Tuesday, October 31, 2006
This place demands so much and returns so little.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Im off to bed to make the most of the extra hour.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Pale garnet with brickish red rim, this had quite a pronounced nose at first which faded for a short while then seemed to grow in stature in the glass. The first impression was of a figgy, forest berry aroma with a touch of truffle earthyness. Then after the dumbing down there was a definate sense of mocha toastyness with big black fruits mixed with a tobacco cedar like aroma.
It was soooooooo smooth on the palate, it almost felt silky. The fruit was the dominant flavour with very soft feminine tannins, and a tobacco like finish that stayed on the palate for ages. So good. Only a couple left, but it knocked the spots off the 1950 Latour they had last night.
Our perfect guests were the four top booked at 6:30pm. This was their second night, and they were here on time. Lovely couple and their son and his girlfriend. They appreciate their meal, they like good wines which happened to be expensive (fulfilling my obligations to the budget!!), but most of all they appreciate us and the service. They say please and thank you, they are pleasant to talk with, they smile!!!!! You have no idea what a difference that can make on a Saturday night. These are the kind of guests that will always get a table in a restaurant. Not because they spend well, although the truth is that helps, but because they are thoroughly nice people who appreciate the effort you would go to in order to accomodate them. Luckily for us, we have quite a few guests like that, and we often make sacrifices in order to get them a table, even when we are full, because the experience of serving them and being appreciated for it, makes all the rest of the tables that much easier. Now if only all the rest of the tables were like that.
Pass the vaseline! its gonnae hurt a wee bit tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Its a shame really because I think he did the wine a terrible dis-service, as I recently discovered upon tasting several fantastic pinotages that DONT smell of poo. Now I dont really know for sure if those wines were poor quality, faulty, or maybe that really was what South African pinotage was all about nearly eight years ago. I kind of hope that it is the latter, and that Pinotage is now emerging as a serious grape that has a lot of potential.
The first wine is from Hermanus a coastal town in the Walker bay district. Southern Rights Pinotage is produced by Anthony Hamilton Russell. With the wines being matured in 20% new oak, there are some woody tones, but the dominant flavours are the fruit - black fruits, brambles and cherries with a hint of cedar, leather and spices. This is a clean, vibrant wine that would work well with lamb, mutton, veal and even venison.
The other wine is a new addition to our list, and I have to admit it came about from following the hype online about a brand called Stormhoek. As Ive delved into the online world of wine-writing Ive discovered several wine blogs which is where I came to read about an enterprising winery from South Africa that was causing a sensation across the bloggosphere. The hype was being generated by them giving away bottles of wine to bloggers in order to host a series of dinners, they aimed for 100 dinners in 100 days. The thing is the feedback was very positive, the wines were being well recieved. So I decided to have a looksee and see if the product lived up the hype being generated. Which is how one day back in the middle of summer Garech Byrne from Orbital wines (their UK distributor) came to be sitting opposite me in the library with a bag of tank samples. Now tank samples are a bit different to the real deal, because they havent been treated or stabilised, so they arent always a great judge of the final product. However I was sufficiently impressed by both the Sauvignon and the Pinotage to agree to list them both. Even better the price came in on the pinotage at such a good rate, that I was actually able to list it by the glass. So I was somewhat delighted last thursday when the stock eventually arrived. I must say that if I though the tank samples were good, then by heck the final product is the dogs doobries. Bags of ripe luscious fruit, think of a brambly ribena mixed with a cassis martini. The ladies absolutely love it!!! And it slips down so easily. So its called Stormhoek Siren and the whole product was designed in an open source style with active feedback from the wine and tech communities. (see www.stormhoek.com for more on the process).
Anyway its re-awakened my perceptions of South African pinotage and as an aside it helped to introduce me to several fantastic new wines from South Africa also imported by Orbital. Guys like Bruwer Raats who makes the most amazing chenins and Cabernet Franc, Jack & Knox who find these obscure vineyards in off beat places with great fruit and make some limited editions wines. Their Frostline riesling puts most new world riesling to shame. So jumping onto the Stormhoek bandwagon helped to introduce me to several new wines and changed my view of a classic South African grape. Ill never drink another wine that smells of poo again! (I hope!!)
Neil is down in New Zealand now, deciding which winery he wants to work for. Niall is in Thailand working in an exotic spa resort hotel. Ian is down at Bishopstrow house working as a Food and Beverage manager. Remi is still at Gleneagles, waiting to finish his WSET Diploma. Ive no idea where Scrappy is, probably getting drunk and getting his kecks off if past behaviour is anything to go by. Guillaume is now working for a wine shop in Perth. Cedric is in Dubai working for Jumerai. Shuggie has left the Glen and is now teaching in Perth. Weve all pretty much moved on in our own directions. But its nice to catch up every once in a while and remember the fun times we all shared. I miss my friends.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
the Background: Table booked for two people - comments on the booking are that they have a gift voucher for £130. They will pay the difference. The booking came from the MD's pa which usually means that it is VIP.
So they couple come in and enjoy a nice meal, with a great bottle of wine (Bonny Doon's Clos de Gilroy Grenache). Come the end of the meal, one of them asks for the bill. They seem a bit surprised to see the bill includes everything, at which they inform the Chef de Rang that they had a gift voucher to pay for the meal. So Paco goes over to see them and tells them its OK if they give us the voucher it is treated as cash. Here comes the magic moment now.
The dozy eejit then tells Paco that they've left the voucher at home " I didnt think I would need it" WTF!!!!!!!!!!!! I can honestly say that in over fifteen years working in the hospitality industry that is undoubtably the most stupid thing that I have ever heard anyone utter. When your granny gave you a book token for your birthday you took it into the nearest WH Smiths and exchanged it for a book of your chosing. You dont turn up at the counter and say that you didnt think that you would need the voucher to get your book. So why the hell would you do it here!
Im continually amazed by people, and by god thats one of the reasons that I truly love this job, because it aint the shitty pay and crappy hours. Its people, clever and thick as shit, rich as Croesus and poor as me, that make this job so wonderful and so incredably frustrating at the same time. You couldnt make this stuff up, honestly.
Heres my submission of guesses.
1) My own entry -
2) Spain - im guessing at Priorat
3) France - Burgundy and im going out on a limb with Grand Cru possibly Echezeaux
4) France again, this time Bordeaux
5) Washington - but im thinking Pinot
7) France - the Rhone Valley - maybe Northern Rhone
8) New York - on a limb again Finger Lakes
17) Oregon - im guessing the variety at Viognier and ????
see the Basic Juice site for the descriptions at :
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
But the bright news on the horizon is that we seem to be on track to recover a good chunk of the shortfall if things continue as they have been. And at the end of the day, we would all much rather be busy than stood around wishing the night would end. At least when its busy you dont have the time to ponder the time and watch the clock, and before you know it the last customers have moved through for their coffee and you can get squared up and finish.
So bring it on, after all weve only got 50 services left until we close for crimbo (68 days left till Santa's coming!!!!!!). Then weve got 4 more services to do till we break for three glorious weeks of holiday. And wild horses wont get me to come back early this time!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
To start with we are serving Sybille Kuntz's Estate Dry Riesling. A rising star of the Mosel, the Kuntz wines tend towards the drier style. Lean mineral flavours with citrus and a touch of herbal character. At first, after opening there was a touch of sulphur on the nose, this soon disipated.
For the first course we are pouring a Schloss Lieser QBA Riesling. Another crisp dry style with citrus lime flavours intermingled with freshly cut garden herbs. With about 11% alcohol and around 25g of residual sugar per litre this leaves a hint of sweetness on the tongue that the acidity will wipe clean.
Simon's Foie Gras escalope with whipped onion cream is paired with a Kaseler Neis'chen Spatlese 1997 from Von Kesselstatt. The nine years of bottle age on this wine have allowed the secondary aroma's of kerosine/petrol develop nicely, and with more than a touch of residual sugar this complements nicely with the richness of the foie gras.
For the main course we were going to serve a Joh Jos Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese until our MD objected to the lack of a red wine (he's not a huge fan of German wines!!) so weve had to cowboy in a last minute substitute. Weingut Salwey Oberrotweiler Kirchberg Pinot Noir from Baden. Its 2004 which is good, because most of the German red wines that Ive had dont travel very well. Its pretty vibrant on the nose with a touch of tingly alcohol on the palate which isnt surprising as it weighs in at 13.5% abv. Im sure the prok belly will take the edge of that, but personally I think the Wehlener Sonnenuhr would have been better, but who am I to argue.
For the cheese we move back to white for Armin Diel's Dorsheimer Goldloch Auslese 2001. Apricot fruit and quince jelly with winter spices over the honeyed botrytised fruit aromas. Amazing length and build up of flavours.
For dessert we are pouring the Von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Beerenauslese. Late harvested wine, with intense botrytised fruit aromas - honey, golden sultana's, a faint hint of nail varnish, there is also dried apricots and nutmeg on the palate in very slight ways. Really rich, intensely sweet, not to my taste at all, but very very good.
So all in all, the numbers are down (Manchester United are playing at home tonight in a Champions League game), but personally I prefer the more intimate atmosphere of smaller numbers. Should be good.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
With this in mind we have changed the wines by the glass today to suit the fact that winter is coming in now, and people are starting to turn towards richer, heavier whites and reds. Plus the menu is starting to feature more red meats and game and so they need slightly more robust wines to complement them.
So we have a great tempranillo from Cascabel winery in McLaren, a couple of South African crackers - one from Peacock Ridge a really fruity merlot, and a beaut from Buitenverwachting, the Meifort Cabernet Merlot. Im also listing the new Stormhoek Siren Pinotage, but unfortunately that hasnt arrived yet. For the whites Ive got a great blend from Sicily from Planeta, La Segreta Bianco which blends traditional varieties with "modern intruders", and a great late harvested Riesling from Berton Vineyards - the "Forgotten" Riesling which has a great touch of residual sugar and is starting to develop pleasing secondary aromas that riesling is known for.
If I get a chance later I will post some tasting notes.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Visit Beau's site for my entry into Wine Blog Wednesday with a fantastic theme this month, a blind tasting with a twist.
Top of my list would be the Charles Melton Nine Popes. From the Barossa Valley, comes this venerable homage to a Chateauneuf, from Australia's premier Rhone Ranger. An exquisite blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre, the aromas invoke mental images of scrubby bushes with peppery fruits and dense black fruit with a strong menthol note running through the middle.
Next up would be one of the most eccentric winemakers you could ever hope to meet. In the same way that people were unsure if Spike Milligan was a genius or insane, it is hard to decide which side of the line Randall Grahm sits on. Randall is the muse and chief winemaker at Bonny Doon Vineyards and one of his most inspired wines is the iconic Le Cigare Volant. Named in homage to an obscure law passed in 1954 in Chateauneuf banning the landing of Flying Saucers (les Cigares Volant - the flying cigars) in the vineyards. Of all the new world prentenders of the Chateauneuf throne, Le Cigare is the most authentic in its cepage. Dominated by the tag team of Mataro (Mourvedre) and Syrah at 35% apiece, touched up with a dose of grenache (22%), some cinsault (7%) and just a smidge of Counoise (1%). Dried Black peppercorns with anise, black fruits, and roasted mediterranean herbs remind me ever so much of a nicely seasoned rack of lamb, which this wine would complement ever so well. As I mentioned to someone this afternoon, it takes a clever man to come up with a name like le Cigare Volant for a vineous homage to Chateauneuf. It takes a demented genius to package those wines in a gigantic cigar box. But thats Randall Grahm all over,
The major bone of contention is that I am percieved to have no pride in my appearance, and to a greater extent this is true. I dont care what I look like because it is irrelevant. It is meaningless to what I do, it holds absolutely no value or effect on my ability to perform my role. Im not going to suddenly start selling more wine because now Im wearing lace up shoes instead of slip-ons. To think so is ludicrous. All these "reports" that bang on about first impressions etc are usually highly spun by fashion consultants who want you to spend huge amounts of money on smartening up your image. The reality is however that people dont care what shoes you are wearing, whether your shirt is immaculatly ironed, or if you sport two inches of cuffs on your shirts. All they care about is whether you know your product. So thats what is important to me, knowing my product, whether it be the menu, the wine-list, the wines, cognacs, whiskies, cocktails, what time the brasserie opens, where can someone buy this or that wine and many many other relevant issues. I lack a vanity gene, and I know it frustrates the hell out of Ross that I dont care what I look like, but thats who I am. I was employed to sell wine, not look good in a suit. Its not like I come in to work looking like I was dragged through a hedge backwards after all. Im usually fairly smart, just never immaculate. I have better things to do than spend two hours putting a military shine on my shoes. But I'll try and make a bit more of an effort.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
In total we sold 9534 bottles of champagne over 2005, which equates to 26.5 bottles a day. Not too shabby huh?
By now the pigeage is almost over for most of the wines, and several of the vats are now being punched down with a five pronged fork, but Ed and Guillaume bravely step up to do the pigeage for the Clos de la Justice and the Beaune Epenottes. By now they are in the ferment up to the middle of their chests, and it takes a lot of upper body strength to pull yourself up and wiggle your way down into the cap to punch it down. I continue to track the density and temperature of the ferments, noticing that the Volnay and the Cotes de Nuits are now sitting at 996, which means that their fermentations are drawing to a close. (Water has a density of 1000). Once Ed has finished his pigeage we head downstairs to do the density of les mouts. When we first started doing the density of the whites, most of them tasted like freshly pressed apple juice, quite sweet, with differing levels of acidity, and some had more pronounced flavours - the meursault perrieres for example had a nutty quality while the chevalieres had more of a sherbet lemon kick to it. By now some are starting to evolve and there is more of a presence of alcohol in the samples. Some however, like the Aligote havent moved a bit. Bernard felt that if they hadnt started by the beginning of this week, then he might need to give them a kickstart. But Aligote is always difficult to start off he tells me. That might be one reason why it is so out of favour with many growers.
After the last pigeage of the morning, we set off for lunch at the epicerie in Morey. After another huge lunch, we got changed and Bernard took us on a tour of the vineyards and cellars of Pierre Bouree. We went up into the hills overlooking Gevrey to visit his mothers vineyard - Champeaux.
We recieved a tour around the Chateau du Vougeot, where the Confrere de Chevaliers de Tastevin hold their lavish dinners. Before driving through Flagey-Echezeaux to La Romanee, possibly the most famous vineyard in Burgundy. What amazed me was that as we drove around the villages and vineyards we occaisonally passed familiar domaines - Armand Rousseau, Robert Arnoux, and of course Denis Mortet, and Bernard would tell us that such and such was a cousin, or a nephew, and it seems that everyone is related in some way. It makes sense, when you look at the way the vineyards are constantly being divided by the Napoleonic laws of succession. But I was surprised to find out the Denis Mortet was his cousin. His mothers maiden name was Mortet, and as we found out later that night over dinner at Louis Snr's flat, that the whole family stills feels the loss of a rising talent. When we came to discussing events in the region, and how the tragic suicide of Denis was still unexplained, Bernard's mother became slightly melancholy, the wounds of his loss still fresh in all their hearts. We found out that his son has taken over the running of the estate now, with a female winemaker brought in from Domaine Bertagna. So in some way, Denis' legacy will continue.
After our tour of the vineyards we returned to Gevrey to the offices and cellars of Pierre Bouree (Vallet freres was used in the UK when Boutinot became agents for their wines, as they already had a UK distributor for the Pierre Bouree wines.). Here we were shown around the cellars, and bottling facility. The cellars were cavernous, running in all sorts of directions, and Jean-Christophe pointed out a few Roman gravestones that had been excavated when Louis Snr had the cellars enlarged. Bernard then gave us a tasting of several wines from the casks, mostly 2005's. It was interesting to taste from the cask, in most cases after the wines had been racked, but in a couple the wines had yet to be racked and so the dominant characteristic was the sulphur. But we learnt a trick that by adding a few copper coins to the wine, the sulphur aromas are removed. Just be careful not to swallow the coins!!!
We ended the evening with a superb meal in the flat of Bernard's parents, where we got a chance to taste blind some great mature wines. I managed to guess the Charmes Chambertin from its elegant, charming flavours, and I also correctly guessed the vintage of one of the other reds, although I was well out on its appellation. We heard some wonderful stories about the region and how Louis came to inherit the domaine from a childless uncle. It was a real shame that the evening had to end, and with it, our trip to Burgundy. The next morning at 7am we were on the road back to Geneva to return to the UK. Work awaited us both, and they say that all good things must come to an end. Most of the trip back to Geneva passed in silence as I think we both reflected on how fortunate we had both been over the last four days to have been part of something really special. The kindness and generosity of Bernard, Louis Snr, Jean-Christophe, Louis Jrn and their families was overwhelming, and I will be eternally grateful to them for their hospitality.
I learnt a lot from the experience. It is one thing to look at an atlas of Burgundy or a map and see the vineyards on a 2-d piece of paper. However it is an entirely different matter to stand their in the middle of the vines, and see the relationship between them. It is easy to understand why for the most part the Grand Cru vineyards are all at the top part of the slopes, and the cru ordinaire vineyards are at the bottom. You can see from the various sheltered spots why some vineyards are more prized than others. It is an experience that I would recommend to anyone, and it is one that I will endevour to repeat again soon.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
We recieved the last of the Chambertin grapes, so once more the triage table was set-up and the grapes sorted. Its kind of a weird experience doing the triage, because you become so focussed on spotting the rotten grapes, and keeping an eye out for stones, twigs and leaves, that you actually start to feel motion sickness. As the grapes move across your vision on a white conveyor belt, you brain is telling you that you are moving sideways, but your ears are telling your brain that in fact you are not. The resulting confusion can cause some nausia, which indeed I did feel slightly. After clearing down and cleaning up, while Ed did the last pigeage of the morning, I finished off the density measurements of the white wines.
That afternoon we were left to our own devices as I wanted to visit Beaune and in particular a bookshop called the Atheneum. So after getting washed and changed, we bought a picnic from the Epicerie at Morey-St-Denis and headed off in the direction of Beaune, via Vosne Romanee, where we enjoyed our picnic sitting on a wall overlooking La Romanee.
After a brief roll through Nuits St Georges we headed into Beaune to find the Atheneum. Once there, it was like I'd died and gone to heaven. The place is kind of a temple to wine. I spent the best part of an hour in there, and spunked 179 euros. I got the Nouvel Atlas de Bourgogne by Sylvian Pitiot and Jean-Charles Servant, which set me back the best part of that 179Euros.
That night we dined at Jean-Christophe's farmhouse about 30km away from Beaune. As his wife Helene prepared another fantastic meal, Jean-Christophe raided his cellars to bring up some real gems, all from the Cotes de Beaune. One of the highlights was a 1996 Santenay 1er Cru which showed a little bit of bottle stink when it was first opened, and consequently Jean-Christophe took the opportunity to nip out for a crafty fag and fetch another bottle this time a 99. This gave us the ideal opportunity to taste them together once the 96 had been decanted, and while both were excellent, we all clearly had our own favourite. (the 96 by a long shot was the winner for me.) Jean-Christophe has a wonderful family, and made us feel welcome in their home, even sending us off into the night with a handful of apples picked from the many fruit trees in their spacious gardens. Once again another late night, and I collapsed into my bed lapsing into a deep peaceful sleep.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Bloody hell it's hard work. I lacked the upper body strength to lift myself out of it, as I was in the juice up to my upper thighs, and the top of the vat was level with my shoulders, and in the end Ed and Louis had to lift me out with just less than half of the Vat punched down. So Christophe had to finish it off, and I set about doing the density and temperature measurements. Then after all the vats had been tested and where necessary pigeaged, we started the triage for the grapes that had arrived late last night. These were bourgogne pinot grapes and there was a fair bit of rot and other nastyness in the bunches. Then as Christophe and Louis Jnr washed the kit down, Ed and I went down to the cellar to measure the density of the musts.
Then it was onto a fabulous little bar, epicerie, boulangerie in Morey-St-Denis for a fantastic lunch. Whilst at lunch we found out that Bernard had send the pickers out that morning in the peeing rain and had taken on extra people to hold umbrellas over them, to try and shield the fruit from too much water. Then the fruit had been taken to a drying room, to try and remove any excess water. So after lunch Guillaume brought us the Chambertin grapes and again the triage table was set-up and the grapes sorted to remove the dross. While we cleaned down, the third pigeage of the day was taking place. By now Ed was going to just above waist level.
After everything was washed down, we had finished by about 5pm, so as the sky was starting to clear a bit, and we had a while until we were having dinner at Bernards house that night, Ed and I decided to explore the vineyards of Vosne Romanee and Nuits St Georges, including a visit to La Romanee. Obviously they get many visitors there, as there were signs posted asking us politely to remain on the road and not to enter the vineyard.
We were delighted and priviledged to be invited to Bernards house for dinner that night, where Bernadette his lovely wife prepared a fantastic meal, and needless to say we enjoyed some superb wines. But by about 9pm, my shoulders and underarms were starting to ache. I so badly wanted to soak myself in a bath, but alas our rooms had only showers. So another late night and with a full stomach I went to bed.
While Ed was doing that, I was measuring the density's of the ferments using a mustometer. Each day we measured the density of each ferment and barrel of must to track their progress. Then mid morning the grapes for the bourgogne rouge arrived and we set-up the triage table and the giraffe to sort the grapes, removing the pourriture (rot). After that was done, we chaptalised two reds, the Volnay and the Cotes de Beaune. A small tank is filled with wine from the vats and we add a measured amount of sugar, stirring it constantly to ensure it all dissolves. Then it is pumped back over the skins to kickstart the fermentation. The last pigeage of the morning then took place before the very civilised practice of lunch. After a filling lunch we returned to the cuverie for a full afternoon of work. More grapes were arriving, some bourgogne and a small amount of the Chambertin. So again we set up the triage table and set about sorting the bad grapes from the good. Burgundy had suffered from hail early in the growing season, and this was evident from the bunches that came in with "red stones" as they called them. Dried out berries that had hardened as the damaged stems starved them of water and nutrients. The blackened stems were more prominent on the bourgogne grapes than the Chambertin, which overall was of a good quality this year, with great potential. After the triage, the equipment all needs to be thoroughly washed down before the final pigeage of the day. As we finished at 6:45pm and headed off to a small bar in Gevrey for a well earned beer with Christophe and Louis Jnr the clouds darkened and rain set in.
This was a worry for Louis, as the pickers had only brought in less than half of the grapes of Chambertin, and rain now, could cause problems if it diluted the grapes, not to mention the risk of rot. As we got ready for dinner the heavens opened and rain lashed down from the sky. As we dined that night with Louis Snr, Bernard and "Chef" Louis, their concern at the weather was obvious. We enjoyed a suberb dinner with some fantastic wines, including a very elegant Charmes Chambertin. The rain finally eased up late that night, but with frequent downpours during the night.
To Louis Snr, Bernard, "Chef" Louis, Jean-Christophe and their families I pass on my sincere thanks for your wonderful hospitality. Vous etes tres gentile.
Bernard, Louis and "Chef" Louis Vallet our generous hosts for the vendage.