An account of a rare, annual gathering.
It is rare indeed for members of the JR.com team to be seen in the same room. Indeed, if ever London wine people see both me and Julia at the same tasting, they tend to remark on it, amazed. Most of us work from home, and those homes are in the US, Spain, the UK, Germany, Italy, Morocco and Australia.
But we do try to gather as many of us as possible for a dinner before Christmas and this year's get-together took place last Friday evening. This year Michael Schmidt of Germany joined us, but we were without Walter, who was celebrating his birthday the day before in sunny Rome, without Alder and Elaine, who were in California, and without Max, who found no reason or excuse to leave Australia.
Our picture shows, from left to right:
Richard Hemming MW, who had just run round from setting up the tripod and camera and didn't have time to bring a glass
Ferran Centelles our Spanish specialist, who came all the way from Barcelona, with a present of stunning Spanish ham and lomo for each of us
Julia Harding MW just back from almost two weeks in Burgundy tasting the 2017s (see this thread on the forum)
Michael Schmidt over from Germany's Ahr Valley to see his daughter and family – and us of course
Moi looking very much broader in the beam than I am
Andrea Frost our new Australian columnist, now living in London
Andrew Morris ex editor and WSET graduate, who a year or so ago answered our call for a super-fussy, wine-loving copy-editor
Tamlyn Currin, who, thanks to Andrew and Fran, is transitioning from tasting-note uploader to book reviewer and general writer
Rachel Shaughnessy, who has been on the team for the longest time, looking after membership and matters financial
Francesca Bellometti-Davies like Andrew, a brilliantly accomplished, wine-savvy uploader of tasting notes and decipherer of what I really meant
For some reason, our restaurant correspondent Nick Lander remained behind the camera, but then he was in charge of feeding the 14 of us, all of the above plus a few partners.
After champagne, hand-made potato crisps and photography we sat down to the simple first course of crisp lettuce hearts, top-quality anchovies, fresh garlic and olive oil that had tickled Nick's fancy on our last visit to San Sebastián. The two very different white wines were served one after the other before the reds and a fine rolled sirloin with confit potatoes, buttered cabbage with cream (my request) and Nick's mysterious green sauce. You may think a Pinot Noir from the Mosel an odd choice with the beef but I wanted to thank Michael for coming by serving a German wine. We'd majored on Keller Riesling last year to it seemed sensible to provide proof of my conversion to Spätburgunder. And I'd been sent the special magnum of Seresin Pinot so, again, it seemed a good idea to share it with the team.
Then came, partly for the benefit of our visitors from abroad, that British classic port and stilton, except that it was the blessed Stichelton, beautifully creamy, and sliced vertically rather than scooped, before mince pies with first class pastry and topped with a confit orange slice. The great majority of the food came from our son's food shop and butchery sandwiched between the Quality Chop House and Gus Gluck's new wine bar, Quality Wines. All part of Nick's determined capital transfer programme.
Below are my tasting notes on the wines, in the order we guzzled them, two bottles or a magnum of each, apart from the Terre des Dames, which was an additional bottle sent over via our recent Languedoc Night for us to try together.