Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Wine Tasting - Majestic Commercial

WASP (Wine Appreciation Society, Penrith), Roundthorn Country House Hotel, Penrith. Thursday 28-March-2023.

This tasting was unusual on two counts:

Firstly: we couldn't buy the wines we were tasting. 

The wines were presented by Dale Wharton of Majestic Wines, specifically Majestic Commercial who supply to the trade - hotels, restaurant, caterers, etc. These wines are literally "not available in the shops". Not sure why, perhaps there was a misunderstanding re the precise nature of WASP. He did apologise, next time he would present wines from the retail arm, or we might see if WASP could be registered as trade or society so we could place a communal order.

Personally it didn't bother me too much. Wine tasting is about learning, expanding one's knowledge of wine and trying wines that you might not otherwise sample. 

Secondly: We had canapés with each wine. 

Normally we have a buffet at the end but wine tasting on an empty stomach can make one giddy. We always eat beforehand and only lightly at the buffet. This new arrangement was by way of an experiment and the kitchen at the Roundthorn did an excellent job. Then plan next time is to try having the buffet before and see which of the various arrangements work best.

Wine Country Region ABV

  • Tasting Notes 
  • Food Pairing
  • Mary's notes and ✱ star rating.

Cave de Lugny Saintchargny no56 France Burgundy 11.5%

  • Made purely from Chardonnay, this elegant fizz is made by customer favourite producer Cave de Lugny. Expect floral aromas and notes of citrus, hazelnut and butter. [Other wines from this producer are available in the shops]
  • Sweetcorn Fritter & Avocado Salsa
  • Fresh, yeasty; light, citrus. ✱✱

Henri Ehrhart Rosé France Alsace 12.5%

  • Pale pink colour, the wine seduces by its aromatic intensity with notes of violets and cherries; a real treat! The palate is lively, light and refreshing with fruity and slightly vegetal notes. 
  • Sticky Prawn & Mango Skewers
  • Strawberry / floral; fresh, fruity, good acidity; slight sprinkle on finish ✱.

Nicolas Rouzet Touraine Sauvignon Blanc France Loire 12.5%

  • Aromas of grapefruit and gooseberry leap from the glass, along with hints of lime, chalk and flint. 
  • Smoked Trout Pate on Toasted Croutons
  • Pale lemon; grapefruit & gooseberry; lime, gooseberry, green; good acidity, smooth ✱✱✱.

Macon-Villages, Cave de Lugny Les Florières (Vegan) France Burgundy 13%

  • Clear and shiny yellow in colour, this light and aromatic Chardonnay offers a seductive nose of delicate citrus notes and intense minerality. The cuvée perfectly illustrates the fruity and flattering palate of the wines of the Mácon-Villages appellation. 
  • Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas
  • Fresh, citrus; flinty; citrus, richer, smooth, good fruit flavours, nice aftertaste. ✱✱✱.

Baron de Baussac Viognier (Vegan) France Pays d'Oc 13%

  • A richly-textured white, with bright aromas of ripe apricot and peach, hints of grapefruit and fresh pineapple. 
  • Air Dried Ham, Fig, Honey & Walnuts on Toasted Croutons
  • Richer tropical fruits / grapefruit; lime, grapefuit. ✱✱✱.

St Desir Pinot Noir (Vegan) France Pays d'Oc 13%

  • Showing violets and sweet red berries on the nose, the palate is light, velvety and intricate, with integrated toasted notes. 
  • Mini Shepherds Pie
  • Perfumed, light, sweet, red berries; light, smoothe, creamy, elegant, ripended fruits, fresh. ✱✱.

Ventoux Aimé Aroux, Organic France Rhône 13.5%

  • Rich and complex, this wine is classic Rhône: a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvedre and Cinsault. With plenty of intense red-fruit aromas and spicy nuances, it's a real reflection of the sunny limestone plateau on which the vineyards are located. 
  • Belly Pork, Hoisin sauce
  • Vanilla?, spicy cedar; spicy smooth, soft tannins; good aftertaste, long. ✱✱✱.

Beauté du Sud Malbec (Vegan) France Pays d'Oc 13%

  • Blackberries, plums and blueberries, accompanied by a subtle touch of spice. Juicy, smooth and weighty palate. 
  • Mini Beef Sliders
  • Perfumed, ripe dark fruit; smooth, more powerful, well balance. ✱✱✱½.

Overall an interesting tasting with many wines we enjoyed.

We had encouraged some friends, Paul and Jules, to join. Unsurprisingly they did not take much persuading. We gave them a lift up and did the usual “abandon car and walk home”. They gave me a lift back the next morning to retrieve our car thus saving me half hour's walk uphill. 

That’s our last tasting for a few months as we are off to Italy for the summer.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Fell Brewery Beer Festival 2024

Glisky, Kendal. Saturday 16-March-2024.

After the success of last year's Fell Brewery Beer Festival it was a shoo-in to go to this year's.  Even better Fran at Fell Bar had suggest hiring a mini-bus to get us there and back. Unfortunately, despite the initial interest, not enough people coughed up the money so that fell through. Fortunately Mary's Aunt Avril , who lives in Kendal, had already said that she was up for an evening of beer and conviviality so we were able to stay with her.

Glisky is an old industrial unit repurposed as an events venue, here with beer stalls all around the walls. The deal is that your entrance fee gets you a half pint glass and one initial beer token exchangeable for a third of a pint. Extra tokens being purchasable, we bought nine for £20 and divvied them up between us.

This year there was no beer list as many entrants were last minute and there was no time to print up a list. This meant several circuits of the room were essential in order to:

  1. suss out potential candidates for tasting
  2. find the first pick again
  3. seek out alternatives when a pick had sold out 

I asked for recommendations for the most traditional bitter style beer that would then give me something to sup while I made my circuit of the room and chose my next beers. Their suggestion was Treehouse Organic Pale Ale.

After a circuit of the room my next chaice was the delicious Squalor Dark Lager. It is a dunkel, one of my favourite styles of beer.

Early on we decided lining the stomach was a good idea so went for food by Simon Rogan, a Michelin three star chef, no less! .

Leaving the two stouts on offer for the end of the evening. Next up, I opted for a pale ale which was pleasant enough. Mary focussed on Gose and wheat beer and found several that she liked - safe from me as they are too sour for my taste.

The penultimate beer of the evening was a delicious stout.

Final beer of the evening was an Imperial stout. At 10% ABV it is positively Belgium in character. It is a good job they were only serving 1/3 pint measures. A delicious last beer to round off the evening..

At the end of the evening, it was a half hour’s walk back to Avril‘s place in the pouring rain. We were absolutely sodden by the time we got back. So very happy to get out of our wet clothes and into bed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Brunswick Road 13 - Yard Work

Penrith, Cumbria. February-2024.

Money Pit II, Season 2, Episode 1.

We had always intended to redo our backyard as the concrete was cracked and anything but level. When we had a picnic out there in warmer weather, the tomatoes would roll off the table and run across the yard.

We were given an extra impetus when we discovered that the previous owner had connected the upstairs bathroom soil pipe into the next door neighbour’s SVP (Soil Vent Pipe) without consultation or permission. He had divided up a bedroom to create a first floor bathroom and rather than dig up the yard to plumb into the existing sewage he ran the soil pipe across the back wall and tee’d into the neighbour’s pipework (the gently sloping pipe in the middle of the picture). The owner next door only discovered this six months after we moved in as he rents the property out. Although it is a very neat and tidy solution, unsurprisingly, he was unhappy about this and keen to have the situation put right.

It took us a while to get round to rectifying the situation as builders are hard to find and we are in Italy half the year - we wanted to be present while the works were being done. Finally we started this year.

First step was to attack the old concrete with a pneumatic drill and break it up. Unfortunately the vibrations shattered next door’s bathroom window. Of course we paid for that to be repaired, fortunately a simple glazing unit replacement. 

Second step was to dig down and find out where the various drains went, and how they all connected up. Having previously lifted the manhole cover in the back alleyway, we knew that the two houses uphill from us all feed in to a communal pipe along the back alleyway, which then turns a corner and runs into our yard, under our house, and out into the street to join up with the mains sewage.

Our builder laid a new pipe from the corner, where you can see the broom handle, under the wheelbarrow in to a new access on the left-hand of the two new small manholes (the raised black tubes), and then turns a corner to join the original Victorian sewer under the right-hand manhole.

Once the new pipework was in place and backfilled, our builder put in a couple of ridges to mark gullys of the intended new surface.

The cement lorry arrived and parked outside our front door but the concrete had to be wheelbarrowed down the alleyway and into our yard by hand.

Next carefully tamped down and smoothed the concrete with a gentle slope towards the drains, as dictated by the gully markers. All looking very smooth and needing a couple of days for the concrete to set.

Once we could access the yard, it gave us an opportunity to jet wash all the green slime off the party wall and give it a fresh coat of paint.

This is the new pipework in place. The illegal T-junction into the neighbour’s pipework has been removed and our soil pipe fed down into the new underground pipe with its own SVP going up the wall.

Finally, we moved all the plant pots and bin store from our neighbours’ gardens back into the yard.

We were then able to let the neighbour know that his concerns have been addressed.

Now we are ready for Series 2, Episode 2 - The Living Room...

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Wine Tasting - Cabernet Sauvignon

Bassenthwaite Lake Station, Cumbria. Thursday 07-March-2024.

Another interesting tasting focussed on Cabernet Sauvignon including a number of Cabernet Sauvignon based blends. The first tasting that we attended here showcased wines from Bassenthwaite Lake Station's wine merchant. Since then they have switched to wines readily available from various well known retailers. So if there is something that appeals you can rush out and buy some (as happened after the Beaujolais tasting).

Name of wine ABV Retail Price Shop or supplier Country

Tasting notes 

  • Mary's notes [colour; aroma; taste] and ✱ star rating, out of three

1. Chateau Argadens Bordeaux Superieur 2019 14.5% £11 Booths France - Bordeaux

Château Argadens has been in the hands of the Sichel family, who are also part owners of Château Palmer and a number of other prestige Bordeaux estates. Their aim was to make the wine a benchmark within the Bordeaux Supérieur appellation. Sourced from a 45 hectares parcel located in Entre-Deux-Mers and aged for 12 months in oak barrels. Rich and ripe blackberry aromas with notes of oak. Generous on the palate with dense tannins and a long and spicy finish.

  • Mahogany colour; liquorice, blackberry, tobacco; full, rich, some tannins, metallic aftertaste, decent length 

2. Wise Wolf Cabernet Sauvignon 2022 13.5% £12 Morrisons France

Wise Wolf's French Cabernet Sauvignon displays a deep ruby colour and a bouquet of blackberry and cassis that melds softly on the palate with an effortless flow of black cherry and light oak influence. The result is a smooth, supple and structured wine with a balanced tannin finish.

  • Ruby; deeper aromas, spicy, blackcurrant, green pepper; smooth, good grip, blackcurrants, good balance 

3. Babich Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec 2020 13.5% £15 Booths New Zealand - Hawkes Bay

Warm and plummy aromas with blackberry, vanilla and cedar. Gentle on entry with lush rich red fruits overlaying darker notes. The mid palate is generous and sweetly layered while the finish is spice and leather. Dense soft tannins. An ideal partner for an antipasto platter featuring a range of salami and smoked meats, or any meaty casserole, like lamb shanks.

  • Deeper ruby; fresher, more upfront, plummy; strong flavours, red fruits, leather, tannic 

4. Chateau Tanunda Barossa Cabernet/Merlot 2021 14.5% £15 Sainsbury's Australia - Barossa Valley

This harmonious blend of bold grape varieties bursts with notes of juicy blackcurrants, ripe plums and fruity raspberries with silky overtones of chocolaty vanilla. This wine is made at Château Tanunda in the Barossa, an Australian heritage icon, established in 1890. It is the site of some of the Barossa's earliest vines as well as its first winery. The Château is privately owned by the Geber family who continue a tradition of fine winemaking spanning three centuries. This wine is delicious with barbecued or roasted red meats.

  • Deep ruby; nose more closed, blackcurrant, spicy; spicy, ripe, red fruit, bit jammy, soft, smooth 

5. Petaluma Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 14% £16 Majestic Australia - Coonawarra

The famed terra rossa soils of the Coonawarra Valley and cooling sea breezes create the ideal environment for the grapes, resulting in an elegant style similar to that of Bordeaux. Discover notes of cassis, mint, spice and eucalyptus, alongside soft tannins. Its complexity and depth of flavour will pair perfectly with red meats like beef or lamb.

  • Mahogany; blackcurrant, hints of eucalyptus; same on palate, light tannins, good length ½

6. Original Series No. 1 Cabernet/Merlot 2022 13.5% £8.50 Asda South Africa - Stellenbosch

The Original Series is a special selection of wines from some of the most renowned wine regions in the world. Stellenbosch is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, which are perfectly blended to bring you this deep, rich red wine. Combining vanilla oak and dark plum flavours to create a sophisticated taste that lingers on the palate.

  • Lighter ruby; spicy, plummy, cedar; not as rich, plummy, some tannins ½

7. Estampado Bonarda / Cabernet / Malbec 2021 13% £7 Booths Argentina - Mendoza

With lifted aromatics and a bright, brambly palate this is a really appealling expression of a classic Mendozan blend. Bonarda is dark and juicy, freshened by the gently tart Cab with the aromatic lift of Malbec all making for a deliciously vibrant wine.

  • Light mahogany; cedar, blackberry; soft ripe fruit, smooth, blackberry, light, some acidity, light tannins ½

8. Novas Gran Reserva Carmenere / Cabernet 2021 13.5% £11 Booths Chile - Colchagua Valley

Black cherry red with intense blackcurrant and typical green capsicum notes, that give way to hints of black pepper and tobacco leaf. The palate has a bright, fresh bloody feel common to Cabernet with Carmenère's darker leafy note. It's the quintessential expression of Emiliana's Colchagua vineyards at Los Robles. Ideal with grilled or roasted red and white meats, such as grilled skirt steak, roast pork with wine and spice reduction, and pepper-crusted steak.

  • Dark cherry red; more closed on nose, woody, dark fruits; smooth, rich, dark, fruit, bracket damson?)/blackcurrant some tannin 

9. Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 13.5% £10 Majestic Chile - Maipo

Renowned Chilean winery Santa Rita was founded in 1880. Medalla Real was created to celebrate Francisco García Huidobro, an ancestor of the winery's founders. He established the first Mint in Chile and had a medal coined to commemorate his innovation. Mature vines are used to create this complex wine. Grapes are slow-ripening thanks to cool night-time temperatures, allowing concentrated flavours to develop before picking. The end result is powerful but elegant. It has intense aromas of blackcurrant, blueberry and cherry, combined with soft cedar and spice. It's supple and juicy with a long, lingering finish. Delicious with steak in pepper sauce.

  • Dark purple; bit closed, slight medicinal, leafy, plum/blackcurrant; blackcurrant, cedar, some acidity, some tannin. Nose bit better than flavour. 

10. Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 13.5% £10 Asda Chile - Maule Valley

This is a pact with the extraordinary, allow yourself to be tempted and you will not regret it. This Cabernet Sauvignon has a deep character it is intense and has a strong personality... Structured and with an enticing silky character. Black wood, tobacco and a hint of vanilla.

  • Deep purple red; plummy; mushroom, green pepper?, Smooth, powerful, vanilla. Value for money but a bit sweet 

11. Apothic Cabernet Sauvignon / Zinfandel 2021 13.5% £10.50 Morrisons USA - California

The winemaking team carefully select only those cabernet grapes which boast the softest, most plush tannins and a fruit profile of optimal intensity. Sourced primarily from the premium growing region of California, these grapes are blended with a small amount of jammy Zinfandel grapes to deliver a Cabernet Sauvignon that will submerge your taste buds with a texture of silk, notes of dark fruit and layered aromas of vanilla.

  • Dark purple red; soft fruit, chocolate; soft, smooth, sweet, vanilla, jammy 

12. Chronic Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 14% £15 Majestic USA - California, Sonoma

The Beckett brothers grew up in Paso Robles, washing oak barrels and working bottling lines. It was here that they formed life-long connections with local farmers. These ties mean they now have access to the region's finest (or 'Chronic' as the duo call them) grapes. Their 'Sir Real' showcases the very best of Paso Robles Cabernet. Try its notes of black fruit and toasted spice with beef ribs. 

  • Dark dark purple, powerful, violets, cinnamon, plums; some grip, smooth, black fruit, not too sweet 

At the end the leftovers are put out for us customers to make a dash for a second go at our favourites.

Another fine tasting expertly presented by Amy and Aimee both of whom recently passed their Level 2 Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma exam.