Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Chile: A Brave New World Tasting

WASP (Wine Appreciation Society, Penrith), Roundthorn Country House Hotel, Penrith. Thursday 24-November-2022.

Our third WASP tasting. This time we knew to have something to eat before the tasting. Although there is a buffet at the end all that wine on an empty stomach can make one squiffy!

The presenter was Piers Mortimer from Corney and Barrow, independent wine merchants. Piers, it would seem is a regular presenter here and well known to many of the audience. He started in wine while working at the North Lakes Hotel about 30 years ago and held various positions in the hospitality trade before moving to Corney and Barrow about 15 years ago.

The tasting measures are a precisely poured 50 cl rather than relying on the skill and steadiness of the pourer.

Notes interspersed with snippets of info:

Villarrica Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (White, 12.5%, £8.50).
A mass produced wine available in a variety of supermarkets, often under an own label. Presented here as a baseline from which to help assess the others, an easy drinking wine that does not necessarily need food.

  • Some oak? Fruit on the nose.
  • Fresh, acidic, citrus, pleasant/refreshing flavours
  • Good acidity on aftertaste.

Le Moscatel Massoc Freres 2018 (White, 14%, £13.95)
Many grapes are known by alternative names in Chile. The Massoc brothers went out to Chile in 2015 as Négociant-Éleveur working with the local growers to select and vinify grapes produced on 80 year old vines.

  • Pleasantly sharp, minerally, green nose
  • Good balance and texture, some body, fresh acidity, apricot/peach flavours
  • Good acidity on aftertaste, fruity.

Ascension Chardonnay Maturana Wines 2021 (Orange, 13.5%, £16.50). A "natural" wine with extended skin contact to give the orange tint. Apparently good with black pudding and scallops. Different to the chardonnays we are used to, the pink tinge and slight cloudiness could be off-putting but we appreciated the flavours.

  • Peachy, slight chemical, peach kernels. Pink tint
  • Peach, some acidity, minerally
  • Some length.

Naranjo Torontel Loncomilla Maturana Wines 2021 (Orange, 13.5%, £16.50 p)
Top Tip: with a wax capsule, do not try and remove the wax, simply open the bottle with a corkscrew as you would normally and pull the cork up through the wax.
Chilean wine making has been influenced by a succession of rulers: the Spanish conquistadors followed by the Jesuit missionaries, followed by the French after Napoleon invaded Spain and installed his brother Joseph as the King of Spain leading eventually to Chile independence in 1810.
As above, a curious colour, definitely a food wine. Recommended to drink with lobster bisque.

  • Appley, cabbage, metallic
  • Similar flavours and nose, smoky, metallic, good acidity, sweet/dry taste
  • Good, acidity, and flavour, smoky on aftertaste.

Panul Merlot Vinedos Marchigue 2021 (Red, 13%, £8.95)
The 1980s and 1990s saw the introduction of flying winemakers from France, bringing their expertise in to the Chilean wine industry to improve quality. Prediction: expect to see a move towards higher quality in Chile, and a growth in mass produced wine from China and India [which have land in the right latitudes]. We thought this was a lovely, soft, fruity wine and fantastic value.

  • Mahogany in colour
  • Mellow nose: metallic, slight vegetal
  • Smoky, good balance, soft tannins, some grip. 
  • Good length.

Polemico Pais Vina Laurent 2021 (Red, 13.5%, £13.50)
A Chilean wife and French husband producing 300,000 bottles per annum (compare Cloudy Bay who produce 2 million bottles!).

  • Light colour
  • Slight cherry, light, slight toffee
  • Light, faint cherry, slight perfumed, slight coffee, slight metallic, fine texture. 
  • Good aftertaste.

Licanten Cabernet Franc Idahue Estate La Ronciere 2018 (Red, 14%, £14.95)
Idaho Valley. Good with lamb. One reason Herdwick lambs are tasty is that they eat grass and are not fed on swede like lowland flocks. This one was well liked by all at our table.

  • Deeper, more closed nose, dark fruit
  • Rich dark fruit, some oak, soft, good texture, tannins.
  • Good length.

Arboleda Pinot Noir 2020 (Red, 13.5%, £17.50). Cool climate. Mary liked the flavours and elegance of this wine - akin to cool climate New Zealand pinots.

  • Vegetal, metallic, rich
  • Good, acidity, balance, texture, dry on palate, red fruit, metallic
  • Good aftertaste.

Another excellent and informative tasting. I realise that I need to read up on the geology of Chile to learn what kinds of rocks and soil they have.

Finding taxis to ferry us to and from the venue proved impossible so we drove up, abandoned the car and walked home. The next morning I taxied up and retrieved the car.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Bad Plus at Ronnie Scott's

Ronnie Scott's London. Monday 14-November-2022.

The trip to Ronnie's had been planned for a while unlike the two previous concerts this weekend! Our third Jazz Quartet in four days.  This was booked some while back with our friend Kathy. We sent her a list of possible dates and performers and she came back with this one as someone she had heard of. We knew nothing of them and so our expectations were modest but we have always enjoyed Kathy's recommendations in the past. Fortunately they were much better than expected.

We met Kathy for lunch at The Spice of Life and then went to an exhibition on Lucian Freud at the National Gallery. Not sure I like his work much - his view of human flesh is blotchy textured and sickly coloured. We then wandered around the main galleries for an hour or so and were reminded of the marvels therein; some of the most famous paintings in the world. We had booked for the first house at Ronnie's with doors open at 5:30 so there was just time for a mulled wine in Trafalgar square until it was time to head over.

We passed through Leicester Square which was in full Christmas market mode.

When there are two houses Ronnie’s clear the place, we all have to leave, in order for them to get ready for the second set and a fresh batch of customers. The band came on half an hour later than advertised but played for their allotted time making the second house a later start.

I was amused by the contrasting stage personas of the drummer who was suitably energetic, and seemed to be having an on-going joke with the double bass player, and the guitarist who made no eye contact with anyone but spent the entire set gazing down at his shoes.

Next to us we had a guy who showed his appreciation by whistling incredibly loudly at the end of each song. That really bugs me. I have been at some concerts where the whistle is so loud I find it painful. 

Overall we liked the band but they didn’t quite gel. We were not surprised to learn that they had a change of lineup about a year ago. The drummer and the bass player played extremely well together but we were not so sure about the saxophone player. There was some good “conversations“ between him and the guitar player but we definitely thought that he was better when he played the clarinet. 

After the concert it was still early and we went for a very delicious Thai at Patara restaurant nearby.

A very pleasant evening all in all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Jan Garbarek Group at the The Royal Festival Hall

South Bank, London. Sunday 13-November-2022.

We had no real plans for the Sunday of our weekend in London when, through the miracle of social media, this picture appeared on Mary's timeline on the Friday instantly recognisable as our favourite jazz saxophonist, Jan Garbarek. He was appearing at the Royal festival Hall as part of the EFG jazz festival. Straightaway Mary booked for the best available seats, back of the stalls by the centre aisle!

This was the sixth time we have seen Jan Garbarek. Four of the previous concerts were also at the Royal festival Hall courtesy of the EFG jazz festival. 

We went for supper beforehand in the OXO tower brasserie. They were doing a special three course meal. Very tasty and good value for money. We allowed a leisurely two hours which we used up and had to walk briskly the short distance to the concert hall.

Listening to Jan play the saxophone was a fascinating contrast to Friday night's sax player. The former was good, but Jan is world-class. His breathy haunting style draws a very different sound out of the instrument, evocative and mesmerising.

Although there were four musicians in the group it was clear to me that Jan Gabarek and Trilok Gurtu have a strong rapport as a number of the songs featured duets between them. Trilok is an endearing combination of world-class percussionist and a three-year-old kid who loves banging things together to hear what sound they make. There were solos for all the individual musicians with the bass guitarist's solo making good use of a loop pedal. 

In contrast to Friday night when the solos were being performed the others did more than just stand and listen reverentially they actually walked round to the back of the set and sat down to give the soloist the stage to themselves and themselves a rest at the same time - important as there was no interval.

Jan does not go in for chat with the audience, not even a “this next song is called x“. They walked on stage at the appointed time, played a track, waited for the applause to die down and launched straight into the next one, rinse and repeat. Even the obligatory encore was equally spare. They walked off, waited 30 seconds, walked back on, played the final track and walked off again. That way we got a full two hours of superb music!

Monday, November 21, 2022

70th Birthday meal - Lowlander

The Lowlander, Drury Lane, London. Saturday 12-November-2020.

The primary driver for our visit to London was to have a birthday celebration for those that were unable to make it out to Italy so we decided to make a long weekend of it.

Since we were in London on a Saturday there had to be a parkrun. Amongst other fun challenges we are currently doing the Pirates challenge: Seven Seas and an Arrgh! - you have to do seven parkruns beginning with the letter C and one beginning with the letter R. 

Also Mary is playing catch up because she started parkrun later than I did so Clapham Common it had to be.

The next few parkruns are already scheduled to ensure we complete the challenge by Christmas ending up running at Carlisle in full pirate regalia just purchased from the fancy dress shop at Clapham Junction on Friday. We are not mad!

The birthday celebrations were in Lowlander, a Belgian bar and restaurant in Drury Lane. We had booked the mezzanine so that we would have our own separate space. We were hoping to be around 20 but had a few last-minute dropouts due to illness and transport issues however that did not deter us from having a good time and fulfilling the corporate mission "to eat, drink and have a good time". It was great to catch up with friends not seen for a while and we ended up being there for five hours!

Eventually we had to leave as they needed to clear and clean ready for an evening booking so a smaller group of us adjourned round the corner to the Princess Louise in Holborn for another beer, non-Belgian variety. The interior of the pub had changed considerably since I was there last. According to our friend Tony, it had been bought by Sam Smith's Brewery who used the original Victorian plans to re-create the interior as it had been before the previous owners ripped it all out. They have done a grand job of restoration.

We then headed back to Fulham intending to get a light snack for an evening meal but there was not much to choose from in the area. We had already eaten in the Italian the night before. We decided to try the Fulham Kitchen across the road which turned out to be a Serbian café who were able to feed us a plate of charcuterie and a generous grilled goats' cheese salad. Mary tried a couple of Serbian Chardonnays and passed them as perfectly acceptable. The lads on the next table were enjoying some kind of digestive. When I enquired it turned out to be some kind of apricot flavoured rocket fuel so we had to join in and give it a try. I thought it was alright.

And so to bed.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Perico Sambeat with the Ray Gallon Trio at Pizza Express Live

Dean Street, London. Friday 11-November-2022.

We were visiting London for my alternative 70th birthday party on the Saturday which turned into weekend of generally unplanned music - three jazz quartets in four days. I was due to visit my sister on Thursday, stay over and spend Friday with her, but she phoned on Wednesday to say she had tested positive for Covid. Sudden change of plan... 

Mary booked last minute for us to see this gig, Perico Sambeat with the Ray Gallon Trio, at what was the very first Pizza Express in Dean Street. We last went there 16 years ago to see Mose Allison. Back then we were so close I could reach out and touch the piano. This time we were initially seated towards the back of the room, but a very friendly waiter reseated us closer to the stage where we had a pretty good view.

The master of ceremonies introduced the band and reminded the room that this was a proper concert not just background music, the implication being that we should pay due attention to the musicians and so we did. He also mentioned that this gig was the very first of this year's EFG London Jazz Festival.

The music was good. As with many jazz musicians when one was performing a solo, the others stood respectfully, nodded and listened. From my seat, the drummer was hidden behind a pillar but Mary had a good view of him and saw that he regularly played with his eyes closed. 

I have noticed that some saxophones are bright and shiny and some have a matt patina. I presume it doesn't affect the playing quality, but is more a reflection of either the age of the instrument or the fastidiousness of the player. It is a versatile instrument and in the hands of the right musician can produce an amazing variety of tones. The Ray Gallon Trio played a very enjoyable set and their guest Perico Sambeat added some fine sax playing.

As it was still early when the performance finished, we went round the corner to Upstairs @ Ronnie's where Mary's membership card got us in for free, which is just as well considering the price at the bar: £14 for a 175cl of Sauvignon blanc and £8.50 for a small bottle of Peroni! 

We sat and listened to some lively Cuban music for a while, slowly sipped our drinks and then wended our way home back to our Airbnb in Fulham.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Winter Droving 2022

Penrith, Cumbria. Saturday 29-October-2022.

Our sixth Winter Droving and it went pretty much according to expectation. Last year, they spread the event over three days in an attempt to thin the crowds and reduce the risk of Covid spreading. That wasn't really very successful, especially as on the Thursday it was tipping down with rain. This year they reverted to a single day event and that worked much better.

The full programme.

This modern festival celebrates the ancient custom of a bringing the sheep down from the high pastures for the winter, hence a major animal theme running through the parade. Everyone is encouraged to wear masks to add to the general jollity. I couldn't find last year's mask so I bought a new multi-coloured mask. We wandered around for a while checking out the stalls then had a lunch of street food; this year it was chicken curry from the Seychelles.

The drovers cup is one of the highlights of the afternoon between four local teams: 

  • relay race with trays of pints glasses
  • hay bales of hay relay race
  • mashed potato eating
  • tug of war
  • egg throwing (and catching)

The egg throwers were allocated three eggs per team and allowed as many throws as they could manage until all eggs were smashed. The team with the longest successful catch wins. There were some spectacular throws and catches, and also some quite spectacularly unsuccessful attempts resulting in egg splattered contestants.

There was music on the bandstand from the Lakeland Fiddlers.

The Melodrome hosted a variety of acts including the Punjabi Roots Academy who provided lessons and encouragement in Bangra dancing.

As usual there were stilt walkers.

For the children there was a full funfair including a traditional carousel.

Beer in Fell Bar until it was time for the lantern and musical parade.

Throughout the day and in the procession there were several marching bands all playing with great enthusiasm.


Another marching bands.

George and Sandra had some canine face masks from Covid times being photobombed by Mary wearing her usual mask, a gift from a friend. 

Stag, just one of many animals in the parade.

After the parade we went home for a buffet style, supper of hot nibbles and more beer and wine.

Friday, November 04, 2022

Ancient Rivalries Tasting

WASP (Wine Appreciation Society, Penrith), Roundthorn Country House Hotel, Penrith. Thursday 27-October-2022.

We have missed several tastings because we were in Italy so this was only our second WASP tasting. This time we knew to bring our own glasses rather than have to borrow a couple from the hotel!

The theme was ancient rivalries and the wines were presented as pairs by Andy Falk of Butinot Wines (for Philip Cranston). I do like a "compare and contrast" tasting.

  • Pair A: Methode Champenoise: England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 versus France 🇫🇷
  • Pair B: Chardonnay: France 🇫🇷 versus England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
  • Pair C: Sauvignon blanc: South Africa 🇿🇦 versus New Zealand 🇳🇿
  • Pair D: miscellaneous: Greece 🇬🇷 versus Spain 🇪🇸

Wine Name: Producer Name ; Country; Vintage; Cranston's Price

Henners Brut: Henners; England; NV; £32.00

  • Vinification: East Sussex near Hastings. A mix of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier (40%, 35%, 25% respectively, we think). 7 acres on clay soil, plus grapes from partners, grown on chalk. Three years on the lees. Sugar 7 g/L.
  • Tasting: Appley, slightly yeasty. Light, good minerality, dry, nice texture, shortish length.

Gremillet Brut Selec: Champagne Gremillet; France; NV; £29.00

  • Vinification: Côte des Bar, near Troyes. Kimmeridgean clay, 48 ha, 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. 18 months on lees. Sugar 8–9 g/L
  • Tasting: yeasty, slight toffee/vanilla. Slight hint of pink colour. Richer, finer mousse, fresh, slightly longer. Not as dry as Henners.  

Chablis Domaine Daniel Seguinot: Domaine Daniel Séguinot et Filles; France; 2021; £19.20

  • Vinification: hundred percent Chardonnay. Classic old world: no oak, no malolactic fermentation, cool climate. 
  • Tasting: Clean, fresh, tropical fruit/apple, melon, good, acidity, and mineralogy. Nice aftertaste.

Henners Native Grace Barrel Chardonnay: Henners; England; 2020; £17.80

  • Vinification: East Sussex, mixture of chalk and clay. 2020 was a hot vintage. Barrel fermented in 250/300 L barrels. 20% new barrels each year. Lees subject to batonnage (stirring).
  • Tasting: fresher, appley, minerally, yeasty, vanilla, good, acidity, and fruit. Nice texture, nice aftertaste

Circumstance Sauvignon: Waterkloof; South Africa; 2020; £12.90

  • Vinification: Stellenbosch winery using biodynamic principles but adapted to use the local herbs a.k.a. "natural". Aged in old oak.
  • Tasting: gooseberry, minerally, fresh, rich, toffee? Fresh acidity, grassy fruit. Good aftertaste, good length.

Sileni Cellar Sauv Blanc: Sileni Estate; New Zealand; 2022; £11.40

  • Vinification: North Island, gravelly, soil. Stainless steel, not oak. ABV 12.5%.
  • Tasting: gooseberry, fresh, flinty, grassy, pungent. Good length.

Erythros Papagiannakos: Domaine Papagiannakos; Greece; 2019; £13.90

  • Vinification: Peloponnese. Agiorgitiko, 70%, Cabernet Sauvignon, 30%. Six months in oak
  • Tasting: pungent, familiar, Bordeaux style. Lovely fruit, and texture, dark fruit, (plum, bramble). Good balance, excellent length.

Borsao Zarihs: Bodegas Borsao; Spain; 2018; £16.30

  • Vinification: Grenache 100%. Bush vines. Cooperative with 2,400 ha. South of Navarra, mountainous, 300/800 m. High altitude equals cooler equals slower ripening. 60% stainless steel, 40% new American oak
  • Tasting: sweet, tobacco, chocolate, red fruit. Soft fruit, slightly jammy, some acidity. Soft, tannins.

Our favourites out of each pair were:

  • Pair A: Methode Champenoise: France - Gremillet Brut Selec 🇫🇷
  • Pair B: Chardonnay: France - Chablis Domaine Daniel Seguinot 🇫🇷
  • Pair C: Sauvignon blanc: New Zealand - Sileni Cellar Sauv Blanc 🇳🇿
  • Pair D: miscellaneous: Greece - Erythros Papagiannakos 🇬🇷

At the end we helped finish off the leftover wines and partake of the buffet. We had taxied up to the venue as it is a 35 minute walk uphill but we did walk back down for fresh air and exercise to work off the wine. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Ben Monteith at Room 2

Glasgow. Friday 21-October-2022

We first discovered Ben Monteith in 2019 when he was support for Emeli Sandé. We were impressed not just by his singing but by his stage presence. He was discovered by Emeli as part of a TV program to showcase Scottish buskers. She was so impressed with him that she invited him to support her on her European tour. This time Ben Monteith was the headliner in Room 2, a small Glasgow venue, with his own support acts.

We decided to make a weekend of it and go stay with Mary’s sister who lives near Glasgow Airport. We drove up on the Thursday to renew the plant pot at the cemetery where Mary‘s parents ashes are. Then on to her sister’s for supper.

Friday was spent wondering around Glasgow doing a bit of shopping with an afternoon tea break at the Willow tearooms. We had a tasty pre-gig meal at The Citizen.

Ben is a fine singer but I do not think the venue did him any favours. Someone decided to give the smoke machine a quick burst so that we did not have a crystal clear view of the stage. I am convinced the PA system was not particularly high quality as his voice did not come across as well as when we saw him last (but that was at the Hammersmith Apollo).

He had two support acts both, like himself, were blokes with a guitar singing a mixture of covers and originals.

Ben then did a good long set lasting an hour and a half including a number of songs we knew from the album we have (Busking Live II). As at previous concerts we have attended half the audience appeared to be word perfect with the lyrics and were singing along.

Saturday morning was an opportunity for some parkrun tourism. We set an alarm a little bit earlier so we could drive down to the coast for Ayr parkrun this helping us with a number of parkrun challenges, most notably the alphabet as we were missing an A. Usually on the 22nd, aka two-two, a number of parkrunners wear tu-tu’s. The parkrunners / walkers at Ayr hadn't got the memo so we three were the only ones participating and we did get a lot of compliments.

The course is very much a trail course and very wet and muddy it was too. Back to Sandra and George's for a much needed shower and lunch. Then a drive home to Penrith followed by a short siesta and then out for a Mexican meal at Salsa to catch up with all our friends.