Chatting with Sir George Fistonich of Villa Maria Estates

Sep 19, 12 Chatting with Sir George Fistonich of Villa Maria Estates

Posted by in New Zealand wine

“I’ve never met a wineblogger before, it was very nice talking to you…” That’s what Sir George Fistonich told me after we had spent about 45 minutes chatting about his Villa Maria Estates’ past, present and future. I was amused that he was amused to meet a “wineblogger”. Sir George was in town last night as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of Villa Maria Estates and that’s how I found myself chatting with him.  From the humble beginnings of leased land, George and his wife, Jane, have built Villa Maria into a well respected (and well awarded) wine brand.  I had the opportunity to chat with George and learn a bit  more about Villa Maria before a grand tasting and dinner at the BAFTA in Piccadilly. After initially talking about the history of Villa Maria, I asked George what he thought set Villa Maria apart from the rest and how they had managed to be so successful in a crowded field of brands. “Innovation and quality” was George’s reply. Villa Maria is one of the top 5 family owned wineries in New Zealand and George believes that the fact that it’s still family owned allows them to do things that wineries with shareholders just can’t do. For example, in 2001 when Villa Maria switched to all screwcaps, people thought that they were crazy, but they could do it because they had no one to answer to but themselves. As we now know, George was right in his decision to go all screwcap. Villa Maria also has the luxury of being able to do experimental plantings. They have a few hectares where they can plant basically whatever they want and see what happens. They are currently experimenting with verdelho, vermentino and arneis. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. George had brought along a sample of the arneis which we tried at the tasting and I have to say it was very good. It’s great to see a lesser known variety...

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Bespoke Cheese & Wine tasting at the Andaz Liverpool St

Oct 31, 11 Bespoke Cheese & Wine tasting at the Andaz Liverpool St

Posted by in Food and Wine, Hotels and Spas

Hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of Liverpool St is the Andaz Hotel. I love the fact that the hotel is situated on the original site of the Bethlehem or “Bedlam”, as it became known in the local vernacular, mental institution. The hospital is long gone but it does make me wonder what sort of crazy goings-on could be playing out behind the stone facade even today. The Andaz was opened in 2007 and the hotel’s mission is to deliver a unique experience incorporating the local personality into the hotel. As the Andaz is located very near the tragically hip and trendy Shoreditch, the place has some rather interesting art work and decor. Having said all that though, I do love walking into the desk-less lobby. The hotel has 5 restaurants and bars from which to choose from and I was invited to try out the Bespoke wine and cheese tastings that they do in the 1901 restaurant. The restaurant also offers cheese and canape or cheese and small plates matchings with wine. First off the space is dominated by a long bar that runs down the centre of the room. It ends with tasting table at the end, surrounded by the wine racks and cheese cupboards. There are over 700 wines to choose from and the best of British cheeses for your bespoke experience. I asked the sommelier, Joris Beijn, to pick out the of wines to go with my British cheeses and a few small plates that we also ordered. Joris chose some fantastic wines to pair, an arneis from Piedmont, by Michele Chiarlo was a surprising start but I do enjoy those savoury Italian whites and this cracker of a wine ticked all the boxes, green apple, grapefruit, hints of lemon pie on an elegant body of wine. Great match with the harder cheeses. There was also a 2000 1er Cru St Aubin on offer as well as the 2006 Rubicon from Meerlust which was great with the very juicy and...

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