Monday, 17 April 2017

Stratford weekend

Well actually it was a Warwick weekend for me as I had a fall within minutes of arriving at the house we had rented for Cuvée Reserve Wine Weekend and had to be taken to Warwick Hospital.

Lots of medical help, all very much appreciated, was needed to put back my dislocated left ankle, operate and plate my broken left leg (3 bones) and support my right broken foot.

I've been home nearly a week and things are going ok. I wouldn't be doing half as much as I can without the support and encouragement from my amazing Hubby and daughter, our son has helped too.

Few pictures which I hope you don't find too gruesome
Plastered in A&E with surgeon's
notes ready for op
Right broken foot looking large

Plastered and booted ready
for home 
View of my foot from my garden bedroom
My right foot looking thinner if a little black
 It's a long road but do-able and I'm sure we'll have a few laughs along the way, there have already been some hilarious moments!!

Back to the Wine Weekend and everyone who managed to stay injury free had a good time. Saturday afternoon they all went to Majestic Stratford for a Fine Wine Tasting - by all accounts it was a very pleasant afternoon, thanks Majestic.

You can read about it on Dave Cronin's blog Wine Reviews by Ivorfan 

Fine Wine at Majestic Stratford 
Last night was my first tipple since my topple and this Cellier des Dauphins was perfect. One of my favourite producers from my favourite country this really did hit the spot.
Perfect first tipple
Today is Malbec Day and my mystery bottle from Stratford was a Malbec from Dave so it seems fitting to open it tonight.

As I am not mobile for a few weeks I should have more time to blog about a few of my favourite wines, and of course I'm readily available to taste and review if anyone asks - keep visiting!

Friday, 31 March 2017

A weekend away for Mother's Day

Last weekend we visited our daughter in Cardiff with Hubby's mum - a lovely weekend away for Mother's Day. Our daughter lives in Cardiff Bay so we chose the Holiday Inn Express on Atlantic Wharf as it was easy walking distance of both the Bay and Cardiff City.

The hotel was lovely, a good size room and bathroom, ours overlooked the wharf. Breakfast was included and was a self service buffet of hot and cold choices, they even had grab bags and take out coffee cups if you were in a hurry.

Cardiff Bay - St David's Hotel on the left with
the bars and restuarants on the right
Friday night we visited Cardiff Bay with it's many bars and restaurants. Cocktails at Las Iguanas was our first stop especially with their selection of 2 for 1 !! Plenty of choice including Long Island Iced Tea, Pink Passion Fruit and Citrus Samba - delicious.

Dinner at Strada followed, not far to walk, just next door. Cardiff Bay has so many bars and restaurants you are spoilt for choice. The food at Strada was gorgeous, I do enjoy their bread selection starter and loved their creamy Penne Carbonara. Everyone enjoyed their meal in a very relaxing but busy restaurant.

Saturday morning gave us beautiful weather so we took a short stroll round the edge of the bay towards The Barrage. You can walk all the way to Penarth, crossing the locks and watching the boats navigate in and out but although it was sunny it was far to windy to walk this time.

The view entering Cardiff Bay
Stunning Millennium Centre - it's copper glistens in the sun
The National Welsh Assembly
Pierhead Building
The Norwegian Church
Scott Mosaic
We walked as far as the Doctor Who Experience - it will be closing soon as the land is due for development. We didn't do the whole experience but did meet the Daleks.

The Daleks
Lego Dalek 
After our stroll we took the Cardiff Boat up the River Taff into Cardiff centre: a trip we have not done before but will be doing again as the views were amazing. It was so nice to see another side of this great city.
Our river transport
Enjoying our trip 
Beautiful river banks - so many swans 
Our trip ended in Bute Park which is an area of Cardiff we haven't visited. It's a beautiful place with some lovely wooden sculptures. Exiting the park we saw a different angle of Cardiff Castle - a beautiful place we have yet to visit.

Seal and it's fish 
Welsh daffodil
One of the castle's guardians
Another keeping the castle safe
Cardiff Castle - a view we haven't seen before 
After our busy day of touring and boat riding we needed a little light refreshment - Hubby's favourite bar is Zero Degrees, a micro brewery just opposite the Principality Stadium. They have a variety of beers brewed on the premises including a great dark beer.

A great beer at a great micro brewery
Our time in Cardiff finished with a fantastic meal at Miller and Carter The Hayes. This is our favourite restaurant in the city, our daughter's too. Although a chain The Hayes feels unique with superb service and food.

To start our evening off we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink; this time non-alcoholic. Elderflower Sherbet is such a refreshing softail, perfect start to our amazing meal.

Elderflower Sherbet
We love visiting Cardiff, not just to see our beautiful daughter but to enjoy the city. It was very special this time being Mother's Day - thank you Miller and Carter for making it extra special

Mercier champagne at Miller and Carter 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Wine tasting - pairing it up

Last Friday I hosted another wine tasting evening for the leaders at our Scout Group. We've had many of these now; they are not only a chance to try new wines but a great social event too.

This time I chose to pair up the wines by producers - having a white and red from each. We usually try the white then the reds but this is a little unfair on both the chaps who prefer the reds and the ladies who like the whites as for some part of the evening is not then of much interest.

Another change this time too was our layout - instead of a horseshoe we had one large table - a little awkward for pouring but we soon sussed it. An added bonus was at the end of the evening all the bottles were placed in the centre of the table for eveyone to enjoy another glass of their favourite.

Our large table set ready for our tasting evening. 
At Tesco Wine Fair a few years ago we were chatting at the Jacob's Creek stand about our evenings and they very kindly gave us quite a few buffet plates - to be honest we had put them away in that famous 'safe place' and only found them last week. Everyone at the tasting loved the idea and now have their own buffet plate for our various events - thanks Jacob's Creek.

Each place setting with Jacob's Creek buffet plate
I had already chosen and purchased our wines before finding the Jacob's Creek plates but hopefully we'll include some of their wine in another one of our tastings.

Most of our wine came from Majestic Wines at Leicester, they are our nearest brand and we've enjoyed many of their great wine tasting events so it seemed fair to have their wines at ours. The other wines came from Lidl and Morrison's.

It was St Patrick's Day too so we began the evening with an Irish cocktail - just a little one, a Baby Guinness.

It's made with coffee liqueur and looks like Guinness but is served in a shot glass hence the name.

Our first wine was a bubbly - always the best way to start the evening. This lovely sparkling rose from Spain was full of bubbles and summer fruits - Freixenet Brut Rose - £4.99 on offer at Majestic 

Our first pairing was from Bricchetto, two lovely Italian wines. Firstly Trebbiano, full of peaches with a hint of apple. A very easy drinking white that we all thought would be great on the patio in the summer; and secondly Sangiovese, a red full of raspberries and redcurrants. Both these grapes were new to our tasting group, both enjoyed probably more so when the weather turns warmer.

Valle Antigua produced our second pair from Chile. Sauvignon Blanc is my favourite grape and is becoming more readily available from other countries not just France and New Zealand. This Chilean Sauvignon had a lovely gooseberry nose and a great apple/melon flavour. Not surprisingly my favourite white of the night and great with our smoked salmon nibbles.

Cabernet Sauvignon was the red from this winemaker, a grape I can only manage with food - good job we had a full buffet. Great colour in this blackberry and blackcurrant packed wine, with a little kick of spice on it's finish. A favourite with some of the chaps.

Staying in Chile our next wine was from Lidl and their Cimarosa range, another grape new to our tastings; Pedro Jimenez. Everyone thought this a very light citrusy white, very drinkable.

Although from the Cimarosa range the red pairing fro this came from California. Many of our group enjoy White Zinfandel but have not tried Zinfandel as a red wine. Everyone enjoyed it's smooth fruitiness and fairly long finish, it was a good wine to finish on and pause for our buffet.

Always a good spread, the buffet is totally made up of whatever everyone brings; bread, cheese, Pringles, homemade quiche, homemade sausage rolls and pork pie.

We also had profiteroles, mini eclairs, mini cornflake cakes and mini caramel squares for dessert - a feast indeed.

Our restart country was Spain and another white grape very few had tried, Macabeo. This was the lightest tasting white of the evening, it certainly needed food to help lift it. A subtle flavour of lemon and apple which again everyone thought would be best served in the summer sun.

La Serrana were the producers for this Spanish pairing, the red being their Tempranillo, a favourite grape amongst some of our chaps. A good example of Spain's popular grape, lots of blackcurrants and black cherries, another easy drinker.

Morrison's Black Cuvée XV Chardonnay Viognier began our double tasting from South Africa. The creaminess of Chardonnay was certainly there with the counteracting kick of Viognier it was a very smooth white, full of tropical fruits and a hint of vanilla.

Black Cuvée XV Shiraz Petit Verdot was my favourite red of the evening, lots of dark fruits and cour cherries with a good spicy finish. This was enhanced with our chorizo nibbles, a great 14% red at a great price £4.75.

The final two pairings - Robertson's Winery. We had purchased these wines from Calais Wines and Majestic Calais when in France and thankfully they are available in Majestic branches here in the UK. The crisp lemon and limey Chenin Blanc was lovely, especially with Guyere cheese, such a great combination.

Guinness made an appearance again in our final paired red: Robertson's Winery Merlot full of plums and chocolate. Where was the Guinness? In the chocolate cake I made to accompany this deep wine - a perfect match.

All our whites - superb with many new varieties
All our reds - a great selection of new and old varieties
We did have two final wines - one of our members is retiring from work after 22 years and so brought a bottle of Extra Special Viognier from Asda to celebrate - a rich white, plenty of fruit with a crisp smoothness, a great way to raise a glass to retirement.

Our final wine is under wraps - I can show you the wine but I can't make any comment on the wine, what anyone thought or discovered. The reason is this wine is the monthly tasting at Cuvée Reserve.

Every month one of our members chooses a wine for us all to buy, taste and review .... but not until the 20th so if you want to read our findings (and those of the other Cuvée Reserve members) visit the forum later this month .....

... there are plenty of other wine reviews too so you could visit now ... Cuvéé Reserve 

Cuvée Reserve's March Tasting 
Our wine evening was again a great evening, we've been holding these events since 2014 and still have many wines to try. 

I think next time we may try buying a mixed case from Laithwaites or the Sunday Times Wine Club. It will be interesting to try wines chosen by someone else, it will be new to me then too - cheers. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Fine wine and a little bit of rugby

Majestic Leicester hosted another of their great wine tastings earlier this month. This event was a Fine Tasting event with tickets being £20 although this is refunded in the form of a credit against your next purchase.

To avoid peak hour train prices we; Hubby, myself and our Bar Manager son, took an early train into Leicester and enjoyed a pre-event drink at the Mecure Hotel followed by dinner at The Last Plantagenet.

We have attended many Majestic events; general tastings, wine courses and Fine Wine tastings. They are always very relaxed occasions with great wine, food pairings and superb knowledge about the wines which have certainly helped Hubby and I learn more and more. At this event we had bubbly, three whites and four reds - a great variety.

On arrival we were greeted with a glass of Balfour 1503 rose, an English sparkling wine from Kent. Although a rose this wine was so pale it could be mistaken for a white. A very refreshing glass of bubbly made from the three traditional champagne grapes; chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

To my delight our first fine white was Sancerre, my favourite white wine.

As with any wine there can be huge variants depending on location, soil, wine process to name but three.

Sancerre Chambrates from Domaine Vacheron this 2013 was had citrus notes with a hint of minerality, a satisfying smoothness with a medium finish.

My favourite of the evening, and we were only on the first white.

I recognised our second white wine almost immediately, not that particular wine but being a chablis.

Les Vaucopins is a great example of a Premier Cru full of peaches and green apples with the hint of citrus.

Our final white was a fiano which our son recognised - we're getting good at this wine tasting!

Planeta Cometa 2015 was a creamier wine than the first two. It had fruit notes, tangerine, peaches and a delicate herbiness.

It's made from 100% fiano grapes, comes from Sicily and is an intense heavy white.

With all three whites we had cheese pairings; goats cheese, soft french cheese, guyere; as well as pate which was a surprisingly good with our final white.

Moving onto reds we tasted four quite different wines: 

Four reds at our Fine Wine tasting 
Saintsbury Pinot Noir - a USA wine with plenty of cherries, subtle spice and a nose of tobacco leaves. Pinot noir is not a grape we drink very often however this was lovely, especially when paired with the pate. 

Promis 2013 Gaja - this Tuscan red was a merlot, sangiovese, syrah blend with plenty of cassis and dark fruit. It has a soft spice which matched it's soft tannins - all in all a very nice glass of red.

Emilio Moro 2014 - a tempranilo wine which was not to my liking but enjoyed by Hubby. Aged 50% in French and 50% American oak for 12 months it had plenty of blackberries, smokiness and vanilla.

Two Hands Shiraz 2014 - a lovely full-bodied Australian shiraz, my favourite of our four reds. Black cherries, full of darkness and spice this shiraz was lovely on it's own and would be amazing with food, especially a good steak. 

Thank you Majestic for another great evening where I enjoyed new experiences and certainly discovered more in the vast world of wine. 

And so to the rugby - two games in two weeks. It is heightened rugby season now as the RBS 6 Nations competition is under way. This does give a new dimension to club rugby as many of the top teams have players away in International camps. 

This was the situation for our first rugby game - Wasps v Ospreys

Wasps Rugby
As Wasps have relocated to the Ricoh stadium they are now our nearest team and with Hubby working for one of their main sponsors, Landrover, we often get ticket offers. They have some great players: Joe Launchbury (who makes me look small), Elliot Daly, James Haskell, Nathan Hughes, Tommy Taylor who are currently in the English squad. But even with these strong players not available Wasps is a forbidable team not having lost at home for over 12 months.

Opsreys Rugby
Opsreys are in a similar position with Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Alun Wyn Jones (Welsh Captain), Sam Davies to name but four currently away playing for Wales. Ospreys are my favourite Welsh team so when the fixture to play Wasps came up in the Anglo-Welsh competition tickets were a must. 

It's a far way from Swansea so understandably there were very few Welsh supporters but we did our bit.  
Supporting Ospreys at the Ricoh.

It was a great game - lots of new players to watch and in the final few moments a superb try from Hanno Dirksen saw Ospreys take the win 31 to Wasps 22. Unfortunately although equal on points to Exeter Chiefs they did not qualify for the next round on try difference, however they beat Wasps at home and have now won 12 consecutive games. 

I am English, we do live in England, however for this RBS 6 Nations I am again supporting Wales. A few reasons but mainly because although there are some great Wasps and Leicester Tigers players in the England squad I'm not a fan of Eddie Jones and I certainly do not agree with his choice of Captain (bad behaviour should not be rewarded). 

Of course with our daughter living in Cardiff and working closely with the Welsh squad and Welsh teams my support of Wales is also showing her support. My absolute passion is the game itself - I have favourite players which leads to favourite teams but I don't solely follow any one team be that club or country. Each game I support who I feel more connection with, I just enjoy a good, injury/trouble free game. 

So yesterday at the Prinicpality Stadium in Cardiff with our daughter it was Wales who had my support as you can see from my warm weather outfit. 

At the Principality Stadium 
What a game - I was on my feet many times and shouting along with the 75,000+ others. The atmosphere in the stadium is amazing, never more so than the tribute and minutes silence held for Joost van de Westhuizen. He was a great South African player who sadly passed away on Monday at the age of 45 after battling motor neurone disease for six years. 

Principality Stadium - amazing atmosphere.
A win for England in the final stages of the game (Wales 16 England 21)  - it's a shame Wales didn't win but it's hard to be disappointed too much when you'd just had the privilege of watching a good game in a great place. Another day of memories, another day to treasure. 

I have no idea when our next wine tasting will be and I have no idea when our next rugby game will be, but whenever they are I hope they will be as enjoyable as the occasions we've just enjoyed !

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Scotland, Australia, China ...

.... all without leaving home ! Last week was Burns' Night, Australia Day and Chinese New Year so a busy week in my kitchen.

I love to cook themed meals, for us, for family events or when friends come round for dinner. This week was all for us starting with Burn's Night. Neither Hubby nor I have any known Scottish blood but we do appreciate other's celebrations and in Robert Burns case we certainly have enjoyed his work evey year as he's the author of the meaningful song Auld Lang Syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 

And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne! 

For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne. 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.

It's definitely a Scottish theme for our Burns' Night supper starting with Scottish mussels. I have to hold my hands up and say I didn't prepare them myself but bought a pack complete with sauce from Aldi. They were so meaty, a good quantity with a creamy sauce and from Scotland!

Mussels for our Burns' Night starter
Of course if we're having mussels we have to have Picpoul de Pinet - for me there is no better wine to accompany these gems from the sea. Later this year we are actually visiting Pinet in the South of France and hopefully trying this wine with fresh seafood.

Picpoul de Pinet used to be a french secret but over the last couple of years has become widely available in supermarkets and wine stores. This bottle was from Asda, full of green crisp apples it was perfect.
My favourite wine with seafood
It has to be haggis, there is no other main possible and to me if you don't do haggis it's not Burns' Night. However we have a variation of neeps and tatties and I made a creamy peppercorn sauce.

Burns' Night supper 
Great flavour in our Macsween Haggis 
And so to pud - raspberries in cream served in a bandy snap basket. I cannot vouch for the raspberries coming from Scotland and I certainly didn't make the brandy snap baskets but we did enjoy the pud !

Our special treat on Burns' Night is a Bobby Burns cocktail - I only make it on Burns' Night, it's quite strong but perfect over ice (we have whisky stones so the cocktail doesn't get diluted) when settled on the sofa after our super supper. It's so easy to make:

1 shot of whisky
I shot dry vermouth
1 tablespoon Jagermeister

Our trip to Scotland over the following evening we popped Down Under as it was Australia Day. No kangeroo steaks or bbq thanks to our winter rain but we did have lamb steaks. My way of celebrating Australia Day is with a very good bottle of Australian red, there's lots to chose from but my favourite wine producer is Yalumba. One day I hope we'll do a trip to the other side of the world and when we do Yalumba will be my priority visit.

In 2015 Hubby and I were priviledged to attend Yalumba's evening in Chester where we met Louisa Rose their winemaker, a great evening which you can read about on my previous blog post Butcher, Baker and Winemaker.

In our wine rack we have a bottle of Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Voignier 2013 with it's striking horse artwork label depicting life when horses were used for transport.I really like this wine with it's dark cherries, fine tannins and hint of white pepper.

However it is still on our rack waiting to be enjoyed as we decided to open another Yalumba - The Scribbler 2012. At Chester we had The Signature with our main, and wow what a wine. The Scribbler is it's younger sibling being of the same Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz pedigree.  Matured 12 months in oak The Scribbler is full of dark juicy fruits with the merest hint of soft spice and smooth tannins. For me a perfect way to raise a glass to Australia.

Yalumba - The Scribbler
Our final overseas trip was to China - Chinese New Year ringing in the year of the Rooster. I enjoy cooking chinese food although it can be a mad panic at the end to get all the dishes out together as most chinese food is cooked quick in the wok.

I made sticky bbq pork which is becoming one of my all time favourites, so easy to do and reasonably priced as it uses belly pork. I cut the pork into cubes and boil in stock for two hours, drain and dry thoroughly before frying in oil adding the sauce last minute so all the pork is coated. Prawns with water chestnuts and noodles in sweet chilli sauce was our other dish along with seasame oil stir fry vegetables - quite a feast.

Homemade Chinese feast for New Year celebrations
Extra Special Pinot Grigio (Asda)
To go with our meal we chose a bottle of Extra Special Pinot Grigio 2015, not my usual choice of white wine but it does pair well with Asian food. This bottle was from Asda, a light colour with an equally light nose. It's flavour was full of apples and pears with a touch of minerality. A light wine that did match very well with our meal.

We didn't have pud with our chinese meal but I made up for it Sunday with a real pudding/beer lovers treat - Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale. Wells have been brewing since 1876 and this ale for me is just heaven. The aroma is like the kitchen on baking day, its flavour full of dark sugar, toffee, and caramel. Wells are quite right when they say 'this beer offers full contentment in a glass'.

Liquid pudding - so yummy 
All in all quite a journey around the world, all without the hassle of packing, airports and hotels, although as I said one day we'll hoepfully take a real trip Down Under.