The Vineyard at Stockcross – ‘Judgement of Paris’ Tasting Menu

Sir Peter Michael, owner of 5 star vinous hotel experience The Vineyard, was directly inspired by the 1976 Judgement of Paris; the famous play-off between the traditional wines of France and the upcoming wines of California.

It’s therefore fitting that they offer a tasting menu which pays tribute to the original event, accompanied only by French and Californian wines.

Comprised of 7 courses, each dish allows you to decide which wine works best with the food, and if you prefer the French or US offering.  Opting for the full sensory experience I decided to taste my wines blind, replicating the conditions of the original event.

(Note: The individual dishes change seasonally as do the perfectly paired wines.  What follows are my thoughts based on those served on the day).

Course 1 – Beef sirloin tartar, sorrel sorbet, raisins and bone marrow crumb matched with:

  • Peter Micheal Winery (PMW) L’Aprés Midi (Sauvignon/Semillon) 2015, –
  • CaliforniaCháteau Tour des Gendres (Sauvignon/Semillon) 2015, Bergerac Sec, France

The US wine managed to trick me as it was in the lighter style.  The Bergerac boasted a silky texture with melon and tropical yellow fruit, and seemed almost too intense for their climate.  The PMW had a lighter colour and, alongside rich buttery oak, was characterised by a light airy character and peach and tangerine rind.

1/0 to the USA

Course 2 Lobster Raviolo

Course 2 – Lobster ravioli, citrus bisque, grapefruit, pickled ginger, basil matched with:

  • Donelan ‘Nancie’, Chardonnay 2012, Sonoma, California
  • Sophie Cinier (Chardonnay) 2014, Pouilly-Fuissé, France

The intense lime, mineral nose and refreshing acidity made the Poilly-Fuissé easy to pick out against the rich lemon curd style of the Donelan, but it was this weight that made it blend all the better with the Lobster and the Cajun style sauce.

2/0 to the USA

  • Course 3 – Foie gras ganache, pistachios, cherry and brioche ice cream matched with:

Domaine Loew, Les Cormiers Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace, France

Just one wine was to be matched with this course but, served in an opaque black glass we had no identifier as to whether it was white or red, let alone French or American.

The intensity and sweetness of the lemon matched up to the cherry very well, almost to the point of revelation.  A touch of cakey/bready spice in the wine very reminiscent of shortbread, cleansed the palate after the rich foie gras.

By default France wins, but its 2/1 to the USA

Course 4 – Roasted cod, cauliflower, curry and coconut matched with:

  • Peter Michael Winery Le Moulin Rouge (Pinot Noir) 2008, California
  • Domaine Audoin, Cuvée Marie Ragonneau (Pinot Noir) 2010, Marsannay, France

The PMW felt a little artificial, with the acid a touch too high and a mid-palate that didn’t have enough to excite.  It was straightforward compared to the Audoin that delivered a floral vanilla nose and redcurrant fruit.  Soft and delicate it blended well with the curry and the coconut.

France wins, making it all square at 2/2

Course 5 Loin of Lamb

Course 5 – Loin of lamb, turnips, baby gem, girolles and lamb jus matched with:

  • L’Aventure, Cóte á Cóte (Rhone blend) 2007, Paso Robles, California
  • Fortia 2012, Cháteauneuf du Pape, Rhone, France

Both made using the signature Rhone varieties of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvédre, the French offering was lighter in colour and more floral than its counterpart, offering up ripe black cherry fruit.  A mouth-watering acid worked very well with the lamb jus.

The L’Aventure, inky and youthful purple in colour despite its age, was dense, rich, spicy and alcoholic, and a seriously robust wine.  Mistaking this power for the classic hallmarks of Cháteauneuf and the fact that the depth of colour confused me, I guessed this one wrong.

Regardless of the confusion, the Cháteauneuf worked best.

France take the lead 3/2

Course 6 Peach Melba

Course 6 – “Peach Melba”, raspberry sorbet, almonds matched with:

  • Elysium Black Muscat 2014, Andrew Quady, California

Another single wine served in black opaque glassware to further intrigue and confuse, and this one completely outwitted me.

Thick and gloopy in consistency, this was syrupy and full of rich tropical melon and pineapple.  With a lip-smacking acidity it went wonderfully with the raspberry and the overall acidity of the dish, BUT it transpired that this was a sweet red wine!

Once armed with this information I found tinned raspberry and plum, but this was a good example of tasting with your eyes vs. tasting with your mouth

The US win by default.  All square at 3/3

Course 7 Chocolate Caramel Tonka Bean

Course 7 – Chocolate, caramel, hazelnut and tonka bean matched with:

  • Justin Vineyards, Obtuse (Cabernet Sauvignon) 2012, Paso Robles, California
  • Cháteau Coutet (Semillon) 1998, Barsac, France

The Cháteau Coutet was made in an oxidative style, amber in colour, and offering bruised brown soggy apples, thick honey, and summer cider.  Having said that, the slushy quality went very well with the peanut butter food and caramel notes of the food.

The Obtuse, whilst having an over-the-top (in my opinion) sweetness did actually pair well with the numerous sweeter aspects of this dessert (especially the chocolate), but was quite singular in tone.

A tough call at the final hurdle but:  France wins 4/3

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The Wine Show – Series One Round-up & Review

Last weekend saw the broadcast of the final episode of The Wine Show, the first UK mainstream channel series devoted to wine since Oz and James left our screens in 2007.  The series was independently produced by Infinity Creative media and tendered out to the networks as a finished product.  Without the guarantee that the show would be picked up it’s all credit to those involved for having the foresight and production values to be able to get wine back on the small screen without a direct commission.

wine show 1

Hosted by actors and self-confessed wine novices Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode, their journey to becoming better acquainted with the world of wine is supported by experts Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer.  Together they make a great team who are always engaging on screen, with particular praise going to Matthew Rhys who is naturally funny and always ready with a witticism.

Joe: “Why did you choose this wine?”

Rhys: “Mine was the cheapest”

——————————————————

Joe: “I have a dilemma”

Rhys (who is Welsh): “I know Dai Lemma, lovely boy!”

They’re clearly all having a great time and this selection of bloopers shows you just how much.  It’s also a pleasure to see that Joe, true to his word in the show, is readily available via Twitter and happy to chat to you about wine.  He truly seems like a chap you could go for a drink with.

Each episode follows a standard format, beginning with a filmed section from somewhere in the wine world, followed by a look at wine gadgets, food and wine matching, choosing a bottle of wine to create the perfect Italian case, and then one final filmed piece.

As a lover of wine facts and wine education, something I initially struggled with was the radical change of presentation style that’s been used.  Gone are the days of an introduction as to how wine is made, what styles are available, and why it is made in the countries that it is made in.  With this show you are straight in to a wine adventure, picking grapes at 4am in a vineyard in South Africa.

When I try to help others to understand the complex world of wine I always start with a few core fundamentals to give them something to balance upon; key grape varieties being one obvious example.  This didn’t seem like a first concern here and I was amused to note that the first mention of a grape variety comes a full 27 minutes in to the programme (and even this was by the guest chef rather than the hosts).  Consequently I struggled to identify whether they were trying to make wine look sexy for novices or to teach people already interested in wine, facts that they wouldn’t find in a textbook (which is done amply in the stunning location shoots).

Even though Joe is on hand to clarify the finer points, both Matt’s tasting notes frequently start and stop with “ooh, that’s good” or “I like that”.  Bottle labels aren’t poured over to wean out details such as alcohol levels, and scarcely any mention is given to bottle price, retailers or availability.  To their credit, all of the information is available on their website and signposted as such in the show, so is completely available should you wish to delve deeper.  Keeping it simple on screen allows each piece to remain relevant to all without becoming bogged down in the detail.

Once the series hit its stride my concerns were alleviated (episodes 3 and 7 are particularly brilliant in storytelling wine history and wine future) and, as each episode is standalone and could technically be slotted in anywhere in the series, I do wonder if they just started with the wrong episode?

Perhaps it was chosen as it was the only one to feature wine stalwart Bordeaux?  Opening proceedings with the sweet wines of Constantia before going on to talk about a £300 cork removal device seemed just a little bit too niche for the average viewer in my opinion.

Created initially for my own reference, I thought I would share my personal view of the series content and where I think each item sits in terms of accessibility (green indicates accessible to all, amber less so).  It’s worth clarifying that all of the content is interesting, but where gadgets/bottle prices have slipped in to the £100’s of pounds, or chef created food dishes move on from what the average viewer is likely to re-create (lobster with cabbage and strawberry cake, for example), I’ve moved the accessibility up to amber.

For completeness, I have colour coded the intro’s/outro’s in dark blue and advert breaks in grey.

wine show 2.jpg

As you can see from the above, the series covers 11 countries: Portugal, Chile, France, South Africa, Australia/Tasmania, Italy, USA, Moldova, China, Santorini, and Israel.  Making full use of the allotted travel budget (and who could blame them) there were multiple films from some of the further flung places, whilst other regions were left out of the mix.

I can only hope that a second series is quickly commissioned and we get to explore the absent big hitters such as Spain, Germany and, dare I say, England!

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