Dinner at the Vineyard at Stockcross was a five course tasting menu. Each course served with two wines – either a French or a Californian, served bind. And that smugness came from the fact I guessed which wine was from which country correctly.
The opening pairing was probably the trickiest – is glass A holding the Qupe Roussane 2008 or the St. Joseph Le Lombar Cuilleron 2008 from the Rhone? It was a fun exercise, the wines were sampled and compared and then tried with some delightfully presented and tasty food. Then each participant voted for their favourite by placing a cork in a container. It was a close run thing but California triumphed over France by a few corks.
Not suggesting any of the wines were poor; far from it for the Vineyard at Stockcross has the most amazing cellar chockfull of perfectly housed wines. And not all are ultra-expensive. That evenings meal and wine pairings would cost £100 a head but can easily be adaptable. Just two courses, four wines? No problem. Wine price limited to £7/£12/£18 a glass? Happy to oblige.
While wine is the focus at this ‘just re-furbished’ five star hotel, the sense they are trying to make it approachable is certainly apparent. Indeed they have an award winning master Sommelier French-born Yohann Jousselin; but he would rather be known as a wine waiter, assistant or adviser rather than the more formal, formidable, Sommelier.
But how on earth do you look after a 30,000 bottle cellar? More to the point how do you know your way around the 3000 individual wine listings held within it? They have three wine lists at the Vineyard at Stockcross – a bar list (wines by the glass), a short list and the ‘bible’ listing all. As Yohann explained
“The wine list is a big part of my job, having around 3000 different wines produces a lot of work! The wine list at The Vineyard is certainly impressive in terms of the number and range of wines, but I want to move it to the next level in order to make it become one of the finest wine lists in the world.”
With a passionate French Sommelier and the company also owning a vineyard in California, (Peter Michael Winery in Sonoma Valley), you would be right in expecting the list to be strong in both France and America. The Californian listings are certainly impressive with many wines not available elsewhere in the UK or anywhere else come to that. Many are under strict allocation in their homeland, one way to impress any American visitors (and the hotel’s way to feel faintly smug too I guess!)
A glimpse of the cellar, or at least a small part of it, can be seen from the hotel reception. Banks of perfectly chilled wine line a small corridor, as you walk through the glass floor reveals more wines beneath your feet. Ask for a tour for it is their showpiece.
The Tasting Menu at The Vineyard at Stockcross
With Confit of duck foie gras, poached pears, red chilli:
Qupe Roussanne, 2008, Santa Maria Valley, California *
Yves Cuilleron, Le Lombard St. Jospeh, 2008, Rhone, France
With Diver Caught Cornish Scallops, English asparagus, Parmesan Cream:
Peter Michael Winery, L’Après Midi, 2009, Sonoma, California
Henri Bourgeois MD Sancerre, 2010, Loire, France *
With Pan Fried Red Mullet, Carrot and Pink Grapefruit Concentrate:
Littorai Pinot Noir, 2009, Sonoma Coast, California *
Vincent Dauvissat, Irancy, 2009, Burgundy, France
With Grass fed Aberdeen Angus beef fillet, asparagus and Pomme Pont-Neuf:
Cliff Lede, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, Napa, California *
Duluc de Branaire Ducru, 2004, St. Julien, Bordeaux, France
With Strawberry clafoutis, lime and strawberry, strechella cone:
Justin Vineyards Obtruse, 2009, Paso Robles, California
Mas Amiel Maury Cuvée Spéciale, 10 Ands d’Age, NV, Roussillon, France *
* The wines that received my cork-vote that evening.
The Vineyard at Stockcross
Stockcross, Newbury, Berkshire, RG20 8JU