Diamond Creek: Icon Wine of the Week

Californian wine is at our heart. We make it, we import it, we sell it and we drink it. Here, Assistant Head Sommelier Michael Meyers, who grew up in the Californian wine heartland, tells us more about the vineyard where he learned how to make wine.Californian

I would like to introduce a winery that is very special in my heart having grown up working and learning how to make Cabernet Sauvignon there.

Having acquired the 79 acres in 1967, owners Al & Boots Brounstein started planting Diamond Creek in 1968 with his purchase of 79 acres in Diamond Creek Canyon.

Identifying three vineyard blocks by the differences in soil structure and exposition, and naming them for their geological forms (Red Rock Terrace-seven acres with reddish-brown soil facing north, Gravelly Meadow-five relatively flat acres with a gravelly, sandy soil, and Volcanic Hill-eight acres of white volcanic ash on the hillside facing south).

Before he was even able to purchase the land, he smuggled vine cuttings in from two Premier Cru properties in Bordeaux, personally flying them up from Tijuana, Mexico to a nursery in St. Helena.

Al’s concept to create multiple single vineyard wines from Diamond Creek was unique in its day. Diamond Creek was also the first winery to produce wine from only 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Sadly, Al Brounstein died in 2006.

This wine is aged in 50 percent new, French oak barrels for up to 22 months depending on the character of the vintage and the skill of winemaker Phil Steinschriber.

The wine shows very dark ruby color; with notes of cassis, tart black cherry, baked berry on the nose, along with a striking minerality, and on the palate a rich deep cassis fruit, well concealed and integrated new oak, cedar, cassis, and a tart, baked-cherry palate, with a long structured medium-plus finish.

The Colours Of Autumn

There is so much choice for fresh produce in September and to celebrate the wonderful crop of seasonal vegetables, our kitchen team showcases the best in season to create the colours of autumn on your plate.

Just as the heady days of Summer wane, crops spoil us with a wealth of colourful health-giving produce that are prime for creating comforting, warming dishes ideal for crisp mornings and chilly afternoons.

Succulent, lip-smacking raspberries and pears are ideal on top of muesli or to create an energising smoothie. We’ve showcased this on our vegetarian menu with our delicious dessert: ‘raspberry and beetroot with marinated strawberry in port with wild strawberry sorbet’. Also you might spy a raspberry or two in our afternoon tea cakes!

The tartness and fleshiness of plums and greengage make up our dessert of walnut praline and greengage coulis with sautéed plums.

The fresh produce in autumn makes creating vegetarian recipes easy. For example, layering vegetables in a baking dish with garlic and herbs to create a vegetable gratin is very easy yet supremely tasty and health-giving. Kale, potatoes, squash and swede are really filling too.

Sassicaia: Icon Wine Of The Week

This week we’re favouring Tenuta San Guido by esteemed Italian Winery Sassicaia, one of the most exciting red wines from Tuscany. Our Assistant Head Sommelier Michael Meyers tells us more about this wine, with fascinating history.

Icon Wine

Tenuta San Guido is named after the Saint Guido della Gherardesca who lived during the 11th century. The region is located on the Tyrrhenian coast, between Leghorn and Grosseto in Maremma and it stretches for 13 km from the sea to the hills.

This wine is a blend of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Cabernet Franc. Planted on plots of land with a strong presence of limestone, this terroir is rich in rocks and clay at around 100 to 300 metres above sea level. The wine is aged for 24 months in French oak barriques and a few more months in the bottle before release.

This wine shows extreme purity that brings many beautiful aromas into startling focus and clarity. Lingering tones of black fruit and oriental spice add subtle shades at the back. The wine most certainly shows its pedigree in the exciting and beautifully balanced manner it evolves in the glass. It tells a new story each time you return to observe the bouquet.

Savoury flavours of tilled earth, sweet spice and dense blackberry and cassis fruit, this wine is very fresh and perfumed, but with real substance beneath. There is excellent acidity and tannins throughout.

Ch. Monbousquet: Icon Wine Of The Week

As September begins, thoughts turn to winter woolies, warm fires,  and warming spices. This week we have chosen a wine to suit. Complex, smoky and earthy, 2000 Ch. Monbousquet is our icon wine of the week.Head Sommelier

This week’s Icon wine is a beautiful, countrified St. Emilion called Ch. Monbousquet. This wine estate has a magnificent private park, recently acquired and renovated by Gerard Perse. The vineyards are primarily planted with Merlot, as well as substantial Cabernet Franc and some Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2000 vintage is a dramatic, full fruited wine of breadth and depth, richly perfumed with complex nuances of smoke and earth. This wine compares favourably with the wines of both Cheval Blanc and Ausone, but at one-fifth of their price.

This is a full bodied, powerful wine with dense layers of ripe black fruits, spices, mocha and firm tannins. It shows off a sexy, black cherry fruit centre overlaid with tantalizing camphor and smoke. Each component stands tall, but lays on top of one another in such an interconnected and harmonious fashion that it makes you want to swoon. The texture is deceptively silky and light in the face of such pronounced smokiness and solid rich fruit. The wine is drinking perfectly right now but has decades of lifetime ahead of it.

Alter Ego De Palmer – First Growth Quality

Every weekend we choose an ‘Icon’ wine, a superlative wine that we think is exceptional, to offer by the glass in our restaurant. This weekend, we chose Ch. Palmer’s Alter Ego de Palmer, the second wine from this esteemed Bordeaux winery. Here, Romain Bourger, our Head Somelier tells us more.

2008 Alter Ego de Palmer is a nuanced expression of the Ch. Palmer terroir, two interpretations of the variations offered by climatic conditions of the vintage.

Palmer’s 2008 Grand Vin was superb and, quite honestly, this, their second wine, is not far behind. Produced from younger vines at the famous Palmer estate, this Merlot-dominated blend (52 percent Merlot and 48 percent Cabernet Sauvignon) blend displays all the characteristics of the first wine and demonstrates the superb terroir which Palmer has.

There is a lovely depth of fruit and spice on the palate with fabulous concentration and focus with a wonderfully long finish. With a nose of blackberry, pencil lead and crushed black pepper it has real complexity and interest. On the palate it shows incredible balance and richness with fabulous texture and length. Offering intense, crispy and juicy fruits, Alter Ego is a spontaneous uninhibited wine, soft and round as soon as it has finished its 18 months of barrel ageing. Its lush aromas and supple tannins make it a wine that can be truly appreciated.

This wine would work wonderfully with our lamb and beef dishes. If you fancy a taste of the first growth quality of the Grand Vin but at a third of the price, than the 2008 Alter Ego is for you!

Peter Michael Wine: An Auspicious Meeting

Every bottle of Peter Michael Wine bears the six word credo: ‘Mountain Vineyards, Classical Winemaking, Limited Production’. Learn what happened the last time Robert Parker, acclaimed wine critic, met owner Sir Peter Michael in London.

Peter Michael Wine

It is no secret that wine critic Robert Parker has been a fan of Peter Michael Winery bottles from quite some time.

While Mr. Parker has visited winery regularly to taste new releases, Sir Peter had actually never met him as their visits simply never coincided. This changed when the critic brought his ‘World Tour’ to London last February. As part of the event, Sir Peter had the pleasure of attending the ‘Gala Hedonist’s Dinner’ at the Michelin Two-Star restaurant ‘The Ledbury’ in Notting Hill. There, he and ‘Bob’ finally got to shake hands and share a pleasant chat.

The soiree included a sumptuous menu prepared by The Ledbury’s chef Brett Graham and paired with rare wines, all of which had received perfect scores from Mr. Parker. Sir Peter was particularly proud that two of the nine wines served were his own. 2012 Cuvee Indigene was served alongside Scottish langoustine wrapped in shitake, with mandarin orange and ginger. 2010 Ma Danseuse was paired with aged pigeon with rhubarb, beetroot and olives. Delicious.

Afternoon Tea: A Very British Tradition

Today marks the start of Afternoon Tea week. Rebecca Galland, Restaurant Manager at The Vineyard, takes us back in time to the origins of this most delicious British tradition.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea all started with Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, in the early 1800’s who coined the phrase of having the ‘sinking feeling’ which was how she felt in the middle of the afternoon when breakfast had been worked off.

At that time there were only two meals a day one in the morning and one in the evening. Dinner was served later and later in the day. To remedy her feeling, Anna started having tea, usually Darjeeling, and a cake in her boudoir in the afternoon. She enjoyed it so much that she began to invite her friends to join her at her country house Woburn Abbey where she and her husband Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford, lived in the Summer. Eventually when the season ended and she returned to London she the continued this habit in the city. More and more people started to hear of it in her social circle and in the 1840’s Afternoon Tea quickly became fashion amongst the wealthy classes.

It is worth noting that this ‘Afternoon Tea’ that Anna started is not to be confused with what is known as ‘high’ tea which usually refers to the meal the lower classes would have, complete with a hot dish, followed by cakes and bread, which was all about the height of the tables.

Nowadays, Afternoon Tea is usually served on a stand and it led to a phenomenon that has swept the globe, albeit still a very British tradition.

Fresh and in season: Peas

We only buy what is in season at the time, to be as close to the natural environment as possible. Peas are in season between June and July. Executive Chef Daniel Galmiche advises how best to enjoy them.

Peas

In-Season Peas

I always look forward to the change of seasons and how that is reflected on our plates, especially when it comes to side dishes and salads. Each season brings its own special selection of vegetables. The fresh, the earthy, the tender, the robust and the sweet, there is always something delicious and new to enjoy.

Peas are one such vegetable that add a wealth of flavour and texture and are available June to end of July. Whether steamed, sautéed, roasted, baked or grilled, the possibilities are endless and the bonus of growing them yourself is that you gain all of the flavour. Lightly blanched really retains their texture and are wonderful to eat alone.

Peas are best when not prepared with too much fuss. Lightly blanched or boiling briefly and they can be added to stews and risottos or pasta.

Or – peas and pancetta, what a wonderful combination. Indeed, fresh peas are really versatile and so much tastier fresh from the garden and used in more innovative ways.

For wine matching, a fresh Loire Sauvignon Blanc can go well with creamy pea risotto, whereas a more exuberant herbaceous Marlborough version can go well with a heavier pasta. For a pea salad, a not-too-leesy Picpoul or Albariño would work well too – the clean and neutral notes would enhance the delicate pea flavours…bon appetit!

Vine and Grapes at our Spa

Vine and grapes possess exceptional powers to heal and rejuvenate the body, which inspires our signature wine-themed Red Grape treatments and products. Combined with our treatments and health giving spa, this is a winning combination.

Red Grape

Our Red Grape Beauty Products

The health benefits of wine and grapes have long been mooted. Cultivated on all of the earth’s continents except Antarctica, these little fruits contain many phytonutrients, which often classifies them as a ‘superfood’. Abundant in the raw fruit, much of this goodness including reservatrol has been found to remain throughout the wine making process and as such imparting some of this health giving property to the end product, red wine in particular.

This science inspired our own signature Red Grape beauty products: a body mask, moisturising cream. Made by the Natural Spa Factory, they are fragrant with sun-ripened fruit, a fitting tribute to the hotel’s theme.

We really believe in the healing power of massage both mentally and physically, and we combined our Red Grape products into out signature treatments. One such signature treatment is the 55-minute Red Grape Body Pampering Wrap, continuing the hotel’s wine theme. This starts with soft body brushing to help eliminate toxins from the lymphatic system, followed by a red grape body mask and a tension-releasing head massage. To culminate the experience, a moisturising treatment promotes soft, silky smooth skin.

And if that isn’t enough, the soothing benefits of hydrotherapy is well documented, and our award-winning boutique spa offers this. Fittingly commended ‘Five Bubbles’ – the highest rating – by the prestigious Good Spa Guide the emphasis on exclusivity with its own show-stopping feature in the glass roof. Our guests can stargaze from the elegant surroundings of the luxurious circular heated indoor swimming pool and relax in the warmth and health giving features of the Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. Bliss!

Behind the scenes with our General Manager

Running a five-star retreat like The Vineyard requires excellence and dedication. Marwan Hemchaoui, General Manager, gives a little insight into what this operation entails and why wine is so important to us.

We have around 140 staff working at The Vineyard – that’s three staff to every guest so that we can provide the best possible service to each and every one. We pride ourselves on offering award-winning or world-class service in each category (whether food, wine, spa or accommodation) and for this we require excellent, positive and experienced teams.

We have an absolutely fantastic team at the hotel, all of whom are very passionate about the service they provide and whom are proud to work here. Truly, working well together is like an art and all of them – in each facility of food, wine, service, the spa and our room – dance together well!

Of course we are very passionate about wine at this hotel, our heritage being steeped in the vines of California. Not many people know that we also grow grapes in Sonoma county – Peter Michael Winery was set up by our owner Sir Peter Michael – and the ethos of the Californian lifestyle is in everything we do.

With that, I often get asked what my favourite wine is. With so many good wines available, I find it a difficult question to answer. It depends on the time of day, if with food, and the season. It is a pleasure to sample a new producer, grape or style, because I think winemaking is a real art with many creations to enjoy. I am especially fond of L’Esprit Des Pavots from Peter Michael Winery. But, to me, wine is a socialising thing and I believe that the company and atmosphere truly make a good wine great.