Sunday, June 27, 2010
We began with a trade tasting set up by our agent, Wine Treasury, at Gordon Ramsay's Maze in London. In addition to new releases, we presented a vertical of "Old Vines" Cabernet. This was followed by a lovely trade lunch in the Maze View room where the kitchen executed some great food and wine matches.
A special treat was running into former Woody intern Timothée Boltz from Alsace who spent a crush with us in 2004. He now works as an export manager for an Alsatian winery and is getting married this summer.
One side benefit of the tasting at Maze was meeting the folks from other fine restaurants, two of which we later visited.
We first went to Goodman, a steak house in Mayfair. The General Manager, David who had recently visited Walla Walla with the Washington Wine Commission's Wine Experience, and the sommelier, Crispin, took good care of us. They have an interesting concept where they feature U.S., Scottish and Irish beef - all perfectly prepared with great side dishes as well. We waddled back to the Tube.
The next evening we dined across the street at Hibiscus at the urging of sommelier Julian. It was absolutely one of the best meals we have ever had. Sleek, calm interior that was a nice change from the hectic city streets. We chose the Spring Tasting Menu – layered flavors and textures, beautifully presented. The chef has a way of combining a myriad of flavors, yet keeping each one distinct. The fresh pea soup inspired me to come home and plant some peas in our raised beds and the tiny jellied cubes of balsamic in the strawberry dessert has got me on a new mission. A very memorable meal.
Finally we ate at the Al Sultan, a Lebanese restaurant, in the Shepherd's Market area of Mayfair which is a last night tradition for those Northwest wineries associated with Hilltop Wines in the UK. After filling up on the extensive Meze, I looked up and saw the loaded plates of the main course headed our way and recalled that last time I had told myself to remember that the Meze was just the first course…….It is a good thing that getting to and from the Tube platform involves a lot of stairs.
London is a great city and I wish we had time to partake in what it has to offer, but the next day we flew to Frankfurt, Germany, then took a train further north to Celle where brothers Bruce and Alan at Kultur Insel-Celle are beginning to bring our wines in. Celle is a charming town with the buildings in the old town center dating back to the 16th century with some 480 restored half-timber houses, a palace/museum and abundant parks and walking paths.
Alan plays. Tanja speaks English better and faster than any foreign speaker and most native English speakers that I know, and for me to say that is something if you know how fast Rick and I speak.
Germans are quite fascinated by the American West and steak houses with western themes are fairly common. Our Nelms Road wine is now on the list of the Apache Grill in Celle. The inside of their menu has a map of the U.S., showing the location of the various tribes and lo and behold there were the Walla Wallas!
This trip was kind of a whirlwind, but fun and an important way to make connections and to spread the word about Washington wine and Woody in particular.