Tag Archives: wine

Worldly Wine Weekend

6 Oct

Lately, my diary has had more drinking engagements than Hemingway did during his Paris years. Not that I’m complaining – in fact, even to my liver’s protestations, I say: let’s get the diary filled!

So, it is with eagerness that I write about a wine festival I will be heading to this weekend put on by Virgin Wines. Yes – Branson has his hands in this pie too!

And although it is happening the day after the much anticipated TWE Whisky Show, I’m hoping my hangover won’t be so bad that I can’t cope with some beautiful Bordeaux or charming Chardonnay.

According to the people helping run the event – which happens from 11:30am-4:30pm Saturday at The Lawrence Hall, near Victoria in London – there will be more than 250 wines available to sip and sup, and a load of food companies offering their wares too. All for the measly sum of £15. Not bad at all, I say!

If there are still tickets available, I’d grab one now – I’m sure many a Gwiltypleasure will be satisfied…

Tickets are available from the Virgin Wines London Tasting site here for £15.


Winning Wine Fest

30 Sep

Despite the GORGEOUS (and strangely out-of-tune) summer-like weather we’re having in England right now, I am already looking forward to summer 2012. ‘Why?’ you might ask.

No, it’s not because of the Olympics – I’m still not relishing the idea of the onslaught of tourists that will take over Londontown during that time.

Actually, it’s for a rather juicy festival I’ve found out about, due to take place next year in Reading.

The Big Wine Festival is set to be the biggest event in England next year (bar the aforementioned Olympics) and is hoping to attract some 120,000 people to its massive pop-up village in Kings Meadow from the 7-10 June.

I went to the recent press launch at the sumptuous Benares in Berkeley Square to find out more and left full of wine, and full of excitement for this monstrous event.

Waiters mull in the background during the event to launch The Big Wine Festival at Benares in London

According to the lovely ladies from PR Company Cottrell and Klar, there will be wine from every wine-producing country represented at the event, along with food from their nations to go along with the tastings – two things that really get Gwiltypleasures going!

Not only that, but attendees will also have access to concerts, kids areas (as the organisers want to make this a family-friendly event) and loads of cultural activities from the various countries.

It looks like it will really put Britain’s food, wine and event-hosting on the map, and I’m glad to see something so major happening just in time to take advantage of what will hopefully be some summer sunshine.

More info on bands, events and wine exhibitors will be coming soon – it is, after all, still almost nine months away. But for now, Gwiltypleasures is blocking off a few days in her June 2012 calendar to be taken over with wine-tasting, lawn sprawling and concert listening…tres exciting!

Tickets for the festival will cost £37 for adults and be available in October from the website. More information on discounts and special offers will be available in the coming months.

Delectable Daphne

12 Sep

When I was a kid, I had the nickname: “Alwynne the olive eater”. This was, for the rather obvious reason, due to the fact I loved olives. Olives in a jar; olives at a buffet; olives any time of day. No one said I wasn’t a strange child…

So, the other night when the boy took me to the rather lovely, hidden-away gem that is Daphne, a Greek restaurant on Bayham Street in Camden, and the waiter hurried over with an over-flowing plate of garlicky lemon olives, I knew I was in for a treat.

Daphne is your quintessential quaint restaurant – it’s not got a website, it’s not on the high street, and it doesn’t have decor that makes you feel like you’re living in 2011 (the green, flowered booth cushions were akin to the wallpaper in my childhood bathroom circa the 1980s). It does have fantastic waiters, cozy dim lighting, great wine and even better food.

Unassuming from the outside, but a treat inside!

Let me first speak of the service, then we’ll get down to the courses. Being a Canadian for most of my life ingrained me with a sense of service (whether I was working in a restaurant or eating there). Now, no offense to the lovely Brits, but it’s always a bit lacking in this country. Which is probably why people don’t tip. Or maybe it’s the other way around. But at Daphne’s there wasn’t any hesitation that we were going to be treated like family. Outside of the almost instantaneous appearance of olives, the waiter also helped us with our wine selection – by letting us try the two bottles we were debating over before we chose. It’s little touches like this that I would think make people come back (a fact I discovered when I overheard two tables talking about other visits they had made to the restaurant).

Then came the food choice – there was a large chalkboard (brought to our table and explained in detail) full of specials. But there was also a huge menu, which included the magnificent sounding mezze option. We chose the latter, adding one extra starter because we couldn’t resist the description of halloumi, eggplant and prawn, wrapped up in filo pastry.

And boy were we overwhelmed! The cold course included seven plates – silky taramasalata, creamy hummus, mushy aubergine, tasty tahini, rich fish salad, cooling tzatziki and tender beets, with warm pitta. Then the hot course added another four plates to the sum (think: calamari, sausages and more) while the final course was a large platter of various grilled meats and greek salad. Suffice to say, we took a container of leftovers home. All for £17.50 each.

This was served with care, in a relaxed manner – the waiters let us pause between courses when we looked like we might explode, and were more than happy for us to take the rest away. The wine – a Greek red from a winery called Ktima Lantides (http://tinyurl.com/5tt6bfc) – was full-bodied, oakey and delicious. And the tables were filled with in-the-know locals, out for a nice comforting Friday night meal.

Although this may not have been served in an incredibly fancy, white-tableclothed environ, I would take the hospitality and comfort of Daphne before that any day of the week. Anywhere that thinks to serve their customers so well, and start off with a giant plate of olives, definitely suits Gwiltypleasures just fine!

Miner Discovery

29 Jun

During a recent jaunt up to Napa for a morning of hot air ballooning with the fantastic Napa Valley Balloons (www.napavalleyballoons.com) the boy and I decided to continue our day with a wee bit of wine tasting.

Our beautiful hot-air balloon inflates

There were a couple of tricky bits about this decision:

1) we had woken up at 4am to drive up to Napa from San Francisco for the early morning ballooning, so were already exhausted by lunchtime; and,

2) we were driving…therefore rendering the whole ¨drinking our weight in red wine¨a bit difficult.

We decided to try only a couple of wineries. The boy said he was more than happy to drive if I wanted to drown my bloodstream in declicious crushed grapes but being the stand up gal I am, I felt it would not be fair to make him miss out on that yummy extravaganza. That was, until I found Miner Vineyards (www.minerwines.com) a small family winery hidden away just to the north east of Napa proper.

I went in with the intention of trying one or two, since I had never heard of this winery before. But, as they had a flight for $20 (ie – I could try five for that much) I looked at the boy with hungry, puppy-dog eyes and changed my tune of being such a grandious and sober girlfriend. He happily conceded, saying he was too tired to enjoy it and left it up to me to taste away.

And wow, did I taste. Steve, the vineyard´s head of retail sales, gave me a try first of an oakey, rich Chardonnay that I immediately fell in love with, despite not particularly liking this grape normally. But it was the reds I really took to. And the laid-back atmosphere of the place – no selling, no rushing, no BS. When I asked Steve if I could take my glass outside to enjoy it away from the tasting room, he said: ¨Yes, but only if you promise to put your feet up while drinking it.¨And so I did.

And so I take it in...

With views of rolling hills, peppered with vineyards, I felt like I could be in Tuscany. This was almost as good. And the wine was stunning. Particularly the 2007 Petite Syrah, which filled my mouth with flavour so rich, I couldn´t speak afterwards but to say to the (now, fairly bored) boy: ¨This is what wine should taste like.¨

We left soon after, a bottle of that beauteous Petite Syrah in hand, my head swimming with exhaustion and vino and I can only hope to go back one day to try some more. A definitely exciting stumbleupon that had nothing ¨Miner¨about it.

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