BULGARIAN WINE – PART 2 – SOPOT WINERY

Our bus trip from Villa Teres to Sopot Winery took over two hours. Along the way we drove through the Valley of Roses – this is another beautiful part of the country. This lowland has three valleys, Balkin Mountains to the north and Sredna Gora hills to the south. Famous for its rose-growing industry, which has been cultivated for centuries, this area produces 85% of the world’s rose oil. It’s interesting to note that Bulgaria is one of the world’s largest exporter of rose oil, which is used in the production of: perfumes, creams, chocolates, liquors, jams, jellies and toothpaste. Towns of importance include: Kazanlak, Karlovo, Sopot, Kalofer and Pavel Banya. Unfortunately we missed the harvest, crowing of the Rose Queen and the sounds, sights, and wonderful fragrances of the festival by a few weeks.

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Arriving at Sopot Winery, which is 510 meters above sea level in the heart of the Valley of Roses, south of the town of Sopot – it’s one of the most favourable climatic zones for viticulture in Bulgaria, we saw spectacular views of the southern foothills of the central Balkan Mountain range.

After our tour of the winery and hotel and settled in the restaurant for lunch and tasting.

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The principal owner is businessman Docho Shikov. Sopot Winery currently has 12 ha of vineyards, with 16-year-old vines, with majority plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. The facility has modern, state-of-the-art equipment, with a full lab for conducting analysis and research. Head Wine Technologist, Georgi Dchorbadzhakov, goes on to say that they have “an annual production of 120,000 bottles”.

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Wines worth tracking down:

Sopot Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition 2013
Sopot Syrah 2014

Liz Palmer

Tanguy Martin of Hotel TerraVina has been named Moët UK Sommelier for 2015


Martin’s victory came after a tough final at the Savoy hotel in London today, where he competed against Romain Bardary of the Vineyard at Stockcross, and Arnaud Bardary from Maze in London.

Bardary was placed second, while Bourger was third in the competition, organized by the Academy of Food and Wine Service (AFWS) and The Caterer, and sponsored by Moët & Chandon Champagne.

It was Martin’s third time in the competition, having placed third last year. Commenting on his win, Martin said: “It is incredible. It is the third time I have been in the competition and I have worked hard for this. The standard was incredibly high so I am delighted to have won.”

All three finalists were submitted to a grueling three-hour competition in front of an audience made up of judges, former winners, their peers from the industry, sponsors and journalists.

As part of the competition they were required to: inspect a wine list and identify a number of errors (that were not to do with spelling or pricing); undergo a blind taste test of two wines, one red and one white, as well as describing and identifying them; identify four spirits served in black glasses; serve three tables of former winners in a restaurant role play situation; and finally to pour a magnum of Moët & Chandon Rose Imperial Champagne into 16 glasses.

Each of the finalists showed different strengths but the judges, including Eric Zwiebel from Summer Lodge and Roger Jones from the Harrow at Little Bedwyn, chose Martin as the overall winner.

Among Martin’s prizes for winning the competition was an engraved jeroboam of Moët & Chandon Champagne, and a ‘money can’t buy’ mentoring programme. The AFWS and The Caterer will facilitate a series of educational sessions featuring the UK’s top sommeliers.

The day’s competition started with the 12 semi-finalists of the 2015 competition being whittled down to six finalists, before the final three were selected to compete in the grand final in front of an audience.

The 12 semi-finalists were:

Arnaud Bardary, Maze by Gordon Ramsay, London

Ladislav Basta, the Kitchin, Edinburgh

Romain Bourger, the Vineyard at Stockcross – Wales & South West Sommelier of the Year

Tobias Brauweiler, Hakkasan – London Sommelier of The Year

Mathias Camilleri, Medlar, London – winner of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Young Sommelier competition

Zigmars Grinbergs, Hotel du Vin Brighton – South East of England Sommelier of the Year

David Kubler, the Montagu Arms Hotel, Beaulieu, Hampshire – 2015 regional runner-up

Olivier Marie, Coq d’Argent, London

Tanguy Martin, Hotel TerraVina – 2014 Moët UK Sommelier of the Year runner-up

Laurent Richet, Restaurant Sat Bains – North of England Sommelier of the Year

Stuart Skea, Champany Inn, Linlithgow, West Lothian – Scottish Sommelier of the Year

Niels Sluiman, Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham

Now in their 36th year, the awards are run by the AFWS and The Caterer, and are internationally recognised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). They seek to find the best wine waiter or sommelier based on wine and spirits knowledge and front of house beverage skills.

 

Source: The Caterer

Review of Casa De Campo, Dominican Republic

By Robert Roland + Liz Palmer

Casa De Campo, one of the Caribbean’s legendary resorts boasts six restaurants and three award-winning golf courses – one being the top golf course in the world, the Teeth of The Dog. That’s just the beginning and the Casa story tells the tale of constant evolution and corporate contribution.

Casa de Campo translated means “homes from cropland” and the real beginning started in the late 1960’s with the success of the Gulf + Western sugar mill operation at La Romana.

Alvaro Carta operated the largest producing mill in the world at the time, and was interested in investing profits into impoverished parts of the island. Alvaro Carta decided to bring in designer Pete Dye in to design a hotel and golf course. Originally the plans were drawn up for an area just outside Santo Domingo but Dye focused on an area near the La Romano Sugar Mill.

Dye started building an Executive Course for the employees of the Sugar Mill and in walking the Caribbean coastline realized that a course along the shore was something special. This course was hand-built by over 300 Dominicans. Coral rock was chipped by sledgehammer and soil was carted in by wagon.

The course was originally called Cajielies which refers to the cashew trees in the mountains, the name was changed to “Teeth of The Dog” when Dye heard locals refer to the sharp coral rock, which looked like canine teeth, as “ diente del perro” (teeth of the dog in Spanish). Teeth of The Dog officially opened in 1971 with seven of the most spectacular holes in golf along the shore of the Caribbean. We toured this and this is something to be seen.

By 1974 the Casa De Campo resort opened as an executive retreat for Gulf + Western Employees and a private airport was built at the resort to accommodate CEO’s and other executives who arrived by private jet.

Over the next ten years Casa has evolved into a resort for many reasons. Prince Maharajah Jabar Singh helped start organized polo, breeding and training. Tennis was added. Altos de Chavon, a village showcasing Dominican art and culture was completed and features many cafes, restaurants and a 5000-seat Grecian style amphitheatre inaugurated by a Frank Sinatra HBO televised special on August 20, 1982.

In the mid-1980’s the property was sold to the Central Romana Corporation and Carta’s dream started to take off in a whole new dimension which is still expanding to this day.

In many ways the story of Casa de Campo in 2015 is being rewritten again.

Casa de Campo’s resort community is spread out over 7,000 immaculately manicured acres which includes: the main hotel, guest rooms, world-class spa, riding stables, polo, tennis, an immaculate private beach, marina, Altos de Chavon – a cultural village with amphitheatre, seven restaurants and several neighbourhoods of privately own villas with many pampering amenities. Casa de Campo’s has its own real estate brokerage onsite and helipad. This sheer size is class and understated, in fact you actually get a golf cart to manoeuvre around the property when you check- in.

Accommodations are everything one would expect of from a world-class hotel and Casa de Campo did not disappoint. We stayed at one of the elite guest rooms, which was conveniently a two-minute golf cart ride to the main building and face out onto one of the greens.

Amenities include a 42-inch flat screen television, marble vanities, iPod/iPhone docking stations, an espresso coffee machine with L’Occitane products found in the bathrooms.

Hidden away in the tropical foliage of Casa de Campo is Casa de Campo Spa – it’s a true sanctuary for renewal. Everything at the spa speaks to the body, spirit and mind being one and being in total alignment. It is delivered by exceptional practitioners, in world-class facilities and one client described the spa as “an incredible spa experience that truly lifted my soul”. There are seven spa suites, each with a private shower with a Zen garden. With a local twist, indigenous ingredients are used such as Dominican Coffee exfoliation, Fruity-Herbal Body Wrap and Choco Body Mask. A true indulgence!

There are seven restaurants in and around Casa de Campo to indulge in. The three main dining experiences are La Caña by Il Circo (Steak, seafood with a good selection of wine) overlooking the pool and spa area, Lago Grill, a full-service restaurant with alfresco dining, and Beach Club by Le Cirque, an elegant beach front dining experience featuring Le Cirque-trained chefs.

Other popular restaurants include La Piazzetta, a gourmet Italian dining experience at Altos de Chavon, La Casita at the marina, where seafood and tapas are the draw and Chinois with breathtaking views at the marina views serves up pan-Asian flavors, Cantonese specialties, Japanese sushi, sashimi and other Oriental dishes.

Our top two were the Beach Club by Le Cirque with two outstanding signature dishes: Lobster Salad and Grouper, and La Piazzetta both for their top service, wine list and over all dining experiences.

At Casa de Campo we found an excellent equestrian center which staff is on hand for lessons in English or Western-style riding and jumping. For ages seven and up, three ponies rides are available on Anita, Juanito or Miguelito. We did a trail ride around the polo fields and saw some teams at practice.

World-class polo has come to the Caribbean – There are three polo fields: one practice field and two for matches.
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Casa de Campo is best known for its three Pete Dye-designed golf courses, namely The Links, The Dye Fore and considered by many to be the top 18-hole course in the Caribbean and one of the top in the world, Teeth of the Dog. This course has seven holes along the brilliantly colored Caribbean Sea. One of the golf pros told us “most of the world’s great oceanside courses play along high cliffs, the Teeth of the Dog is ocean level and you’ll feel the spray of the waves on a couple of holes”.

Other “Sporting Life” activities

Water sports such as boating, fishing river sailing, ocean sailing, kayaking, snorkeling and Scuba

Tennis at La Terraza Tennis Center with 13 Har-Tru Courts

Jim McLean Golf School

Bicycle rentals

Fitness Center with Cybex equipment, treadmills, stationery bikes, free weights with an area dedicated to improving golf performance

Shooting Center with more than 200 stations for sporting clays as well as three trap and skeet layouts

A 150-slip Marina & Yacht Club facility with upscale shopping

Supervised children’s programs

 

Power Patrons:

Bill Clinton – Former US President

Elizabeth Taylor – Actress

Luciano Pavarotti – Famous Tenor

Carolina Herrera – Fashion Designer

Shakira – Singer

Gloria & Emilio Estefan – Musical Icons

Marc Anthony – Singer

Enrigue Iglesias – Singer

Jimmy Carter – Former US President

Puff Daddy – Famous Rap Singer

George HW Bush – Former US President

Greg Norman – Professional Golfer and Course Designer

Jean Chretien – Prime Minister of Canada

Nick Faldo – Professional Golfer & Course Designer

Karim Ostreicher – Princess of Austria

Mikhail Gorbachev – Former Leader of the Soviet Union

Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley were married at Casa de Campo.

At Casa De Campo you have the very best of everything… fabulous accommodations, gourmet dining, world-class sporting adventures, pampering spa treatments and personalized guest services. You might even bump into an international celebrity or dine under the stars besides one of the world’s financial moguls or politicos.

Casa de Campo

1-800-877-3643 or (305) 856-5405

www.casadecampo.com.do

Twitter: @casadecampo

Facebook: Casa de Campo Resort

Review of Serisso 47, Trapani Silicy + Saint Germain (Brut) Firriato

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Serisso 47 is located in the heart of Trapani’s historical center and it is interesting to note that it was formerly a Bourbon palace in the 17th century.

Serisso 47 has a wonderful cozy and elegant atmosphere. The cuisine truly interprets the traditional cuisine of Trapani – the catch of the day, which is brought to your table by trolley. I highly recommend you experience this as each fish is pointed out and explained  along with the cooking preparation.  There are other regional dishes including spaghetti with sea urchins.

I found the wine wine list to be large with a great selection of regional Sicillian wines.  Our choice was Firriato’s Saint Germain (brut) – these wines come from Borgo Guarini estate in Trapani.  This sparkling wine was the perfect accompaniment from our appetizer right through to dessert.

Tasting Notes:

Colour:     straw yellow

Nose:        notes of white fruit with some citrus

Palate:      varied and complex, the balance of acidity and freshness enhances the persistence through to a finish marked with mineral notes.  Persistent bubbles.

It’s interesting to note that Catarratto and Grillo’s individual characters are present and easily distinguished.

Overall with Serisso 47 you get tradition, innovation, wonderful local flavors and excellent presentation.

Serisso 47

Via Serisso, 47

91100 Trapani

T: (0039) 0923 26 113

www.serisso47.com

 

Liz Palmer

Wine + Lifestyle Journalist

 

Interview with Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa, Manager of Passion by Martin Berasategui, Paradisus Palma Real, Dominican Republic

Before assuming her current role as the Manager of Passion, Melia in Punta Cana, Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa worked with Martin Berasategui for 7 years in managerial positions at Restaurante Enoteca, Hotel Art (2 Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona) and Restaurante Lasarte (2 Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona), and Restaurante Gaig (1 Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona).

Martin Berasategui winner of 7 Michelin stars, and for the last six years his restaurant San Sebastian, Spain has been listed as one of The World’s Top Fifty Restaurants.

I sat down with Meritxell to discuss everything from the restaurant Passion, to Chef Martin Berasategui, to glassware, and of course Champagne. Step into Meritxell’s world with me. 


Liz Palmer

I understand that Paradisus Resorts are responsible for bringing Martin Berasategu, the seven-star chef to the Caribbean two years ago. Can you tell me has it been a success?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

According to Trip Advisor, Passion is the number one restaurant in Punta Cana and the number two restaurant in all of the Dominican Republic – that tells us!

Liz Palmer

Has Passion won any recent awards?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

I’m very proud to say that we received four months ago the 4-Diamond Award by AAA.

Liz Palmer

What is Passion by Martín Berasategui’s signature dish?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

That’s funny that you ask thisthe signature dish at Passion and all of Martin’s restaurants Spain is Egg cooked at lower temperature with fine-herb liquid salad. People all over the world ask for this dish – it’s a very popular on the menu.

Liz Palmer

How often does Chef Berasategui come to the Dominican Republic to oversee his restaurant and brand?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

Martin comes three to four times a year to review the menu. His presence also impacts the selection of products, staff training and standard operating procedures.

One of Martin’s philosophies is that he works with local produce and fruits and meats. In the Dominican his menu and recipes are 50/50 50% Spanish and 50% Dominican influence.

When Martin changes a recipe he changes it gradually and slowly.

Every two to three months he changes two to three dishes.

One thing to note is that the chef is very flexible in changing the menu for customers that have food allergies and for strict vegetarians.

Liz Palmer

Tell me about the wine list, like who selects the wines?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

The wine list is developed by the head sommelier who works together with the chef and the tasting menu.

The specially selected wine pairings have been developed from three separate wine lists created exclusively for the restaurant.

Liz Palmer

Which stemware does Passion use?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

We use Stölzle from Germany, its innovative, excellent quality and lead-free for wine glasses – the various shapes and flutes. We also use their decanters.

It’s important that the team undergoes training and learns to understand the importance of each wine and food pairing.

Liz Palmer

Every year we see new and interesting restaurant trends develop. – What do you do to keep up and pushing the boundaries?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

It’s important to compare competitors and to learn what they do and how they do it.   It’s also good to travel to different countries and see and experience different cultures and bring this back home.

Liz Palmer

On a personal note – what is your favorite dish on the menu?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

I have a few favorites: the turbot fish, slow cooked veal with potato risotto

What is your favorite restaurant around the world?

I have two favorites: Restaurante Martín Berasategui, in Lasarte. This restaurant has maintained a three-star rating from Michelin since 2001, and El Celler de Can Roca is at heart a local family-owned restaurant rooted in the fiercely independent state of Catalonia and named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world

Liz Palmer

You have an opportunity to taste lots of interesting and unique wines. Do you have a preference for Champagne?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

Yes absolutely – my favorites are: Bollinger ‘Grande Année, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, and Cristal Champagne and I do collect. 

TYPE OF CUISINE:

Berasategui has incorporated Caribbean flavors into his signature cuisine. Local seafood has a starring role. Dining a la carte or enjoy the full sampling menu with wine.

ATMOSPHERE:

Rich with design and colour – airy vaulted ceilings with whimsical lighting features and stunning art pieces.

OPENING TIMES:

This gastronomic experience serves dinner nightly or Private Parties

DRESS CODE:
Resort Elegant

Passion by Martin Berasategui is accessible to local residents and visitors.

 

Liz Palmer
Wine + Lifestyle Writer