Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Vineyard at Stockcross

I was invited to The Vineyard as part of a bloggers wine and food tasting evening. Having been before, indeed spending a wonderful four and a half hour lunch there on my birthday, I would have been a fool not to go. I have only ever been for lunch, not dinner, so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like. Turns out I was in for a treat. I’m not really a wine person, or I should say, I didn’t used to be a wine person.

The Vineyard has had a recent makeover and the addition of the glass floored cellar makes for a great entrance. It’s a little unnerving when you walk across a glass floor at any time but particularly when walking above a cellar that holds 5000 bottles of extremely fine wine. The picture at the end of the cellar has a story behind it and our sommelier for the evening, Yohann, was more than happy to explain it. It is based on a wine tasting that occurred in France in 1976 when French wine was considered the best in the world. The picture depicts a famous Parisian blind wine tasting between French and Californian wine. The upshot being that Californian came out on top every time, much to the shock of the tasters as the painting shows, and it was this tasting that was said to change the wine world forever.
Nibbles are always good in my book and I very much enjoyed the lemon stuffed olives, smoked almonds and pistachio stuffed cheese straws. After eating far too many olives we were given a tour of the various cellars, each kept at a different temperature and the vast 25,000 bottle cellar with the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever been in the presence of. It was a good job Yohann doesn’t have butter fingers.
The first course was confit of duck foie gras with quince and Braeburn apple served with perfectly toasted brioche. It was lovely; it seemed a little lighter than foie gras I have tried before. For me, the best bit of this dish was the celery leaf. It had been dried and covered in sugar so it was sort of like celery crispy seaweed. The wine served with this course was from Ch St Michelle in Washington. A wonderfully smooth white wine that blew any other white I have ever had out of the water.
The next course for the other diners was scallops which I am unlucky enough not to be able to eat and so for me it was celeriac and cep cannelloni with celeriac veloute. This would be the kind of starter I would normally order and it was wonderful. The mushrooms gave a real earthy quality to the velvety veloute and the fresh crunchy celeriac added texture. The wine for this course was Quinta do Gaivosa and was very different; I thought it was whisky to start with! It was a real amber colour and smelled really oaky. Made from locally grown grapes in Portugal it was worlds away from the previous wine.
Venison with pearl barley, turnip greens and butternut squash puree was for main. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you’ll know my feelings on squash but I finished it all and was this close to picking up the plate and licking it clean. The venison was distinctive but without being too gamey. Daniel Galmiche told us later that he isn’t that keen on a game flavour and that’s why he chose this particular venison. The turnip tops were similar to spinach but slightly more bitter and the pearl barley was something I can’t wait to try for myself. We enjoyed a red wine with this course, a Merlot from Napa. Lovely and rich with a little fruitiness this red wine has set the standard for all future red wine that passes my lips.
Dessert was Griottine cherry and cranberry terrine with pistachio parfait. I was brave and ate the cherry in one as I wasn’t expecting it to be as alcoholic as it was, tasty though. I enjoyed this dessert and the colours were great. There was a little log of white chocolate on the plate, I’m unsure exactly what it was, but it was divine. I could have eaten a bowlful of that. An interesting wine to pair with this was a chilled red Syrah from Rhone which was kind of like elderberries mixed with sloe gin mixed with wine and syrup. I could have drunk that not even knowing there was alcohol in it, a wine I will be endeavouring to try again.
Cheese is not something I normally order as I am not a fan of blue cheese and there always seems to be a stilton or gorgonzola waiting to ruin my cheese board. Not this time though the three cheeses were complemented with fennel bread, Muscat grapes, crackers, quince jelly and fig cake. Gruyere is one of my favourite cheeses so I enjoyed this board immensely. The wine with this was a delicate pink colour and smelled of strawberries; a Chenin Blanc from South Africa.
The petit fours were a perfect ending; mango macaron, passion fruit jelly and chocolate truffle all washed down with a nice cup of tea. Loose leaf of course.
This is, of course, exquisite fine dining. What made it for me were the extra little bits, the things I have never tried before and the flourishes and finishing touches. It is unlikely I will ever have another sugared celery leaf but I will never forget it. At the same time I can’t wait to start pouring pearl barley into every soup I ever make. It was a great experience to have the wine paired to the food and I can't wait to try more wine in the future. The enthusiasm, expertise and interest in wine shone through and if you've ever wondered what all the wine fuss is about, this is the place to find out.
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12 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great experience. How can I get invited to a Do like that???

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  2. That sounds like a really fabulous evening! The last time I went to The Vineyard was years ago - I do need to make the effort to go back.

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  3. What a beautiful evening my friend :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  4. You don't half get around Caroline, making me more jealous every week. We went to the Vineyard just before John Campbell left. It was probably the best overall meal I've ever had. Food sublime, environment was superb. Just wondering if you went then and how it compares now Daniel Galmiche is at the helm.

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  5. Awesome! Super jealous. isn't it nice to just sit and eat beautiful food?

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  6. The food looks delicious! Wish I could have some of that.

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  7. The food are all so well presented. It must have been a delightful and delicious evening.

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  8. This looks like so much fun!! I am whoa jealous!

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  9. sounds like an amazing experience!!

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  10. Looks a great place but I am not sure about that glass ceilinged cellar - I thought wine (like olive oil) is best stored away from the light! Have a great week!

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  11. Congrats on your invitation! And the meal looked fancy (and delicious!!!!!!!!). Great photos!

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  12. I am a WINE lover, a good meal need a good wine. It sounds that you had a great experience.

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