Last week Eriska hosted it's annual Spring Wine Weekend with guest Wine Connoisseur Philippe Larue of L'art du Vin. The event showcased a selection of French wines by 'Second Generation Winemakers' hand-picked by Philippe, who worked closely with Ross in the kitchen to pair the wines with appropriate dishes.
Wine Choice - Why Second Generation Wine?
When asked about his choice of Second Generation Winemakers, Philippe explained to us that it may have been possible to accuse the French winemakers of the 70s and 80s of complacency; their wines were selling well around the world because of their reputation. With the advent of a number of excellent New World wine styles (such as the Cabernet Sauvignons of the Napa Valley in California, or Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand) there was the need to return focus to quality in order to compete internationally!
With this in mind, Philippe selected some wines where there has been a marked improvement or development of style with the introduction of a winemaker from the next generation who understands the pressure of international competition.
Thienot was set up 25 years ago and is run by the youngest MD in Champagne, Stanislas, the son of the original Founder. The company (who also own Canard Duchene) originally sold 70% of their wine in France and exported 30% to the UK, but under Stanislas have added a further 25 countries to their export market. The brand is recieving excellent reviews and are well on the way to competing with the more famous 'Grande Marques'. We used their wonderful Vintage Brut as an aperitif with canapes of our own Smoked Salmon, and Salt Cod with Chicken Skin.
Run by the Pabiot family, son Jerome started with only 3 hectares, which he recieved as a birthday present. His first step was to convert the vineyard to be totally organic and biodynamic, and over the subsequent years has continued to espouse this philosophy to much critical acclaim. We paired his top Cuvee with hand-dived Scallops and Pork Belly so that the fresh acidity could counter the richness of the Pork, and the herbaceous and mineral character pair beautifully with the lightly cooked Scallop.
For the fish course we prepared some fresh Halibut from Mallaig with braised Leeks and a Toast Puree. Philippe had selected a beautiful Puligny Montrachet from Jean Chartron so the hints of bread and brioche from its Oak-Ageing would reinforce the flavour of the Toast Puree, and its lean mineral acidity would keep the palate refreshed without overpowering the fresh fish. Now run by the youngest member of the Chartron Family, the estate is maintaining its reputation as being among the finest producers in the Puligny-Montrachet appellation. In fact it was the Great Grandfather of Jean Chartron who campaigned for the hugely reputable suffix 'Montrachet' to be added to the Village name of Puligny, which had the effect of doubling the sale prices of the wines from the area almost overnight!
The current managing director of Chateau le Grand Verdus, Thomas, took over from his father in 2008 after working as a wine consultant in France and Spain. With a degree in agricultural engineering and experience from apprenticeships in Malborough, New Zealand, he introduced a low yield philosophy focusing on the usage of carefully selected grapes and high quality oak for ageing to produce excellent modern Bordeaux. We paired the rich Grande Reserve Wine with Oven Roasted Beef Sirloin, which had been covered with Kohlrabi Ash before being roasted and carved into steaks. The smoky notes of the Bordeaux beautifully complemented the char on the outside of the meat, while the velvety texture and ripe plum flavours served to enhance the richness of the Onion Gravy and Kohlrabi accompaniments.
With 50% of vineyards in Alsace being owned by Cooperative producers, the wines outside of the top long-established producers can sometimes be a little disappointing. At Domaine Mann however, brothers Maurice and Jacky Barthelmé - sons-in-law to Albert Mann, are gaining quite a reputation. They were awarded winemakers of the year in 2012, and best Pinot Noir in Alsace 2013. We chose to serve their single vineyard Pinot with our cheese course of Isle of Mull cheddar on Sourdough with plum Ketchup. Here the intention was to have the acid profile of the wine counteracting the rich protein of the cheese, while the rich fruit and minimal tannin add another layer of complementary flavour.
The Sweet Wine to end the evening was also from Domaine Mann. We showed the Vendanges Tardives ('late harvest') Pinot Gris along with Slow-Grilled Pear and White Chocolate Curd. The Pinot Gris is a comparatively fresh and light style of sweet wine, and so the flavours are more in the spectrum of ripe pear and citrus purity than the rich and complex honey styles of Sauternes or Tokaji. The Pear dessert was a natural choice to accentuate this character, and the fact that Ross in the kitchen grilled the fruit slowly meant that the natural sugars caramelised and softened the flesh all the way through without introducing any 'burned' flavours.
Food and Wine Considerations
Matching wines to food can seem intimidating for those of little knowledge. When matching wines with food there can be said to be two very broad approaches-
The traditional approach to wine matching is picking wines and food from the same region. Matching food with wine from the same geographical location is a good fundamental rule because often the food and wines have evolved alongside one another and have a natural affinity. Goat's cheese from Chavignol in the Loire Valley with Loire Sauvignon Blancs such as Sancerre or Pouilly Fume is an excellent example of this, or fine Barolo with the truffle and oil-covered pasta of Piedmont in Northern Italy.
An alternative approach to wine matching is to look at the variety of factors that can affect flavour and trying to find qualities in both food and wine that might complement each other. Things to take into particular consideration would be the levels of acidity in the wine, intensity of flavour, fats and proteins and sauces and dressings, flavour profiles etc.
The fundamentals of this approach can be about reinforcing flavours - for example matching 'heavy' food with 'heavy' wines - or contrasting flavours - using acidic wines with cream or butter sauces to 'cut through' the richness and refresh the palate.
It is also definitely worth pointing out that there are no hard-and-fast rules to the practice of combining wine with food, and the whole thing should be a fun experiment. If you enjoy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc alongside your Roast Sunday Dinner then you shouldn't let anyone tell you it's wrong!
Co-written with F&B Manager Glen Montgomery
The essence of life is learning through enjoyment.
No place is this more prevalent than in our pursuit of further knowlege in the fields of wines and food - so what better way to combine these two fascinating topics than by arranging a weekend of education her at Eriska. Or so we though back in 1993 when we first organised a Winter Wine Weekend. Back in those days we all had so much more time - and it could be argued a far greater thirst for knowledge that we used to run a three day weekend. Guests arrived on the Thursday in preparation for a full day in the kitchen. On the Friday our kitchen team would be joined by experts in their field to help explain and educate. One that sprung to mind was a Seafood and Chardonnay weekend when Andy Race- our fish merchant arrived- late on Thursday because in those days the market on Thursday night physically took place in Mallaig and he had to be there in person to examine, bid and purchase the fish.
On the Friday monring he simply brought in a huge box of mixed fish and with 20 guests sitting round, dressed in aprons and armed with knives he tallked through the box demonstrated how to identify, pick and select the best fish ( a lesson I still utilise) and how to prpeare it for the the kicthen with ease. This, as then, followed by working demonstrations and then the kitchen team took his work and helped show how it could be transformed. All sounded so simple but by the end of the day we had a great lunch and had some wonderful produce ready for dinner.
Then we are joined by some partners who could not escape for all three days and had a wonderful dinner focussing on the proiduce that had been prepared and with an introduction to wines of the world all featuring the Chardonnay Grape.
On Saturday we had anther practical; day with a demonstartion and talk from Inverawe Smokehouse highlighting the skill involved in curing and smoking fish- a skill we then took even further when we opened our own smoker- and then after lunch it was out on the water- some went out with a prawn creeler, some went to a local Oyster Hatchery and farm and some simply wantered on the beach as part of a guided foraging tour.
This was all simply to build up an appetite for dinner which was proceeded by a tasting of Chardonnay wines from around the world highlighting the huge range of grapes and abilities to create a diverse yet wonderful product. Then for dinner, the kitchen having been slightly freer and less invaded by fishmongers and guests- created a wonderful gastronomic dinner which was matched by a variety of wines which complemented the palate.
A greta fun weeknd and everybody learnt something- some more than others but all had left their cares of the world behind and ultimately relaxed.
However those days have slightly slipped away.
Time has become even more valuable but our thirst for knowledge has not waned so we are delighted to be able to announce that we will be joined by Mark O'Bryen, Master of Wine and Taittinger Ambassador to the Uk for our Winter Wine weekend which takes place over the weekend of the 16th November. In order to offer complete flexibility we have restricted the main event to a Champagne Masterclass on the Saturday Afternoon - for those not intersted in the rugby internationals!- and havearranged a tutored tasting to accompany Rosses wonderful dinner. It will allow Mark to Showcase the rangeform tis great champagne house and really introduce it to novices whilst evolving experts palates to appreciate the finer details. Clearly it will give teh opportunity to showcse the range but I am certain that we wil eb able to slip in a glass of still wine to help tittivate the taste buds styill further.
As you may have noticed staying on the west coast of Scotland, the weather changes fast and you may have not brought with you the clothes for it. Although we offer our guests wellies and do our weather blog every week, coming prepared to meet the rain isn't always good enough and one feel like doing most things indoor at least sheltered from wind and rain.
As the weather might sometimes set a stopper to the outdoor activities in Scotland we thought we would give you some that could be enjoyed within the hotel and spa and some that could be enjoyed indoors if you have a day planned away from the hotel.
At the hotel;
November Wine Weekend
If you have planned an autumn escape (when the weather is perhaps cold and wet) why not book in for the annual November Wine Weekend? The weekend evolve around tutored tastings in the hotel with amazing wines and beautifully prepared food. You would also get the opportunity to meet other keen diners and experiencing the ultimate way of obtaining new knowledge! The cost of the full weekend to include Dinner, Bed and Breakfast on two evenings, and the matched gastronomic dinner on the Saturday night is £400.00 per person. You can enquire about our Wine Weekend here.
Spa & Relax
A Spa & relax day is recommended for Couples or the Mother & Daughter weekend. Our Treatment Programmes and Day Packages can be booked in advance and would the ultimate way to spend the day. Programmes range from 130 minutes to 200 minutes and includes a focus on total relaxation of the body and therapeutic detoxification. Arrive earlier to take advantage of our ozone indoor heated pool, sauna and steam room to relax your muscles before your treatments. A break is also incorporated where you can enjoy a spa inspired lunch together.
The Library Bar
"It is amazing how relaxed one becomes when one enters the library bar with a newspaper and order a cup of coffee". Whether you want to catch up on the news, relax with your favourite book, or even pick up an unexplored book from our own library.. Our library has a lot of treasures for the eager reader. Spending the day inside with a book is something we all do too rarely and can be a very easy form of relaxation. Is the weather really challenging, take your book with you and enjoy the log fire in the main hall. We would personally recommend Treasure Island, Kidnapped, or Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson.
Away for the day;
Although hidden from the rest of the world, Isle of Eriska is not too far away from local and regional attractions. We would recommend the following to make a day out of it, with no wellies or rain coats required;
In and around Oban
1st Stop: Oban’s War & Peace Museum
Contains a fascinating collection of artefacts and photographs depicting the rich cultural history of the busy port town and its people.
Sits on the water's edge in the very heart of Oban. Views over Oban Bay to Kerrera and the Mull and Morvern Hills are magnificent. Ee-Usk is regarded as one of the best seafood restaurants in the country
2nd Stop: Oban Distillery
Right in the heart of Oban, nestling beneath the steep cliff that overlooks the town, one of Scotland's oldest sources of single malt scotch whisky is but a stone's throw from the sea.
Glencoe Visitor Centre & Ice Factor
Glencoe is a magical place where true Highland Hospitality combines with world famous scenery, poignant history and some of the best things to see and do Scotland has to offer. And perhaps more recently has become known to some through the release of Skyfall. This daytrip may require a little packed snack.
Glencoe Visitor Centre is a multi-award winning Visitor Centre and Building, encompassing a shop - with lots of interesting local products, a café - with fabulous home baking, an information point - including weather forecasts for climbers & walkers and advice on routes, a viewing platform, and an education room which often features additional exhibitions.
For the adventurous, Ice Factor offer rock and bouldering walls were designed following extensive consultation with the Mountaineering Council, a number of guides, instructors and mountain rescue teams. This ensures that whether you are a complete beginner looking to take your first steps on the rock, or a gnarly hard-core climber looking to push your grade, Ice Factor has a range of routes, grades and challenges to suit - and it is all inside!!
Late Lunch: The Creagan Inn
On the way back why not stop for a later lunch at the Creagan Inn? Built in 1740 (1745 was the year of the Jacobite rebellion) this lochside village inn is almost as old as the Kings Inn in Glencoe; the famous glen used in the James Bond film Skyfall. Enjoy bar meals, local seafood, real cask ales, malt whiskies and even cocktails; including of course the famous James Bond ‘Vesper’ Martini Cocktail.
After a long day out, you can return to the hotel, have a relaxing dip in the Jacuzzi and a swim and get ready for a sumptuous dinner in our 3AA Rosette Restaurant.
The restaurant is also open to non residents and you can enquire about availability in advance here or by calling us on Tel: +44 (0)1631 720 371.
We are delighted to be able to announce our Autumn wine event at Eriska for the weekend commencing on Friday 15th November!
This year we are to be joined by Mark O'Bryen MW Regional Sales Manager for Taittinger Champagne for a weekend of exquisite gastronomy and bubbles with real character at Eriska. But first a little about Champaigne Taittinger!
The Champagne house was formed back in 1932 by Pierre Taittinger, firmly linking the wines with gastronomy which ethos of the strong connection between wines and food continue to today. The house has grown and developed over the years and faced many challenges but Taittinger Champagne is now firmly back under the control of the family having been bought back in 1996, and they have set about evolving the brand and insuring the consistency of the wines not ignoring their history. You can read more about their history here.
Château de la Marquetterie or the 'Cradle of Champagne Taittinger' is found nestled in the heart of the champenois vineyards just west of the village of Pierry. The estate was built in 1734 in the style of Louis XV, clinging to the hillside covered in vineyards. Château de la Marquetterie has been the property of Champagne Taittinger since 1932 and has seen many historic figures before this time such as Jacues Cazotte, and further building on the work of friar Dom Oduart, who developed the Champagne methods Champagne is known for today.
Mark who will be joining us at Isle of Eriska in November to hold the tutored tastings became a Master of Wine in 1996 and is one of around 250 Masters of Wine in the world. As a a roving ambassador for Taittinger Champagne he will be speaking about the world famous Taittinger. The event will be based round a Saturday gastronomic dinner where Mark and Head Chef Ross Stovold will combine to match the best from the French vineyards and cellars with the best form the gardens and hills of Scotland. In the afternoon Mark will run a brief tutored tasting of the champagne highlighting the key differences of the house and its plans for the future.
The cost of the weekend to include Dinner, Bed and Breakfast on two evenings, and the matched gastronomic dinner on the Saturday night will be £400 per person. You can find more information and enquire about the wine weekend by clicking on the button below.
We are very excited to welcome Ross Stovold to Isle of Eriska this week!
Ross Stovold previously held the position as head chef at Alimentum in Cambridge. Alimentum is a 50 cover restaurant which currently holds 3 AA Rosettes and a Michelin Star. He also has a range of good quality businesses on his list of achievements, most recently Sat Bains in Nottingham and the New Angel in Devon. Ross' focus is on bringing a training and development ethos to the kitchen at Eriska.
Part of Ross' concept is to employ four apprentices in his team alongside a strong top level, leaving him time to train and work with the juniors in an endeavour to grow our own chefs of the future.
Our kitchen team focuses on the use of the freshest, local produce in a way which develops and enhances the flavours and taste of our through manipulating as little as possible. Ross will continue to work closely with local suppliers to ensure the best of Scottish produce is presented on our Menu.
Our dinner menu changes on a daily basis and offers a choice of starters and a choice of main courses, one a fish from the surrounding waters another a meat dish from the hills surrounding the island and a final vegetarian alternative inspired by one of the gardens or larders close at hand. But what is excellent food without wine...
Our comprehensive wine list accompanies the best of Scottish produce and offers outstanding value for money to diners, particularly when you compare our wine pricing with other top restaurants. Our comprehensive wine list runs to 40 pages and provides extensive options both geographically and in terms of price. Our wine list provides personal recommendations that are favourites of Eriska's Owner, Senior Hotel Manager and Sommelier, and we believe that you are likely to find some interesting options here that may even become one of your own favourites!