Tony Eklof, originally from New England, has settled in Clonakilty after a career as a librarian at University College Dublin. His knowledge and passion for wine has been inspired by frequent visits to the wine growing regions of the continent, particularly Italy and France.
‘OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet’ –
The Ballad of East and West, Rudyard Kipling
West Cork is justifiably feted as the start (or finish) of the Wild Atlantic Way, but our neighbour East Cork also has its attractions and charm. Midleton has the popular Whiskey Distillery Visitor Centre with the largest pot-still in the world. Castlemartyr has Pat Short’s pub and the superb Resort Hotel set on 220 acres with three restaurants to choose from. Ballycotton is one of Ireland’s prettiest seaside resort-fishing villages. The jewel in the East Cork crown has to be Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry.
The restaurant was founded in 1964 and is famous worldwide now. The Lonely Planet has this to say about founder Myrtle Allen. ‘Myrtle is a living legend, acclaimed internationally for her near single-handed creation of fine Irish cooking.’
We stayed in Ballymaloe last month for a sapphire celebration and had the most wonderful time.
The room was gorgeous (no TV yes Bose radio!) grounds are stunning including a bird sanctuary. Staff were gracious and even arranged a personal tour of the amazing 5,000 bottle wine cellar for the Wine Buff. I held in my hands a Saint Emilion Grand Cru 1964, though chose a more modest and yet delicious Rioja for our fine dining that evening. Ballymaloe takes the wine side of dining seriously and have many wine awards to prove it.
They hold regular wine events during the year, but what impressed me the most was the fact that they had two qualified and helpful sommeliers on duty the night we dined and that the wine list is most exemplary.
Here is what I loved about the wine list. Although extensive it is easy to negotiate. While there are plenty of expensive gems, there are also many well-chosen and reasonably priced labels as well. Each entry has a helpful description including something important missing from many wine lists, namely the alcoholic content of the bottle to make it so much easier to choose between a lighter or stronger wine to match your meal.
All in all it was a terrific experience and it is only a hop and a skip away from us here in ‘the West’!
It is so hard to find quality California wines in our shops and that is why I was delighted to come across Meadowhawk Cellars Zinfandel 2014 in Aldi (Bandon and Skibbereen) at only €12. Looking closely at the label I note it is made by Cline, one of the best producers in California’s famous Lodi Valley, which explains the exceptional quality of this perfect winter-warmer. Think dark cherry and spicy vanilla notes.