Monday, March 28, 2011

Cliff House Hotel - Our New Favourite Place

I was brought up in a family which prided itself on the non-celebration of birthdays. Birthday cards were regarded as a frivolous waste of money, presents a huge extravagance and birthday parties the exclusive privilege of princesses and Middle Eastern dictators. And my cousin. Like something special for your 9th birthday? OK here is a wire brush, now scrape the rust off that fence and, if you are really good, we will let you paint it next week.

Over the years, I have managed to avoid disappointment by continually adjusting my birthday expectations downwards. So it was that I approached my 42nd birthday with my hopes pitched at what I thought was just the right level, callibrated as close to zero as makes no difference. So there was considerable excitement when my wife surprised me on Friday morning with a booking for the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co. Waterford.

I had visited the Cliff House on a number of occasions on work, tasting wine with their charming and knowledgable sommelier, Anke, but I had never stayed or eaten there. It was Pam's first time, so I let her do the obligatory jawdrop on seeing the view for the first time.

Everything about the Cliff House is class. Enough has been written about Martin Kajuiter's food by more knowledgable people than me, but the meal was excellent. The rooms are fantastic, the spa seems very good (although, as usual, wasted on me), the views mesmerising, the staff unerringly polite and professional, breakfast outstanding.

Ardmore itself is a really nice place, we did a lovely 45 min cliff walk after breakfast, then went for a walk on the beach followed by coffee in the White Horses. We were there for less that 24 hours, but felt away from it all.

Yes, it is expensive, but we felt we got great value and it is well worth the money for a special experience.

We will definitely be back.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Flash Sale - 20% off EVERYTHING for 2 days only

The sunshine has gone to our heads out here in Dalkey so we are doing an off-the-cuff  FLASH SALE for 2 days only - Friday 25th and Saturday 26th March.

Buy what you like and we will knock 20% off your bill - its as simple as that!

Normality returns on Sunday....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

12 Years On

This time 12 years ago, we were furiously packing shelves on a warm and sunny St. Patrick's Day, getting ready for the opening of our humble wine shop. Looking back now, we knew very little about retail or wine or the trials and tribulations involved when you combine the two.

We knew we were interested in wine and we sort of knew that we weren't the only ones. We felt intimidated going into old-school wine shops like Searsons and Mitchells (as they were back then) and the only other wine-only specialist was the newly opened Terroirs in Donnybrook. After that, we had to look for wine in the traditional off-licences such as McCabes and Redmonds - both great sources of wine. But what we wanted was a wine-only shop that was bright and airy and approachable that offered real quality at decent prices. We wanted to open a shop for people like us.

Since then, we have tried lots of things - we had a fully functioning online shop about 7 years too early, then changed it to a brochure site and we are now relaunching it as an online shop again. We opened a second shop in Booterstown, later franchised it out, only to see it suddenly close 2 years ago, leaving ourselves and some of our suppliers out of pocket. For almost ten years now, we have been importing many of our own wines, something that is now key to the business, giving us better wines at better prices, but also benefits in terms of credibility, interest and control.

We have made great contacts and friends in the wine business and it is a source of great pleasure to us to work in a business about which we are truly passionate. We look forward to coming into work every day and that counts for a huge amount - it even compensates for the poor financial return from the wine business! We get a great kick out of getting a great wine for a relatively low price. We have tasted many of the great wines of the world, but what gives us most pleasure is finding a wine that punches above its weight, a producer that is on the up or a hidden gem that is overlooked by the rest of the wine world. This is probably what gives our list its quirky nature, but it also keeps us interested and hopefully, we impart some of that passion to our customers.

The wine trade has had its ups and downs since we started, mostly up and with a slight contraction in the last few years. It is probably a futile exercise to try and predict what will happen, but a continuing concentration of volume through the supermarkets is probably the rather depressing trend over the coming years. There is little we can do to change that on a macro level, so all we can do is keep focussing on our customers. Everybody leaves the shop happy and nobody leaves with a bad bottle - that philosophy has to continue - not just for us but for all the independent trade. I firmly believe that a healthy independent trade is key to us all not just surviving, but prospering. We have to continue to fight the good fight for interesting, proper wine and keep consumers seeking out the good juice. Let the supermarkets race to the bottom with increasingly dubious industrial plonk - we need to nurture our 10-15% (?) of the market and try to keep people interested.

When we opened the shop, we really knew nothing. We didn't realise that 12 years on, we would know even less.

Keep drinking the good stuff.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Now that's my kind of bottle

Nice wine from Niepoort, but in a proper 5 litre bottle!

We are giving away this bottle this month  - pictured here against a regular 75cl bottle. All you have to do is spend €50 on St. Patricks Day and you will be entered into a draw to win this monster.

Friday, March 4, 2011

News for March....

Real Wine – Real Deals

With the election finally over and Fine Gael and Labour going though the motions to put together the basis for a government who can hopefully pull the country back from the abyss, we have put together some wines whose personalities eerily reflect some of the politicians we will have to look at for the next few years….*

*No analogies have been tortured in the making of this newsletter.

St. Michael Eppan Pinot Bianco 2009 (was €17.50 – now €14)
I have tasted this with a number of restaurant accounts recently and it is drinking extremely well. Surprisingly full-bodied, with crisp clear fruit and a long mineral finish. Slightly left of centre, but with great appeal. Eamon Gilmore.

Verus Chardonnay 2008 – Slovenia (was €19 now €14)
Slovenian Chardonnay is never going to be an easy sell and when this came in first, we were a little worried about it. However, it has settled down really well and showed brilliantly when we finally tried it again last week. Enda Kenny.

Chateau Larzac, Coteaux de Languedoc 2006 (was €13 now €10)
Medium-bodied, smooth and harmonious, this blend of Syrah and Grenache is brilliant value. A great crowd pleaser. Richard Bruton.

“Le Garagiste” St. Emilion Grand Cru 2005 (was €25 now €19)
A classic with a modern twist, this is made by Chateau Teyssier. Full-bodied, quite rich, but very smooth. A reliable performer. Ruairi Quinn.

Sasta by Niepoort, Portugal (was €16 now €13)
Wacky label, but the wine is actually quite sensible. Is this the future? Ming the Merciless.

St. Patrick’s Day
Our 12th Birthday is almost upon us, so we will have the usual range of great deals and tastings happening in the shop on St. Patrick’s Day. Call down to us to celebrate with a glass of wine and a great deal. As a bonus, anyone who comes in on the day and spends €50 or more will be entered into a draw to win a 5 litre (yes 5 LITRE) bottle of Sasta by Niepoort – that’s the one with the special Irish St. Patrick-inspired label.

Early Notice – Champagne Tasting
We will be hosting a champagne tasting of boutique champagne producer Bruno Paillard on Thursday, April 20th. Details will follow closer to the time but put the date in the diary.