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.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Blackberry - Bottle A3, 12th-26th November 2011

It is a rare thing indeed that I have a bottle open for a fortnight. However, so little of this was drunk at the Book Launch, that when I got it home I bunged in a cork and left it in the hallway.

This Saturday marked its re-opening and (naturally) completion. Between the four of us (Sooz and Andrew are her post-Thanksgiving) we made swift work of a bottle of Bonfire wine and needed something else to accompany our Turkey Thai Curry. In fact, we made swift work of this too - aided and abetted by a DVD of Ethel Merman and the Muppets, which was delightfully silly. Then someone suggested opening a bottle of Redcurrant ...

Saturday 26 November 2011

Bonfire Wine - Bottle 2, 26th November 2011

I blame Claire. This flavour should have been spaced evenly over a period of twelve months. Instead, we have now had three bottles in November. Sooz and Andrew are here, and Claire was keen to introduce them to chilli wine. In fact, this bottle has been less spicy than the other two, but is still good.

I have spent the day making beer, under strict supervision from Andrew. It is far more complicated than wine, and I suspect that this is a one-off. But then I thought a similar thing about making wine, and look where I am now.

When I have not been making beer, I have spent the day reading 'Pigeon English' in preparation for Book Group (good, but too derivative of 'The Curious Incident ...') and worrying about my future. Happy days.

[NB - There is a lacuna. I shall post Elderflower Bottle A3 when I feel able.]

Friday 25 November 2011

Blackcurrant Wine - Bottle 5, 24th November 2011

This was our Thanksgiving bottle, although there were several other ones of the shop-bought grape variety. It was a lovely evening with plenty of food. Including Claire and me, we had nine people around the table - which is more than fits comfortably. Claire had spent all day at home cooking, and it was an amazing feast. All the usual suspects were there (turkey, sweet potatoes etc.) together with a wild rice and chestnut dish for the vegetarians amongst us (Richard) and (rather less traditionally) Yorkshire puddings.

I disgraced myself by going to bed far earlier than the guests were ready to leave. It was shortly after ten and I needed to sleep there and then. Social niceties had to take a back seat. Claire saw the guests out.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Orange wine - Bottle A4, 18th-22nd November 2011

I only had one glass from this bottle, so really I should be forcing Claire to write this entry.

On Friday I was out with the Emsleys crowd for Gemma's leaving do at Tiger Tiger. I am a grumpy old sod, though. The music was too loud and it was all too tightly packed with young people. Other than that, I enjoyed it. Then on Saturday I was in Manchester playing 'bumper bassoon' with the Yorkshire Wind Orchestra in a performance of Karl Jenkins's 'The Armed Man'. I was prepared to be sniffy and superior about this, but I loved it. The twenty second silence at the end, followed by a standing ovation, was a special, emotional moment.

My one glass of wine, therefore, was tonight whilst pretending to tidy in preparation for Thursday's Thanksgiving. The house will not be ready.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Bonfire Wine - Bottle 3, 20th November 2011

Suitably, Bonfire Wine has proved to be an explosive brew. This bottle woke Claire up on Thursday night as it popped its cork. Into the fridge it went, until tonight. Then, whilst I was bottling mhy rhubarb wine, it exploded again - causing a certain amount of jumping in surprise and looking for the gun shot.

This is a delicious wine, though. Fizzy (obviously) and fruity, but with a strong chilli taste. It went well with a sausage and brown lentil casserole, served with cabbage, artichoke & potato mash and a suitably hot horseradish sauce. This, after a lazy day of reading the latest P J Tracy, and watching the first episode of season 2 of 'The Killing'. Crime fiction is where it is at.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Elderberry - Bottle B5, 12th-16th November 2011

I could not have had a Book Launch without a bottle of elderberry. It was, after all, this flavour that started me down the river of wine making. However, the only comment I received about the elderberry was that this bottle was too young and it needs leaving a couple of years. That may be right, but I do not have the patience.

My Tuesday night glass was drunk whilst I was feeling sorry for myself. My final wisdom tooth - bottom left - is making its presence known. I had hoped this one would sit quietly in the background, but currently my mouth is in pain. I have made a dental appointment for Monday, and I know she will recommend extraction. At least this has to be the last time - I have no others.

Friday 18 November 2011

Pumpkin - Bottle 6, 7th-13th November 2011

Pumpkin wine gets no better the longer one leaves it. This was just as disgusting as all other bottles.

I opened it at BBC Radio Leeds, on air, for a live tasting event. It was an example of my worst wine, and I could not have chosen better. The interviewer declared it 'foul' which pleased me mightily. He told me to serve blackberry instead for Saturday's book launch. Of course, I served both, along with many other flavours and dared the attendees to sample the Pumpkin. I think most refused, judging by how much is still left in the bottle (destination: down the sink) but some were brave souls. Apparently Lindsay was the least taken with it, pulling all manner of faces.

I did not drink any at the book launch, but had my obligatory taste (a glass would have been pure masochism) on Sunday night after returning from a fabulous Airedale Symphony Orchestra concert. We played Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, and my adrenalin was up. Pumpkin wine did not take it down any - so I had a mug of bush tea and a slice of Judith's fruit cake instead.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Nettle - Bottle 2 or 3, 12th November 2011

Well, what a change a year makes. This was the last bottle of wine opened during the Book Launch and was far from Universally Unpopular. I took it along as one of two nasty bottles (the other being Pumpkin, of course) and it remained steadfastly unopened until I noticed my glass had been empty for some time. I sent a minion to bring out the Nettle Wine. Having had one glass, I wondered why everyone had been so damning a year ago. It is herby and unusual, certainly, but palatable. Even Mom thought it was fine, and Judith took the bottle (half finished) away with her on the Sunday morning.

Special mention for the Book Launch must go to Eleanor - who was doing a PhD during my MA and with whom I struggled over Latin. She lives in Roundhay and so walked. Therefore she was in a position to try all flavours, and made a gallant attempt to do so. On questioning, she thought that she had sipped five, or possibly six. Maybe seven. Eleanor definitely gets the prize for most enthusiastic attendee.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Prune & Parsnip - Bottle 2, 12th November 2011

I nearly did not take a bottle of Prune & Parsnip to the Book Launch. This would have been a mistake. Of all the bottles there, this was the one about which I heard most comments. In a Good Way, he added quickly. I suspect this is because it sounds most unusual.

One person who tried it and declared it far better than the elderberry was an 88 year old Auschwitz survivor, who looks 15 years younger and whose recent book about her experiences - The Woman without a Number - has been a runaway success, translated into many languages. I was honoured to meet her, and even more so that she bought a book to give to her son in law.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Hedgerow, Bottle 2, 12th November 2011

This was one of three reds that I took to my Book Launch and (if emptiness of bottle proves anything) was the most popular. The blackberry was hardly touched.

I had a glass of this one; it is a light and fizzy red, and really rather good.

The book shop, Philip Howard Books, has two rooms. I was signing books in the front whilst Claire was being barmaid in the back. There was always the noise of people having a good time drifting out from this back room. Generally there were fewer people in the front, but it meant I had a chance to talk to those who were there. Between about 2:30 and 3 the entire shop was packed. Which I think counts as a success.

Me signing, with a glass of Hedgerow to hand

Monday 14 November 2011

Strawberry - Bottle 3, 12th November 2011

Strawberry wine was always going to be a popular wine at the Book Launch. Whilst I was setting up (and waiting for the books) I opened this and gave Ros a glass. By the end of the event, the bottle was more than half gone and I left the remainder with Ros as a 'thank you' for hosting the event. Maybe I should get her some flowers too.

It was a terrific afternoon. I think I sold 45 books (though Judith bought ten, and Mom another four) and the shop was stuffed with people I knew - most of whom appear in the Book. Being centre of attention, next to eating cake, is one of my very favourite things and, a day later, I still buzz.

In the book shop with Ros at the end of the Launch

Gooseberry - Bottle (unrecorded), 12th November 2011

My first customer at the Book Launch chose gooseberry wine for his initial glass. He was called Barry Hartley and had seen the article in the Yorkshire Post. I was delighted. My efforts at publicity had worked. In fact, he was the only person who came that I did not know. But actually, that didn't matter. One person is a success, and that he was first was even better. Ros played a fanfare on her computer as he bought the book.

The gooseberry wine was one of the most popular during the day - I did not get a glass - and as Ruth and Paul left we told Ruth to take away her favourite. She chose this.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Rhubarb - Bottle A3, 12th November 2011

This was the first bottle that I opened at my Book Launch (not counting the Crab Apple, which opened itself). I needed a stiff drink when I arrived at the book shop. There were only 20 minutes to go before the official start time and the books HAD NOT ARRIVED. Ruth had rung to say they were running late. Of all the disasters I had imagined, this was not one.

One large glass of rhubarb wine later I was a little calmer, and I started opening bottles of wine. If people had to wait then the least I could do would be to ply them with alcohol.

In fact, the books arrived only five minutes late, restoring nerves that until that point had been shattered.

Trying to look relaxed before the books arrived

Crab Apple - Bottle C3, 12th November 2011

Disaster. The salad tray in the bottom of our fridge is swimming with crab apple wine. I put this bottle in our fridge overnight to cool for the Book Launch. There was no room to stand it up, so I laid it on its side. That proved to be a Mistake.The cork popped some time during the night and I have yet to clear up the mess. I considered keeping the bit that was left (about a third of the bottle) for home consumption, but quickly rejected the idea. After all, I was sacrificing 12 bottles to the Book Launch and I suspected (correctly as it turned out) that this would be too many. So, taking a near-empty bottle of crab apple rather than a full one proved to be the right action.

This bottle was finished during the day, but only once we brought it home again. There was so little left that it would have been rude not to.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Blackberry - Bottle C4, 7th-10th November 2011

This was one of two bottles opened live on BBC Radio Leeds, whilst I was being interview by Wes Butters to promote the Book. I took this, as an example of my best wine, and Pumpkin as an example of my worst and, despite it being not-yet-eleven, convince the interviewer to sample them both. He was suitably complementary about the blackberry, at least.

It was an interesting and fun experience - I felt myself relax into the role of interviewee, and listening to myself afterwards was not as mortifying as I had expected. I do have a posh and ever-so-slightly camp voice, though.

As Wes Butters had only drank a sherry glass full, I made sure I took the bottle away with me and it has been drunk slowly during the week. Wednesday's portion was after the best WYSO rehearsal we have had this season. Finally, finally 'Buckaroo Holiday' from Rodeo is starting to make sense. And the first and last movements of 'The New World Symphony' are just fab.

Monday 7 November 2011

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame ...

This is a quick break to my normal posting, but I have just been on BBC Radio Leeds, and the link is here. I suspect this is only available to those in the UK, but I may be wrong - and it is only available until 14 November. My bit starts at 1:45:30 through.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Bonfire Wine - First Bottle, 5th November 2011

This bottle of wine was doubly appropriate. We drank it both on Bonfire Night and on the occasion of Ellis's first birthday celebration. I had a 190 mile round trip to the party, so could only drink half a glass, but that half glass was marvelous. It is a dry, fizzy red wine with many flavours including a strong taste of chilli with just a hint of heat. The assembled guests, of whom there were several, all said they enjoyed it too (though, curiously, I did not see any having a second glass).

Keith, Lee and Robert ushered us into the garden and set off a gazillion fire works which fizzed and hissed and banged and exploded into an array of colours, leaving the air thick with smoke. It was a lovely day and evening, and the best part of it was seeing Keith and his family so happy and settled.

Saturday 5 November 2011

Elderflower - Bottle B3, 3rd-4th November 2011

During the drinking of this bottle I mostly spent my time reading 'The Angle of Repose' by Wallace Stegner. This was our Book Group book and I have been reading it for the last six weeks. Ordinarily books don't take me that long, but I got lost in the middle of this one and kept on being distracted by shiny objects. However, over the last week (and with Friday's deadline as a spur) I rediscovered its beauty and ate up the final 200 pages. It is a tremendously well written book, about lost dreams and making do, mostly set in the last nineteenth-century American West, and ultimately I thoroughly recommend it. As I do the wine: crisp, dry with a hint of warm summer days.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Elderberry - Bottle A6, 30th October - 1st November 2011

There is currently no law about the amount one may drink before playing the bassoon. This is a Good Thing. On Sunday night I was playing nonets in Guiseley, but was driven by Madeleine, so I took the opportunity to have a glass and a half with our meal of lamb & chick pea stew. This left enough in the bottle for the wine to act as a prop for a photo that may appear in next Wednesday's Yorkshire Post. I was being interviewed as publicity for the Book, and the photographer had me kneeling in front of the table, gazing adoringly at a glass of wine. Which sounds like an ordinary Saturday night in. As it was not yet eleven in the morning, I poured the glass back into the bottle. One has standards, after all. I did, however, press a thimblefull of wine on both the reporter and the photographer, and they declared it 'tasty'.

My final glass was after orchestra on Monday, where we rehearsed Bill Kinghorn's violin concerto with the soloist. It has difficult 5/8 and 7/8 rhythyms which mostly I just guess. Claire finished the bottle while I was in Ilkley.


I must put in a quick word for Jack Keller and his wine blog. He was kind enough to advertise my blog, and since then, the number of visitors to this blog has pretty much tripled. So, thank you Jack. You are a gent. And you have a blog that is interesting, useful and fun.