In Vino Veritas dinners… a report

Well that is our November dinners now complete and it is the rush to Christmas now… Booking for the Ho Ho Ho Christmas nights are now open and we still have some spaces up for grabs!

These dinners were a first for us in so much we decided to ask wine merchants Rodney Fletcher Vintners to supply wines to match the food and also proprietor Tim Fletcher was on hand to guide the guests through the process.

It was an ambitious menu and also quite a big one with five courses and following on from the welcome aperitif there were a total of nine different wines over the five courses!

It was a menu designed to showcase some good seasonal produce and included a few dishes inspired by some good local products as well.

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We kicked the dinners off with some nibbles that were designed to go with the first wine… An English Sparkling wine from Marden called Herbert Hall. This is a really lovely bubbly comparable to champagne and we were informed by Tim now chosen by none other than HRH Prince Charles to have as his own label on it and to be served to guests at Highgrove! We served it with three hot canapés namely little shot glasses of tomato and wild garlic soup (I am sparingly using up my home-made and personally foraged wild garlic pesto!) Some cheese pastry pinwheels and then some little toasts topped with bone marrow and a dollop of balsamic vinegar glaze!

As guests seated Tim deftly ensured glasses in place for the first two wines that went with the starter course. This was a cold salad starter of Green Beans with Cob Nuts and Pastrami… the green beans were also mixed with some dried green beans or what the Swiss call Dörrbohnen a staple normally served hot with a smoked sausage or a braised rolled piece of ham. I had pre cooked the beans and mixed them cold into the salad. The added crunch of chopped local cob nuts and slices of pastrami topped with a dressing of a bearnaise sauce flavoured with tarragon completed what one diner @moiramcb described as a highlight. The wines served with this were Altano Douro Branco 2011 – Symington Estates, Portugal and the Cousino Macul – Sauvignon Gris 2010 Maipo Valley, Chile more on how they faired later!

Next course of this mammoth five course dinner was a dish we served at our true underground dinner in the cellar of Winterdale Shaw… a double cooked cheese soufflé this time topped with some smoked haddock. We used vintage Gruyere cheese and served with a little rocket salad garnish. With this the two wines Tim and I had chosen were perhaps surprising for some a Pinot Gris Prestige 2010 Michel Wust Cave de Cleebourg –  from Alsace and then from Crotia Bolfan Primus Reisling 2008 – Again guest raved about this dish as I explained was a easy to prepare but stunning dish to execute… for those keen you can find the recipe here just replace the cheddar with another strong hard cheese and top it with some chopped smoked haddock for this variation!

The main course came next and again this was a dish I felt would be fitting for the dinner… a spicy Moroccan Lamb Tajine that would be served with a vegetable cous cous. It had taken two days to prepare with the cubes of lamb shoulder marinated in the spices overnight and then slowly braised with dried apricots, sultanas and flaked almonds to make a really unctuous dish. We decided this dish needed something bold and gutsy on the wine front and Tim’s suggestion of two red wines provided much discussion Domaine des Tourelles 2008/9 – BekaaValley – Lebanon and then Chateau Rossenovo Mavrud 2009 – Southern Black Sea, Bulgaria were the wines served.

As the guests seemed to be enjoying these wines so much we decided to stick with the reds to serve with the cheese course that we had planned to serve after the pudding but we kept to French and Hari tradition of cheese before pudding… The cheeses chosen this time were two favourites Winterdale Shaw and Stichleton…the blue cheese made like a Stilton but from unpasteurised milk.

The final dish we served was an Apple & Pine Nut Torte with a toffee sauce and a ball of vanilla ice cream, a good seasonal dish to finish with! The wines chosen here were also something of a bold move as we decided on a classic French dessert wine Chateau Ma Passion 2008 Bernard Dornic, Monbazillac and slightly more radical we went back to the Lebanon for Chateau Kefraya Lacrima D’Oro Lebanon 1993 a wine that ended up causing much discussion on both nights that on the scoring’s pipped the Monbazillac at the post as the favourite of the two dessert wines.

We had decided to ask guests to score their wines out of ten as a bit of fun just to see what was liked and what was less liked… it made interesting reading. I can report the following… the favourite of the night was the bubbles from Herbert Hall… a local wine that seemed to go down well with a good proportion of the guests as over 50% of the guests awarded 9 and over out of 10.

Next it was a tie between the Pinot Gris from Alsace served with the Soufflés and then the Chateau Kefraya served with the dessert! It amazed me to find on the Saturday morning I had a mention on my Twitter time line from Rhea Semaan (the Commercial Delegate at Château Kefraya – Export, PR & Communications, Event Management) stating the following “that vintage of Chateau Kefraya Lacrima d’Oro is a trophy winner & a rare one to find nowadays! Amazing” seems unbelievable to think the world of covert dining is reaching the ears far and wide.

Overall it was a really fun couple of days that seemed to go down very well in fact it was so oversubscribed we could have filled a third night!!! Having Tim supply the wines was for me both fascinating and a challenge to come up with dishes to ensure they match the wines. It was also amusing to see how different opinions were on the wines and for me the quote of the night has to go to Tim after a very boisterous first night as he served the sweet wines with the dessert! “The one on the left is the Lebanese the one on the right is the French one, Now eat your pudding”

We hope our guests had as much fun as we did and learnt something along the way…It was fascinating to find the Alsace wine coming second as Tim reflected this regions wines are the hardest for merchants to sell but the guests clearly loved it! One comment in our Guestbook remarked how fascinating it was to try wines from regions not normally found within the supermarkets and challenging to try something different!

For me though always having been a lover of dessert wines it was good to see that both our dessert wines proved popular and then the English Sparkling knocked all the “foreign johnnies” for six!

The league table for the wines finished as follows!

1: Herbert Hall – scored 9.11

2: Pinot Gris Alsace – scored 8.33

2: Château Kefraya – scored 8.33

4: Ma Passion – scored 7.61

5: Domaine Tourelle – scored 7.38

6: Mavrud  – scored 7.27

7: Altano Branco – scored 7.22

7: Bolfan Reisling – scored 7.22

9: Cousino Macul -scored 6.11

Comments welcome…

Hari Covert