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February 2008

Vino reopens, new vintages, same place, only just across the road!

Well, January has come and gone, we've had our first, very successful Slow Food Devon Topsham Market, and we have managed to get through what often seems the longest, cruelest month of all. Already the days are beginning to lengthen and it feels like Spring really isn't too far around the corner (though there is still February to get through). Meanwhile, those of you who have chosen to de-tox or at least recover somewhat from the excesses of the holidays (doesn't Christmas seem a long time ago?), well, good on you and I hope you are well and truly purified . . . and ready to put away your haloes and begin enjoying wine again.

The news here is that, after our January break (not spent de-toxing I hasten to add), Vino resumes again in exactly the same manner as previously, but just across the road, working now out of the Vino Wine Garage. For the moment, it's not quite as spacious as Geoff and Anna's splendid Pebblebed Cellar, but cosiness has its virtues, not least due to the fact that a smaller space means we can stay a little warmer - and this of course makes it easier to taste some of our wonderful red wines, which do need to be brought up to room temperature to be enjoyed properly.

As for the future, our plans are eventually to expand into our garage next door as well, which will give us a more comfortable tasting area. But in the meantime there is still ample room to drop in to taste and have a chat. So I do hope to see you soon - why not drop in this Saturday for a 'wine garage warming' and to celebrate February and the onset of Spring (hopefully) with a taste of Prosecco or Mario's new vintage Barbera?

What's going on across the road? The latest news is that Geoff will keep the cellar after all, so there will be plenty of opportunities to do new things together. Meanwhile Pebblebed wines are always available from this corner of Topsham, either from the Pebblebed Cellar or, if Geoff's not around, then across the road with us. Pebblebed and Vino remain as closely linked as ever and we look forward to building on our partnership with future events and collaborations.

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Pebblebed and Vino event: a demonstration of pruning in the Pebblebed Vineyard followed by a communal party, cooking steaks outdoors in the vineyard over a fire made from the pruned vineshoots - Date Sunday March 9th 11.30am until 2.30pm venue Pebblebed Ebford Vineyard

Part of what Pebblebed and Vino are both about is connecting the landscape of wine with the flavours in a glass. Understanding the vineyard year and the tasks that are necessary for a successful harvest is in large measure part of this. Winter, for example, is the time for the laborious task of cutting back the vines, pruning the growth from the previous vintage, getting rid literally and metaphorically of dead wood. In colder months, the vines lie dormant, so this is an annual winter job that must be completed before the sap begins to rise and the vines return to life. Geoff has kept busy over the winter, and the Pebblebed Vineyard is tidy and ready for the new season to begin. However, he's kept aside a few vines in order to be able to demonstrate how the pruning is achieved. This is a skilled task, for cutting in the right place ensures that the vine can be trained in the correct manner and that the best fruit will set.

Meanwhile, that mountain of pruned vineshoots can be put to good use. For indeed, in the wine country, there are traditions that should be observed. Cooking over vineshoots is one of the best - most enjoyable as well as tastiest - of all. In Bordeaux, the tradition of cooking 'aux sarments' is a long-established one, and there are vineyard restaurants that specialise in just this: grilling steaks over a fire of old vines, pruned shoots and sometimes the wood of old, wine-drenched oak casks. The flavour from the vine shoots and wood seems to marry perfectly with the fire-cooked meat, accompanied by a rich wine sauce, and washed down with, well, what else but copious amounts of wine.

Fire-cooked meat, bread, wine, enjoyed outdoors in the company of friends. That's what we'll be doing on Sunday March 9th. The format of the day will be kept as simple as possible. All we ask is that you drop into the Vino or Pebblebed cellar and purchase a bottle (or, why not, two or three!) of Pebblebed or Vino wines to enjoy on the day, then come along with friends and family, and bring some steak to cook over the huge communal fire of vineshoots. (It would be helpful, too, if you could bring your own wineglasses, plates, cutlery, etc).

To reserve your place, please email Geoff or me.

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Onglet aux sarments
Flank steak or skirt cooked over vineshoots

We get our meat from Arthurs and here's what we'll be doing for the vineyard cook-out.

1 skirt or flank steak, usually around 600-900g
Mixed peppercorns (black, white and red), coarsely ground with a pestle and mortar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Sea salt

For the sauce

4-6 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
1/2 bottle red wine
Demi-glace or concentrated beef stock
3 tbsp beef marrow, soaked then blanched, and finely chopped (if not available, then enrich the sauce with more butter)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly chopped parsley

First marinade the flank steak or skirt in the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and mixed coarsely crushed peppercorns.

Next make the sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan and sauté the shallots until soft and transparent. Add the red wine and bring to the simmer, then reduce to about 1/3. Add the demi-glace and blanched bone marrow, if using (if not using, then substitute the same quantity of butter). Allow to cook for about 15 minutes at a simmer, until desired consistency - the sauce should just coat the back of a spoon. Adjust seasoning and add the chopped parsley just before serving.

To cook the steaks, place over a hot fire of vineshoots. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness of steak and desired degree of rareness. Turn over and cook the other side.

When done, remove and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes. Carve into slices by cutting across the grain on the slant. Serve with the red wine sauce, or put meat into fresh baguette and spoon over some of the sauce.

Suggested wine: Pebblebed rosé, Cascina Fontana Dolcetto d'Alba 2006

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Hope to see you soon.

Marc and Kim

 
 
 
 
 

Copyright Marc Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved
Images copyright Kim Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved

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