Category Archives: Wine and Spirits

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 

Only a few weeks until our annual wine festival on 15th November

glassesinarow - 580 x 288Well, with just a few weeks to go to our annual Wine Festival on 15th November, I have written the tasting book and compiled the wines to be poured on the day. I have to say that I’m really pleased with the line-up this year, with real diversity and quality so here’s a little “heads-up” on some of the delights in store… Tickets for the Wine Festival are just £25 and masterclass tickets are £5 per class. View masterclasses and suppliers

Glasses in a rowWe do also have a five course dinner with matching wines to open the annual wine festival on the evening of 14th November. It’s going to be a very lively and entertaining affair with suppliers each giving an insight into the wines they’ve chosen to match with the dishes. We are filling up fast for this event, but do still have places left if you would like to join us. View menu

As you would expect, California will be well-covered on the day, showcasing the best of the true North Coast region (taking in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties) and wines such as Waterstone, Ferrari-Carano and Donelan Family will be on tasting. Donelan has been our success story of 2014 with just beautiful Chardonnay, Roussanne and Syrah. Peter Michael Winery will have a selection of Pinot Noir plus the Knights Valley flagship Les Pavots on the stand.

Turning to Europe, brilliant winemaker Dermot Sugrue (ex-Nyetimber) will have his Goring Brut to show you just how good English fizz can be, however Champagne Taittinger will doubtless want to argue that point with their collection of wines open, plus I will stand my corner with Schramsberg Vineyards! Germany is covered by the wines of Weegmuller and Huesgen whilst Spain has Lopez de Heredia – surely the most classic Rioja you will find. On other stands South Africa, Italy, France and Austria are all showcased. This is truly a world wine festival!

And just to finish, we’ll be opening a selection of Sherries this year, plus a pair of beautiful Madeiras, the perfect Christmas day post prandial.

MeatPlatterThe Wine Festival begins at 12pm and finishes at 4pm. There will be over 150 wines to taste throughout the day and you’ll also be able to chat to WSET experts about the WSET courses we offer here.  Don’t forget,  your £25 wine ticket can be redeemed against a case of wine over the value of £250 and we also have a special lunch menu available in our restaurant for just £25 per person. To view the menu, please visit our website.

See you there…

James Hocking
Director of Wine
The Vineyard Cellars

Learn all about wine in a day with WSET

Glasses in a row

In our blog this week we’d like to give you an insight into what the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 Award in Wines course is all about. Then you can decide whether it’s the right level for you.

What is WSET?

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) was founded in 1969 to provide high quality education and training in wines and spirits. Since then, WSET has grown into the foremost international body in the field of wines and spirits education, with a suite of sought-after qualifications.

The morning of the course

glassesinarow - 580 x 288You’ll be asked to arrive at The Vineyard at 9.30am for registration and refreshments before the course begins at 10am. The morning session covers what wine is, the different wine styles, an you get to learn about sweetness, body and other factors such as oak, tannin and acidity.

 

Tasting wines and grape varieties

While tasting many different wines you’ll then move onto learning all about how climate affects the grapes’ acidity and sweetness amongst others things and then you’ll move onto the principal grape varieties. There will be activities through the morning to test your knowledge and help you learn all the important facts you’ll need for the exam. Other topics covered include how wine is made, how to taste wine like a professional.

A lovely lunch at The Vineyard’s restaurant

This is always a good time to break for lunch where you’ll enjoy a three course lunch withVineyard-69 matching wines in The Vineyard’s elegant restaurant. James Hocking, the WSET tutor, will talk you through the wines and why they match so well with each course so you can get a more practical understanding of food and wine matching. Take a look at our current lunch menu

Storage and service of wine

After a leisurely lunch it’s back to the classroom! The storage and service of wine is covered, which looks into the service temperature of different styles of wine, which glasses to use for which wines, preparing glasses and opening a bottle of wine, and social responsibility when drinking, amongst other things.

Food and wine pairing and the systematic approach to tasting

Next, you’ll be given a little plate with different foods to try with different wines and James will go through what happens to wine when you eat something sweet and when you eat a food that’s bitter. This will also depend on the style of wine. This part is very interesting and interactive and helps you understand the relationship between food and wine and the skill required to get food and wine pairing right. It does take practice, so don’t expect to get it right first time! Through the course you will be following the systematic approach to tasting, which allows you to identify and describe wines in six easy steps; colour, condition, sweetness, body, flavour characteristics and other which often includes tannin and acidity.

The exam

The course ends with a 30 multiple choice questionnaire that will test your knowledge of everything you’ve learned throughout the day. You will hear in about three weeks or so as to whether you have passed and we’ll send you out your certificate and lapel pin.

Please click here to discover more about our WSET Level 1 Award in Wines course. If you think you may know many of the topics above, you can move straight to our WSET Level 2 course.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our WSET courses in the near future.

James Hocking
WSET Tutor

Wine Tasting – A Perfect Autumn Activity

Glasses in a rowAs we say goodbye to summer (although hopefully we’ll have a few more balmy days) we look forward to autumn with the leaves turning to rich, vibrant colours
and being cosy inside warming ourselves in front of a roaring fire and enjoying a lovely glass of red wine.

Whether its red, white or rosé wine that takes your fancy or maybe all of them depending on your mood, dishes you’re matching wines with or simply the occasion, there’s lots of ways to have fun with wine.

We’ve found that our selection of wine tasting masterclasses go down well with our corporate guests who’ve had a really productive day and simply want to relax and have fun with colleagues, but still learn a little. The blind tasting masterclass is always a good one to choose and gets everyone talking about the wine or wines in question. Or if you’re looking to perhaps focus on a specific country, region or style of wine, we can look to tailor your wine tasting to suit you and you team. Two of our popular wine tastings are Asian Influences and California Dreaming, but it’s really up to you to choose the topic that’s right for you. We are flexible with where we can hold the masterclasses too. They often take place in our California Bar, but can set up our Calistoga or Oakville suites to accommodate larger groups.

If you’re looking for something a little different then our cocktail masterclasses provide aCheese board with wine - 377 x 221 perfect situation for further networking to take place in a fun and informal way. Our Gin Masterclass is a big favourite amongst both our corporate and leisure guests due to the rise in popularity in gin in recent years. Making your own cocktails is really interactive and is a enjoyable way to spend an hour learning new skills and catching up with colleagues. For the beer and cheese lovers among you, you’ll be pleased to hear that we also offer beer tasting and cheese tasting.

If you’re looking to host a meeting during the autumn months, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to visit our website and see more about our meeting spaces online and please call us on 01635 589407 for more details and a personalised quotation.