Redwood Creek Wines

I neglected ‘Sleuth a bit during the month of July because I was so busy working summer festivals. Despite the fact that I’ve lived in this country for 4 years, I’d never been to a proper British music festival. I still haven’t been to a proper British music festival but I worked/attended Art in Oxford and the Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall. The Port Eliot Festival is a literary festival situated on the manor grounds of Lord and Lady St. Germans and every year plays host to a variety of authors as well as various musical groups. I loved the location, the festival was spread among the rolling green hills of the estate, as well as in the woods and along the river that runs through the estate. You’re probably wondering, “What the hell does this have to do with wine?” I’m getting to it. I was sent some wine by the California winemaker Redwood Creek and thought it would be great to take along these wines to a nature setting. Redwood Creek like to think of themselves as a wine of the Great Outdoors and what better place to try their wines then in the wilds of Cornwall. My friends and I stopped by the river to taste the Redwood Creek 2008 Merlot. A straightforward merlot, plums and black cherry, a bit of spice and mocha,  lovely round tannins but not jammy or overcooked. It was fresh and relaxed. I was really expecting a gigantic fruit bomb but this wine was nicely balanced. It’s a nice little wine, perfect for picnics or festivals when you really just want a good time wine. We joked that this wine was the good time girl of wines, lots of fun but you wouldn’t exactly take her home to meet your mom. We also tried the 2008 Redwood Creek Cabernet but felt it wasn’t as well balanced as the merlot nor was it anywhere near as satisfying as it. If you’re faced with both in the aisle,...

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Steaky steak steak…Chapters in Blackheath

Some time ago I went along to Chapter One in the wilds of Kent to have a Nyetimber paired dinner. That went down so well that when Chapters of Blackheath contacted me to try out their josper grilled steaks, how could I resist. Chapters is one of only 9 restaurants in the capital to use the famed Josper grill, a combination of grill and bbq. It is manufactured using an insulating material that allows the temperatures to reach up to a 1000 degrees C, phew! This sears the meat and seals in the juices. I wouldn’t want to be that piece of meat. Chapters uses only the best beef: prime USDA, Australian 40 day dry aged Hereford. Black Angus and English hangar steak. Our meal was paired with a variety of wines but my favourite was the Cedre Heritage 2007 Cahors. All too often people think that malbec comes from Argentina, but au contraire mon ami, it’s original home is the southwestern part of France below and to the right of Bordeaux. In France, malbec is also known as cot and has been produced there since the Middle Ages. As a matter of fact, Cahors was making their ‘black wine’ long before the Bordelais and used to export their product through the region of Bordeaux. The 2007 Cedre Heritage was a classic malbec, inky black in colour, there’s no way you could mistake this wine for anything but a malbec. On the nose there was plenty of meaty spicy notes, these wines are brawny and savoury, there is no mistaking this for a fru-fru South American malbec – fruit? Bah! Cahors says to that. While having quite good structure, the wine did display black fruits on the palate but these were mixed in with spicebox and licorice flavours. I found the wine went perfectly with the seared meat, working with the juicy steaks to produce a match made in heaven. I found that with the Josper grilled steaks, I needed a wine that would ...

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Secret Supper Club – FernandeznLeluu

The idea of inviting 30 or so strangers to your house for dinner might seem a bit strange but it’s a phenomena that has been occurring here in London recently. Supper clubs. Or more precisely secret supper clubs have proliferated in the past few years but I had yet to visit one. That was until I got a DM (direct message) on Twitter the other day inviting me to a supper hosted by Fernandez and Leluu. Supper club. Whenever I hear those words, my minds eye instantly conjures up those original Lounge Lizards-Dino, Sammy, & Frankie, red velvet and martinis. There was no red velvet in sight but this was still more than just a regular supper club event, it was an event hosted by none other then Jim Haynes, the original supper club guy. Jim has been hosting weekly Sunday nite dinners at his flat in Paris for over the last 30 years. What started out as a friend wanting to cook has blossomed into a regular event attracting 60 – 100 people per week. You might have even seen the After 8 chocolate mint commercial featuring Jim and his weekly gatherings, click here to view. I was invited to partake of Fernandez n Leluu ‘s supper club. By day, Simon Fernandez is a software designer  and Uyen Luu owns a boutique in Soho but both are avid foodies and once you get them into the kitchen, there’s no stopping them. They’ve been running their supper club for over a year now and have a long waiting list. After swearing I wouldn’t tell anyone where the exact location was, I was given the address, only to become hopelessly lost somewhere in East London. Thank god for the local minicab who gave me a quick lift or I would have never found it. When they mean secret, they’re not kidding! Greeted by one of the Qype chicks, they were sponsoring the event along with After 8, I quickly found my way to the bar....

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Speed dating California wine….

A couple of months ago I went to a tasting, here in London, of what was being marketed as California ‘benchmark’ wines which left me mightly unimpressed. I just knew California vintners could do better having sampled many on my trips home so I was excited when the Sonoma county Vintners invited me to Goodman Steakhouse in Mayfair for a Winemakers Speed-dating event.  First of all Goodman Steakhouse is a quality place and I knew their wine list so I thought if they’re having it at Goodman, the wines gotta be good. And so they were. We weren’t speed dating the winemakers, we were speed dating their wines. 8 hectic minutes to sip, taste, swirl and spit as well as get as much info from the winemakers as possible. 8 minutes might seem like a long time of one to one contact but the first two wines makers I sat down with, we had barely finished introductions let alone getting around to the wine before the bell rang *DING* and it was time to move on! There were 4 winemakers and their wines scattered around the smaller dining room of Goodman. Jim Pedroncelli, Proprietor and Director of Sales and Marketing at Pedroncelli showing off his 2007 Mother Clone Zinfandel, Rod Berglund President and Wine Maker at Joseph Swan Vineyards with his 2005 Zinfandel and 2007 Pinot Noir, followed by Jeff Stewart Vice President Winemaker at Buena Vista with a 2007 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir and finally Tom Hinde, President and CEO of Flowers Winery with their 2008 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir. Sonoma Valley specializes in the cool climate varietals chardonnay and pinot noir but also grows the more traditional sauvignon blanc and zinfandel further inland. The range of microclimates and zones varies from the cool Sonoma coast to the rolling hillsides of the Russian River Valley to hilltop estates overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I found the wines to be brilliant examples of the best that California can do. Now THIS is what...

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Simi 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon and a Goodman Burger

Amongst my foodie friends there is a subset of them who are obsessed with finding the perfect burger. Like one that, let’s be honest, you can only really get in the States. A good, old-fashioned, tasty and cheap burger. Cheap being the operative word. So far, I haven’t found one that compares to what you can get back home but I did have a very tasty (and pricy) burger the other night with a group of food bloggers at Goodman Steakhouse in Mayfair. This being Mayfair, we were treated to a starter of wagyu carpaccio with shaved parmesan. Definitely not something you’d find on the menu at In-n-Out. After that we settled in to wait for our burgers. And what a burger, only the top cuts going into this sucker. It certainly was very good but it should be at £12 a pop. The Chef came out to talk us through the burger and he disclosed that the secret to such flavourful burgers was chopped onions. I knew it! That’s just what my mom puts in her minced beef when she’s making burgers for the grill. Perusing the wine menu looking for a wine match (well, we were dining in Mayfair), I spied a bottle of ’02 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley for only £40. I was suspicious as to why it was so reasonable but ordered it anyway, thinking if it was bad, I could always tell the foodies they just didn’t know what California wine tastes like! What a lovely wine it was. Very aromatic, berries, leather and many savoury aromas floating around, mingled with spicy, saddle shop notes and even a few whispers of licorice. Swilling it around, it was soft and velvety, full of red and blackberries, again the leather and spice integrated in there with a dark chocolate finish. I really enjoyed this wine, very well balanced and a real steal! I spoke to the manager later and he told me that the wine had fallen into their hands as...

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