Jazz Brunch at West Street Vineyard
12th February 2014
What does the phrase ”Jazz Brunch” bring to mind? To me, the first thought would be of lazy Sundays across the Atlantic, most memorably Georgia Brown’s in Washington DC where my friend and colleague Jeff took me so many years ago I don’t care to recall. There was more food than we could have eaten in a week, a Bloody Mary with “shrimp” the size of a man’s thumb, a jazz trio with a double bass and more atmosphere than I could possibly describe. And what about visiting a vineyard? I’ve visited dozens in Britain now, but to many people that’s something more associated with being in France, or in New Zealand or Australia.
So if brunches with jazz and visiting vineyards are such nice things that we treasure the memories for years, isn’t it a shame that we only get to do them abroad? That’s exactly what I thought when I saw a Sunday brunch with Jazz advertised at West Street Vineyard in Essex. I had been meaning to go back there in the daylight for quite some time and the thought appealed so much that I called my friend Kate who doesn’t live too far away and we arranged to meet for a girlie catch-up.
My hopes of being able to photograph the vineyard this time were dashed by the grey skies and rain, but at least I saw the vines as Kate and I ran in to the English Wine Barn. We were greeted by Jane Mohan herself, for whom a day on her feet in the restaurant was a break from pruning, which really does make us appreciate how hard this wine-producing lark is. We had a quick chat about pruning – Jane really wants cold bright days now and the wet weather brings nervousness of disease, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for better weather.
Much like at Holmfirth Vineyard in Yorkshire, the Scandinavian style interior does the trick of making the most of the sunshine when it’s out, while creating a cosy feel – what the Danes call hygge (pronounced a bit like hoo-ger) – when it’s not.
We ordered our food and looked at the wine list intending to have a glass of wine, but were completely taken with the idea of a little fizz tasting that was offered – 6 wines for £10. We decided to eat first, though. Just chatting and catching up while idly listening to the jazz from the Simon Hurley duo was delightful.
My Suffolk Chorizo and Kale Hash with Duck Egg arrived. It looked really good and I was just taking a sneaky picture of it, when Kate’s “Essex Smokehouse” arrived and wowed us completely – it was an elegant platter of smoked salmon, chicken and venison, with a little taster of wine. I’ve just looked back at the menu which suggested that a lightly oaked English white would be served. In fact she was given Special Reserve from Wickham Vineyards (Rondo & Pinot Noir aged in oak). Kate wasn’t sure about the wine at first sip, but it was pronounced a fine match for the food.
After eating brunch, it was time for our fizz tasting. A white mat with the wines listed and just enough of each to taste individually, go back and compare and then a tiny sip left to see if any went well with dessert (all in the interests of research, of course!) The layout of the wines and the information provided in the wine list was just right to allow a tasting to be as informal or serious as anyone liked. For us, the standout wines (in order of tasting) were West Street’s own Sparkling 2010, Gusbourne Estate Brut Reserve 2008 (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) and Bluebell Vineyard Estates Hindleap Rosé 2010 (Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier)
The mention of West Street isn’t just flattery – it was exactly as described “light, refreshing, easy to drink”. Made from West Street’s own grapes by Piers Greenwood at New Hall. The Gusbourne and Bluebell wines were enjoyable in more of a complex, grown-up way. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Sharpham wines, maybe it’s the happy memories of sitting in sunshine at their vineyards, but the Sharpham Sparkling Reserve in this tasting didn’t quite stand up on its own for me and was crying out for a little smoked salmon soufflé. We saved a tiny sip of fizz to try with dessert, but they didn’t add anything – crumble is unsurprisingly not a natural partner for sparkling wine and I think my tarte au citron was just too good, with so much lemon zest that a wine of this type would struggle to hold up.
On the day we were there, others were having roast lunch and the first of the sumptuous afternoon teas arrived before we had left. It’s a lovely venue, with delicious food and as I’ve said before (and no doubt will again!) I really admire both the way that English wine is treated as just a normal thing to drink and that Jane does such a good job of promoting wine from so many varied vineyards.
If you live near Coggeshall or can make an excuse to go, West Street Vineyard’s English Wine Barn Café is open every day and quite a few evenings. It’s a bit of a trek for me, but I think it’s going to be fun finding more places around the country to enjoy English & Welsh wines in company. Watch this space…
Shared by Elisabeth Else
Glass of Bubbly
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