Dining with the wines of NZ winery Jackson Estate

Oct 20, 13 Dining with the wines of NZ winery Jackson Estate

Posted by in Food and Wine, New Zealand wine

A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner hosted by John Stichbury, owner of New Zealand winery, Jackson Estate and his head winemaker, Matt Patterson-Green. I remember sampling a few of Jackson Estates wines in the past and quite liked them so I was looking forward to the dinner and tasting. I like New Zealand sauvignon blanc although you have to be careful what you buy because there is a lot of boring sauvignon blanc cluttering the shelves. John told me over dinner that  Jackson Estate have always prided themselves on quality and have never compromised this idea. In his opinion, there are “too many wines that are boring as hell!” I couldn’t agree more. To back up his claims, we had a tasting of Jackson Estate wines with dinner at Sushino. A Brazilian/Japanese fusion restaurant, the food was an interesting combination of flavours. My favourite wines of the evening were the Gum Emperor 2010 pinot noir and the Grey Ghost Sauvignon Blanc 2011. John described The Grey Ghost as a  “winemakers wine,” putting s.blanc into oak is always slightly controversial and with the Grey Ghost, it goes into French oak barrels (though they are 6 years old) for an extended amount of time. The result is a smoky, flinty almost steely wine with a lot of complexity and texture. They also make this wine using the wild ferment which might also go towards giving it that elusive quality which gives it it’s name. The Gum Emperor is a single vineyard wine and his named after the stand of Gum Emperor trees that act as a wind break for the vines. An intense and brooding pinot, it has a lush body, silky smooth with medicinal, herbal notes on the nose and a striking minerality on the palate. Excellent, ripe fruit followed by balancing acidity make this a delicious wine on it’s own or paired with food. We were served Miso glazed lamb chops which were perfectly cooked and excellent with the wine. A very...

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Mead cocktails to beat the heat at Northbank

Jul 22, 13 Mead cocktails to beat the heat at Northbank

Posted by in All, Food and Wine

Now that the sun has finally agreed to cooperate, it’s time to find some cool and refreshing drinks to deal with the mini-heatwave we’re having at the moment. I usually turn to a nice Provencal rose or zesty white but I was recently introduced mead cocktails. Mead is usually associated with Merry Olde England and to be frank, I didn’t really know what it was but after a bit of research (ok, I googled it), I discovered that it’s a honey flavoured wine that was a staple during the Middle Ages and produced by English monks. That is, until Henry VIII outlawed the monasteries and the production of mead fell out of favour. Happily, the folks at the Cornish Mead Co. revived production 50 years ago and their mead is now featured in Northbank restaurant’s specialty mead cocktails. Northbank is an “modern British restaurant” right on the Thames almost directly under the Millennium Bridge with fabulous views of the Thames and the Shard as well as a deck to enjoy the sunshine. I tried all 4 mead cocktails and they were refreshing and tasty. I was expecting sticky sweet cocktails but the mead cocktails were none of the above. Mead on its own can be quite sweet and syrupy but with the addition of gin (Chamberry Mead),vodka (Honey Mead Rise),  cachaca ( Elderberry Caiperina) or frangelico (Cherryelico) delish. The restaurant has a seasonal menu available for both the bar and restaurant. As it was quite a hot day, I tried the fish dishes, whitebait, Thai fishcakes and skate wing. Skate can be difficult to cook properly but Northbank’s was tasty although a bit heavy with the accompanying butter sauce. For a change of pace in this hot summer weather, try a mead cocktail at Northbank. I really enjoyed them. NORTHBANK Millennium Bridge One Paul’s Walk London EC4V 3QH         Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Tozi, cicchetti in London

Jul 09, 13 Tozi, cicchetti in London

Posted by in Food and Wine, Italy

Prosecco may be very popular but as my Italian friend, Giordi, always tells me –  it’s too sweet here in England. So when we sat down at the new Italian restaurant Tozi and were presented with 2 glasses of prosecco, I wondered what she would say. After taking a sip,she pronounced it as it should be, dry and refreshing. I later found out that it was also served from a tap, as they do in Italy. It was the first of many pleasant surprises. Tozi features small dishes (cicchetti) which are meant to be shared amongst the table. The menu is divided into Wood Oven, Fritti, Counter & Salad, Pasta & Soup, Grill, Baked, Sides and Desserts. We tried as many as we could but the menu is extensive. The wine list is as expected, Italian but reasonably priced with some interesting choices. From the Wood Oven we had a spianata, aubergine, smoked pancetta and ricotta topped bread. It was very tasty and the bread was perfectly cooked and full of flavour. The wine list is all Italian and I asked the manager to pick a wine for us. He chose a Sardinian vermentino, Villa Solais Santadi 2011 which was full bodied with medium acidity and full of ripe peach and stone fruit notes. The fritto misto was not oily but crisp and juicy at the same time, eaten with a splash of fresh lemon juice – perfect. The aubergine parmigiana had just the right amount of passata and cheese to complement the aubergine. Giordi commented that often this dish gets drowned in tomato sauce but Tozi’s was perfectly balanced. We had another Sardinian wine, this time a red, Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, Sella & Mosca 2006. Cannonau is the Italian version of grenache and was a good match to the aubergine dish with just the right amount of fruit and acidity but excellent tannin structure. The pastas were delicate and flavourful, the buffalo ricotta ravioli with black truffle was light and very tasty despite...

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Hutong London opens

Jun 30, 13 Hutong London opens

Posted by in All, Food and Wine, London

Last week, I was invited to Hutong London up on the 33rd floor of the Shard for (a preview of the) spectacular view and dinner. I was a bit skeptical as the big draw seemed to be the view ( and usually, if the view is good, the food is not) but really, go for the food and  THEN the view – although the view is pretty damn spectacular… Dining at Hutong is definitely an experience starting with the gracious welcome that greets you as you come off the elevators. Service is unassuming, genuine and discreet, everything you want from a  restaurant. Once we picked up ours jaws off the floor from admiring the views, we headed to the bar which sits in a corner overlooking the Thames and Tower Bridge with Canary Wharf in the distance. even though we weren’t at the top of the Shard, in a way the views are better because you can actually distinguish what you’re looking at rather then just a panorama at your feet. We started off with a visit to the bar where we had a corner table smack dab against that glass wall. There we had a few of their signature cocktails before heading to our table. If you are afraid of heights, I would suggest requesting an inner table, as the tables are literally against the glass wall.  The upside though is that due to the Shard’s angular design, it never really feels like your standing or sitting on the edge of a precipice. I loved all the glass walls and the amazing views at every turn. Hutong is the second offering from ex-banker turned restauranteur, Alan Yeo.  Hutong specializes in sophisticated Northern Chinese cuisine but doesn’t ignore the traditional favourites, such as Pekin Duck or a plate of scrumptious dumplings. Our server told us that they have a chef whose only job is to make the pastry for the dumplings and pancakes. They were some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had with Pekin duck, soft...

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Tikves, Macedonian wine coming to London

Jun 03, 13 Tikves, Macedonian wine coming to London

Posted by in All, Food and Wine

Last week Tikves Winery held a dinner in Central London to introduce Macedonian wines to the UK market. It was an interesting tasting to be sure as I wasn’t really clear on WHERE Macedonia was but I was interested to see what they were offering. It turns out that Tikves is one of the oldest wineries in the Balkans (that’s where Macedonia is) and they’ve been making wine sine 1885. They are also one of the biggest, making over 35 million bottles as  year. Their primary market is the US but they are now looking to grow their UK market. They grow indigenous grapes (temjanika, rkaciteli, smederevka, stanosina, vranac, plavec krastosija) along with international varieties –  chardonnay, grenache blanc, sauvignon blanc and riesling. We tried a range of both their whites and reds at a tasting before sitting down to dinner at Baku in Knightsbridge. In general, I found the wines to be well made, the wines made from  indigenous varieties being the most interesting. Rkaciteli Special Selection 2012 (white) was aromatic with slight honeyed notes, having  good acidity and balance. I could easily imagine this to be an excellent summer quaffer. One of the international blends I did like was the Barovo White 2012 (grenache blanc and chardonnay) a juicy but dry wine with plentiful citric notes. However, it was on the high end of the scale pricewise and I think I would wait for the price to come down on that one. The reds were interesting but again, the standout of the bunch was the single variety, Vranac Special Selection 2012. Fruity, easy drinking and very approachably soft, this wine was a winner. The Belavoda Red 2011 (50% vranac and 50% plavec) was enjoyable with our main of smoked Barbary duck breast, washing down the flavoursome duck easily but again the price was a bit steep as far as value for money is concerned. As I was sitting next to the wine maker, Marko Stojakovic, during dinner I asked him where he...

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A visit to Thai winery, Granmonte Family Vineyard

May 31, 13 A visit to Thai winery, Granmonte Family Vineyard

Posted by in Asia, Food and Wine, Travel

Earlier this year I escaped to the sunny beaches of Thailand but on my way to the beach I stopped off to visit Thai winery, Granmonte Family Vineyard. I know you may be surprised to hear that wine is produced in Thailand. I must admit when I first heard of it, I was extremely sceptical, especially as I had tried Thai wines in London and not been very impressed. But a few years ago I had met Nikki Lohitnavy, the young winemaker of Granmonte, in Bordeaux and tried her wines, very good indeed. So it was with much anticipation that I headed to Granmonte after touching down in BKK. Granmonte is a boutique, family owned vineyard that was started by Nikki’s father, Visooth, in the late 1990’s. The vineyard is located in the Asoke Valley which is located adjacent to the Thai national park of Khao Yai, roughly 175 kms northeast of Bangkok. One interesting fact I discovered while there is that the Asoke Valley was designated by the King of Thailand as vineyard country to combat poppy growing (and opium production) back in the mid-20th century. The valley has a unique microclimate, situated at 350 metres, it is cool enough year round to grow grapes. Although this being Thailand, it’s still quite warm. The Khao Yai park is also one of the few places in Thailand where wild tigers can be found and elephants as well. Nikki related a story where the local elephants were eyeing her vines and the ripe grapes on them. Luckily, they weren’t able to cross the road, otherwise it would have been bye-bye that year’s harvest. Nikki joined as the family winemaker in 2009 shortly after finishing her wine education at the University of Adelaide. She has done several harvests around the world and has brought all that knowledge to her family vineyard. Granmonte specialize in chenin blanc and syrah but Nikki has plenty of other experimental plots going on their 15 hectares. While I was there, we...

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