Christmas is upon us once again and we find ourselves at home in Newcastle upon Tyne for the Festive Season. We have had a terrific year exploring, travelling and meeting some very nice people along the way and of course, we have collected lots of fabulous wine, some of which, will no doubt, go down very well over Christmas and into the New Year (if we we have enough left by then!). So how to end our 2013 adventures but by doing things with a bit of a difference. Instead of plying our trade promoting the enjoyments of wine, we put on a different hat for this final occasion, that of real ale!
We both enjoy a good beer or two and living in the North East are blessed with several small breweries that make excellent beers. A particular favourite of ours is Wylam Brewery, situated in the picturesque Northumberland village of Heddon-on-the-Wall, just outside the village of Wylam.
Wylam is the village where George Stephenson chose to settle after he was endorsed as one of the countries most successful and pioneering railwaymen of the age. Some of the beers that Wylam produce recognise this important man with names such as The Rocket and Loco No1. Their Puffing Billy ale celebrates another north-eastern pioneer, William Hedley. The brewery even holds a monthly event in the very workshops that Stephenson and his son built their world famous locomotives, namely The Boilershop Steamer, another event that we are proud to have been a part of when earlier this year we provided cover for the pop-up wine bar.
So, here we were for our final gig of the year, covering Wylam’s stand at the Newcastle Christmas Market for two of the five days. The folk of Newcastle were in good spirits, helped along by an array of local musician’s and choirs, giving the market place a real festive buzz.
It was an extremely busy Friday and Saturday and by our last day, we had managed to sell every bit of stock that we had and with an hour still spare to go prior to the market closing for the day!
It was a great two days selling to the public helped along by a feast of festive activities and a special guest appearance from the man himself, none other than Santa!
Our final adventure for 2013 bring us close to the big day itself and amongst the sipping of a selection of rather tasty wines there shall be the occasional quaffing of fine local ale (with a drop or two left out for Santa!).
Over this period we shall be taking a small break from our blog adventures but will return with more in 2014.
With that note, Ruth and Kel at Guest Wines would like to wish all our followers a very Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.
Day 6 in Roussillon
It was an early start today to tidy the winery ready for a group of American and French journalists who were arriving for a tour and a tasting.
Leaving Jonathon to host them, I went to see the 25th International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan with Rachel, Georgia and Jill. The photographs are exhibited in various buildings across the city, some of which are not usually open to the public. So it is a fantastic opportunity to see some rarely visited places as well as beautifully shot photography although the images were often shocking and at times disturbing. I must admit the majestic Serengeti lions made up for the dark violence of human behaviour.
A lovely lunch at a nearby cafe gave us a chance to sit and have a break from the intensity of the exhibition after which we were ready for more.
Then on our way home, a caramel ice cream from Olivier Bajard was most welcome, possibly one of the best ice creams I have ever tasted!
picture sourced from http://ecole-olivier-bajard.skyrock.com
Back at the winery, I took a short walk around Troullias before settling down in the evening sun with a glass of Pierre Andre, Les Craies Bourgogne Aligote 2010, which I had bought at Les Caves Maillol and was planning on using as the mystery wine for everyone to taste that night.
The wine had a flinty, smoky nose with some tropical pineapple and passion fruit aromas. Both Jonathon and Georgia were impressed and we all liked it a lot, not bad for something under 10 euros. It matched extremely well with the barbecued duck, rice and salad that we had for dinner.
We were treated to Treloar’s Tahi and Le Secret as well as a taste of the co-fermented Carignan/Syrah that is still in barrel. What a powerful wine, beautiful voluptuous nose of violets, black and red fruits, spice, the gripping tannin is to be expected but should integrate and soften out nicely. I look forward to getting hold of a bottle of this next year!
As yet unnamed Carignan/Syrah
The wine was flowing and everyone was chatting, Jonathon got his guitar out and entertained until bedtime.
Join me for the final episode in my Roussillon experience next week.
The Feathers Inn at Hedley-on-the-Hill in Northumberland, run by Rhian Cradock and Helen Greer, has gained a bit of a reputation over the years for its restaurant and fine range of cask ales, seeing it win Great British Pub and Gastro Pub awards in recent times.
As well as having a yearly real ale festival, which will often showcase many local breweries, The Feathers also prides itself on putting together an English Wine and Cider Festival.
So on this sunny Bank Holiday Monday, we headed off to Northumberland taking a pleasant drive along winding lanes through the picturesque landscape, to try out one or two of the wines on offer.
We arrived to a busy beer (or should we say, wine/cider?) garden with folk already enjoying a glass or two as well as tucking into the offerings from the BBQ.
The range of wines on offer could be purchased by the glass, bottle or 50ml sample, we opted for the latter so as to try more of the range without becoming too tipsy in the process.
As with previous years, producers such as Bolney, Chapel Down, Denbies and Three Choirs were all present, with new (for us) at this event, Biddenden, Leventhorpe and Nytimber.
Wines that we particularly enjoyed were:
Three Choirs Regalia 2011: Madeleine Angevine, Phoenix, Schonberger, Siegerrebe and Seyval Blanc – Hedgerow, elderflowers, mineral notes with zest and a decent finish
Biddenden Gribble Bridge Rose 2012: Dornfelder & Acolon – Strawberries and cream, structured with an acidic backbone
Broadwood’s Folly English Sparkling Wine NV: Reichensteiner and Seyval Blanc – the grapes are from the North Downs and made into wine at Denbies by John Worontschak – Good nose of fresh apples with a hint of melon and brioche on the palate and a creamy finish. However, the bubbles did fade a bit too quick from the glass.
The Bank Holiday was now well and truly underway…!
Once again, it was time in our calendar for the annual Direct Rail Services open day event. Each year this event is alternated between their main depots at Carlisle Kingmoor and Crewe Gresty Bridge.
This year it was the turn of the Cumbrian depot and like two years previous, true to the North West, it rained!
Knowing this was guaranteed to happen but in no way deterred, we set off early in order to get a good place in the queue, which not only cuts down on waiting time in the rain but also enables us just enough time to scramble around the depot to get a few “before the crowds descend” images.
The admission price is based on a suggested donation as all proceedings go to local charities.
Years ago, open days were a familiar feature as railways would regularly open their workshop and depot doors to the public over a weekend to showcase and promote British railway engineering.
There are not as many depots as there once were and all but a handful of locomotive works in Britain still exist and those that do are much reduced in their operations.
Britain has fallen out of the locomotive building industry – a real shame. Ironically, the preservation movement in this country hasn’t and now has several new builds – steam and diesel on its books! The Peppercorn A1 Pacific steam locomotive being the first to be completed.
So, it is great that one mainline freight operator continues to promote the open day tradition.
Despite the rain, the crowds came out in force lured by the chance to get up close to the working practices around a busy depot. Helpful staff who had volunteered their time for the event, showed folk around the cabs of various locos on display as well as the odd tour all the way through the engine room – very cramped we must say and definitely not the place for a nice stripy jacket!
Rail enthusiast, loco owner and pop personality Pete Waterman, who always comes to these events, was on hand to re-name one of the companies ex-BR 1960’s built English Electric diesel Class 37 locomotive with the name Sir Robert McAlpine/Concrete Bob, which it had carried in its British Rail days. As it was pouring with rain, this had to be the fastest naming ceremony on record!
We then headed to Carlisle station to witness the arrival of Princess Coronation Class, Stanier Pacific “Duchess of Sutherland” – the sun even tried to come out at one point!
However, this wasn’t the end of the day for us as we now headed back to Northumberland where we had an appointment for a vertical Rioja tasting.
Here, friends had kindly invited us to taste the: Conde Valdemar Gran Reserva Rioja from their vintages of: 1984, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1992 & 1993 – well, it would have been absolutely rude of us to have not to!
Bodegas Valdemar is a well established producer in the Rioja region of Spain. The wines are mostly made of Tempranillo with some either having a dash or more of Garnacha, Mazuelo and/or Graciano.
Unfortunately, the 1984 was corked but despite this, it still maintained good structure. Pick of the pops seemed to be the 1986 and the 1990. The latter was felt to still have a young fruity nose and palate and should continue to develop for a little while longer yet.
The wines from the 1980’s, brick red and brown in colour, definitely had a savouriness to them including, of all things, blood and earth, as well as leather and smokey elements, whilst the 1986 maintained strawberry fruit as well. The 1990’s expressed more of their fruit, with hints of smoke and leather. The 1993 expressed smokey vanilla, orange peel and cooked fruit.
We then sat down and enjoyed the rest of the wine with a wonderfully home-cooked and locally sourced dinner (roast lamb or griddled Halloumi with roast vegetables all cooked to a flavoursome perfection).
What a brilliant end to a fantastic day!
Now in its third year and gaining popularity on each occasion that it has been held is the Tynemouth Classic VW Rally and this year we had the added bonus of the sun!
Held against the impressive backdrop of Tynemouth Priory and the North Sea, in glorious weather, the crowds flocked to this year’s event.
There were many classic Volkswagen examples on display, which are lovingly cared for by their proud owners. It was great to take a stroll and get close up to some of these very unique vehicles giving us a better understanding as to why this particular make has such a large following. Ruth already has an affinity with VW bugs as she learnt to drive in one many moons ago, it’s still in the family and still works!
Reggae music played over the tannoy speakers lending a relaxed feel to the day. After our stroll, we took the opportunity to sit on the hillside of the Priory and watch the Red Arrows perform for the nearby Sunderland Air Show also taking place on this particular weekend. An impressive sight with such a clear view up the coastline.
It was great to be back in the North East.
A great place to visit at the moment is the National Railway Museum in York whose latest exhibit is not to be missed.
The guys there have worked hard behind the scenes for the past couple of years to repatriate (on short-term loan) two Gresley A4 locomotives in order to celebrate Mallard‘s recording breaking run when she broke the world steam record (something that she still holds) 75 years ago on 3rd July 1938 going for it at just over 126 mph!
This has meant that all six remaining A4’s (from an original total of 55) can be seen together for the first time in over 50 years.
The two A4’s repatriated are: 60008 Dwight D. Eisenhower on loan from the National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA and: 60010 Dominion of Canada on loan from the Canadian Railway Museum, Montreal, Canada.
A great day out