Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Feb 08, 15 Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Posted by in All

I was on Day 2 of my natural, biodynamic and organic wine tasting trip in the Loire and today we were in the town of Saumur for the 16th annual Dive Bouteille tasting. The Dive tasting is the oldest and most important natural wine tasting around. It was originally started by producers who wanted to showcase their wines outside of the annual Loire Valley Salon de Vins and has expanded to include wines from all over the world. The tasting took place under the hills of Saumur in the caves of Loire valley producer Ackerman wines. Ackerman are not organic, natural or biodynamic but the caves are amazing, with very high ceilings. The troglodyte caves are carved out of the tuffeau rock of the region and are used for art installations and exhibitions. The caves are strategically lit with coloured lights all of which make it a funky venue for a natural wine tasting. The lions share of producers were from France but there were also producers from Italy, Spain, Georgia, Serbia, The US, Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and even sake from Japan. The Loire Valley was well represented but some of the most intriguing producers were from the US and Australia. Granted, they were not heavily represented but the few that I found had provocative wines. La Garagista’s wine maker Deirdre Heekin aims to put Vermont wines on the map. Deirdre is definitely of the no-intervention school of winemaking. Her vines are organic and she uses hybrids that are bred to thrive in cold climates. Cybele, La Crescent, Marquette and Frontenac  are the main grapes she uses. I first tried her sparkling wine made from the Cybele grape. It was relatively dry with good acidity. I didn’t know what to expect so this made for a pleasant surprise. I next tried the Frontenac. I was a bit dubious about red wine from such a cool climate but the Frontenac  had weight and body to it was well as a black fruit profile. Deirdre and her...

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Hahn Estates Wine Country Tapas in London

Nov 15, 12 Hahn Estates Wine Country Tapas in London

Posted by in California, Food and Wine, restaurants

Although I’m from California, I’m really not all that familiar with the wines of California. Of course, I know your Mondavis and Fetzers but as so many of California’s wines don’t ever make it to the UK’s shores, I am a bit in the dark as to what they are doing over there. So, I was quite pleased to be invited along to Automat American Brasserie in Mayfair for what was billed as a “Wine Country Tapas” tasting with Hahn Estates wines. Wine Country Tapas? Well, why not. I’m a bit tired of Spanish tapas anyway. Turns out the idea behind the tapas is to showcase the local, fresh and sustainable produce of the region and pair it with Hahn Estates wines. They have an Estate Chef, Brian Overhauser, who has created dishes specifically for this culinary program. As we were in London, we got a taster of California cuisine, including seared scallops, wild mushroom risotto and, one of the most interesting dishes – smoked egg yolk and autumn vegetable salad. The winery sells these wine country tapas on site, along with a glass of wine, so that guests can see how food and wine matching works for themselves. But what about the wines? Hahn Estates is located in the Santa Lucia Mountains on the Central Coast of California. If you’re familiar with CA, it’s close to Monterey. One of the main draws for Hahn Estates was the fact that the Santa Lucia range is very much affected by the “Blue Grand Canyon” – a very deep canyon (more than 2 miles deep) just off the coast, the cold water creating a cold wind that is funneled into the appellation. This wind has a huge affect on the grapes, helping to extend the hang time and development of the grapes. The soil of the Santa Lucia Mtn range also had very good drainage which gives added depth and complexity to the pinot noir, especially, that is grown there. Bill Leigon, President of the company, and...

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The Ultimate Box Collection from Moet & Hennessey, winemakers video

Why were 3 winemakers from far flung parts of the globe all in Central London at the same time? They were here for the launch of Moet Hennessey’s Ultimate Collection Box, a collection of 6 iconic wines from MH’s wine portfolio. Although there are 6 different wines, it is hard enough to get 3 winemakers together at one time, let alone all 6 so I felt lucky to be chatting with Manuel Loazada of Numanthia, Nicholas Audebert of Cheval des Andes and Ian Morden of Cloudy Bay, all 3, Chief Winemakers for their respective estates. The Ultimate Box Collection was designed by Argentine artist Pablo Reinoso and is a handsome, handcrafted wooden jewel box designed to showcase the flagship bottles from each of the wineries from its Estates and Wines portfolio which are: Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko, Cheval des Andes, Newton’s The Puzzle, Numanthia’s Termanthia and Terrazas de los Andes’ Afincado Malbec. The box was created in part to respond to the growing consumer demand for Super Premium New World wines. Why would Moet Hennessey put together such a box and launch it now, I asked Manuel. Well, now is as good as time as any, he replied. And besides, if they waited to get all 6 winemakers together in one place, it would never happen. I had a brief chat with the 3 to see what they thought of the whole Collection concept… The Ultimate Collection Box is available from Harrod’s and thechampagnecompany.com at a suggested retail price of £500 so start saving those pennies… Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Good grub at the Fox and Anchor (& the wines are pretty good, too)

How can you dislike a wine list that divides it’s wines into amusing descriptions like these? I came across that saucily titled winelist at the Fox and Anchor, a pub in Smithfields that wants to be more then a boozer but less then one of those chi-chi gastropubs that seem to have taken over the capitol. As Scott Malugh, general manager, explained to me, he wants to the Fox to go back to it’s roots as a place where you can go and relax with a pint. Where, cliched as it may be, “everyone knows your name” But Scott not only wants to make his pub friendly and personable, he also wants to offer patrons, both regulars and passersby, good British food and not charge an arm and a leg for the pleasure of dining on local produce. The pub is divided in two with the front half having a traditional bar on one side and tables lining the wall opposite. It’s only when you pass by all that into the second room that it you walk into a small dining room surrounded by cozy dining “snugs”. Semi private small rooms that seat from 2 – 4 people, perfect if you want to have your own little party while still being able to look out the doorway and see all the action. While I was waiting for my dining companion, Ms Fundamentals to arrive, Scott suggested I try one of their real ales. The Fox has an extensive list of real ales both on tap and in bottle, mostly from the UK but I did spy Sam Adams from the good ol’ US of A on there. I wanted something different so asked Scott to surprise me. Chalky’s Bark, bottled ale from Sharp’s was duly poured. An ale with real ginger added for a bit of a kick. Not exactly your traditional English ale but it was tasty and I could certainly get used to drinking it. Not too heavy either, I sometimes find...

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Mint Leaf Lounge – winelist and a Conundrum

“I’ve seen it all, from Blue Nun to now.” So said my charming host, Gerrard McCann, GM of the Mint Leaf Lounge, situated smack in the heart of the City, referring to the changing wine tastes of British consumers. Gerrard had invited me to check out Mint Leaf’s wine list and do a bit of food and wine matching. Gerrard’s philosophy regarding wine lists is to try and list wines that you won’t find on any other wine lists. To that end, Mint Leaf only sources their wines from small boutique distributors and look for rare and unusual wines to offer on the wine list. The list is divided (mostly) not by region or country but by the type or characteristics of  the wine. Hence, they have headings such as “crisp, refreshing & fruity”, “full & creamy”, “fine wines & rarieties” (for the reds), “soft & fruity”, “round & spicy” and “curiosities & fine wines” (for the whites) as well as the more traditional Bordeaux and Burgundy, to help their guests choose the appropriate wine to enjoy with their meal. I found an eclectic mix of wines on the list: Duck Pond Chardonnay from Washington state, Petit Mansang sec from France to a Fiano Mandrossa and everything in between. There was a smattering of Sancerres and Pouilly Fumes as well as white Burgundies to round out the list. A fine balance between Old World and New World, not too many choices but not too few, there seemed to be something for everyone. The reds were the same, with some fabulous choices, Amalaya Malbec by Colome, one you don’t see often on lists but such a winner, Joseph Phelps ’06 Le Mistral and a not too extensive collection of Grand Cru and 1er Cru classe Bordeaux. I could go on and on but if you really want to know more, have a look at the list here. Since we were in the City, they also have an extensive selection of champagnes, from Jacquart to Krug...

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