Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Last night we had the second of this years gourmet evenings - Chateau Bauduc. We had the owner/winemaker Gavin Quinney come and talk about how, why and some of the trial and joys of what he and his wife Angela do in Creon. Unfortunately Angela was unable to join us having busted her knee, but she missed a great evening. Despite running over his alloted time (to the consternation of Ross, Paco and the Chef) Gavin kept everyone amused with witty anecdotes (some at the expense of Gordon Ramsay's team of sommeliers!!), tales of some of the trials of being a novice winemaker in Bordeaux and some of his aspirations for the future of Chateau Bauduc. I dont honestly think weve ever had such gushing praise from the guests about the speaker before. The wines were very well received too which is always a bonus. The rose we poured at the start was quite popular, 100% merlot with overnight skin contact, we were pouring the 2004 which isnt the most current vintage, but still packed fruit flavours with a deliciously savoury edge which I think set people up nicely for the starter.
For the starter we poured the Bordeaux blanc, which is 95% sauvignon and 5% semillon for a bit of depth and body. Everyone raved about this wine. Crisp, fresh and lip-smackingly good it worked a treat with chef's crab raviolis. The next wine was a love or loath wine. Roughly half the people loved it, the other half didnt. It was the Trois Hectares 2004. 100 % semillon from a small three hectare vineyard (and the cause of much hilarity when Gavin recounted the story of one the Ramsay sommeliers (a Frenchie no less!!) asking why it was called Trois Hectares!!). Its barrel fermented again for depth of character. Much less expressive than the Savvy, I loved this wine, but for sure its a food wine. I think this would have been great with the intermediate course of Seared Scallop on a bed of cauliflower puree with carpaccio of cauli and a parmesan brittle. Anyway, the next wine was the Clos des Quinze a bordeaux blend dominated by merlot (60%) with the remainder almost evenly split between Cabernets. Coming from a walled vineyard of about 15 hectares. I had double decanted it earlier in the afternoon, so it was showing very well indeed. Again everyone seemed to rave about it. That was paired with a saddle of roe deer and pumpkin spatzle. Everyone raved about that too!
With the cheese souffle we poured a more limited cuvee, the Trois Etoiles which Gavin told us was actually selected by the Ramsay team to be bottled into a separate cuvee. Hence the name - Trois Etoiles- Three stars in honour of Royal Hospital Road and Gavins first customer in the UK. This is a pure merlot and I loved it, for me it was the highlight of the night. But again it seemed to divide the room, some loved it, others loathed it. That was the end of the Bauduc wines, but as we had dessert still to come, we had to throw a ringer into the mix. We chose a Graves Superieures from Haut-Bergeron, which also received mixed reviews, but then a lot of folks dont like sweet wines, myself included.
At the end of the night as we cleared all the glasses, Danny and myself chatted to Gavin, Danny using the opportunity wisely to increase his knowledge of Bordeaux and winemaking. But he wimped out at 1am leaving me discussing future ideas that Gavin has for moving Bauduc more into the UK market, and ideas for further developing the range of wines that he has available. Next year hes got a monbazillac coming out, from a winemaker that he knows who cant get his product onto market. He talked about developing Bauduc into a brand again using contacts who again cant find a route to market in France. Imagine a Bauduc Pomerol, Pauillac or St Estephe. Anyway, I really enjoying chatting to him, and getting involved in helping him reach a wider audience. For great easy drinking Claret you cant do any worse than check out their website and order yourself a case or two of wines. www.bauduc.com
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Im working on an idea that Roger from Gerrard Seel gave me for our final gourmet of the year. We were originally looking at doing five decades of bordeaux, but seeing as we are overloaded with burgundy and grand cru burgs at that, we are now going to have a month long burgundy festival culminating in the gourmet dinner at the end of the month focussing on Grand Cru Burgundies. Batard Montrachet, Criots, Chevalier, Corton Charlemagne and of course Le Montrachet for the whites, Corton, Echezeaux, Grands Echezeaux, La Tache, Romanee St Vivant, Charmes Chambertin, Clos de la Roche, Clos St Denis etc etc for the reds. Ive spoken to Chef and he's on board to tailor the gastronomic menu around burgundian dishes, we can match wines to the menu for an all inclusive price and take a hit on the margins to move some of the stock. Im quite looking forward to it, and so are quite a few of the guests. Ive still got to finalise the rest of the years events, but it looks good so far.
So Ive got a lot to do, and Ive got the feeling that there may be some significant changes in the air soon.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Ive got an appointment at the quacks tomorrow, so we shall see what happens. I may be off the web for a wee while.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
So until I can find a cheaper copy of the wine atlas, Italy it seems will always remain my achilles heel. Unless of course I can persuade a generous supplier to take me on an educational visit (aka Jolly) to Italy!!!
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Clos de la Roche is the one of the Grand Cru leiu-dits of Morey-St-Denis. Actually the largest of the Grand Cru climats of Morey, it encompasses nearly 17 hectares, producing somewhere in the region of 70000 bottles. It is at an elevation of about 300 metres with a definate east facing aspect which draws pretty much the maximum amount of sunlight possible. It is often said it is the more classy of the grand crus of Morey. With its seductive aromas of deep violets, myrtille and a hint of truffle to it, all interlaced with a kind of foresty cherry aroma, this wine draws you in caresses your palate with an elegance of intensity. Imagine that relaxing feeling you feel washing over you as you slip into a hot bath, letting your muscles go and relaxing. Thats how you feel after sipping this wine. That contented "Ahhhhhhhh!!!!" rushing over your tongue and down the back of your throat. It can be a dangerous thing though. When a wine slips down that easily and so smoothly, you soon drink the whole bottle. Or two, and thats when things can get expensive. Unless you're on good terms with your sommelier!!
When I was in Burgundy last year, Bernard (Vallet) took us past Domaine Armand Rousseau and there outside was Charles washing down his tractor. Bernard told us that they were related, but that wasnt really a surprise. The nature of Burgundy is that just about everyone there is related!
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Brokenwoods Graveyard Shiraz for example had more restrained spicy tones, but dense black fruit flavours with fine oak influence and silkier tannins. It was also bottled under a screwcap which is quite a brave step for a wine that retails in excess of £50.
Gapsted wines based in the Alpine Valley of Victoria in Australia had a very interesting shiraz - the Ballerina Canopy Shiraz. The fruit comes from 200 hectares farmed near Whitfield in the King Valley. Low yields and the slightly cooler climate produce intensely flavoured fruit with rich fruitcake flavours and more subtle spicy tones. Two years in american oak adds a sterner tannic structure to the wine which balances nicely with the natural fruit sweetness. Its quite a big wine at 14.5%abv but theres balance so the alcohol doesnt burn.
Berton Family vineyards, based in the Eden Valley of South Australia have a massive range of wines, mostly at the volume end of the market. However their "flagship" wine is the Bonsai Shiraz, so named because after five years trying to establish the vines in the High Eden, the vines still looked like rootlings. The quartz that dominated the thin soil soaks up the sun by day and slowly releases it overnight acting like a kind of radiator, allowing the grapes to reach exceptional levels of ripeness. The low goblet shape of the vines keeps the yield low and the fruit quality high, producing an excellent wine. Ripe plummy fruit flavours with a touch of vanillin and crushed white peppercorns on the nose and palate. The tannins grip quite strongly just now, but this is a 2004 vintage, so it needs a bit of decanting now or ideally a couple of years slumber in a cellar. There is a rich spicy finish to the wine with a flavour that seems to linger on the palate for ages. Fantastic wine at a good price.
Thats about all I have time for just now, got to get ready for service. The boss is in tonight with the chef and the F&B manager to make sure we are all up to scratch. Best behaviour then boys.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
So in the spirit of confessional here are a few moments that Ive experienced in the last ten years or so. Not all of these are my acts of cowboying, proving that its perhaps a bit more common than you might suspect.
1) Using the massively overoxidised white rioja as a last minute sherry substitute. Was very well recieved and they even asked me for the name of the sherry so they could get some. I lied through my teeth and told them some guff about it being exclusive to us and unavailable anywhere.
2) On a busy sunday lunch - it could have been mothers day when we did somewhere in the region of 300 covers for lunch, we ran out of cassis. With everyone and their dog ordering Kir Royales, I had one of my least successful cowboy ideas. Use blackcurrant cordial and dose it up with a splash of vodka. In my defense this might have worked if the hotel had used halfway decent cordial instead of this piss-poor weak assed cheap and nasty brand. Needless to say I got royally busted.
3) One month, the chef was having a terrible month with his food cost. In an effort to try and keep it manageable he cut out all purchasing for a week. One of the most popular dishes on the menu used a cassoulet made from these italian beans that were dead expensive. So the sous chef used a huge tin of cheap baked beans, washed the tomato sauce off and used them instead. That act alone shaved two percent off his food cost and helped save the day somewhat.
4) I used to work in this hotel in York that had a decent fine dining restaurant and quite a good collection of cognacs, including Remy Martin Louis XIII. Now bearing in mind this was twelve years ago, that was something very special, and hideously expensive (I think we were charging about £100 for 1/5 gil). One night as the bar manager Steve was clearing up the cognac trolley, he knocked over the bottle and ended up spilling about two thirds of it all over the carpet. Fearing that he was going to have to pay for it, he ended up making up his own blend from the rest of the Remy Range. Several weeks later we had the regional rep from Remy come in to do some training with us all. As we tasted our way through the range, Steve, myself and one other barman who knew what had happened sat in trepidation as we got closer to our fake Louis XIII. As the rep ran through his spiel and we tasted the Louis XIII he constantly gushed about how wonderful this cognac was and how it tasted better than he remembered. We were pissing ourselves.
I have to say that my cowboy days are almost behind me. Ive never pulled any of these stunts here, and nor have I ever been put into a situation where Ive had to pull something that daft here. I doubt that it would ever get to that stage, and its also a case that in some way Ive grown beyond seeking the easy way out. Its more of a challenge to face the situation and come up with workable solutions that arent as dodgy as one of Del-Boys latest gadgets. But who knows what the future holds?
Saturday, February 03, 2007
The wine was amazing. Now Ive had plenty of white rioja before, horrible, overoxidised wines that more resemble sherry that white wine. In fact when I was at Gleneagles we sometimes used bottles of Castillo Ygay's white rioja as sherry if we ran out of Croft. Im amazed that we often got away with it!!! So I didnt really hold out much hope when Noel raved about the wine and cracked it open. On the nose it has the most amazing aromas, fresh aromatic, floral notes with white fruits and apricots. Its cepage reads more like a white Chateauneuf - Moscatel, garnacha blanca, viognier, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, roussanne and marsanne and finally some petit courbut. It hasnt the oilyness of most white chtxneufs but a fresher almost more new worldy rhone-a-like style. I was lucky enough, having tasted it, to then be able to get six bottles. Bloody hell it wasnt cheap, but Ive taken a hit on the margin to put it on at £75 a bottle. Considering that the white Chtxneufs are priced at a similar price, thats a real steal! But when its gone its gone, I doubt Ross will sign for another six!!
Thursday, February 01, 2007
I tried some great wines from small, boutiquey wineries - Gapsted Wines, based in the King Valley, Victoria. They had an interesting Petit Manseng, which you usually only find in Jurancon. It has a wonderfully aromatic flavour - think alsace gewurtz without the oilyness and its close. Their Touriga was very good as well, with a kind of violet, licorice root flavour and more than a hint of black tea. We met with a co-operative of small grower based in the Barossa whom market themselves as the Artisans of Barossa. There was a cracking chenin blanc from Rusden called Christian, after the winemaker Christian Canute. (www.rusdenwines.com.au). Beautiful banana, tropical fruit and papaya flavours. All their wines were well worth a swatch at, and will hopefully be making it onto our list after the buying embargo is lifted in the new year (fiscal - April 2, 2007). I also managed to taste some blockbuster reds - Brokenwoods Graveyard Shiraz 2004, now in screwcap - big dense red stone fruit, tons of depth and intensely tannic finish. Some of the Glaetzer wines - Godolphin being the biggest they were showing - another intensely rich shiraz dominated blend. Charlie Meltons Barossa Shiraz 2002, god I love his shiraz, layers of black fruit, tobacco, spicy tones, hints of licorice and chocolate.
By the time I left at closing time, my fingers were stained purple, my teeth probably likewise, and my head was spinning merrily as I made my way to the nearest boozer for a therapeutic pint of beer. Its a wonder I didnt fall asleep on my train and wake up in Inverness!!