Germany

Tasting notes from 2006:
We realised as we drank..this needs decanting..after every visit to the glass it had changed, opened and improved. Full, classy Pinot, cranberries; excellent weight, meaty wine but elegant and with perfect balance. This is super now but will improve over the next few years.We stayed with this one until it was empty before returning to the previous wine.

Tasting notes from 2008
Dark berry and cherries..some & deep thick slices of strawberries...fiery & spicy still..lots of power. 100% new oak used..The vines are 45 years old and the wine spends 22 months in oak.....and Hans-Peter Ziereisen's top wines need time. Strange..this bottle seemed to show dryness after an hour..and didn't improve next day. Maybe a one-off...or a closed period before showing well later. We will see...still 2 bottles to go. was this one....well..pretty much as it was 18 months ago....I have the one single bottle to try maybe next year...but I will be nailing down the box for a few years I think.
Points 17