Monday, 17 May 2010

California tasting at Selfridges and Tom's Terrace launch

Things are pretty hectic at Decanter HQ at the moment. We're putting together our Bordeaux guide and July issue – two issues in the time we usually produce one, so heads are down and stress levels are up.

My evening events therefore, are proving a welcome respite from the madness. As soon as I walk down our metal catwalk of a corridor and push the lift button to the ground floor, I feel the tension ooze out of me. And so it was on Thursday night, when I hotfooted it from the office to the towering pleasure dome of Selfridges for a Californian wine tasting, the apogee of a week dedicated to wines from the Golden State.

Rather ironically, in a bid to escape the madness of the office, I'd inadvertently stepped into an equally mad situation. Arriving a fashionable ten minutes late, on making it past the red rope, a glass was thrust in my hand and I was ushered to Table 2, where a besuited man was ebulliently espousing the merits of Californian Viognier. I had to play catch up, swirling, sniffing and swigging my Hawk Crest Chardonnay as fast as humanly possible.

As soon as I'd caught up with the Alban Viognier, we were onto the Meiomi, Bel Glos, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. We were given less than a minute on each wine – it felt like a speed tasting, which for me, took all the pleasure out of the experience. Wine is something to be savoured, not swallowed in a second. I barely had time to consider what was in my glass before we were on to the next thing. I understand we had a lot of wines to get through, but it's difficult to enjoy them when tasting at such speed.

I refused to let go of my Pinot, and instead let it linger in my glass while I revelled in its sumptuous, fruit-forward aromas of rich ripe cherries and juicy raspberries. On the palate it was as round as an O, and had massive weight and flavour for a Pinot – easily my wine of the night. The £51 Stags Leap Artemis however, was disappointing, in the way that so many of the California big guns are. I appreciated its classicism and elegance, but it didn't blow me away the way I hoped it might.

We were allowed to devour a selection of cheeses in between sips, from the gooey Reblochon to the robust Manchecho. And it was then that I fell in love... with Comte. I can't believe I've let this sensational cheese go under my radar for so long, and that its creamy, nutty, deliciousness has been missing from my life all these years. I was so taken with the Comte that the next day I went on a pilgrimage to Borough Market with the soul purpose of buying a hunk of the stuff.

Anyway, back to the wines... the final wine of Table 2, a Cline ancient vines Mouvedre, had lovely herbal aromas and attractive wild notes. No sooner had I pinpointed the aromas, than we were ushered to Table 1, the Shafer table, where we tried their 2007 Chardonnay and a rather delicious 2005 Merlot. On Table 4 we tried a sparkling brut rosé by J Schram at £57 a pop, and Peter Michael Le Moulin Rouge Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia for an eye-watering £105 a bottle. Admittedly, very little is shipped over to the UK, but for me the £32.99 Meiomi was the Oscar winner to Le Moulin Rouge's supporting act.

I never made it to Table 3, as I had to dash off to attend the launch of Tom's Terrace pop up restaurant at Somerset House. Making my way there through the back entrance via Temple tube, I walked through the fountains to meet my friend on the other side. The sound of the music, smell of the sizzling food and feel of the cold water on my skin was an intoxicating combination.

The party was in full swing and Lanson in full flow when we arrived – the man himself, fox-featured Tom Aikens was working the room (well, canopied enclosure) under the watchful eye of his gorgeous wife Amber Nuttall, while cranky critic Giles Coren gesticulated wildly to his flamed-haired wife Esther Walker. Perhaps she'd removed an indefinite article from one of his sentences, making it end on an unstressed syllable. I hope not for her sake...

1 comment:

  1. Wine tasting sounds awful, restaurant opening more fun.

    I thought about you after writing Armagnac with That Rhubarb Tart or Duck Magret, Tasting and Pairing with Denis on 'Serge the Concierge'

    A bientot