Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A meeting of fellow bloggers

I'd like to think that this blog doesn't take itself too seriously. Since its beginnings in autumn 2009, a lot of what I have produced on here has simply been "train of thought" material as it were, written for my own satisfaction and enjoyment. For this reason, I've never really bothered adding an additional page explaining in clear, concise terms what this blog's raison d'être actually is. I've never really thought it was necessary, nor when I started this blog did I know for sure what its raison d'être actually was. Whoever stumbles upon "From Blackpool to Basel" will carry on reading if they like what they read - or they'll surf somewhere else. Free choice - that's the beauty of the Internet.

However, those who do stay on my site for more than a fleeting moment will have noticed over time that I tend to write about some wine or other. Like a fair few other people who cover wine via the medium of a blog, I write about my hobby purely from a wine lover's perspective. This, almost by default, has resulted in the odd spot of dialogue with fellow bloggers in recent years. Very rarely has it led to actual encounters with like-minded individuals

Therefore, it's all the more enjoyable when I do actually get to hang out with someone. When Barry Fowden got in touch with me a few weeks ago saying he was going to be on holiday in Kappelrodeck-Waldulm and whether it might be possible to join him at short notice for some food and wine at his favourite place the Rebstock one evening, I was delighted to accept his generous invitation. Not only that, but I thought it would be even better if my wife Jenny also joined me on this little trip to the northern Black Forest. Unsurprisingly there was no room at the inn at the Rebstock on a Friday night during high season, but we managed to obtain the last room available at the nearby "Schwarzwälder Hof Faxe".
View from our hotel

Friday, 6 September
After kindly picking us up in his car at Achern railway, Barry drove us to Kappelrodeck where we first stopped for some (iced) coffee at Zuckerbergschloss before checking in at our hotel in Waldulm with plenty of time to spruce ourselves up before dinner at 6 p.m. on the restaurant terrace of the Rebstock.

Sign posts outside the Rebstock
I have to say at this juncture that it's often hard what to expect when meeting someone whom you have previously only known through the virtual ether. But Barry was easy to get along with immediately. We really enjoyed his company.

Evidently, our host had put plenty of thought into the evening's vinous entertainment. All the wines (three of them!) were fantastic.

First up as an accompaniment with our variety of amuse-bouche starters was a Tement Sauvignon Blanc "Zieregg" Barrique 2008 from Südsteiermark in Austria.
Barry said it could have done with more air, but this was my first ever SB from South Styria and, frankly, I wasn't complaining. When you drink a particular style of wine for the first-ever time, it is often hard to pinpoint and describe the flavours you are tasting. Nevertheless, I could distinctly make out nettles - an intriguingly fresh smell. That and some gooseberry, enveloped beautifully in a complex, savoury barrel-influenced cloak. A real eye-opener and the antidote to some searingly weedy SBs I have had in recent years.

After a little foie-gras-based "greeting from the kitchen", Jenny and I had three of the four "Versucherle" ("Little Temptations") on offer for starters respectively:

- Fried quail's egg on chanterelles and organic wheatmeal
- Pumpkin terrine
- Cream cheese and gorgonzola mousse with fig chutney and grilled bacon
- Muscat pumpkin soup

Not bad for preliminaries...

Then for my main course I ordered this: Gefüllte Elsässer Wachtel (entbeint, mit einer Fülle aus Apfel, Gänseleber und Blutwurst) angerichtet auf Traubenwirsing, mit Kartoffelplätzchen.

Nice presentation...
("Stuffed Alsace quail (boneless with an apple, foie gras and black pudding filling on a bed of savoy cabbage with grapes and crisp potato cakes")). Both Jenny and Barry went for the lamb medallions with goat's cheese, rösti and vegetables

The two Pinots Noirs then arrived:

Weingut Martin Waßmer, Schlatter Spätburgunder "SW" Barrique trocken 2007, Baden, Germany
An extremely mouthwatering wine. A slightly more purplish colour compared to the Gleichenstein, and this was reflected in darker fruit characteristics as well as noticeable tannins to begin with. But this came into its own as a culinary accompaniment. Plummy notes translating into a lovely refreshing backbone that danced the proverbial tango with the food on our plates. Tasting increasingly savoury as the evening progressed. All three of us were unanimous in our praise. I left the scoring to Barry...

Weingut Freiherr von Gleichenstein, Oberrotweiler Eichberg Spätburgunder Barrique trocken 2007, Baden, Germany
More cherry-like but creamier and softer than its counterpart from across the Rhine valley. Its velvety, relaxed personality belying its relatively high abv of 14%. Great stuff but drinking gradually better towards the end of the evening and, paradoxically, without food - its complexity more suited to solo sipping than Alsatian quail.

Barry scribbled down notes on both wines. He handed me a notepad at the start of the evening, but to be honest I was struggling to know what to write and decided to give up on that. All the above is therefore based on my memory and overall impression.

Jenny and I
After a wonderful five hours of eating, drinking and talking outside on the terrace (luckily the weather was still mild enough), we bade each other goodnight and arranged to meet again later the next morning. 

Saturday, 7 September
As we looked out through our hotel window the next morning, we could see mist still hanging over the surrounding hills. It had rained overnight. Thankfully the day itself was an altogether drier affair.

After a leisurely start, we agreed to meet Barry again at 11 o'clock. From the Rebstock we went on a short walk up through the vineyards.

Barry then played the tour guide, chauffeuring us through the village of Sasbachwalden and then up into the Black Forest. We stopped for a breather at Mummelsee before heading on along the beautifully rugged Black Forest High Road (Schwarzwaldhochstraße), then back down to Durbach. But barely were we in this well-known Riesling-growing village then we headed up again through the vineyards to the lofty perch on which Schloss Staufenberg stands. Impressive views with Flammkuchen and liquid refreshment followed.

Afterwards, it was down the winding vineyard road again in Barry's car and onwards to the next railway station in Appenweier where we said our goodbyes before the train journey back to Basel.

Cheers Barry.


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