Monday, December 21, 2009

Preparing for Christmas 2009

This past week has been getting ready for Christmas. Up into the loft to bring down the tree, the decorations (the gold collection and the red and green collection) and the Christmas tea pot.

Christmas teapot

Yesterday we went down to Farnham to visit the Ageds for a cuppa, drop off a bag of presents and collect one in return. Then off to Heathrow to collect May, the MIL, and bring her back to stay with us for a couple of weeks.

The tree has already been assembled; tonight we put up the decorations and lights.

Christmas tree 09

Jeeves, mull me some wine!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bill Bailey at the O2

Mary Galashan wrote "when a friend of a friend of a friend invites to you at the last minute to see Bill Bailey in a hospitality box at the O2, don't even think about it, say YES!!! It was great fun and so clever."

Peter Blake guitar
Peter Blake guitar at The O2

An old friend of my brother rang me up last Friday lunch time and asked if I was free that evening to go see Bill Bailey at the O2. He had done someone a favour and they reciprocated by giving him the exclusive use of a corporate box on that very day. So he spent the entire day frantically phoning round to find short-notice guests. Mary and I were available so off we went for what turned out to be a most excellent evening.

We saw Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide To The Orchestra which was hugely entertaining. I had not realised that he was a musician before he was a comic and was pleasantly surprised when he sat down at the piano to rattle off a few classical numbers. Google for more reviews.

There was catering, as much drink as we wanted all for free, plus the entertainment. Afterwards, as it was still early, we went down to the VIP lounge bar and had a glass of champagne to round off the evening.

Bill Bailey at The O2. Slumming it in the corporate hospitality box. Free booze. Free food. Peter Blake original on the wall. Party on dudes!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sassicaia and Ornellaia Wine Tasting Dinner

Thursday was our works' Christmas party. Since we are the directors and work force combined we, as in previous years, splashed out the company's money in accordance with the taxman's tax free allowance for staff entertaining [1]. Namely we went out for a very nice meal. And they do not get much better than a Sassicaia and Ornellaia Wine Tasting Dinner at Enoteca Turi.

We sampled parallel vintages of 2003. 2001 and 1999 presented by Tim Atkin MW It was a rare opportunity not afforded to many to taste such Super Tuscans in such a combination.

Tuscan Tastes:
Chicken liver crostini, polenta cheese gnocchi, salame toscano
Cauliflower and olive bruschetta
Ravioli di fagiano e verza, salsa al tartufo nero
Ravioli filled with pheasant and Savoy cabbage, black truffle sauce
Sassicaia DOC 2003 Tenuta San Guido
Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Superiore 2003 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
Carre d'agnello, con carciofi e patate, spinaci alla fiorentina
Roast rack of lamb with sauteed artichoke and potato,
spinach fiorentina, thyme sauce
Sassicaia DOC 2001 Tenuta San Guido
Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Superiore 2001 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
Formaggi Toscani
Selection of cheeses from Tuscany
Sassicaia DOC 1999 Tenuta San Guido
Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Superiore 1999 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
Vin Santo con cantuccini
Vin Santo with cantuccini biscuits
Vin Santo Bianco del Empolese DOC 2004 Leonardo

For more about the wines see:

[1] page 10
The following expenses payments and benefits are not normally taxable under the provisions described in this booklet.
Annual parties or similar functions
Sections 264 and 266(3)
Annual parties at Christmas or alternative functions of a similar nature, such as an annual dinner dance, which are open to staff generally and which cost no more than £150 per head to provide. Where there is more than one annual function and their total cost per head exceeds £150, only the functions that total £150 or less will not be taxed.


The producer of Sassicaia today, the Incisa della Rocchetta family, was a key player in the Medieval and Renaissance history of northern Italy. The family descend from Aleramo, one of the largest landowners of the Holy Roman Empire, with 250 square kilometers of estate.

Leopoldo Incisa, a high-ranking official of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1840, retired due to a severe illness, and went back to the ancestral home of Rocchetta Tanaro, in Piedmont. Here he published two catalogues of precious Italian and foreign grape varieties that he had collected, which today are a bibliographic rarity and a point of reference to anybody involved in viticulture.

Almost a century later, his great-grand child, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, as a young student in agriculture, was inspired by those books to plant cabernet vines first in Rocchetta, and then in Bolgheri, the estate he inherited by marriage. As a student in Pisa during the 1920's, the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta dreamed of creating a "noble" wine. Like most of Italian aristocracy at the time, his taste in wine ran strongly to fine Bordeaux.

In 1930 Mario married Clarice della Gherardesca, heiress to the Tuscan estate of Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri, on the Tyrrenean Coast, where the young couple moved at the end of the Second World War.

There, just below the castle of Castiglioncello in San Guido (about 400 meters a.s.l.), he found the "terroir" that he was searching for. In 1940, he planted the first vineyard of Sassicaia and then in 1965, he planted two more vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Eventually, all of the wine produced on the estate came to be known by the name of Sassicaia.

The 1968 vintage of Sassicaia was the first to be offered on the open market, and it was as well received as the Premier Crus from Bordeaux. In subsequent years the cellars were moved to temperature-controlled quarters, wood fermentation vats were replaced with stainless steel ones, and French oak barriques were used for the ageing process. The marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta passed away in 1983. His son, Marquis Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta, now oversees all estate operations.


Tenuta dell Ornellaia, a 97 hectare estate, was founded in 1981 by Marchese Lodovico Antinori, in the hills near Bolgheri, adjoining Tenuta San Guido, the property of Sassicaia. Lodovico is brother to Piero Antinori of the Antinori Estate, and also nephew to Clarice Gherardesca of Tenuta San Guido.

Having inherited this estate, Ludovico planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot in 1982, with advice from his mentor Andre Tchelistchev, the late Californian wine guru.

The estate's signature wine, Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Superiore, a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend, with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, was first released in 1985 after ageing in French oak barriques for 18 months. Other wines produced on the estate include Le Serre Nuove dell'Ornellaia, Masseto and Le Volte. Ornellaia and Masseto comfortably rank amongst the world's greatest wines.

Lodovico Antinori is no longer involved with the winery he founded; after the very successful joint ownership by Marchesi de Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi in 2002, the property is today owned by Tenuta di Toscana, a company controlled by Marchesi de Frescobaldi, its young and enthusiastic team benefiting from the resources of a large company whilst having autonomy when developing the estate's wines.

Ornellaia is not one of Tuscany's most historic wineries, but it has become one of its most respected with a formidable reputation.

Ornellaia DOC Superiore is the estate's flagship wine; each grape variety and each vineyard is vinified separately, and then assembled to produce wines that reflect the nuances of each vintage. The final blend for each vintage decided 6 months before the completion of its barrel ageing and the wine remains in the bottle for a further 12 months before it is released. Ornellaia 2001 was considered "2001 World's Number 1 Wine" by The Wine Spectator.

One of the great Super-Tuscan estates, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Winery was founded in 1981 in what has proved to be one of Italy's most interesting and expressive wine-making areas, the maritime hills of Bolgheri within the greater wine region of Maremma. Maremma is an extremely interesting sub region of Tuscany for food and wine lovers to visit. Although for centuries it was considered unfit for vineyards, in the past few decades this coastal area has become one of the most ultra exclusive wine producing regions of Italy. Its success is due both to its staunch commitment to the philosophy of "quality without compromise" and to the unique climate and terrain here. While in some ways similar to Bordeaux's, the estate's terroir is truly something special; ever-changing and composite, it includes marine, alluvial and volcanic soils, allowing each grape variety to be planted in its ideal type of soil. Ornellaia enjoys some famous neighbors such as Sassicaia, one of the most legendary Tuscan estates. Sassicaia is owned (not coincidentally) by Antinori's uncle, who made the first Super Tuscan and began the trend that continues today.

Tenuta dell'Ornellaia actually occupies two separate estates in Tuscany's low, hilly coastal region. The original property, which Antinori inherited, is home to a stylish, clean-lined winery and 30 hectares of vineyards. Nearby is the second estate, Bellaria, with 46 hectares.