This blog is a record of the wine that I make and drink. Each flavour made and each bottle drunk will appear here. You may come to the conclusion that, on the whole, I should be drinking less.

Monday 30 May 2011

Crab Apple - Bottle C1, 30th May 2011

I was greeted by a glass of Crab Apple wine as soon as I walked through the door this evening, and very welcome it was too. The day has been spent intermittently concentrating extremely hard, spliced with sitting still, trying to make no noise whatsoever. Both activities are surprisingly exhausting.

I am recording a CD of music that Richard Morris has written for the last 25 years of St Dogmaels' Abbey Shakespeare Plays. He is an extraordinarily well-connected man, and Paul Daniel is conducting. I suspect this is a step or two down from English National Opera and Last Night of the Proms, but it is hugely exciting for someone as easily impressed as I am. I will certainly buy a copy of the CD when it is out, and probably get one for my mother too.

Perhaps finishing the bottle of Crab Apple tonight was an error - I still have a couple of numbers to record tomorrow.

Friday 27 May 2011

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Bottle B6, 26th May 2011

I have just worked full-time two weeks in a row. This is the first time I have done this since covering Matthew's summer holiday last year. In celebration I have both opened (and finished) this bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti and booked Tuesday off next week. Working a full week is sufficiently novel that I have (mostly) enjoyed it - it gives a structure to my week that has been missing since I finished my MA in August last year.

This bottle has also marked my first Western. I have started reading the delightfully named 'Dakota Death' by Billy Hall in preparation for the summer Book Group party at the end of next week. Everybody has to read a cowboy story, and how could I resist something with that title? It is rubbish, of course, but I am trying to take it at face value and not to sneer. I have also got a book out of the library - also a Western - with an even worse title; 'High, Wide and Handsome'; to which I look forward mightily.

Changing the subject entirely, Claire has just presented me with the largest bundle of cat hair I have ever seen, all of it from Stan during a vigorous brushing. I heard the yowls from downstairs.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Blackberry - Bottle D2, 24th-25th May 2011

Blackberry is not, ordinarily, a mid-week bottle. But on Tuesday night we came home from a concert in which Claire had played, and of the available flavours, this was the preferred choice. Claire's concert involved 'The Carnival of the Animals' and, most impressively, Milhaud's Percussion Concerto. The soloist was a glamorous Pole in a slinky blue dress with grace, speed and more limbs than seemed feasible. Back at home, whilst drinking wine, we watched Doctor Who and I moped over job decisions.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Raspberry - Bottle 3, 21st May 2011

Claire had to argue strenuously to convince me to open this bottle. I only made six of them and we had one last week. Still, she made the point that it is ready for drinking now, and it was a new flavour to feed Richard and Linda. Of course I capitulated, but shall be guarding the remaining bottles with some care.

It has been a lovely evening, with four courses including home-made ravioli stuffed with goats' cheese, walnut and basil, a cheese course and rhubarb fool - which is possibly the last of this year's crop. Richard was enthusiastic about the wine - insisting that I write it up for Home Farmer. I won't, but it was pleasing nonetheless.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Rhubarb - Bottle A6, 20th-21st May 2011

This bottle marked the end of my first full week of work this year. It has also been a week where I have been out every evening - mostly playing music - hence an exhausting, yet satisfying, five days.

After much soul searching and a good deal of procastination, I have decided which job option to take. Brooke North and remaining within my comfort zone wins out over Snagsby Jarndyce and the excitement and/or stress of managing and marketing a department. I shall, of course, never know if this was the right decision. Two glasses of rhubarb wine did not make it any clearer.

Friday 20 May 2011

Crab Apple - Bottle B1, 17th-19th May 2011

Claire is drinking the last glass from this bottle and eating her own version of Scooby Snacks (which is actually addictive Bombay Mix) as I write. And now the cats are having a tussle on the bed. Oh, the excitement of a Thursday night in suburban Leeds.

This Crab Apple has been particularly tasty - sharp, fresh, and just a little bit zingy. We have drunk a glass each after various orchestra rehearsals. Tuesday's Sibelius was sounding ropy, and the concert is on Sunday. Yikes. Wednesday was my first day back at Brooke North, and it is a different firm to the one I left: smaller and tighter. Orchestra that night was a new piece - 'Alice on the Beach' by Philip Henderson - and very promising it was too.

Claire has now finished her Scooby Snacks, and I must sleep.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Raspberry - Bottle 1, 14th May 2011

It has been an evening of general debauchery. We are at 3, The Alders, which inevitably means far more alcohol than is good for beast or man. One of the earlier bottles was this Raspberry, and I have shared it between six and a half. The half was Alastair, who is driving and therefore only wanted a sip. We drank it to a Pork Roast, cooked by Bob (Judith is walking in France). This is a good bottle - a beautiful colour and stuffed with fruit. (Odd, that.) Andrew thought it yeasty to begin with but "a shit-load better than what we had after". As this consisted of a bottle of Wolf Blass Yellow Label and two bottles of McGuigan Estate Shiraz (all of which I have indulged in copiously) I shall take that as a massive compliment. Hic.

Friday 13 May 2011

Redcurrant - Bottle B6, 12th & 13th May 2011

This wine really is not very good. Though the initial taste is pleasant, it degrades quickly into mustiness. Still, it is a pretty colour. In fact, a glass of this acted as a 'stunt double' for strawberry wine. I needed to send photographs to Home Farmer Magazine for my July article, which is all about wine from strawberries. This bottle was conveniently open, so Claire poured a glass, put it into our wild strawberry patch and took a photo. The readers will never know.

Thursday night's glass (and a half) was after playing trios with Pat and Peter, which were mostly okay, and tonight's has been after a rehearsal with the Harrogate Quintet, which was good. We are practising for a concert to be put on by the Killinghall Flower Society to be held in the parish church. I suggested we play arrangements of 'In an English Country Garden', 'Tiptoe through the Tulips' and 'Lily the Pink' but this was given short shrift.

Monday 9 May 2011

Gooseberry - Bottle B4, 5th to 9th May 2011

I had my first glass from this bottle on Thursday night, celebrating getting two jobs that will dovetail nicely: the Government want me for three days a week and Brooke North for two. I could barely believe my luck. Then I had another glass on Friday, sat in the garden reading Home Farmer Magazine, enjoying the early evening sun. My last glass was tonight, in rather more morose circumstances. Jarndyce & Co have finally pulled their finger out and have confirmed their job offer too. I now have a difficult decision to make, and am miserable about it. Still, the nasty aftertaste in the wine seems to have diminished over the days this bottle has been kept in the fridge.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Elderberry - Bottle B6, 8th May 2011

We had roast duck tonight. This was my 'Congratulations on Getting a New Job' treat. I start working for the police tomorrow, which was not on my Life Plan 'To Do' List. I am actually remarkably enthusiastic about it, though I suspect I shall not sleep well tonight.

The elderberry wine was a perfect bottle to accompany duck: the sweet, round flavours complemented the rich fatty flavours of the meat. Claire's spiced kumquats added to the general exotic timbre of the meal. We also had our first English asparagus of the year and, more impressively, the first entirely home-grown salad, including near-flourescent radishes.

After the salad course and one glass of wine I shaved off my 'unemployment beard'. Another glass would have made this a perilous activitiy.

Orange - Bottle B3, 7th May 2011

Orange wine was particularly suitable tonight for two reasons. Firstly, I spent some of the evening racking the 2011 batch of Orange wine. The second, and more important, reason was that it went excellently with our evening meal: grilled seabass with a puy lentil salsa, new potatoes and spinach. It was a colourful, flavoursome meal and all of my own making. I got a little stressed in the last moments, where everything needed my attention immediately, but it all came together.

This was after a pleasant and active Saturday. I spent much of the evening, when I was not cooking, putting my 2011 batch of Rhubarb wine into its demijohns. The morning was more exciting: I busked in Leeds Market with a wind quintet as part of the 'Friends of Kirkgate Market' promotion week. We wore purple and black, and played the same 20 minute set three times over in different places. The most thrilling was on a balcony, overlooking the market. But playing where the shoppers were drew bigger crowds and lots of goodwill. The only downside is the continual repetition of 'Teddy Bears Picnic' bouncing around in my brain.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Rhubarb Wine - The Making Of ...

I was planning on starting my rhubarb wine next weekend, but Julia rang today, 2nd May, to say that all her rhubarb plants were flowering and therefore next Saturday would be too late to harvest the stalks. As I had just put a bottle of Rhubarb 2010 in the fridge, this fitted in nicely. I made arrangements to meet Julia at her allotment gates at around four, and continued with my afternoon. This mostly consisted of continuing with 'The Lacuna' by Barbara Kingsolver. The more I read, the better it gets, which is what one wants in a book of 670 pages. It is extremely good at relating historical events from a personal point of view: Trotsky's assassination was brilliantly written and remarkably tense, even though I knew that this was his fate (but virtually nothing else at all about him). The rest of the afternoon was spent on the internet, reading and watching the news about Bin Laden's capture and death. Obama's address to the nation (and therefore the world) struck me as measured, intelligent and pleasingly free of triumphalism.

Anyway, plucking 6 lbs of rhubarb from Julia's allotment was quick work, and we spent most our time putting fleece over her strawberry plants in anticipation of Tuesday's predicted frost. Claire dug up some horseradish, which currently sits in our fridge awaiting culinary transformation.

Once at home I washed the rhubarb and cut the stalks up into slices of about half an inch, making sure that we got some from both Claire's grandmother's plant and the one given to us by Shirley. I put this into the bucket and pured over 13 pints of boiling water. The next morning, I added six pounds of sugar, a sachet of yeast (Champagne variety) and one and a half teaspoons of nutrient, though no pectolase.

I put this all into its two demijohns on Saturday, 7th May after a day of playing Wind Quintets in Kirkgate market (I'm now on YouTube !) followed by gentle pottering. Sieving out the rhubarb took longer than expected, even after trying to take out most the rhubarb floating on top of the liquid using the sieve as a scoop - a method suggested in a blog I am following on the blogosphere (Beekeeping and Homebrewing). I should have added an additional pint of water (at least) in the beginning stages. Demijohn A is dark glass, and I have wrapped demijohn B in silver foil.

Monday 2 May 2011

Rhubarb - Bottle B2, 2nd May 2011

I suggested to Claire this morning that we should not have a bottle tonight. She raised an eyebrow and I capitulated. It is, after all, a Bank Holiday Monday, and I will not open another one until Thursday. But we are drinking too much.

I chose Rhubarb before I knew that I would be making this year's batch of rhubarb wine today, so perhaps it was fated. Anyway, the wine was excellent - it is a beautiful colour, with its metallic hint of pink and virtually no other hue. The taste is unusual but in an entirely good way: acidic and semi-sweet, with a hidden fruitiness. We drank it to delicious salt and pepper chicken wings with a Chinese mushroom, cabbage and kim chee (sp?) stew over noodles.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Blackberry - Bottle C6, 1st May 2011

I took this bottle to Roundhay as partial insulation against Claire's string quartet. Actually, that is entirely unfair. The group was playing Mozart's Dissonance Quartet round at Catherine's in front of dutiful husbands before a dinner party. Said dutiful husbands were sent into a separate room with a bottle of wine whilst the string players rehearsed, and then were invited into the front room for a performance. Though Claire was unhappy with it, I thought they played well, and the meal afterwards was terrific - the main course being a chicken, olive and orange casserole, with pecan pie for pudding. People said nice things about the wine, but I may have prejudiced them by introducing it as 'my best'.