Back from paradise

August 13, 2013

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The Mosel river near Trittenheim

In the picture above you will see the wine village of Leiwen (left). Further around the bend of the river (to the right) is the wine village of Trittenheim. This is basically the view of the Mosel you will get when you drive though the Hunsrueck mountains.

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Trittenheim, Mosel

And this was also our first view of the Mosel when we arrived in Germany for our summer vacation this year. We were mesmerized. What a splendid view, what a splendid landscape, what a splendid river, how good to be home.

From the outset let me tell you we had a great time (only about 3 weeks), and despite our at best erratic planning and our lousy preparation, we were able to line up some unique, memorable and exquisite encounters with the wine and food world.

I intend to write in more detail about most of these encounters. But let me not be too optimistic as regards the time available for blogging.

So what were the highlights of our visit?

Well, we had the best pork-knuckle ever (!) after a two hour march through the forests near the Ammersee on our way to the monastery of Andechs, a famous location for catholic pilgrims. Bavaria is a fantastic place to visit especially if the weather gods are smiling on you, and smile they did. We had warm, at times even hot, weather during the whole time of our holidays.

Along the Mosel we visited three wineries – two along the Ruwer, one on the Sauer, both tributaries of the Mosel – and had one wine tasting in Trier city at Oechsle. Wonderful, exquisite, I can only rave about the many fresh and zesty wines we had the opportunity to sample.

The wineries we visited were:

Fuerst Winery, Metzdorf, Sauer
Karthaeuserhof Estate, Eitelsbach, Ruwer
Maximin Gruenhaus C. von Schubert Winery-Estate, Mertesdorf, Ruwer

Another highlight was the visit of one of the best restaurants in the Alsace region of France. For a family lunch we went to the Auberge du Cheval Blanc in Lembach, Alsace near Wissembourg in the Vosges mountains.

Needless to say we spent many afternoon and evenings in wine bars and beer gardens, among them the wine bar Kesselstatt and the wine bar “Weinsinnig”, two of my favourite places to relax and enjoy a good glass of wine in Trier.

More soon. Stay tuned.

PS: I made some gorgeous pictures.

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Thai wine and spicy Asian cuisine

July 8, 2013

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‘2012 Colombard’ by Monsoon Valley

Many white wines go well with Asian cuisine, for instance my beloved Riesling, either in its dry or semi-dry incarnations.

Fortunately, Thailand has his own wines which do pair well with its cuisine. Chenin Blanc and Viognier wines from Gran Monte Winery, as well as Chenin Blanc from PB Valley come to mind.

One of my least favourite grapes, Colombard can also make a good wine to drink with spicy Asian food. Monsoon Valley Wine produces a Colombard wine (Classic Range) which I find ideal with spicy cuisine.

The grapes are produced near Hua Hin, a coastal town about 3 hours south of Bangkok. I personally have not visited the Hua Hin Hills Vineyard as yet but it is on my to-do list.

This Colombard wine is a blend made from Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Malaga Blanc grapes. It is light and fruity with some citrus aromas and fine acidity but has some residual sweetness which makes is well suited to accompany spicy dishes.

The 2012 vintage has won various bronze medals for instance at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition in 2012, and the FBAT Wine Challenge in 2012.

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Spicy prawn noodles


Fine dining in China: Capital M in Beijing

June 20, 2013

Capital M Beijing

Captital M

Many of you know that Capital M is one of my favourite restaurants in Beijing, China. I try to dine there at least once every visit. On my last visit, I went with my friend Brian Wallace, the owner-director of Red Gate Gallery. We had ordered a table for dinner on a mild spring evening. We both needed a treat, and a treat it turned out to be.

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The wine list

I love the wine selection of Capital M, and decided on a wine from Sancerre. The ‘2008 Domaine Fouassier’ by Domaine Fouassier was a lovely Sauvignan Blanc. This was my first time that I tasted wine from this producer, and I should not regret it.

The Fouassier family is one of the oldest wine producing families in Sancerre. Today the estate covers about 56 ha, 80% planted to Sauvignon Blanc, 20% to Pint Noir.

This wine is aged in oak barrels where it remained on lees for about ten months. It displays the fine acidity, the aromas and complexity one expects from a wine from Sancerre. I loved the sound structure and the long finish.

The grapes come from old vines. The winery prides itself with its organic agricultural and bio-dynamic methods. It was a good choice and I have to look out for more wines from this producer.

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2008 Domaine Fouassier, Sancerre

I urgently needed some green stuff and started with a salad with some beetroots pieces. The wine was perfect for this food pairing.

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Beetroot salad

I am not someone who likes the fancy recipes. I like solid-rural, more agrarian and artisan food not the highly refined output from modern kitchens.  So my choice was red meat which did not exactly match my choice in wine. Since Brian did not feel like another bottle, I stayed with the Sancerre. But I am sure some of the reds from the wine list of Capital M would have been a lovely match.

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My beef fillet on potato mash

The beef was just awesome, what a great dish, what a great evening. If you want to spoil yourself, get going, book a table and enjoy a meal at Capital M. It’s worth it, trust me.

When we left and had said our good-byes, I went on a stroll on Tiananmen square which was completely deserted and void of people. I was rewarded with this view of the entrance of the forbidden city. A visit to Beijing can be quite delightful.

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An “artists lunch” in 798 Art Zone 艺术区 in Beijing, China

June 14, 2013

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Utrans Wines Culture Center in Beijing

I wanted to visit the 798 artists village since a very very long time but in the past had never found the time to do so. Last spring when I visited Beijing again I especially took time out for a visit tot he many art galleries in 798 Art Zone.

I was particularly interested in the On/Off exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art 尤伦斯当代艺术中心(UCCA. The Center had commissioned 50 artists and artists groups born after 1975 to express their ideas about freedom. All of them were born after the so called Cultural Revolution. All of them have grown up in a China of radical change characterized by market reforms and increased individual freedom. On/Off comes from the graphical interface of a common VPN which allows access to the internet and the outside world or not, depending on the speed of the censors and the energy of the user to find the loop.

I just loved the exhibition and the Ullens Center and was glad that I had come. Visiting galleries makes tired and hungry but luckily I found refuge in the above Utrans Wines Culture Center just across the street from the Ullens Gallery.

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Utrans: Bar and tables

Some of the Christmas decoration was still hanging but the cherry tree outside was in full bloom. Spring was in the air and every body was in a boisterous mood.

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At the back of the place were shelves full with various bottles of wine from various wine regions including Germany. The colours of the decoration suggested that a recent event might have showcased Italian wines. Utrans is a Xiamen based wine importer.

The dilemma of entering such a Mecca of fermented grape juice alone is that a bottle is quasi out of the question, and one has the choice among the house wines only. I settled on a French red.

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The bottles revealed the following:

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2010 AMBAR from Bordeaux

2010 AMBAR Grand Vin de Bordeaux, 13% which was bottled by an winery in Gironde. It was a decent house wine, more pedestrian in character but drinkable with red fruit aromas  and a decent finish.When I later googled the wine I could not find any useful information.

After a while I decided that wine without food would be like sex without orgasm and I had a look at the food menu. I settled for a salad and a salmon pasta. And here as an old China hand I should have been less trusting and/or more knowledgeable. The salad was a positive surprise: the mushrooms were warm which gave the whole affair a special character. The portion was huge.

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Warm mushrooms on a bed of green salad.

The pasta turned out to be Chinese noodles. The stuff was edible though, but not what the title suggested. What is al dente (?) in the case of Chinese noodles anyway; that’s a no go. The dish doesn’t look to bad in the picture I should have definitely ordered some Chinese food but not pasta. I have only myself to blame. After more than 30 years coming to China I should have known better.

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My Chinese noodle dish with salmon

Would I go there again, you might ask? The answer is: absolutely.

The waitress was very friendly, the service good and the atmosphere just right.

I will come again and explore some more of the 798 Art Zone and its culinary delights.

Beijing is awesome. Have fun and explore the 798 Art Zone. It’s worth it.

Address: 798 Art Zone
Ceramic 3 St. 798 Road, 798 Art District,
4. Jiuxianqiao Road/Chaoyang District
Beijing P.O. Box 8503

朝阳区酒仙桥路4号
P.R. China


Chinese wine at Starfish restaurant in Beijing

April 15, 2013

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Starfish entrance

While in Beijing the other day, I was invited for a meal at Starfish Restaurant opposite the Canadian Embassy. I had been there before but my last visit was some time ago.

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The restaurant

It is a very pleasant place with good service and good food. I ordered one variation of the menu of the day. This usually comes with a glass of wine.

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Chinese 1421 Chardonnay

When I later asked the waitress what wine it was, I was surprised to learn that she had served me a Chinese ‘2010 Silver Chardonnay’ from 1421 Wines.

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Silver Chardonnay from 1421 Wines

This Chardonnay is a very decent wine and I was pleasantly surprised (see tasting notes). I also love it when food is served with locally grown wine and not some foreign stuff.

In Thailand for instance is it very difficult to have a local wine accompanying the meal. In most places only international wines are on offer. There are some exception from this rule, some of which you can find on my blog.


Durif from Rutherglen Estates at Songkran in Bangkok

April 13, 2013

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Rutherglen Estates 2008 Durif

It is the Thai New Year, called Songkran, the water festival. In down town Bangkok the mob is celebrating, dancing, and splashing people with water, a cleansing ritual and a good omen.

Instead of mingling with the crowd, we are enjoying some beautiful red wine on our terrace. From Wine Connection in Thonglor I got a bottle of ‘2008 Durif Single Vineyard’ by Rutherglen Estates, one of the largest wine and grape producers in the region (more than 300 ha under vines).

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2008 Single Vineyard Durif

The wine is big with 14.5% alcohol. It has not much of a nose. The first sip comes as a bit of a shock, sucking your mouth dry like a vacuum cleaner. The second mouth full is already better, and then you are sailing. Some red fruit, some vanilla from the oak. Pleasant and satisfying, a warm climate red whispering in your ear the hot air of the northern Victorian sun.

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Bavaria Blue

We had some Bavaria Blue cheese from Bergader Creamery with it. This is my favourite Bavarian cheese, and not only because I worked as a young man on a dairy farm in Petting which delivered its milk to that company.

Every time I am in Germany I bring some of this cheese with me. It is super delicious. And the red wine from Rutherglen was just the right complement, a perfect match so to say to the strong and hearty cheese.

More such glorious days can come, with wine and some good food.

Happy Thai New Year to all of you.


Gran Monte Harvest Festival 2013 – Guest House and hospitality

April 7, 2013

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My room key

This is the third and last of my Gran Monte Harvest Festival blog entries. I know that the festival was in February and now it is already April. However, visiting Gran Monte Vineyard is always a good choice regardless of the time of year.

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The view from the guest house

During the harvest festival I was very lucky to stay at the Gran Monte Guest House which is just in the middle of the Gran Monte vineyards with great views.

It is wonderful to wake up in the morning, hear the birds sing and step out of the room, a room with a view so to speak and be right in the middle of things.

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The wine education at Gran Monte also includes some harvesting of grapes, just a little for the feeling of it. Of course I also participated, took the secateurs and cut a couple of bunches, just for fun.

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Secateurs and a little basket

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Beautiful and healthy grapes

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Syrah grapes ready for harvest

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Anty Fung, project manager from Asian Palate in Hongkong

In my first blog entry I mentioned that I shared the bus with a couple from Hongkong. It turned out that Anty Fung was a very knowledgeable wine writer and wine promoter working at Asian Palates.

To educate Asian wine drinkers to grape wine is not an easy undertaking. Often the description of what you are going to experience when you drink a specific wine is completely intangible to non Europeans. The references are out of sync with Asian life experience so to say.

This means tasting notes have to be re-written so that Asian consumers can connect to the product. Anty is working in this exciting sector and it was a great pleasure to listen to her and her assessments.

Moreover, she was great fun.

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The awesome breakfast at Gran Monte

Finally let me tell you that the breakfast at Gran Monte Family Estate is just another marvel. Look at the picture above. Would you not love to have this kind of egg dish in the morning?

You can have it. Just go and check it out at Gran Monte guest house. Stay there for a weekend and experience the uniqueness of a Thai vineyard and winery with great food and fine wines. You are also going to meet a Thai family which is very passionate about wine, viticulture and the environment of the Asoke Valley.