Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday, 21 August 2017

In the footsteps of the distinguished Tom C – dinner at Sandeman Room, Fonab Castle

 A glass of Don Fino Sherry from Sandeman in
the Fonab Bar to start the evening

We spent a great weekend at Fonab Castle on the outskirts of Pitlochry as my pre-birthday treat. Saturday night we were in Sandeman Room where we were expertly looked at after by James Payne, the maître d'hôtel at Fonab and responsible for the wine. I first met James back in the 1990s when he was at Pont de la Tour. From time to time sommeliers get a bad press for being arrogant. This certainly does not apply to James: he is a very good one  – very relaxed, very professional and knowledgeable and not at all intimidating. 

James Payne with the Sandeman 1982 Vintage Port 

Dinner in the Sandeman Room is a set menu – we also decided to go for the flight of recommended wines. We learned during dinner that we had the same table as the Scottish legend Tom Cannavan (Wine Pages).  

Tom Cannavan on a barrel throne in Chile 

The amuse bouche which included 
some foie gras and roasted apricot 

2016 Bone Dry, Van Buhl
Trocken, Pfalz 
(above and below)
Some grassy Sauvignon Blanc like – notes 
crisp acidity

Consomme – chicken, truffle and tarragon
– being poured over the ravioli

Character Amontillado Sherry, Sandeman
James' choice with the consommé

Scottish Salmon –
Confit of pink citrus - fennel - cucumber

There is almost always a dish that we forget to 
photograph before we are halfway through the dish 

The 2014 Astolabe Chenin Blanc, Wrekin Vineyard, 
Marlborough (NZ) was matched with the salmon 
Tasted on its own the Chenin has a delicately 
attractive character with interesting floral notes.
Unfortunately the sweetness in the salmon as well as the cucumber 
overpowers the Chenin – hiding the fruit while accentuating the acidity


2009 Ampodium, Côte Rotie, Domaine Rostaing
James kindly added this into our flight 
Lovely, sensuous and complex Côte Rotie
Kept under Coravin and first broached 
some five weeks ago 
Was a great match with the rare filet of lamb

2014 Vinha Grande, Douro
Still youthful and quite tannic but came into 
its own with the slow cooked lamb 

this fruit based  pre-dessert 
was a fine foil for the 2015 Vouvray Moelleux
from Vigneau Chevreau

Panna Cotta 
Lavender – textures of strawberry
The Panna Cotta needed something richer and 
more powerful than the Vouvray, 
which the 2015 Kika Noble late harvest Chenin Blanc
from Miles Mossop Wines in Stellenbosch  

Birthday chocs

All in all this was an excellent and very enjoyable meal – the high point of a great weekend stay at Fonab Castle, a wonderful place for a pampered few days away. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A walk in the Perthshire hills – Fonab Castle – Killiecrankie – Bealach na Searmoin – Pitlochry – Fonab

 Heading up from Killiecrankie 
with the purple heather

In contrast to yesterday day has been a nice dry day – bright in the morning but clouding over late morning before the cloud lifting mid-afternoon. We started off from Fonab Castle where we are spending the weekend and walking upstream close to the River Tummel to Killiecrankie. Much of the walk was through pine forest with attractive views down onto the river.

When we got to the Killiecrankie Visitors' Centre we decided that we had enough time to head to Pitlochry by way of the hills – taking the more energetic option (The Bealach Walk) with some 1800 feet of climbing included..... This walk takes you up to the Bealach na Searmoin (a pass) and then straight back down into Pitlochry.  

 Leaving the Killiecrankie Valley behind 
 Looking westwards 
 Well up on the way to the 
Bealach na Searmoin
 from Killiecrankie
looking north west 
 Almost at the top of the Bealach na Searmoin with 
the option of further climbing to the peak – Ben-y- Vrackie (declined)
Even at the top of the pass you hear the noise of the traffic on the A9. 
This is on the north side. However, over the top on the south side the traffic noise disappears 
Over the top of the pass – very different vista looking southwards 
– towards Perth much more gentle with the 
Falkland Hills in the very far distance

Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Scottish summer day – full of variety!

Today we drove down the A9 from Newtonmore to Pitlochry. Here are a series of photos taken over a short distance, on an iFone around Dalwhinnie showing how quickly the weather in the Highlands can change. 

 Mist on the hills 

 Looking through the windscreen!

 Now past Dalwhinnie – signs of clearing up 

 Dramatic sky and landscape

 Heading to the Drumochter Pass
(above and below)