Cuban Cigars and Delamain Cognac at the Bluebird

When Penny from the Bluebird wineshop told me she was hosting a cigar and cognac tasting, I was excited, a bit hesitant but also very curious to attend a cigar and cognac tasting because I’d never been to one. Although I love a good Cuban (cigar or otherwise), cognac has a rather fusty old image in my mind and I didn’t really fancy sitting around all evening with grandfatherly figures discussing the merits of cognac. But it turned out to be a smartly casual affair with plenty of mingling and good conversation. The event was presented by Amanda Laden from Delamain Cognac and Simon Chase the cigar expert from Hunters & Frankau. H&F also brought along the head of production for the Cohiba Cigar factory in Cuba, Eduardo Diaz, to demonstrate the fine art of cigar rolling. Eduardo spent most of the evening rolling cigars. I spoke to him afterwards and he told me that he’s here for 2 months doing demonstrations for H&F. I was curious about the tobacco leaves he was using and asked him if he had brought them with him. He told me that the unrolled leaves are imported by H&F for him to use specifically to make cigars during these demonstrations. We were treated to 3 XO or higher cognacs (XO signifiying that the cognac was aged for at least 6 years. No need to worry here as the youngest cognac was 25 years old) and 1 Hoya de Monterrey Especial cigar. Even though Eduardo was from Cohiba, we were smoking Hoyas because the big boss, Terence Conran -who was attending the tasting, prefers Hoya. Since there is an indoor smoking ban here in England, the tasting was held in the patio of the Bluebird. It was very nicely set up with small tables scattered about (adding to the informal atmosphere) and outdoor heaters nearby, although they weren’t needed because it was a balmy evening and the rain had miraculously stopped. We enjoyed champagne and canapes while we were...

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Upcoming Bluebird Cigar and Cognac Tasting

The Bluebird Wineshop in Chelsea had become one of my favourites because of their great winetastings and Penny Johns, the manager has come up with a great list of tastings for the Autumn. This Wednesday, Sept 10th, she is hosting a Fine Cognac and Cigar tasting in the courtyard of the Bluebird Restaurant. Amanda Laden from Delamain Cognac will be on hand to conduct a blind tasting of 3 premier cognacs along with Dan Pink from Hunters and Frankau, cigar importers, who will talk us through the cigars. Dan is also bringing along a cigar roller for a brief demonstration. It should be a fun and informative evening. Tickets are still available click here for more information. I love a good Cuban cigar, I got a nice box of Montecristos in duty-free last weekend coming back from Spain, so I can’t wait for this tasting. The following week, Finca Sophenia of Argentina will be giving a tasting of their range on Friday, 19th of Sept. Monday, 22nd Sept. sees the Vidal Winery, located in Marlborough, NZ on hand and the very next day, 23 Sept. Cillar de Cillos from Ribera del Duero, Spain, will be tasting through their latest offerings and may even have a few surprise vintages to taste. For more information visit Penny, either in person – if you’re here in London, or at the Bluebird wineshop website. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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EWBC ’08 and the Chapel Down ’07 English Rosé

Rioja vineyard On the plane back to England from the EWBC I was exhausted!! But what a weekend! I met loads of really great people, drank plenty of fabulous (and interesting) wines, visited some fantastic wineries, met the winemakers, had my eyes open to the possibilities out there regarding the web via the both the roundtable discussions and informal ones and generally had a blast. There was so much going on, I barely had time to catch my breath. But who’d want to stop with all the excitement surrounding us? The conference was extremely well organized and planned. It was such an exhilarating and febrile atmosphere to be a part of that I can’t wait to attend the next one and I’m already planning on attending the USA conference in October. (Gabriella getting an appreciative smack from Ricard!) I have to give a HUGE thanks to the organizers, Ryan and Gabriella Opaz of Catavino and Robert Mcintosh of The Wine Conversation. And, a big shout out to Robert for his ability to get all us bloggers moving on time and in the right direction. I think I overheard him comparing us bloggers to herding cats but cats are much easier to direct! The first night was the winebloggers invitational,whereby we each had to bring a wine that represented our area of interest or expertise. I had chosen an english rosé (made from the germanic variety, dornfelder) from the Chapel Down winery based in Kent, southeast England. What a reaction! That rosé definitely raised a few eyebrows and looks of disbelief. People had heard of English wines but those Continentals were rather dubious as to the quality of the wine. I found out later that not many had ever actually had the opportunity to try English wine before the conference. Luckily, it passed with flying colours! I had tried it before I left so I knew that it wasn’t bad but everyone else was surprised at the quality. I got quite a few positive comments...

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Just Chillin’ with Port

In the middle of summer the last thing I would want to drink is Port. Or so I thought until the most recent tasting put on by Bluebird wine shop. Penny, the manager, has done a great job of arranging interesting and plentiful wine tastings this summer. The trick in the summer is chillin’, not only you but the wine as well. Port may have a stuffy, stodgy reputation but it was a fabulous to drink once it’d been cooled down a bit. Henry Shotten, the winemaker was in attendance and he recommended slightly chilled port, not just for Tawney’s but Vintage Port as well. Purists are probably frothing at the mouth at the idea of slightly chilled Port but it does work. For the complete history of Port click here, fascinating and quite illustrious but I’d rather talk about what I drank. The Warres Otima 10 year old Tawny was served up nicely chilled. The Otima bottle and packaging was redesigned in 1999 to give it a more contemporary feel and appeal to younger consumers. It has proven to be very successful going from sales of 2000 cases in 1999 to over 28,0oo cases in 2007. The tawny style of port is not as heavy as vintage port, lighter in colour and feel. The wine is aged in small oak barrels allowing for controlled oxidation. The ports used in the blend are a minimum of 10 years old but can be older. Tawny is released ready to drink, no need to lay it down or wait decades to drink. As a matter of fact, a stopper is used instead of cork because the wine is not made to be laid down. The Otima was tawny pale amber with a reddish tinge and flecks of dark brown on the edges. Despite the fact that it was chilled, aromas of candied nuts, nutty orange peel and dried fruits wafted up and I felt like diving right into the glass. It had a delicate, honeyed palate...

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Patagonian Pinot

Patagonia. Howling wolves, wind-driven snow storms over a desolate landscape and survival of the fittest. That’s what I imagine Patagonia to be like, and I’m sure you can find that out there, but it’s not all Bear Grylls and Ironman. Valle Perdido is a new winery/spa resort in Patagonia that has recently started producing excellent wines. Penny Johns, manager of the Bluebird wine shop, recommended today’s vino to me. She says it’s one of her new favs and after gulping it down, I can say I wholeheartedly agree with her. It’s another pinot noir from S. America but this time from the “right” side of the Andes, as the Argentines love to remind me. Argentina’s flagship grape is Malbec but if you scratch the surface of their viticultural portfolio, you’ll find that they are beginning to branch out into other varietals and doing a very good job of it. Valle Perdido has a state of the art facility but their philosophy is to use as little intervention as possible and let nature take it’s course. They get up at the crack of dawn to pick the grapes and use a gravity system to move the must (or juice) around the winery. This helps to preserve the aromas and flavours of the wine. The 2007 Pinot Noir was a pure delight from start to finish. Before we knew it, this little baby was gone, baby, gone. Looking at it, it was a clear, pomegrante red in the glass. A fresh, red fruit nose was the first thing I noticed. Then it evolved into perfumed raspberry and cherry scented aromas with a hint of sweet spice. Swishing it around my mouth, I found spicy red cherry, strawberry and a warm toastiness with a fruity finish. There was one last, lingering, bitter chocolate note that seemed to hang on by it’s fingertips before slipping away. The tannins were very soft, almost velvety which made for an easy drinking, medium bodied wine. An impressive example of Patagonian pinot...

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