Category Archives: Wine and Spirits

We travel to Peter Michael Winery in California

In 1982, Sir Peter Michael, owner of The Vineyard, travelled 6,000 miles, from London to Sonoma, on a mission that took him from extraordinary success in the high-tech world to a risky startup in the wine business. The winery in Knights Valley, Sonoma County, has gone from strength to strength, and  Nicolas Morlet, the winemaker, tells us more about how the last two vintages 2012 and 2013 have fared.
Peter Michael Winery in Summer

While mountain vineyards, classical winemaking and limited production are the longstanding themes at Peter Michael Winery, the growing seasons and harvest conditions do change. This makes the winemaking process ever more exciting.

For the 2012 vintage. winter and spring were wet and cold, slightly delaying bud break, flowering and fruit set. The bloom occurred in ideal weather. The climate throughout the summer was picture perfect: temperate with only moderate heat spikes. A long Indian summer of mild temperatures and sunny days was an important factor in the ripening process. Yields for the 2012 harvest were slightly higher than average for all varietals. The vintage gave us beautiful, clean, healthy grape clusters across all varietals, appellations and vineyards resulting in wines of depth and elegance and outstanding ageing potential.

For the 2013 vintage, the growing season began with a dry spring and mild temperatures similar to the previous vintage. In the first part of May, two days of violent winds damaged our Chardonnay vineyards. This resulted in uneven bloom and set, despite the otherwise ideal weather conditions. The vineyard crew carefully re-pruned the vines and executed multiple passes of green harvest. The already small crop was further reduced to one cluster per shoot, bringing the vines back into balance and ensuring the quality of the harvest. From veraison through picking, the vines enjoyed ideal ripening conditions. A long Indian summer allowed the fruit to reach perfect maturity and contributed to the exceptional quality of this small vintage.

Head Sommelier

Head Sommelier, Romain Bourger

Passion for wine has led to a fantastic career for Romain Bourger. For the past two years, he has held position of Head Sommelier at The Vineyard in Stockcross, which has been his home for five years. Things are going from strength to strength.

Head Sommelier

When did your passion for wine begin?

It all began when I started studying at hospitality school in my hometown in North-Eastern France. We were taught the basics about wine, such as vine training, fermentation and the growing season. This really piqued my interest and during my second year we started to talk more about the different appellations and grape varieties which was, for me, more interesting. I was very inspired by my teacher, Mr. Jean Pierre Lorrain, who had worked in various top hotels in France and always used to tell us stories from his time working in restaurants (whether it was a wine he served during a dinner with the French President or a memory he had from his youth which was linked to a particular vineyard or region).

When and where did you train to become a sommelier?

My passion was ignited and I wanted to take an extra year to learn more about wine. From 2007 to 2008, I took a more intensive class to learn more about wine in general as well as studies on other beverages – including non-alcoholic ones!

What is the most expensive wine that you have served at The Vineyard and where is it from? 

There have been a few in the five years that I have worked here, but the most memorable was a bottle of RomanéeConti, one of Burgundy’s finest and most expensive producers. Specifically, the wonderful 2007 Grand Cru Domaine de la RomanéeConti, ordered for a special occasion. I won’t disclose the price but let’s just say they had a good time!

Which bottle of wine in the cellar would you most like to drink and why?

There are plenty of delicious bottles in our cellar to tempt me so it is a hard choice! Right now, I’d choose La Tache Grand Cru Domaine de la RomanéeConti, the 1995 vintage. A good growing year in Burgundy, this Pinot Noir has such a delicate harmony between power and elegance, a velvety texture and complexity that it would definitely be my choice.

What is the best part of working at The Vineyard in terms of your passion for wine?

It is so rewarding to help our guests discover more about their wine preferences, whether it be through our wines schools, at a convivial dinner or an informal tasting. Being able to suggest wines to pair with their dish selection or to help them choose a special bottle, either classic or unusual, and be part of their experience is what I love.

 

Californian Wine Weekend – 8th to 9th May 2015

Californian wine weekendWell, we are getting ever closer to our Californian Wine Weekend on 8th and 9th May this year so I guess I should start to announce some of our visitors from across the water and the wines they will be showing…

At dinner, featuring Peter Michael Winery, we will be opening for the first time the 2013 L’Apres-Midi Sauvignon Blanc, a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc-based wine with a touch of Semillon added. Think white Bordeaux…but VERY good white Bordeaux. It goes without saying that the Les Pavots will be opened along with some of the family’s Pinot Noir. It promises to be a good night! View the menu with matching wines

At our Saturday tasting, these wines will be again open to taste, but joined with many others from our range of Californian bottles. Taste over 50 Californian wines that will be open to taste and purchase for just £30 per person. Maryann Bautovitch will be flying in from Talley Estate and pouring their Arroyo Grande Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Brent Shortridge, owner of our best sellers Waterstone, Mandolin and Amala Springs arrives on the same day and will be showcasing his entire range from the delicate Mandolin Riesling, to the deep, dense Waterstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Joe Donelan joins us for the first time this year and will showcase some of the finest Syrah to emerge from the US, plus a beautiful Viogner from Sonoma County. Masterclasses will be in progress throughout the day to help you get the most out of every taste…

And if you’re really lucky, I might just open a bottle of Peter Michael Chardonnay…!

Discover more about the Californian Wine Weekend.

Cheers,

James Hocking
Director of Wine
The Vineyard Cellars

What to drink this spring

What to drink this springSpring is here! OK, the weather may be a little variable at the moment, but things are definitely warming up and this certainly affects my seasonal wine selections. Read on for my recommendations on what to drink this spring.

Historically, March and April see the gamut of new wine and vintage releases throughout the vinous word. Many wine trade fairs are hosted around the country, with producers across the globe visiting the UK and showcasing their latest releases. So, what am I drinking at the moment…?

I always have a soft spot for Italy at this time of year, and have picked up a beautiful new Greco di Tufo from Feudi di San Gregorio, based down in Campania, Southern Italy (RRP £15.52). Lovely almond nose with a touch of white peach and honeysuckle flavours. I added their red wine Rubrato, made from the Aglianico grape (RRP £14.10) at the same time wanting that lovely balance of high acidity and low tannin. With a charcuterie board, either of these will be stunning. The whole concept of wine and food pairing is second nature in Italy…it’s just a concept that works!

wine glasses with rose wineLeaving Italy for a second, Germany and the classic grape of the region Riesling starts to come into fashion at this time of year, with Koester Wolf Riesling Kabinett (RRP £8.75) being consumed by the gallon chez Hocking, loaded with all that crisp lemon/lime zesty flavour and suitable for the spiciest of dishes. Also look out on our wine lists for the most exciting rosé wine I’ve tasted in years and on the water now – it’s from Austria and called Umathum. Every household should open this whilst the BBQ is getting up to temperature!

We have an Italian wine school coming up at The Vineyard on 8th April where you’ll be able to try some fantastic wines from all the great wine producing regions. We’ll also go into detail about how to match these delicious wines with food. Discover more

Cheers

James Hocking
Director of wine

The increasing popularity of English wines

Sparkling_Summer_HeaderSince I arrived in the UK in 2008, the reputation of English wines has not stopped growing. More and more consumers are aware of the quality of English estates such as Nyetimber and Chapel Down leading the market. During the past 15 years however, a fair amount of boutique wineries have emerged and improved.

We now hear a lot about English sparkling wines, but winemakers have proved that England is capable of also producing very good still wines.With over 400 vineyards planted in UK, there certainly is plenty of choice!

Here are my top five English wine recommendations below. It was a difficult choice to make though with so many incredible wines to choose from:

Wiston Wine Estate Goring NV
Based in the South Downs, the estate has been in the Goring family since 1743. The 16 acres of chalky vineyard were planted in 2006 with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This is an outstanding non vintage, fresh with a great minerality, aromas of fresh apple, citrus and very well balanced. I discovered this estate fairly recently, and for me it is one of England’s rising stars. www.wistonestate.com

Ridgeview Knightsbridge
Ridgeview was established in 1994 in Sussex and released its first wine in 1996. Knightsbridge is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This wine has a rich palate of ripe stone fruit with a creamy texture and a long finish. I do like riper styles of Champagne in general, and this wine is definitely to my taste. www.ridgeview.co.uk

Chapel Down Bacchus 2014
Bacchus is a cross of Silvaner and Riesling itself crossed with Müller-Thurgau. And what better name could have been given than the name of the Roman god of wine? The cooler English climate allows this grape to retain a higher acidity than in Germany, where it was created in 1933. This wine is a bit a Sauvignon Blanc with notes of citrus, fresh cut grass, a touch of tropical fruit and a lively acidity. A great match with a cold pea velouté. www.chapeldown.com

Gusbourne Estate Pinot Noir 2011
The story of winemaking at Gusbourne dates back to 2004 when Andrew Weeber took over the estate and planted the first grapes in the same year. Their first releases were their Brut Reserve and Blanc de Blancs 2006. This Pinot Noir is without a doubt the best English red wine I have tasted. It has a ripe and juicy palate with flavours of ripe red fruit, a hint of smokiness and spices. The palate is very well balanced and offers a great complexity. www.gusbourne.com

Nyetimber Demi Sec
Since its establishment in 1986, Nyetimber has been regarded as one of the leading English estates. They produce wines which have received several awards, but I think that the Demi-Sec is one of the most interesting in their range. The Chardonnay base gives a lovely creaminess to the wine as well as aromas of very ripe white and stone fruit, confit citrus and a touch of vanilla. We don’t usually find lots of those off dry sparkling wines, but this in undeniably a great wine to have with an afternoon tea or a light dessert like an Eton Mess. www.nyetimber.com

Try more of my favourite English wines at our English wine school on Wednesday 4th March when I’ll be focusing on estates in Southern England from Kent to Cornwall. Discover more about this wine school. Just £30 per person. also browse our long list online containing a variety of fantastic English wines to enjoy.

Santé

Romain Bourger
Head Sommelier at The Vineyard

New Look for Cocktail Bar at The Vineyard

Cocktail bar at The VineyardUpdated by Liz Cleall Interiors, our cocktail bar at The Vineyard now has an elegant and sumptuous feel to it thanks to the luxury armchairs, lighting, tables, blinds and small sculptures all locally sourced from carefully selected suppliers. As well as the new furniture and soft furnishings, the bar has also been extended to accommodate our 100 wines available by the glass.

wallpaperAs we are all about wine here at The Vineyard, one of the luxurious wallpapers that now adorn the walls has a gold cork print, whilst the other has an elegant vinyl look. Both have been sourced from Altfield, a leading resource for beautiful textiles, wallcoverings and leather, distributing a number of high end lines from around the world.

The 1950’s floor lamp and mirror over the one of the sofas have been carefully chosenCocktail bar - lamp, mirror and sofa from Julian Chichester’s collection. Julian Chichester has established an enviable reputation for classically inspired, quality English furniture.

We are also proud to have two small glass sculptures made by well known local sculptor Johannes Von Stumm who is famous for combining three different materials; glass, granite and iron. He has attracted public and critical acclaim in a decade of successful exhibitions, both in the UK and abroad.

Our stylish scatter cushions on most of the cosy armchairs have been sourced from Wemyss who are dedicated to producing high quality fabrics with a wide selection of beautiful textures, patterns and colours. Most fabrics are 75% natural fibres to ensure a lovely handle.

Liz spent time searching for the perfect sofas for the cocktail bar and eventually found the smart shallow button back Manhattan sofas at Kingcome Sofas who have an excellent reputation for manufacturing the highest quality upholstered furniture in a wide range of designs from traditional to contemporary.

Events in Berkshire this FebruaryWe look forward to welcoming you to our newly refurnished cocktail bar soon to enjoy our range of unique cocktail and over 100 wines by the glass. The cocktail bar is also ideal for group wine tastings and cocktail making masterclasses. For more details on where Liz sourced the furniture and soft furnishings for the cocktail bar, please visit her website – www.elizabethcleallinteriors.co.uk

Photographs taken by www.ahpphotography.co.uk

Celebrate Valentine’s at The Vineyard this February

rosesandsuitcase-914x437Valentine’s is all about spending time with your loved one, and with many of us having busy schedule, it’s the perfect reason to treat yourself and partner by booking a spa day or evening, having a couples massages, enjoying a romantic dinner for two or Champagne afternoon tea.

FacialVoted the most romantic retreat by the Good Spa Guide, The Vineyard Spa is the ideal place to come for a romantic day with your partner. Relax in the tranquil surroundings and enjoying spending time with just the two of you. We have plenty of spa days and evenings to choose from whatever your budget and the time you have to spare. From our pampering evening where you’ll be treated to a 25 minute treatment, a main course from our spa menu and use of the spa for four hours during the evening to our Ultimate Spa Day, which includes three relaxing treatments of your choice, a Bento Box lunch, light refreshments throughout the day and full use of the spa pool, Jacuzzi, steam, sauna rooms and poolside area.

We are lucky enough to have a couple’s treatment room, perfect for a romantic massage or facial. Choose from our range of Darphin and VitaMan facials and massages, or choose a treatment from our signature selection. Browse our treatment brochure for our full list of treatments.

For 13th and 14th February, our Executive Chef, Daniel Galmiche has created a special fiveCheese board with wine - 377 x 221 course tasting menu with matching wines and a special sharing dessert for Valentine’s at The Vineyard. This time of year is always popular with our guests, but we do have limited availability. Browse the menu and call us to reserve your table if you’d like to celebrate with us and why not stay the night?

Think delicious cakes, pastries and mini sandwiches, plus a glass of chilled Champagne in luxurious surroundings and you have Champagne afternoon tea at The Vineyard. Delicately created by our Head Pastry Chef, Anthony Millon, you’ll be in afternoon tea heaven. Browse our sample menu to whet your appetite.

The Best of Winter Wines

glassesinarow - 580 x 288Well, Christmas has passed, New Year celebrations are done, however winter is still firmly here with all it’s cold, dark mornings and evenings…makes you really fancy a glass of wine!

I’ve always been quite a seasonal drinker, trying to match season to wine style, and rich, heartwarming  winter wines are in my focus this month, along with fortified wines to banish the chill. Here’s a selection of what I’ll be opening over the next few weeks now that my 24-hour detox is over…

2011 Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California (£21.12 per bottle)

Rich, blackcurrant-led fruit, spice and vanilla from the oak. This remains one of the best Sunday roast bottles in our house, and works just great with a decent rib roast. Of course, a nice rare T-Bone would accommodate this also!

2004 Vina Bosconia Reserva, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja, Spain (£26.04 per bottle)

My favourite Rioja, made in a timeless, old-school manner. Tempranillo fruit allied to extended oak ageing gives a very classy wine indeed. A classic partner to lamb, but venison is a superb partner too.

NV Sugrue Pierre, Goring Brut, England (£29.87 per bottle)

Can’t exist on red wine alone? Well try this “frankly better than many Champagnes in my opinion” fizz made not that far away by legendary winemaker Dermot Sugrue (he of Nyetimber fame). Loaded with biscuity, brioche notes, citrus flavours and a lovely finish. You all need a bottle of this in the fridge to banish winter blues.

2012 Talley Estate Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande, California (£21.56 per bottle)

Another is our good friend and probably the world’s most revered critic Mr Parker has showered praise upon this winter wine so it probably won’t be around for long! However, if you do get to us in time, you’ll experience a lovely balance of citrus fruit and vanilla – just perfect with chicken dishes and quite highly spiced foods.

1998 Justino’s Colheita Madeira, Madeira (£21.17 per half-bottle)

Finally, a favourite fortified…vintage dated Madeira in very useful halves. Liquid Christmas pudding is the bast tasting note I can think of, with surprisingly high acidity. It’s the perfect end to dinner or as a warming post prandial late-evening…

If food and wine pairing is your thing, why not join us for our Bordeaux wine dinner on 27th February? Discover more

Enjoy!

James Hocking
Director of Wine

Festive Wine Recommendations

glassesinarow - 580 x 288Sparkling_Summer_HeaderWith some many sparkling wines and Champagnes to choose from, which would be your favourite picks for a festive drinks party or as an aperitif on Christmas Day?
For my festive wine recommendations for Christmas Day, I think I’ll play a classic game here and head for Champagne. I’ve always been a fan of the fuller-bodies styles, so Bollinger would be on the hit list, as would Krug subject to lottery winnings! One thing I have tried recently and been very impressed with is sparkling Shiraz (Magpie Estate, Australia). This has enough body to cope with a decent roast dinner, whilst still having all the fun of bubbles…See our wine list for our extensive range of Champagnes and sparkling wines

With the festive season well under way, which varieties of wine are great for mulling and is there a special ingredient you would include?
I guess with mulled wine I would just choose a full-bodied red and keep the price down as you are distorting the flavour so much. Oranges and cinnamon would go into my mix, but I have to say that mulled wine is not quite for me…

Which wines would you be pleased to be given as a Christmas gift?
I’m hopelessly addicted to Riesling, especially that from the Mosel Valley in Germany, so I guess anybody bringing a bottle of Haag, Prüm, or Von Schubert Maximin Grünhaus would be especially welcome! In the wine business, the pros take estate-bottled olive oil to give as gifts. If you’re looking for more gift inspiration, our gift vouchers can be emailed to you instantly. Browse our selection

Are there specific wines or grape varieties that you’d recommend with the traditional Christmas turkey with all the trimmings?
I usually serve red and white concurrently with “event” meals like this, so my red choice would be Pinot Noir-led. This year, I will be pouring Gevrey-Chambertin En Jouise from Domaine Harmand-Geoffoy in the very heart of Burgundy with all that earthy, elegant red fruit intensity. For white wine would head to my beloved Riesling grape, and I think that maybe something from the Alsace region in France would fit the bill admirably. Try a producer such as Weinbach or Zind Humbrecht.

Most Christmas lunches finish with a Christmas pudding, so what dessert wines would you recommend to match?
Tawny Port is a time-honoured classic – try something like Krohn’s 20-year old Tawny. Australian Liqueur Muscat is another choice. However, this year, I’ll be serving the pud with Argyros Estate Vinsanto from Santorini, Greece. The grapes were sun-dried for around 10 days prior to the fermentation starting, then aged for four years in oak. Trust me – it’s sensational… Browse our fortified and Port selection we serve by the glass

Cheers and have a very merry Christmas

James Hocking
Director of Wine

Fantastic Festive Wines for 2015

Glasses in a row - compressed

With some many wines to choose from and enjoy over the festive season, Romain Bourger has selected five of his favourites.

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, Napa Valley, 2010
One of the festive wines for 2015 recommended by Romain is  from Schramsberg estate. Owned by J. Davies Estate and established back in 1862, it was one of the pioneering vineyard to produce a sparkling wine using the second fermentation in the bottle, such as Champagne. Blanc de Blancs means white from white and is made from Chardonnay grape. The wine shows a creamy foam and delicate bubbles. The nose has notes of ripe stone fruit, toast, fresh almond and citrus, the palate is creamy with a fresh finish. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs gained international recognition in 1972 when President Nixon served the wine at the “Toast to Peace” in Beijing, China.

View our selection of sparkling wines and Champagnes by the glass


Peter Michael Winery, L’Après Midi, Knights Valley, 2013
Sir Peter Michael long had a great interest for wine, he established his winery in Sonoma in 1982 and released his first wine in 1987. L’Après Midi, the French for “the afternoon”, is a Sauvignon Blanc based wine blended with a touch of Sémillon which was first produced in 1991. It undergoes its fermentation in oak barrel bringing to the wine a hint of smokiness and a riche texture. It develops aromas of ripe tropical fruit such as passion fruit and fresh mango with a touch of pink grapefruit. The palate has a lovely minerality very well balanced with the oak character. This wine is very well suited for a poached Salmon with a Hollandaise sauce.

Discover more about the Peter Michael Winery


Langhe, Poderi Colla, Bricco del Drago, Piedmont, Italy, 2008
A wine made from a local grape called Nebbiolo, a very delicate and light coloured red wine. This Langhe is a very juicy wine full of plums, red cherry as well as a touch of violet petals. The palate is delicate and perfumed with soft and silky tannins. It shows more dark fruits such as blackcurrant and blackberry with a touch of pepper and leather. This wine is a more wintery wine and goes well with game such has a fillet of venison or cheese.

Discover more about our Italian wine school in 2015


Tio Pepe, Palomino Fino, Jerez, Spain, NV
Unfortunately, sherry is not used enough in gastronomy, however, it is an incredible style of wine because of its diversity and versatility with food. This light and dry Sherry made from Palomino grape is perfect for an aperitif due to its citrus aromas bringing a lively freshness. Its hint of nuttiness makes it well suited for veloutés and soups. Also, a richer style such as an Oloroso or a sweet Pedro Ximene would work very well with cheese or a Christmas pudding.


Tokaji, Disznoko 5 Puttonyos, Tokaj, Hungary, 2007
Since 1992 Disznoko is part of Axa Millesime. This sweet wine is made in a very traditional way. It is produced from a local grape called Furmint. This great pudding wine develops aromas of cooked tropical fruit such as pineapple, mango as well as some acacia honey and a great acidity. The balance is great and the wine shows an amazing balance. This is a fantastic wine to have with Christmas pudding or a trifle.

Discover more about our more unusual wines on our Long List