New to our range of offerings this year is our Wine Cellar Dinner Party and as with all new products there has to be a premier and this week we welcomed 14 wonderful people for the first time into the wine cellar at Domaine de la Senche in La Livinière.
Our guests were a lovely family living in the United States but originally from Scotland and they brought with them their family and friends to celebrate two special birthdays. I had been working with the husband of the birthday girl passing emails backwards and forwards to arrange a surprise dinner party for his wife and her uncle. Andrew had managed to keep it a secret from everyone and I was wondering what sort of greeting we would get when we arrived at their holiday home in 2 of our 9 seater mini buses to take the group to dinner.
As I had hoped everyone was excited and very curious as to where they were going which was just a 20-minute drive through the pretty Minervois countryside to the village of La Livinière. As I drove I revealed the surprise and talked about our destination, a small winery called Domaine de la Senche set in the middle of the historic village and owned by Guy & Liz Crawford. I had met them the previous year and visited their delightful wine cellar and tasted their delicious wines and learnt about their exciting new wine making venture. This intrepid pair have some remarkable stories to tell about their life’s journey which has eventually led to their (so called) retirement in the South of France to begin their vinous venture.
Their winery is very old and full of character but it is also spotless and after spending time with the couple and running a few tours there last year I was motivated to ask them if they would be interested in partnering me in my new idea, the Wine Cellar Dinner Party. The combination of charismatic Guy and his many interesting anecdotes, the vineyard and the olive grove within touching distance of their beautiful property, the very well-made wines and their delightful winery seemed to me to be the perfect fit for what I had in mind and they eagerly agreed.
We began the evening with a stroll around the property, through the vineyard that almost touches their beautiful garden and into the olive grove. Guy accompanied the guests who were eager to hear how the vines were planted and are cared for. Everything looked so green and healthy and the vines and olive trees were weighed down with delicious fruit slowly ripening in the Mediterranean sunshine.
After our stroll, we entered the winery and there were gasps of delight when everyone saw the long trestle table laid and the candles flickering making the wine glasses twinkle invitingly. But first we enjoyed a tasting of La Senche olive oil and although some of the younger members of the group were a little hesitant to begin with, everyone enjoyed this enormously. It was followed by a tasting of the full range of La Senche wines and then to freshen everyone’s palate we poured one of my favourite Crémant de Limoux sparkling wines from J Laurent and invited everyone to be seated ready for dinner.
The lunches our clients enjoy on our vineyard tours are notoriously special and many of them are prepared for us by Petra Lutz of Fait Maison – Home Made by Petra and so it made perfect sense to ask her to create the Dinner in the Wine Cellar. The menu was designed to accompany Guy & Liz’s wines and started with home smoked duck breast with avocado & walnut salad accompanied by the La Senche rosé. The main course was grilled bavette with ratatouille and creamed potatoes which was perfectly paired with La Senche La Livinière, a spectacular full bodied and brooding red made from barrel fermented and matured Syrah plus a little Grenache.
The cheese course was paired with the Minervois white that Guy & Liz had made for the first-time last year and we rounded the whole thing off with chocolate cake and olive oil ice cream and of course the olive oil came from the La Senche olives.
The atmosphere was relaxed and mellow and from outside on the terrace where I was sat I could hear the happy hum of people enjoying themselves mixed with laughter and merriment. Guy poured his wines and enjoyed dinner with the guests and continued to entertain them all evening, he is a superb host and a true bon viveur. At the end of the evening I helped to drive everyone home and was delighted to hear how much they had enjoyed the evening and everyone agreed it was a superb way to celebrate the two very special birthdays.