Tag Archives: wineries

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.

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

My Trip to Sonoma, Califorina

Has it made the hard work worth it? Is the question I am asked the most when people heard what I won Employee of the Year. To anyone within the company who has the chance to try for the trip – Yes, it is worth every single minute of it!

I was truly honored and delighted to have won the trip to California and once it had sunk in and I had stopped bursting into tears I had already decided that I was going as soon as possible and was going to make it the holiday of a lifetime.

I look my partner of 8 years Steve and booked as soon as I could for October 2011. Having some family also in California that I hadn’t seen in 11 years just a 90 minute drive from Sonoma meant I was going be able to factor them into the trip too.

One of the best parts of the 2 weeks we had was going to visit the Peter Michael Winery. Even having worked for the company for 4 years I just had no idea how amazing the place was. Vast steep mountain slopes of perfectly straight vines stretched for miles around the gated entrance. Seeing the Vineyard poppy on everything was brilliant and really was a reminder of how closely linked we were despite the geography. The Michael’s kindly consented for Steve and I to stay in the Cabin, a building with bridge access over a stream to the entrance, hot tub and what can only be described as luxury accommodation.

During our stay we had the chance to have a tour of the winery and tasting of the wine. Cote de mere is a large platform on the top of the mountain fully equipped for 5* entertaining used for fund raising for the Peter Michael foundation every year. The view is staggering stretching across the whole of Knights Valley and each of the different wines can be seen. Tasting Sir Peters wines was a once in a lifetime chance. It was a fantastic experience and meeting the other guests brought it home to us how much of a wonderful and rare opportunity it was sitting around that table, drinking those wines and in that location.

The local sights were an excuse for a little more tourist behavior and we took the opportunity to go to the local petrified wood, eat in Calistoga and visit the Geyser. The staff at Sugarloaf Ranch could not have been any more hospitable and I would do anything to go back again for longer.

Following the trip to the Ranch we spent a couple more days with family in San Jose and even had the chance to visit a ranch where Steve fitted right in with the lads drinking bud and shooting very scary looking Guns for the afternoon. We hired a car and drove to visit San Francisco then down the coastal road route 101 with a final stop in at Universal Studios to celebrate Steve’s 30th.

All in all a truly amazing two week trip that could not have been made possible without the Employee of the Year status. I cannot thank the company or the Michaels enough and will continue trying to win to have the excuse to go back!

Beth Willis
Senior Events Co-ordinator
Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

Get the most of your visit!

Well I am back, safe and sound from my travels to South Africa, ready to tell you about the vineyards I visited and give you some pointers on how to get the best out of a visit to a winery.

I visited four wineries in total. The first being Hamilton Russell Winery in Hermauns, here we had a fantastic private tasting with Anthony Hamilton Russell – the owner. We started with his Southern Right range, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinotage. The Sauvignon Blanc is a nice fresh crisp clean wine and the Pinotage is a very good example of how this grape should taste – this is my favourite winery for Pinotage in South Africa. We then tasted the Hamilton Russell wines, of which there only two. A Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. The Hamilton Russell wines I feel are the closest in style and taste to burgundy, that you can find outside burgundy itself.

The next was Moreson winery in Franschhoek. Here we had a private tasting with Clayton – the wine maker. We spent a very interesting two hours tasting from the barrel of the previous years vintage and even tasted one wine from this years vintage. Then we went back to the tasting room and tasted the red wines they make. The one which stood out for me here was the 2008 Petit Verdot, a grape you do not normally find on its own.

The next two wineries I visited where Thelama and Tokara in Stellenbosch. I have been a long time fan of Thelama wines; we tasted all the range they produce. The one which stood out the most here was the 2008 “The Mint” Cabernet Sauvignon – a really full bodied fruity wine, with loads of flavour. We even got to taste a 20yr old Riesling they found in the cellar for us to try.

The winery of Tokara was a new one for me; but I am sure we will become life long friends after I tasted some of their wines. This is a very modern looking winery; great care has been taken in its construction. I tasted 6 of their wines, two stood out. 2009 Tokara Directors reserve white – blend of sauvignon blanc & Semillon and the 2010 Tokara Zondernamm Grenache rose, I liked the rose so much I bought a bottle to take back to Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa.

As you can see I had some great tastings and to help you have the same, here are some points to consider when going wine tasting.

  1. If you can, do some research on the winery before you go. If you show you know a little about them and what wines they produce, they will more likely spend more time with you.
  2. Use your contacts. Ask them to arrange if possible tastings at a couple of wineries, this way you are more likely to get the VIP treatment.
  3. Ask questions, i.e. if they say this a wine made from a blend, ask what the percentage is.
  4. Take notes on the wines you are tasting. This shows you are taking the tasting seriously and they will more likely spend more time with you.
  5. Pace yourself don’t try and do too many wineries in one day. Tasting wine is very tiring and your taste buds will not be able to tell the difference by the end of the day.
  6. If you are tasting a lot of wines, do not swallow all the wine; spit most out. This will help you not become drunk. Also have a drink of water between each wine. This helps to refresh your palate between wines.
  7. Make sure you have a good meal at the start of the day, never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach. Also if you are tasting all day, try and refrain from drinking too much at lunch time.
  8. Always try and have a designated driver. You can find that the police around wine regions are very strict on drink driving.
  9. Dress accordingly. If you show up at the tasting room scruffy, the chances are you will not receive a very warm welcome.
  10. Never turn up having had one too many. You will not be severed. When you have reached your limit, save that last winery to the next day.

Well I hope you have found this interesting and if I have wetted your appetite for South African wines. We are having a wine dinner on 1st July with Moreson and Dane Friedman will be talking about his wines. I hope to see you all there.http://www.donningtonvalley.co.uk/events_julaug.asp

Chris Neeves
Head sommelier