Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wine tasting at Les Caves

Friday night and it was down to Les Caves de Pyrene for a wine tasting. They were presenting a series of 'Old Vine' wines and we were interested to find how these 50+ year old wines tasted.There were six whites, six reds and two so called sparkling, which were in fact a cider and a perry from Normandy.
On the whole we felt the old vines did not live up to their billing and in the end we couldn't even manage 12 bottles between the three couples, so nothing was bought in the end, but a couple did seem worth a mention.
A and I were interested in the Loire wines on offer because of our trip there this coming summer. The first was a 40-65 year old Muscadet, Clos des Allées 2009 at £8.59. Its nose was of fennel or licquorice, but it was a little bland tasting. The other Loire wine from Touraine region was 150 year old, pre-phylloxera, Provignage 2008 at £35.05. This was very flowery - someone mentioned elderflower cordial, but also quite acidic, On the whole, the general opinion 'was not worth the money'!
But there was a interesting white Pacherenc, Vielles Vignes 2009, £10.10, which A described as almost like calvados. We decided it would make a pleasant aperitif, but when you need to buy 12 bottles, we'd be drinking it for ever!
Moving on to the reds, we started with the Minervois La Nine 2008. The forst glass I had was so full of sedement - and only two thirds of the bottle was gone, that we asked for another glass. The new bottle was clearer, but, wow, there was an almost overwhelming aroma of rotten eggs. Its strong flavour of spice and dark fruits would make it a good match for curry, perhaps, but you need to get passed the nose, first! A Pinot Noir, (Côte Chalonnaise), a Marcillac and a VdPde l'Ardèche passed will little comment, then we tasted a Brouilly, Croix des Rameaux 2009,£16.96, which improved as it breathed a little. The last red was a 90 year old Syrah, Domaine Balthazar, Chaillot 2008 £22.31, which was pleasant with cherry and dark fruit flavours,and also 'chewy'.
Lastly came the cider and the perry. The Chateau de Hauteville, Normandie, was a jolly dry cider - just 3% and £5.83, from over 80 year old apple trees that they recommended with Breton galettes or crêpes.The Chateau de Hauteville, Normandie, Poiré Granit 2009, £12.64, comes from 300 year old pear trees. A much sweeter sparkler than the cider, this was recommended with pan fried scallops or even with goat's cheese.

Les Caves de Pyrene

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The private, green, Victorian post box at Alresford Station.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Alresford - that's 'Allsford' to those in the know!

Following our coffee in Caracoli,(see below) we strolled around the pretty town, looking in the many unique shop windows and then followed the signs to the station from where the Watercress Line (officially the Mid Hants Railway) starts.
It is a heritage railway, saved by enthusiasts and run by volunteers, that runs 10 miles from Alresford to Alton. These volunteers raised the money to re-open the line as a visitor attraction, first from Alresford to Ropley, then to Alton, where the line has its own platform - no.3, with its own special buildings.

The station is all spic and span in its gleaming green paintwork and polished brass. Beyond the station is a sidings for carriages awaiting renovation and somewhere to shunt the engine to and fro for the jouney to Alton and back. There is a working signal box with a system of 'keys' that only allows one train at a time on the single track with multiple failsafes to prevent accidents. Old tin adverts line the walls as well as period posters about the railway, and a station cafe caters for travellers needs.

We lingered so long, looking in the signal box and crossing the bridge to the other platform, that we were just in time to see the next train to arrive from Alton. There were clouds of steam, noise and shouting as the train drew slowly into the station and all the passengers alighted. Now the engine, which had reversed all the way from Alton, shunted into the sidings and waited for the points to change. Then it chuffed forwards and passed the coaches waiting at the platform to beyond the points at the other end. These were then changed and the engine backed up to rejoin its train of coaches. Lots of steam and excitement for the watching crowd. Soon it would be on its way again on the last round trip of the day.

We walked back into town, and wandered down Broad Street to view Old Alresford Pond that was created in the 12th century when Bishop de Lucy built the Great Weir. It's said this was to make a fish pond so he had plenty of fish for his table, but it also created a head of water for several mills that would be built down stream. There were also water meadows here where the people grew watercress.
We walked back up the hill and dropped into Caracoli again for a cup of tea and a gingerbread hedgehog before walking back to Long Barn and the car.
We will have to return to Alresford and follow the Millennium and the Arle Valley Trails to discover more about this delightful town.

Watercress Line

Long Barn

Yesterday, I collected A from the station as he was away the night before, and suggested that we go out somewhere. So, after a change into something casual, we headed off to find Long Barn, a place we had seen advertised that specialises in all things to do with Lavender.

On the site of the Old Sheep Fair, the building is a green oak barn on the edge of Alresford, Hampshire. They specialise in lavender products, distilling their own lavender oil from their surrounding lavender fields and using it in a unique range of natural body care products. The displays in the barn are beautiful, tempting every customer to buy. There is not only their body care range, but also many beautifully locally crafted products such as candles, lavender bags, and accessories.
Long Barn is also a seasonal plant nursery and they will advise the customer on which type of lavender to plant depending on the customer's requirements. (perfume, for hedging, colour etc.) And they have an imaginative display of gardening accessories, any of which a gardener would love to own.

We had a great time browsing the displays and sniffing the lavender products, finally buying some preserves, shaving soap and a bunch of lavender. Then we were ready for a cup of coffee, but Long Barn does not have a cafe. But fear not, just a brisk walk along Bishops Sutton Road and we were in the town of Alresford where there is the original Caracoli, Say no more - we were soon sipping coffee and enjoying their delicious cake.

Long Barn

Friday, February 18, 2011

With everyone back home we strolled down town for a coffee treat at Caracoli. They had Hampshire Ale cake and Pistachio and Almond cake to go with their delicious coffee today!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

RHS Show season opens

This week saw the start of the new season of RHS Shows. This one, held at the Horticultural Halls in Westminster, had the title of London Plant and Design Show. In the Lindley Hall there wasa lot of exhibitors who were connected to design and roof gardens. Two amazing roof gardens had been created in the hall and there was a large display by the Society of Garden Designers who was offering free design advice. What was a great attraction was the collection of designs from this year's Chelsea Gardens.

RHS Young Designer of the Year 2010, Hugo Bugg presented this roof garden with its lovely green wall.

Melissa Jolly's 'Sky-Green Living' garden with its chic planting and the Portable Forest plaques on the walls (by LsD).
Easigrass had also made a roof garden with their artificial grass and Jenny Pickford's beautiful glass sculptures were very eye-catching.

Oxford Green Roofs had a great diplay of things you can grow on roofs - this collection in a felt bag looked fun.

Over in the Lawrence Hall all the Plant Nurseries had their beautiful displays of Spring planting and there were plenty of customers buying both usual and unusual plants to take home.
The next shows in London are the RHS London Orchid Show and Botanical Art Show 19th & 20th March and the RHS Great London Plant Fair 29th & 30th March.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011
Hugo Bugg
Melissa Jolly
Jenny Pickford
Oxford Green Roofs