Review: Winemaker’s Lunch with Chapel Down

Mark Harvey, Chapel Down’s managing director of wines, was in great form last week at our Spectator Winemaker’s Lunch, held as usual in our boardroom. And I must add that Mark’s wines were in equally tiptop shape. With vineyards across Kent and a winery near Tenterden, Chapel Down is well-known as the largest producer of fine English wine. Although most of us around the table had enjoyed Chapel Down’s wares before, the one or two guests who hadn’t were taken aback by the wines’ quality, style and, well, sheer panache. We started with the 2011 Three Graces, a fabulous fizz blended from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (the said

Eradus Wines Special Offer

We had such a fine Spectator Winemaker Lunch with Michiel Eradus of boutique New Zealand winery, Eradus Wines, the other day and the wines were so darned good and so well-priced that I insisted that Corney & Barrow allow us offer them to readers through The Spectator. Founded in the Awatere river valley in Marlborough in 2002 by Dutch émigrés, Har and Sophie Eradus, Eradus Wines is now run by the couple’s son, Michiel, who has won countless awards and plaudits for his pure and expressive yet modestly-priced wines. Michiel gave an excellent master-class on New Zealand wines in general and Eradus Wines in particular and all of us round

Our lunch with Vega Sicilia

Jonathan Ray looks back on a fine Spectator Winemaker Lunch with Vega Sicilia. An excellent lunch in the Spectator boardroom today as Antonio Menéndez, managing director (sales and marketing) of mighty Vega Sicilia hosted the latest in our series of Spectator Winemaker Lunches. Vega Sicilia in Spain’s Ribera del Duero has an extraordinary reputation and is regarded as Spain’s one and only ‘first growth’. It’s most celebrated wine is its ‘Unico’ which can sell for hundreds of pounds a bottle although the Vega Sicilia group also owns four other wineries and produces 13 different wines. Today we were treated to a perfect snapshot of the range with five wines. We

Jonathan Ray

The Spectator Wine School

This 8 week course has now begun. If you are interested in joining another one of our Wine Schools please email The Spectator Wine School is a chance to be tutored by the best in the wine business. It is aimed at enthusiastic beginners and anyone who wants to know more about the main wine regions. Over eight weeks, the magazine’s Wine Club partners will each give a class on their specialist region. The final session will be a tasting hosted by Pol Roger Champagne. Course description The course will last 8 weeks and the maximum capacity of each class will be 20 people, ensuring individual attention. The Wine School is for beginners and wine enthusiasts who’d

Our lunch with Pol Roger

We had a full house in the boardroom last Friday with James Simpson MW, managing director of Pol Roger (UK), in the chair for the latest in our series of Spectator Winemaker’s Lunches. Oh, and by the way and quite coincidentally, our current Wine Club offer with Private Cellar is a Pol Roger offer, so do head there if you haven’t already done so. We kicked things off with the Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV, formerly known as the ‘White Foil’ because of its, er, distinctive white foil. Blended from one third Chardonnay, one third Pinot Noir and one third Pinot Meunier, it really is a fabulous champagne – creamy,

Our lunch with Olivier Humbrecht

We had a fine Spectator Winemaker Lunch with Olivier Humbrecht of leading Alsace producer Domaine Zind Humbrecht the other day. Olivier is generally agreed to be among the most gifted winemakers of his generation. Not just in Alsace but anywhere. He is also one of the humblest and most charmingly self-deprecating. He showed us half a dozen wines over lunch. All were organic/biodynamic (Alsace accounts for 15 per cent of the world’s biodynamic vineyards, quite something for such a small region) and all were stunning. We started with a bone dry but gloriously, grapily aromatic 2014 Zind-Humbrecht Muscat Goldert Grand Cru before moving onto a pair of Rieslings: the 2014

Review: Theatre and Wine Tasting with Sanford Winery

Sideways has long been one of my favourite films, the hugely enjoyable bittersweet tale of two ill-matched old friends, Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church), enjoying a celebratory trip road trip to the vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley in California the week before Jack’s wedding. Miles is a Pinot Noir-obsessed writer weighed down by his broken marriage and broken dreams and Jack is an over-sexed former soap star looking for a “last taste of freedom”. Miles is on a quest to find that elusive, perfect Pinot, whilst Jack will drink (and go to bed with) anything. Much wine is drunk and much merriment and much mayhem ensues.

Our lunch with Massaya

Last week’s Spectator Winemaker’s Lunch with Sami Ghosn of Massaya was an instant a sell-out. For some reason it was also our first ever all-male lunch; more fool the girls, for Sami is nothing if not a charmer and his wines are outstanding. Almost everyone has heard of Chateau Musar, which famously blazed the Lebanese wine trail, and very fine its wines are too. My late, greatly lamented predecessor, Simon Hoggart, was a huge fan and we ran a very successful Musar offer only the other week. Massaya (meaning twilight) might not boast Musar’s history, being a relatively new kid on the block, but it has been a true game

Our visit to Chapel Down

I have a particular fondness for the Chapel Down Winery near Tenterden, Kent. I was brought up just down the road in Rolvenden, although in those days it was of course all hop gardens and orchards rather than vineyards. The landscape of southern England is certainly changing. Chapel Down is the UK’s largest producer of wines and, with a massive expansion underway, will soon overtake Denbies in Surrey in terms of vineyard acreage too. And, gosh, the wines they make are good. I led a heavily oversubscribed Spectator visit to Chapel Down on St. George’s Day and we had a hoot (one couple even came specially from Brussels). Josh Donaghay-Spire,

What really happened on The Spectator Cruise

Ok, so first things first. Jeremy Clark didn’t fall overboard after all. He did, though, dance all night every night (almost), have everyone in stitches and host a rip-roaring High Life vs Low Life pub quiz. He even wore a fez with unexpected aplomb. Taki forwent the delights of his own High Life to join ours. He was exceedingly generous to his dining companions with his wine choices and had us enthralled with his insider’s tales of Spectator days gone by and libel actions lost (mainly) and won (occasionally). And as for Martin Vander Weyer, well, he simply charmed the pants off everyone, not only with his self-deprecating wit and

Jonathan Ray

Our dinner with Peter Gago

Peter Gago, the exuberant head winemaker at Penfolds, producer of Australia’s most celebrated and garlanded wine, Grange, was in fine form at our recent Spectator Winemaker Dinner held at the Marylebone Hotel. Peter was generosity itself, too, bringing with him a spectacular array of Penfolds wines, including Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling, Yattarna Chardonnay, Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz, RWT Shiraz, Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon (produced from the oldest Cabernet vines in the world, incidentally, and I bet you didn’t know that), St Henri Shiraz and the mighty Grange itself (the 2008 in fact, rated a 100 point wine by the noble Robert Parker). We finished with an extraordinary 30 year