Please remember to approach the world of wine responsibly
Or rather we follow Tony as he tries to improve his knowledge of wine by collecting, but often fails.
A VINEYARD THAT WON'T LET YOU DOWN
If you're a regular reader of Winefullness Magazine, you'll know that I have something of a fondness for the wines of Peter Michael. I've attended tastings of them at 67 Pall Mall, I've bought them for my collection and a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit the winery up in the Knight's Valley.
Now, I can add to these a visit to The Vineyard, a place which seems to be the centre of all things Peter Michael in the the United Kingdom. I believe that various businesses are run from this location, including a beautiful hotel and restaurant, and it's the restaurant that I was most interested in as I dropped in for Sunday lunch on my way to Bath. I would have stayed the night, but we're talking five star prices here.
I'd planned to go a week later but they were closed because of a refurbishment and I thought my chance to visit had gone. They pacified my disappointment by finding an alternative date and telling me that the lunch would be on them. Not only was I very impressed by this but it also gave me extra cash to spend on the enormous wine list that confronted me as I sat pondering what to eat.
To help ease the difficultly of choice I had a glass of L'Apres-Midi Sauvignon Blanc and was not let down. It's hint of pale yellow with a taste of subtle green and tropical fruit with a smooth mouthfeel was a delight.
As I ordered the maitre d came over and introduced herself. She instinctively knew my booking and seemed delighted that I had come to have lunch. God, she was good, and as we talked she informed me that one of the shared experiences for the staff who work at The Vineyard is that they all feel as though they have an emotional share in the business. I've heard this from other Peter Michael employees before and all I can say is that he must be one of the best people to work for.
I'm not going to spend long on the food (this is an online wine magazine) but suffice to say it was the best meal I have ever eaten, and as I write this (a couple of months later) the memory still lingers firmly in the mind. I started with goat's cheese wrapped in slivers of beetroot surrounded by candied walnuts, followed it with a risotto and then ended with the cheeseboard (my only quibble would be the slightness of the cheese portions).
For once I left the wine choice to the sommelier, figuring that because Peter Michael wines are superb and the winery is beautiful they must know what they are doing in the wine recommendation area.
I would say that out of the choices he made, two were spot on and they paired really well with the food. The third wasn't quite there and I guess it's my fault because I wasn't sure when I agreed to his recommendation.
Each wine was accompanied by a small disc with name and date written upon. I suppose that I'm not the only wine obsessive that visits.
I started with a Castell d'Encus 2017 Ekam which is a Spanish Riesling that tastes in the Alsatian tradition and I did enjoy it's viscous nature, although I don't really feel that it cut through my goat's cheese starter.
A great choice with the risotto was a 1999 Pommard Joseph de Vienne and I've got to say that after the uncertainty with the starter this was on the money. I found it such a wonderful pairing of food and wine that I wanted it to continue for a lot longer than it did (Perhaps that's because the food was so good that I eat it so quickly). The beauty of the fruit seemed to pinpoint different parts of the meal.
With the cheeseboard I was given the Domaine du Daley Pinot Noir 2016. This Pinot from Switzerland was unusual in that it was white. It was also very tasty and worked magically with the cheese. It had a lot going on and was a pleasure to end the meal with.
All too soon it was time to leave and I've already booked for a couple of nights in October (not doubt I'll be writing about it in a later edition). My next task is to start saving my pennies so that I can really give the wine list a try!
It's review time and Tony Harries looks at the world of wine without trying to touch a drop.
Today he visits a hotel with cuisine to die for and a wine list that will make you feel reborn.
ARE YOU READY FOR A TOUCH OF HEDONISM
I'm assuming that if you're like me you love going into a wine shop. I don't just mean to but the odd bottle and have a chat with the owner, I mean you wander around looking at the range on offer and finding a bottle of wine that are so legendary and expensive you almost get an electic shock if you touch it.
This is how I feel everytime I visit Hedonism in centre of London. I discovered it by accident, but I've got to say that a visit to the capital is not done until I've stepped through the door.
Have you ever longed to own an informative book that can also double as a step for those hard to reach places around your home? Then look no further because this is book for you!
I'm an addict when it comes to books about C.W.C (California Wine Country) and when I first saw this on the shelves in Hedonism my first thought was that this was the sort of book I wanted to add to my collection (my second thought was that I might need to hire a bodybuilder to carry it home) but are the contents as heavyweight or is `NAPA VALLEY THEN & NOW' a question of style over substance?
Written by sommelier Kelli A White (whose sommelier work includes stints at Veritas in New York and PRESS in St. Helena) the book may not include every single winery in the Napa Valley (it's such a fluid market) but it lists so many that to quibble would seem curlish.
Within it's beautifully glossy pages, `NAPA VALLEY THEN & NOW' has an appellation guide, profiles of wineries (with tasting notes) and finishes with the all important maps, reference information and contact details. The book feels as though Kelli A White has looked at what she felt was missing in the market and has tried hard to address those issues (you will be surprised just how many books seem to tread the same old ground).
I started with the, 'How to Use this book' guide because I felt that it would take years off just ploughing straight in. This was very helpful and made the information offered that much easier to digest.
Though I'm a sucker for books that contain the history of Napa I felt that this part didn't really bring me anything I'd not already read somewhere else, and I feel that this section is for those who might have just discovered the area and who want to delve beyond the usual tourist guides.
I found the section that contained the appellation guide to be really detailed and it contexualised the 'Valley' well and with a detail that I found easy to read, straightforward to understand and I know that this will become an essential part of my reading when I'm planning a visit to the area (so there's my pre-summer reading sorted).
Where this book really excels, and where I feel it will become the 'go to' book for wine enthusiasts is the detail with which it looks at the wineries. The picture below gives an indication of what to expect as inviting glossy pictures of wine bottles give way to the sort of detailed information that makes you want to spend hours pouring over history and vintage reports (which is what I did).
If we look at the Corison entry (well Cathy Corison does feature in 15 QUESTIONS) we are given a history of the winery that includes information about the owner, details of the various vineyards that contribute towards the wine and the winemaking processes that occur at said winery.
In previous editions of Winefullness I've reviewed the first two books that James Conaway has written about the Napa Valley. The first, I enjoyed for it's history about how the wine industry developed into the monster it has since become. The second took a microscope to the various quarrels that were taking place about tourism, and land usage up and down the Valley. So how does this 'the last instalment' develop the theme, and is there anything new that Conoway can tell us about the residents of this world famous region?
I'm pleased to say that there is. In `NAPA AT LAST LIGHT' sections of Napa Valley come up against each other as they continue to fight for the soul of the land. This time the protagonists are often winemakers and winery owners who seem to want to protect the long-term potential of what they own against invaders who seem intent on manic self-promotion as they build their boutique empires and think any problem can be solved if enough money is thrown at a it.
I found the predictions about Napa's future if progress is allowed to continue unchecked to be terrifying, and the bulldozer tactics displayed by Hall left me wondering if I will ever visit there again.
I realise that when Conaway stops moralising and lets the story unfurl by itself he draws you in with an easy to read narrative that brings its subjects warmly to life (and this includes some of the obvious villains of the piece).
There are times when some of the material feels as though it is leftover from the second novel, and I find the ending seems rushed and inconclusive, but it is a return to form for Conaway after the sermonising that haunted the pages of his previous work.
When I read Conaway's books, I often feel that while he loves to visit Napa Valley he wishes the rest of us would stay away, and as a person who has been visiting the place for so long now that my first visit pre-dates some wineries I just don't feel comfortable with this, 'I'm all right Jack' manner.
Like `NAPA AT LAST LIGHT', `SOMM 3' has reached it's treble edition, and I was wondering if this series could take us anywhere new? The answer is interesting, for as well as visiting old friends from the first two films, you add three legendary figures from the world of wine and throw them into the mix.
Writers Steven Spurrier and Jancis Robinson are accompanied by master sommelier Fred Dame as they discuss the wines that first interested them. In between this addictive narrative we cut to some of the characters that had appeared in the first two films as they continue to deliver their opinions on this and that.
When I first came across these trainee sommeliers in the first film I found them to be a little gauche as their constant need to demonstrate knowledge obviously made up for something they seemed to be missing elsewhere. This time, I found that when they appeared I was pleased and it felt as though I was seeing an old friend who had grown up and who (mostly) had something to say that wasn't showy offy!
The constant appearance of the three 'legends' gave the film a kudos and final destination for me, and I've always found that whenever Spurrier, Robinson and Dame speak it is worth listening to and will inform any growing knowledge of wine.
For me, the films strength was it's circularity as the newer master sommeliers head towards a viticultural horizon where legends reminisce about the time they were the `new kids on the block'. I'm not sure that there is room for a fourth instalment. It now feels as though the path is a little worn in places. Perhaps a new set of characters could be found to entice us further.
Are you after that special gift for the wine obsessive in your life? Then I feel that Wineware could be your new best friend.
I discovered the site by accident after I'd bought a wine map of California from an American site and had pondered why it had cost so much, and if I could get it somewhere else cheaper. My internet search reveal Wineware, and after seeing that the map I bought could have been bought a heck of a lot cheaper (without the ridiculous cost of postage) I decided to give the site greater attention.
For those who want to follow the vintage history (I include myself in this group) there are tasting notes that go back enough years for you to judge how things have been progressing. For once I found the detail was more of a snapshot, but I'm going to be honest and say that I like this sort of information to be brief and in a style that one can digest quickly as one sucks, slurps and draws air over the wine in your mouth.
Am I a fan of `NAPA VALLEY THEN & NOW'? Of course I am. For a start it's about somewhere I love to visit, but it's not just that. The wealth of information and obvious dedication to this work shouts about the enthusiasm that has gripped Kelli A. White.
It is expensive, but for what you get I would say that it is worth foregoing a half a bottle of Opus One. Like all books of this nature, it will become dated as new wineries and vintages rear their heads (so you'd better get updating Kelli!) and I feel that to judge it now, one must ponder if it will still be an important addtion in ten years or more. I can say without any qualms that this will be like an epic Napa Cabernet that will last for decades.
Now can we also have a book on Sonoma please?
The news is glum, very glum. In fact if you listen to the news constantly, it's enough to make your mood lower than a Dachshund's stomach. The hospitality industry in on its knees and lockdowns are like buses; if you stick around one will be along at any minute. Is there any hope, any possible way that things can recover? I want to share a little story from near where I live, and then you'll see that not only are folks coming up with new ways to operate, they're writing their futures in a style that can only make you want to help them even more.
`I can say without any qualms that this will be hanging around in twenty years! '
'It is a return to form for Conaway after the sermonising that haunted the pages of the previous work.'
Wines of the French Alps
When I was a child, for my tenth birthday, I was bought a book of maps (no, don't ask) and as I looked at so many different coloured lines squiggling about like unkept hair I knew that life would not be the same if I couldn't own books that featured detailed maps. Now I'm telling you this seemingly boring fact so that it might help you to share my enthusiasm for the maps that Wink Lorch has included in WINES OF THE FRENCH ALPS.
There aren't as many as I would like, but those that do feature are easy to read, labelled well and support the text with an ease that resembles Fred Dame at a speed tasting! My only problem was that as I read Wink's pleasingly easy on the brain text, I keep switching back to the maps and wishing for some sort of marker to make this easier on the thumb!
The average page is full of detail and beautiful colour photography that made me want to climb every mountain and drink every wine. There's also the addition of little boxes of extra information for ease of use.
What is so clear about this book is how much Wink Lorch knows her subject. People and places are introduced in such a way that they are never 'names' in a book, and among the many (very many) photographs you find pictures of the producers and growers that she has been writing about. History doesn't come to life any better than this. If this roll call of characters doesn't entice you, their stories of enthusiasm for one of France's lesser known wine regions is bound to seduce your inquisitive wine nature.
As I read through my copy of the book, I am constantly drawn to the amount of work Wink has put into such a detailed work. When I write detailed, I don't mean long rambling passages that often lose the reader's interest halfway through. I mean the sort of 'no stone has been left unturned' detail the author has placed in her efforts to demonstrate just how much this area means to her.
For me, Lorch's skill as a writer is when she takes something that features in hundreds of other wine books and gives it a twist that feels new. One example of this is her section on the wine producers. It might seem to take the usual route of listing names that might grab your attention, but with Wink's write-ups these are never sterile. Once again, the entries are accompanied by photographs that feel personal, as though they were taken specifically for this book and not some winery handout.
I wrote near the start of this review how pleasing it was find a section about the local food scene, and Wink Lorch's description of the various cheeses and other Alpine foodie treats is such a satisfying way to bring WINES OF THE FRENCH ALPS towards its end. These delightful morsels are not just given a name check. We are given details about their history in such a satisfying way that you'll be questioning why you've not already boarded a train to this beautiful area (once we are allowed out of our homes). If this is your intention, and it should be after you've finished this book, then Wink (wonderful name) has done the legwork for you and included various pieces of helpful information that will make sure the wine lover is not held back by Booking.com when they should be knocking back the odd glass of Jacquére with a tasty piece of Reblochon.
Compared with some of the wine books on the market this might seem small, but how many of us take those weighty wine tomes out for a holiday tasting? WINES OF THE FRENCH ALPS is a work of love that should be the first thing you pack for a trip to the French Alps. What I enjoyed about it was that on every page, in every detail and on every photograph, Wink Lorch's love for this area was so obviously there. Her writing is informative without being dusty and friendly without taking the reader for granted. Now if only this isolation would end I could book myself a visit and use this book to get ahead of the crowds.
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QUESTION 8: 'Who is your favourite wine writer?'
KELLI: 'I have now written and deleted four different versions of an answer to this question! Truth is, I consume a lot of wine writing and admire a bunch of different writers for a number of reasons. And many of them I consider to be my friends, so this question has really put me in a tough position.
'In lieu of pleading the fifth, I will say this: as my taste in music tends to run retro, so too have I been enjoying more historic wine writing of late. I recently purchased a handful of Schoommaker and Prial books and have been revisiting Gerald Asher, all of which have been delightful.'
QUESTION 9: 'Is there a wine style that you have difficulty liking?'
KELLI: 'I really dislike prune-y and/or overoaked wines. Which is why I initially thought I would hate all Napa wine - that is what I believe they all tasted like before I moved there. I have also yet to connect with too many dessert wines, and especially struggle with red fortified styles. Such wines have never been a part of my drinking life.'
QUESTION 10: 'What have you been watching on television recently?'
KELLI: 'I seem to have traded television for Netflix. I thoroughly enjoyed the first season of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) and both
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seasons of Killing Eve. So wonderful to see all this quality female-led programming, and so different from when I was growing up, when female representation on T.V. was basically confined to wives, daughter, waitresses, nurses, and the occasional femme fatale.'
QUESTION 11: 'Will you be updating 'Napa Valley Then & Now' ?'
KELLI A. WHITE: 'No, or at least I have no immediate plans to update it. I have a few other projects simmering that I need to tend to first, but who knows how I'll feel in a couple of years?'
QUESTIONS 12: 'Napa or Sonoma?'
KELLI: 'Well obviously I'm contractually obliged to say Napa :)'
QUESTION 13: 'What do you do to relax?'
KELLI: 'I like to read, hike, listen to music. I am currently attempting to learn the ukulele which I thought would be easier than guitar but is actually rather difficult in that the chords are different shapes. But I've been plugging away and have a handful of songs under my belt at this point. In fact, I recently bought a kazoo so I can layer my keyboard solo over the guitar part of A-ha's Take On Me. I'm sure my neighbours are thrilled.'
QUESTION 14: 'In 'Napa Valley Then & Now' is there a winery that you wished that you had have included?'
KELLI: 'Lots actually. The meat of the book is dedicated to older vintages of historic wines, and those wineries were selected based on exposure. That is, older wines that were readily available on the secondary market that I purchased for the list at PRESS.There are other historic wineries such as Trefethen and Souverain that I wish I had included even though my experience with their library was limited.
QUESTION 15: 'Which question do you wish that you had been asked, and how would you answer it?'
KELLI: 'One of the elements of my book that I am proud of but never gets asked about is my interpretation of drinking windows. Because I care so much about older wines, this is something I put a lot of thought into. You may have noticed that each wine is accompanied by a kind of odometer that shows where the wine is along the spectrum of primary, secondary and teritary flavours. I felt that this was a better way to indicate ideal drinking windows than the typical date range that accompanies classic tasting notes.
'When I was the sommelier in New York City at Veritas, our list was full of older vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Because I was tasting many of those wines for the first time on the job, I spent considerable energy grilling my superiors and digging through old wine books for clues as to how the wines could taste today. One of my favourite resources for this was Michael Broadbent's 'Vintage Wine'. I would read about, say, some kind of 1960's Bordeaux, then I would actually taste it, then I would refer back to the book. And I found that often the wine tasted very much in the line with the note, but that the drinking window had 'expired' 10-15 years prior!
'So here was a renowned taster, whose notes were still valid, but who despite his skills was clearly unable to accurately predict specific drinking windows. It got me thinking that maybe actually listing recommended years of consumption was the wrong approach. If the whole point of a drinking window is to inform the consumer as to whether a wine is meant for short, mid, or long-term cellaring, then perhaps a different, less bizarrely specific approach was required. Furthermore, not everyone enjoys 'mature' flavours. Hence my odometers.
'After the book was released, someone gave me a copy of Jancis Robinson's 'Time Charts', wherein she visually tracks specific wines' developments across time. It really blew my mind and I feel that it is a poetic and extraordinary, if laborious, way to communicate a given wine's drinking arc. Of course, tiny numbers appended to a short paragraph are infinitely more practical, even if woefully inaccurate, so I imagine that they will persevere'
If you have not read or looked through Kelli A. White's 'Napa Valley Then & Now' I would recommend that you take a look and then worry how you are going to afford to buy it, because once you've looked inside you will want this to be your companion on any trip that you might take to the Napa Valley.
As I write this, my copy is next to my l keyboard, lying there like a trusty literate dog. It was my first port of call when planning the Napa part of the trip, and judging by the amount and different wineries that have a copy on display I'm not the only one!
4 Seasons in Côte Chalonnaise
(The Guru ponder why it might not be a country for old men)
Here at Winefullness Magazine there is often pleasure in surprise, and when Jon Wyand asked me to give his book 4 SEASONS IN CÔTE CHALLONNAISE a look, I want to let you know just how pleasant that surprised was.
Originally published in France, this is mainly a photographic wine book that contains 250 enticing photographs along with 13 pages of authorative text by local French writer, Emmanuel Mère, but how well does it translate for the English market?
Firstly, the cover promises a lot, and as I study the russet colours of a sweeping vineyard I hope that the rest of the photography can capture my attention in the same way.
Following a brief entry from Jon where he contextualises why this book exists, he wades straight in with an entry from the Mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône that puts the stamp of authority on this book and makes me nod approvingly. In a few brief words he continues to support Jon's assertion than this is an area of Burgundy that draws in the visitor and makes them aware of how magical it can be.
I'm ready to dive into the book, but I have another entry to read first. This time it's Burgundian winemaker, cartographer and writer Sylvain Pitiot. I worry that Jon might feel we're questioning his wine writing credentials (which of course we're not).
After a brief word of geographical and historical background, 4 SEASONS IN CÔTE CHALLONAISE girds its loins and starts to deliver what I'm interested in. The sort of photography that makes me inferior about of my own camera skills and full of longing to travel instead of typing away on a hot computer.
The photographs have a warmness to them that really grabs my attention, and the colours have an almost autumnal quality as diluted yellows and woody notes appear to stand out the more I study each photograph. This is not a book to be skim-read, and I can promise that the longer your eyes take in what the lens has captured, your mind will be rewarded with small points of interest all over each photograph.
For a book about a great wine region I'm taken aback that it's a few pages before I'm actually seeing anything wine related, but with 'THIRSTY WORK 1 & 2' all is right in the wine writing world! It is obvious that Jon Wyand has a sharp eye for a subject, and photograph after photograph reveals his ablity to capture a terrific mise-en-scenè.
After I've been lured in by the first collection of pictures, I find the addition of text feels a little bit rude. It might be just me, but I'm eager to see what this region has to offer Jon Wyand's camera.
WINES OF THE FRENCH ALPS, or to give it its full title, WINES OF THE FRENCH ALPS (Savoie, Bugey and beyond with local food and travel tips) is a book whose extremely large title is matched only by the extreme large talent of its author Wink Lorch.
She is an award-winning writer whose book on the wines of Jura (JURA WINES) has become one of those reference books that makes wine enthusiasts wonder why it took so long time for such a complete work to be written. She is a founder of the Association of Wine Educators, a fellow member of the Circle of Wine Writers, has contributed to books by Jancis Robinson and Oz Clarke, and still found time to pick up the André Simon Best Drink Book award. To say that expectations for WINES OF THE FRENCH ALPS are high is bordering on understatement.
Right, I'm not going to beat around the bush and be all coy with my prose. This is another great addition to any wine lover's bookshelf. The enthusiasm that Wink has for her subject seeps through every sentence in the same pleasing way that beautiful wine does when it's being slowly pressed from the grape.
I must say that the blue cover doesn't grab me by the lapels, but as I ponder it for longer than seems healthy, I realise that it helps the title to jump off the page, besides there are enough pleasing photographs inside to match the knowledgeable text.
The contents page lays out the direction that this tidy book will take, and a cursory gaze shows you that the usual suspects are all present and correct. Where this book really started to grab my attention was Part 3, which I noticed was all about those hardworking sorts who make the wine, and Part 4 when Wink impresses me with her details about local food and wines. Remember that wine books are not made up of the contents page alone and it's time to present my case for this being such a tremendous book to own.
'Wink has totally got me with her section about enjoying the local food and wines.'
'Perhaps, as a man, I'm not the demographic, but I've always found that argument is more of an excuse.'
'Entries are accompanied by photographs that feel personal...'
'The colours have an almost autumnal quality to them...'
I love the section entitled 'Winter' the most, and there is a starkness to some of the photographs that invites closer scrutiny and brings a greater reality to everyday events such as a parade or a lonely cow lapping at some water.
Who doesn't love a shot of a misty vineyard's branches standing nude in the frost while a light that is so weak it could be Donald Trumps advisor manages to dish out faint sunshine?
After more text explaining, what is so special about each region, we enter the 'Spring' phase of the book, where days that seem unbothered by colour are replaced by blues and greens that hold future promise.
In this section Jon uses sparing sunlight to evoke emotion and draw the viewer towards the centre of each image, as faces hold promise and goats look at us enquiringly.
With Wyand's 'Summer' photography the brilliant sunshine seems rarely far away, even when it is behind the photographer, and my overall feeling as I looked at these pictures was that I'd seen a lot of this style in wine books, as balloons float lazily in front of my eyes and sleepy villages lying bathed in light tick all the right boxes.
'Autumn' turned me back into the pensive observer I'd been when looking at the 'Winter' photography, and I studied this section for a long time (perhaps because I was born in October and feel most naturally at home during this time of year.)
Harvest time is covered well, and it was pleasing to see the subjects featured in the photographs at home in the frames that hold them. I particularly enjoyed the wine worker washing himself down like an Olympic swimmer washing off chlorine, and a picture entitled Lula which showed a worker smoking as he stared at the camera with a story to be told behind his eyes.
As I reflected on 4 SEASONS IN CÔTE CHALLONNAISE I felt that Jon Wyand had a camera that was eager not to miss a single thing, and one or two of the photographs seemed a little bit repetitive on a theme. At these moments I found my attention wandering. These were more than off-set by the amount of diverting and interesting scenes that oozed from the beautiful pictures of Jon Wyand.
My main worry as I laid this book down was, who is going to buy this book? Photographic records of vineyards and winemaking areas are quite a crowded market. I worry who will buy this, apart from the eager vineyard visitors dying for a record of their daytrip to such an enticing area, or those wine completists whose mission it is to own every wine book that features their chosen area of expertise.
If I'm sounding negative it's because I do want this book to sell well. Some of the photographs are fine examples of the sort of wine photography that makes one sit in a comfortable chair, holding a glass of something fine while your eyes lap up the people, events and locations that fill this book. Now that's not too bad a recommendation is it?
To buy Wink Lorch's books click on the attached link.
'We are doing well. Napa is starting to get going again too.' - Todd Anderson (Anderson's Conn Valley)
'Sacha Lichine and all of us are navigating through these unprecedented times in an adaptive manner at the Domaine and in the worldwide markets.' - Thomas Schreckinger (Chateau d'Esclan)
'The online orders are very buoyant and we are looking forward to being able to open for tours as and when.' - Giffords Hall
'In the vineyard we are expecting a great vintage and everybody is working normally. The most difficult to part is not having orders in the restaurant. My hôtel-restaurant has been closed since the first of November and we don't expect normal activity for months and this can affect the cash flow. The good news is our strong financial health.' - Olivier LeFlaive
'Cité du Vin is still closed due to the Covid 19 situation, but we hope to re-open in a few weeks.' - Cité du Vin Museum, Bordeaux
'All is well here for the time being. The family has been spared by the epidemic so far. We hope it stays that way. Trying times aren't over, but it seems like most of the war is now behind us. Time to rebuild now...' - Jean-Frédéric Hugel
'We are doing okay. The tasting room is closed down for now, until the go ahead is given with all the new rules to follow.' - Simaine Cellars, Ukiah
'Our tasting room has been closed since March 15th and California is slowly reopening in stages. We believe we will be able to reopen in stage 3 when most hospitality reopens, including hotels. We have all our protocols ready and things will certainly not look the same as they did pre-Covid.' - Karen, Jean Edwards Cellars.
'I've been down in Dorset since mid March and am enjoying the Double click to insert body text here ...
It seems trite to write that these businesses and these people need your support, but I'm writing it anyway. These are just a small selection of the replies I received from around the world, from people who are going to need the customers to return when it is safe to do so, and I'm hoping to help them out in more concrete ways than writing a simple article.
In Colchester, Essex there is a place that some would call a Gastropub, but I'm going to call it my favourite pub to visit. It might have something to do with the drink they sell and the food that really places it ahead of most of the competition, but I think what cemented its position for me was the way the couple who lovingly run it faced the recent difficulties with an air of determination that is so admirable and planned a strategy that has taken off.
Not only does Patrick know his way around a kitchen better than Gordon Ramsay with a map, Jo is the sort of person who will disarm you with a charm that makes you want them to do really well. Did I mention that the portions are generous, tasty and a mixture of the traditional and the inquisitive?
If you live abroad and are reading this, of course you'll know about the English love of a Sunday special, and their Sunday Roasts are a fine example of this most British of favourites. I’ve also been known to visit them for a snack of chips, mushy peas, and a glass of Nyetimber (a wine and food writer cannot live by Foie gras and ale alone you know).
The drinks menu shows what happens when people who care about their business ponder what to offer instead of throwing out the usual choices that seem to litter pubs like bodies at throwing out time. I’m so pleased that there is more on the wine list than a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with acidity that would make a battery wince and Prosecco with more fizz than taste.
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Now, more than ever, we need to realise that our local pub, bar, hostelry or inn is more than just a place to order a drink or a plate of food. These are places where the community comes together to gossip, debate, laugh and celebrate, and it is important that we help them at this juncture. How many dates have you been on that started in a pub, how many rowdy nights of friendly fun have started from a single beer at the bar and how many celebratory family meals have they cooked you over the years?
Too many of them had vanished before the world was plagued by plague. We can't allow these grown-ups community centres of taste to vanish, because in the long run we need them if we are to communicate beyond the internet and the mobile phone.
If we let them go in the United Kingdom then we are sentencing ourselves to a return to a time similar to Oliver Cromwell and his miserable ilk, when fun appeared to be sitting on a cold church pew or oiling the ducking stool! Which reminds me, what happened after we got rid of that lot? We headed right back into the taverns to drink frothy (but warm ale) sit on lovely warm benches to discuss the quality of Nell Gwynn's oranges!
From the outside The Lexden Crown resembles one of those sound British country pubs that people from overseas seem to go a little misty-eyed about, when they're not going misty-eyed about the classic London pub that Charles Dickens mentions or Jack the Ripper was last seen in. Where the hostelries of the capital seem to only be inhabited during the week, The Lexden Crown has built up a clientele who drop in to be fed and watered at any time.
If you ever make it to Colchester (seventy miles from London) then point your car ot tell your taxi driver to take you there because it’s one of the great entrepreneurial stories of the Colchester area.
It was a very popular restaurant and watering hole before the lockdown, particularly with the older set, but word has grown beyond the blue-rinse brigade and it has grown from strength to strength until the locals at the bar are a cross-section of the great and the good. The owners (Jo and Patrick) have developed a pub with a large number of contented and savvy enthusiasts who will travel far because they know a good thing when they taste it.
It should also be commended for the way it has dealt with the problems facing the hospitality industry during these strange times. Whilst others closed their doors and were forced to furlough bar staff and bar stools, The Lexden Crown geared up and introduced takeaway and home deliveries before breathing a sigh of relief as everybody clamoured to try a menu that has proven such a success that it has been retained after the first lockdown ended. (don't forget that we now live in a time when there are more tiers than a royal wedding cake!
Of course there’s the familiar craft beers and flavoured gins that have proven popular with the masses, and I wish their wine list was a little bit more adventurous, but that’s a minor quibble when you sample wines that have a lot going for them. I recently tried the Verdejo and found it to be just what the doctor ordered, if you have a doctor like mine who will order you to drink wine (God bless the NHS)!
I’m so pleased to tell you that when I recently dropped in, business was very good at midday, bursting by one and heaving by three (I only stayed so long in the cause of research you understand). Don’t worry though because there is plenty of room to enjoy a meal or drink without rubbing elbows with any other folk.
I don’t know how things will develop as we continue to be forbidden from drinking and eating after ten o’clock, but I would urge you to support businesses like The Lexden Crown in whatever country you live. When all this beastly unpleasantness ends we’re going to need somewhere to party, and I know that people like Jo and Patrick will welcome you with open arms and plates of food that will make you glad that you visited.
Going Gets Tough