Tag Archives: Wine and Dine

Spanish Wine at Donnington Valley

Spanish wine has undergone a vast change in recent years, and it now produces a wide range of fashionable and affordable red, white and rosé wines. Chris Neeves, Head Sommelier at Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa, pops the cork on the delicious Spanish wine that he serves within the Hotel.

Spanish Wine

I have had a passion for Spanish wine since an early age. My first wine experience was with a white Marques de Murrieta that my father gave me a soupcon to try. I loved it and that is the time I first became interested in wine, much to my mother’s dismay as I was only about 10 or 11 at the time.

Here is a round-up of my top Spanish wines that we have on offer at the moment – I hope to see you soon in our restaurant so you too can experience these remarkable wines.

White

2013 José Pariente, Verdejo, Rueda, Spain

This wine is intense, with a strong aroma of fresh white fruits, citrus and passion fruit. Structured and persistent, it also has aromas of fennel and scrub and a balsamic back note of anise, expressing the elegant crispness of the Verdejo variety.

2011 Marqués de Riscal, Finca Montico, Rueda, Spain

The nose on this beautifully-perfumed wine has all the hallmarks of the Verdejo grape varietal with medium intensity and hints of fennel, herbs, white blossom, pear and peach. It has a fresh, unctuous, very smooth mouth-feel, with a long, round finish. Its good acidity together with a period of ageing on its finest lees helps to keep its fresh taste longer and preserves all its aromatic complexity. This wine does not aim to impress with a powerful nose, but rather reveals a more elegant, complex varietal character.

2012 A & A, Bodegas Martinez La Orden, Rioja, Spain

This wine is a straw colour, which could be quite misleading – the nose has rich tropical fruit and mineral aromas. Fresh and vibrant passionfruit and pineapple characters on the palate are followed by a dry finish and subtle oak notes. Delicious.

Rosé

2012 Docetañidos Clarete, Lezcano Lacalle, Cigales, Spain

This is a rosé to remember. With a beautiful deep rose petal colour, the elegant nose has  hints of violet and red fruits which lead to a full and fresh palate of alluring aromatics including red berries and rose petals. A long, dry finish.

Red

2008 Bodegas Ondarre, Reserva, Rioja, Spain

This traditionally-made Rioja displays lots of leather and spice on the nose. It is smooth and subtle on the palate, with strawberries and vanilla ice cream sustained through to a long finish with well integrated tannins.

2011 Bodegas Proelio, Crianza, Rioja, Spain

Ruby red in colour with violet hues, thisi s a complex wine with a long finish. The elegant nose is dominated by red fruits and in the mouth it is complex and fresh. the palate has good acidity, round tannins and a taste of red fruits and sweet spices.

2007 Viña Cerrada, Rioja, Reserva

This wine is cherry red with brick red tones. There are intense, spicy, ripe cherry and plum aromas merged with notes of tobacco, toffee, vanilla and wood. On the palate, the body is full and fleshy with excellent balance.

2011 Tandem, Ars In Vitro, Valle de Yerri, Navarra, Spain £29.00

With a red cherry colour, this wine has intense floral aromas, leading to a mineral, fresh and long palate.

2008 Ondarre, Graciano, Rioja, Spain

With balsamic aromas of mint and aniseed accompanied by ripe fruit and hints of flower blossom and white pepper, this wine is medium to full bodied, rich but elegant. Blackfruits, coffee and sweet spice come to life on the palate, with a soft finish.

2006 Tandem, Mâcula, Valle de Yerri, Navarra, Spain

Complex nose with smoky, toasty hints on the nose and chocolate, cassis and balsamic notes on the palate. True to its terroir, this wine expresses the soils of the Yerri valley.

2005 Marqués de Riscal, Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain

This wine has a deep, almost opaque black-cherry colour. It has a very elegant, complex nose, with aromas of black fruit and lots of spice. It is smooth and round in the mouth, with tannins that are firm, yet silky and very sweet and which envelop the whole palate. The finish is long, lingering, fresh and balanced with a hint of fine elegant tannins.

Californian Wine at Donnington Valley

We are very keen on Californian wine at Donnington Valley. Not only does our owner Sir Peter Michael make great wine in California, many fantastic wines are produced in the area at all price points and styles. Head Sommelier Chris Neeves chooses his eight of the best.Bottles cropped

We are in a very lucky position at Donnington as we have easy access to many  top  Californian producers, one being of course Peter Michael Winery, who won “Wine Spectator Wine of the Year 2015” for 2012 Peter Michael, Cabernet, Oakville Au Paradis. The reason for this is that we import them ourselves through our trans-atlantic merchant, The Vineyard Cellars.

Here is a small selection of some of the wines we have on our wine list.

2012 Mandolin Riesling, Monterey
With its maritime influence, California’s Monterey region has an extended growing season that yields wines with full flavor development and great acid balance. Mandolin Riesling features fresh peach and apricot notes, framed by firm acidity. Due to its acidity this slightly sweet style makes the wine ideal with food.

2013 Honig, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
A crisp, fresh Sauvignon Blanc created in the classic Honig style. Peach, lemon grass, hints of Jasmine and pea shoot are balanced by grapefruit and lime. Medium-bodied, with a bright, lingering finish. Enjoyable with many foods including curries, roasted fish and a wide variety of cheeses. It is a perfect complement to relaxing on the porch with family and friends.

2009 Talley Vineyards, Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande Valley
The 2009 Estate Chardonnay has aromas of lemon verbena, mandarin, jasmine, and roasted almond. On the palate, this wine features layers of citrus, green apple, and minerals that lead into a refreshing and elegant finish. This well balanced Chardonnay pairs nicely with sea scallops as well as grilled chicken.

2008 Morlet Family Vineyards, La Proportion Dorée, Sonoma County
A harmonious blend of the three classic white Bordeaux varietals grown in the Golden State’s Sonoma County, this unique cuvée was handcrafted using classical winemaking techniques inspired from Pessac-Léognan. As in architectural arts, it is ‘The Golden Ratio’ or ‘La Proportion Dorée.’ Bright yellow. Intense bouquet of candied lemon, muscat, and honeysuckle flavors intermixed with sweet notes of ripened apricot and fresh quince. Full-bodied, seamless, refined and complex.

2011 Waterstone, Pinot Noir, Carneros
Dark plums, cherry, cola and leather are present in this wine’s aroma. The soft vanilla tones from the oak blend perfectly with the intense fruit core and soft tannins, providing complexity and balance and leading to a lingering finish.

2005 Tor Rock, Syrah, Las Madres Vineyard, Carneros
This vineyard has a distinct perfume that is very similar to a great Crozes-
Hermitage. The aromas are “garrigue” a mélange of southern French herbs,
bacon fat, and hard wood smoke. On the palate the wine is fat, rich, and palate-coating.

2009 Rudd, Crossroads, Field Blend, St Helena
The traditional term for this wine is a Field Blend. This is essentially mixed plantings for many grape varieties on one patch of land, and in this small vineyard close to the town of St. Helena you will find Grenache, Syrah, Zinfandel, Counoise and Mourvèdre in one spot. As the grape variety will confirm to you this is a very full bodied wine and works at its best with very rare beef!

2011 Justin Vineyards, Isosceles, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
Full-bodied with black cherry, blackcurrant, and red berry fruit, with complex spice of vanilla and licorice. The mid-palate shows savoury cabernet notes with smoky cedar, chocolate, and continuing ripe black fruit.

So next time you come to see us, please try on of our great californan wines. I promise you that you will not be disappointed.

All Hallow’s Eve

The origins of the Hallowe’en are well established, but not always well known. Our Bar Manager Iain Hewitt sheds some light on this ever popular occasion, and offers some tasty beverages to go!

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Based on a Pict/Scots Celtic tradition and adopted by the Catholic Church and renamed All Hallow’s Eve in an attempt to ease the transition of the barbarian hordes to the new Christian sect; it has become one of the most popular holidays, especially in America, where the adopted tradition of trick and treating has become one of the most popular excitements for children and adults alike. This is slowly making its way over here, as kids look to supplement their sweet intake without having to wait the extra few days to go door to door with a stuffed Guido Fawkes.
Of course, more interesting to people of my mind-set are the parties that go on into the early hours, where the drink flows steady and the guests slowly slip into gentle inebriation. In that vein, of course there are a few interesting things you can do with the drinks to help the atmosphere of the party. Simple things like the addition of Blue Curaçao (a slightly tart orange liqueur) to orange or pineapple juice will turn things a nice sickly green; drop in some grenadine or a red liqueur such as Cherry Brandy or Campari and suddenly things start to look rather ghoulish (much like our special Hallowe’en Cocktail this year – the delightfully named Ectoplasm!). Of course you can mix those flavours up with the addition of whatever takes your fancy – a whisky adds a great smoky finish, while Fruity liqueurs can subtly amend the flavour in other ways – experimentation is the key. In the same way, you can mix things up long or short; in a classic martini glass, dropping things through can look particularly effective.
For alternatives, thick red liqueurs mixed with apple juice or even lemonade can look fantastic. Mixing Campari into a classic Collins is easy and interesting, but do look out for that sharp edge!
As I always say – experiment, find your own mixes, and what works for you works for you, but be wary of drinking too many before the kids have gone to bed!

Upcoming Events this September

With summer drawing to a close and early signs of the Autumn onset starting to show, Newbury continues to maintain its calendar of ever- buzzing activity to get us out in the Autumn sunshine!

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Royal Country of Berkshire Show

19th September – 20th September   

This annual family event is a highlight in Newbury’s social calendar. It’s a fun filled weekend for all the family to enjoy. Don the wellies and wrap up warm – it is sure to be a wonderful weekend with something to keep everyone happy. From furry farm animals to a selection of Britain’s finest foods, this is one for all the family.

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Newbury Real Ale Festival

12th September 

Live bands and beer… just what Saturday dreams are made of. With over 150 real ales, ciders and perrys for everyone to try and also a range of food options, including multiple hog roasts. Newbury’s annual Real Ale Festival is back and with a growing cult following, this year is bound to be better than before. Join and support local bands and breweries – and enjoy yourself very much! Opening Hours from 12 noon.

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Music in Victoria Park Bandstand

6th September      City of Oxford Silver Band

13th September    Hannington Silver Band

20th September    Cholsey Silver Band

27th September    Reading Spring Gardens Band

This September, take time for yourself and get lost in our local talent playing at the bandstand at Victoria Park in Newbury. Wrap up warm and join for a couple of hours of relaxation alongside the Kennet & Avon canal. Pack the picnic rugs and refreshments and pick from a selection of dates to suit you.

Playing between 15:00 – 17:00

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Burgundy Grand Cru Dinner

Wednesday 9th September

7pm arrival for 7.30pm

Grand Cru – The best of the best. There are 32 Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy, accounting for less than 2 percent of all Burgundy wine production.  Esteemed by wine experts and cellar aficionados alike, this region also makes wines that match superbly with foods. Join our hosts for the night, including our wine expert James Hocking to learn more – and to enjoy imbibing! This is a unique event at The Vineyard; the first time that we have raided our cellar to show off some of our very best wines. Often referred to as “the holy grail” of wine producing regions, this is a dinner not to be missed!

Five course dinner with matching wines £150 per person

Stay the night with breakfast from £173.50 per person*

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Wedding Tips at Donnington Valley

When planning for your wedding day, catering will be one of the biggest decisions you will make. The food is one of the main things your guests will remember from the day, what they had, was there enough, was there too little and how did the food reflect you as a couple? Here are our best tips.

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When it comes to deciding on catering for your big day there are a number of choices: a traditional three course wedding breakfast; a relaxed summer barbecue or even a Champagne afternoon tea. Try and be different – and think about the best bits from previous weddings you would have attended. Make it more about you and your partner.

Upon arrival following your ceremony, guests might be a little peckish; the perfect little appetiser would be individually handmade canapés. Time of year is key as to what this might entail – hot, cold, heavy or fresh. You might want the freedom to choose, some venues are more flexible here than others.

Drinks are also a very important part of the day and not everyone wants to drink, though some do! A range of beverages for your reception depending on the time of year including a Summer Pimms or hot winter cider toddy will go down well and don’t have to break the bank.

The main meal, often called the wedding breakfast, can come in a variety of guises – and our Head Chef, Kelvin Johnson, is happy to design a menu for our guests’ wedding day. Kelvin’s menus are influenced by the seasons, using the freshest ingredients from our local suppliers. Importantly for many, wines to compliment your menu sounds like a minefield but needn’t – our award winning wine sommelier, Chris Neeves would assist on selecting exactly what went with your chosen dish. Whatever you choose though, again consider what you and your partner like.

It is also nice to cater for others for example the vegetarians and children who might need something different to the rest. At Donnington we create ‘Little Meals’ – mini fish & chip cones or mini burgers and chips . If you have a large number of evening guests attending or have a family with a large appetite, a finger buffet is perfect, and we are able to customise to suit any dietary requirements. If you fancy something simple; a bacon, egg or sausage roll will go down a treat too and once the party starts can often be the saving grace!

And throughout the evening, something fun will keep everyone entertained and energy levels high! How about going for your favourite retro sweets, a popcorn machine or even candy floss! A great Summer treat is a slush machine which you can make alcoholic, adults only or even an ice cream stand- everyone loves ice cream!

It can be overwhelming trying to accommodate all of your family and friends’ needs. But most importantly remember the day is your day, and if you choose to have it at Donnington, we are here to make your day as special and memorable for you as possible.

An Interview with Head Chef Kelvin Johnson

Kelvin has been Head Chef at Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa for over 21 years since the hotel opened. Kelvin produces fantastic classic dishes using local quality produce. Let’s find out more about Kelvin.

• How would you describe your style of cooking?
Classic British with a twist of French

• Did you always dream of becoming a chef?
Yes, my mother was a chef so I started very early with her. I also won a competition at school so this pushed and inspired me.

• Did anyone in particular influence you in your career choice?
My Mum defiantly, food was a very big role at home, fresh ingredients were always key. We always sat down as a family for each meal. My Mum however did over stew vegetables so I always make sure mine are cooked correctly.

• What’s your signature dish?
Any sort of fish, simply cooked with seasonal vegetables

• What do you enjoy cooking at home?
To be honest nothing, I never cook at home. My wife is an excellent cook and I believe that my children should be brought up on her food.

• What’s your pet hate when it comes to food?
It has to be wastage, I can’t stand it. I try to use everything that I can, for example if I cook spaghetti bolognaise and I have made too much, I will make a lasagne as well.

• What’s the best piece of cooking advice you could give our readers?
Keep cooking simple and as fresh as possible, don’t over complicate it otherwise you will lose the natural taste.

• What was your first job and how long were you there?
It was at the 4 star Raven Hotel. This is where I started training as a chef and was there for 4 years.

• What do you do to relax?
Play with Apple products – I love them! I also enjoy watching my children play sport

• What’s your favourite ingredient to use in cooking?
It has to be garlic and ginger. These ingredients bring out the flavour in foods

• What’s your most exotic dish?
It would be my venison served with chocolate sauce

At Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa Kelvin offers an A la carte menu as well as the seasonal Market Menu, catering for vegetarians and all types of dietary requirements. With the lunch menu starting from only £18.00 for two courses why not stop by for a bite!

Great Wine from Greece

Many of us do not think of Greece as a great wine producing country, but I have to say that I’m coming around to thinking that Greece has a lot more to offer than just Retsina. I recently attended a Greek wine tasting hosted by Gaía Wines, who own two wineries one in Nemea in Peloponnese and the other in Santorini, one of the Aegean Islands.

So on to the wines that I tasted. Three of their wines stood out for me as being great additions to the Donnington Valley wine list; one white and two reds.

2011 Gaía Wines, Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece (white)

Assyrtiko is an indigenous grape variety and is one of Greece’s finest multi-purpose white grapes. It was first cultivated on the island of Santorini, where the grape developed a unique character producing excellent wines. This wine has slight citrus aromas well combined with elegant oak notes, a rich mouth feel, crispy acidity, intense mineral flavours and a long finish.

I like this wine so much so that I have put it as one of my recommendations at the front of the wine list.

2008 Gaía Wines, Gaía S, Agiorgitiko, Syrah, Nemea, Greece (red)

This wine is a blend of an indigenous grape – 70% Agiorgitiko and Syrah. A full bodied wine with warm soft dark fruit and a gentle spice, combined with well balanced tannins ending in a long finish.

The S after Gaía in the name of the wine can mean two things. One of them being ‘Super Nemea’ or ‘Super Tuscan’. Or the S could just simply stand for Syrah; they leave it up to you to decide. I quite like the idea of ‘Super Nemea’, but that’s just me.

2007 Gaía Wines, Gaía Estate, Agiorgitiko, Nemea, Greece (red)

A wine with a great bouquet of rich black berried fruits. On the palate the rich fruits blend well with the tannins making a very well balanced wine with a lovely lingering finish.

Going back through my tasting notes for these two red wines, I wrote ‘fantastic’ against the Gaía S and ‘love it’ for the Gaía Estate. When you’re next here, please ask to try one or more of these great wines and see if you agree with me.

I look forward to seeing you.

Chris Neeves
Head Sommelier
Donnington Valley Hotel

Deliciously Fruity Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

As January is often the month where we cut down on eating and drinking, we have a number on non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu in the Bacchus Bar offering you a great alternative to the usual non-alcoholic drinks such as orange juice, lemonade and coke. Take a look below to find out how you can make two of our favourites – Demeter and Apollo.

Demeter

This drink provides a refreshing, yet graceful long drink. Made of strawberries, blackberries, fresh lime juice and lemons, these are all muddled together and then shaken. Once strained, the berry mixture is topped with orange juice and decorated with a swirl of lime and a strawberry, which gives a tangy, yet fruity taste!

Apollo

Named after the son of Zeus, our Apollo cocktail is a blend of cranberry juice, elderflower cordial and fresh orange juice. Simply mix all the ingredients, add to crushed ice and decorate with lemon and orange slices. This drink provides a light, fresh taste – perfect for a pre-dinner drink!

Try making these deliciously fruity non-alcoholic cocktails at home and let us know what you think. Alternatively, pop down to the Bacchus Bar and we will prepare one for you before dining in our award-winning WinePress restaurant.

Amit Rai
Food and Beverage Manager
Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

Festive Wines

Christmas is fast approaching and last minute preparations are well under way to make sure we are all ready here at Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa.

I am busy putting the finishing touches to the wine list for the festive season. As I was doing it, I thought I would share with you a few wines I think you must try.

White

2011 Môreson, Miss Molly, Kitchen Thief, Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal Region, SA
£22.00 – special price for December

A beautiful rich, dry style of Sauvignon Blanc. It has underlying flavours of tropical fruits and granny smith apples. This wine goes wonderfully with foods such as salads, turkey, white meat and sauces. Great to drink with a starter or with the Christmas main course.

Red

2008, Moreson, Miss Molly, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Coastal Region, SA
£22.00 – special price for December.

This is a fresh, ripe red wine with concentrated red fruits. Full bodied with oak overtones ending in a soft dry finish. Matches well with red meats such as beef and lamb but also would go nicely with turkey.

So have a try of these wines at home or here in the Winepress at Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa and let me know your feedback.

Chris Neeves, Beverage Manager Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa