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Article – Fethard Today, Moscow Tomorrow

January 28th, 2011

The Bridgestone Top 100 Places to Eat was published recently and John McKenna could be heard on various radio shows and was quoted in a number of national newspapers. As a proud recipient of a Bridgestone Award and having heard John speak on a number of occasions, I am always interested in his opinion of what’s hot and what’s not.

It is of course a subjective opinion and one person’s salt is another person’s pepper. However, one thing that struck me from the interviews I heard was the assertion that to save the national economy we must first save the local one. It is a subject that I have become very passionate about since opening Red Nose Wine (at the start of a recession), and more especially since getting involved with the Tipperary Food Producers. Wine and Food are two parts of the same experience for me.

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A Donegal Table

I spoke of food and wine last week and will again this week, but a few good news stories emerged from the despair that 2010 brought to the restaurant trade. When I spoke on behalf of the Tipperary Food Producers Network in Kilkenny last year at the FoodCamp seminar I met Donal Doherty of Harrys Bar & Restaurant in Inishowen Co. Donegal. This is a restaurant in a very remote part of the country that has become one of the most sought after eating experiences in Ireland. John McKenna mentioned them on radio and in print numerous times.

Local Local Local 

What makes them different is they have a very bold yet sincere declaration in terms of their promise to customers. All of the food must come from “one small beautiful penninsula – Inishowen”. This is taking local food to the maximum and they proudly list their local food partners as sharing in the glory. Myself and Donal are members of the Twitterati and you can follow the movements of the restaurant in real time. He is known as @harrysdonal in the Twitter world.

The savage winter would have cost them ( and many other restaurant owners ) a lot of business, especially in the critical December month. However, when the weather relented in the week after Christmas, according to John McKenna the restaurant did 2,000 covers. ( I met Donal in Dublin since the article was published and that number was actually closer to 2,100 ). Inishowen is a small place and that figure requires loyalty built with people who are travelling from far and wide.

As a Tipperary man talking about local food, then why should I talk about Donegal? It might be a long way to Tipperary but Donegal is surely further away. It is a model of success that I believe offers a great opportunity for Tipperary restaurants. I know that a lot of cafes and restaurants do buy local produce but I am not aware of one that does so exclusively. If there is one, please let me know.

Wow do you make your sauce?

There are a number of large food and beverage companies that supply a lot of the hotels and restaurants in Ireland at a very competitive rate. As well as choice, they also have that most useful of commodities, economies of scale. They offer a low cost alternative in a struggling industry so it is very easy to see why people use them. However, when the sauce on your chicken comes from a jar and tastes identical in Cork and in Sligo, then I believe you are losing more than you are gaining.

The business’s that are adapting to the economy best are offering something very different from their competitors and I think people want value, and as I have said before, value does not equate to price. If it did, we would all eat in McDonalds and I would never sell a bottle of La Péira.

A very special pub ( with great food )

I have had some really fantastic food in Tipperary and I think we are awash with great places to eat. I am trying to get Jasper in McCarthys in Fethard to put my picture up on the wall in the very famous pub. I have a space in mind beside Pricilla Presley. I am trying to argue that he would have it up before I am famous for the book I shall one day write. So far, he is not biting.

The Legendary McCarthys

The Legendary McCarthys

McCarthys do have a lot of local produce on their menu ( 90% of meat on the last order ) and I had a sublime meal out there recently. I had aged Tipperary beef in a Red Wine sauce which was cooked to perfection ( medium – rare). I have to admit I supply wine out there so when I say the wine was perfect with it, I am very biased. I am sure Brad Pitt is biased when says he has a great looking wife, but it doesn’t mean he is wrong.

The owner of Chateau Miraval ( on sale at Red Nose Wine )

The owner of Chateau Miraval ( on sale at Red Nose Wine )

Brad and Angelina also have a great wine called Miraval, but blatant plugs aside, McCarthys was a great night out and a good example of somewhere that people are wiling to travel to. The new chef has transformed the menu and the fish my wife had was “fresh as a daisy”.

Tipperary Food

Tipperary has a great opportunity to become the county of choice for food. Bord Bia released fantastic export figures recently and food is a strong positive in a very weak economy. Tipperary has the brand name, the location, but more importantly we have the food. As soon as it is possible to make quality wine in Tipperary, I will be the guinea pig, but until that time, I will match the local food to the wine of like minded people from around the world.

We just need people to buy into this idea of local business saving the national economy. The restaurants need to do it, but the people must support it and they must get value for money.

That is a lot of words about food in an article about wine, but I did warn you last week that I would talk about food for a few articles. I have a lot of plans to get Red Nose Wine to the next level in 2011 and many are ideas that involve food and local food at that. I am always looking to work with like minded people on these ideas.

I have just ordered my first container of wine from Chile with some other importers who are very like minded in what they are trying to bring to the Irish wine industry. We are competitors but we are also fighting the same fight and have many things we can help each other with.

Ham & Pinot Noir

Speaking of wine, I will now describe a typical Tipperary dish and I will match it to a wine for you. I was invited to a very food orientated party last weekend and there was all manner of food on offer. Among these was a perfectly prepared ham, sourced from the wonderful Crowe Farm in Dundrum.. A sweeter style wine is required here and Riesling or Gewurztraminer would be great white options. A medium bodied Pinot Noir ( possibly from New Zealand ) would be a great red to match the ham.

Ella Mcsweeney visits Crowes Farm

Ella Mcsweeney visits Crowes Farm

Apologies to Pat Whelan for stepping on his “Food” toes with the early part of the article but I think that Pat would agree with the sentiment. He is a very strong advocate of local food and Tipperary Food in particular. I appreciate that I am repeating myself but by saving the local economy we can save the national one. We need to become an exporting country, and food can play a big part of this. But this must start locally first. Fethard today and Moscow tomorrow.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Wine Spectator 2009 Top 10 – Part 1

November 18th, 2009

Wine Spectator Top 10 – Wines 10 to 6

Number 10
Brancaia – Toscana Tre 2007
93 points / $20
25,000 cases made
Italy
Brancaia consists of two properties in Tuscany—the Widmer family’s original two vineyards in the heart of Chianti Classico, and their younger estate on the coast, Brancaia in Maremma. Barbara Kronenberg-Widmer, daughter of the Swiss founders, oversees production with assistance from top Tuscan enologist Carlo Ferrini. Tre, the label’s third wine, is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from all three Brancaia vineyards. The 2007 represents the wine’s highest score to date.

Number 9
Merry Edwards
Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2007
96 points / $29
3,880 cases made
California
Merry Edwards, whose eponymous label also produces Pinot Noir in Sonoma, shows her magic here with Sauvignon Blanc: This wine earns the highest rating to date for the varietal in the Golden State. Edwards, who prefers the aromatic Sauvignon Blanc Musqué clone, barrel-ferments the wine and performs bâtonnage (stirring on the lees) while it ages in barrel, which she says adds body and showcases riper flavors.

Number 8
Fontodi
Colli della Toscana
Centrale Flaccianello 2006
99 points / $110
5,000 cases made
Italy
The 2006 Flaccianello earned the honor of being the highest-rated wine in this year’s tasting report on Tuscany. It’s a pure Sangiovese produced from vines more than 30 years old, grown in the hillside vineyard of Flaccianello, near the town of Panzano in the Chianti Classico region. The Manetti family has owned this historic estate since 1968. The 2006 was aged in Allier oak barrels for 18 months, then spent an additional year in bottle before release.

Number 7
Renato Ratti
Barolo Marcenasco 2005
96 points / $44
5,000 cases made
Italy
This Piedmont red comes from the Ratti family’s hillside vineyards known as Marcenasco, below the village of La Morra. The 25-year-old vines are planted on steep slopes facing west, providing the Nebbiolo maximum exposure for optimum ripening. The Rattis recently completed construction of an ultramodern winery, which has enabled them to fine-tune the winemaking. After fermentation, the wine is aged in a mix of Slovenian oak casks and smaller, neutral oak barrels.

Number 6
Chappellet
Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Signature 2006
94 points / $42
7,650 cases made
California
Pritchard Hill, in the foothills east of St. Helena, has become a hot spot for Cabernet in the past decade, but Donn and Molly Chappellet recognized its potential as early as 1967. Signature is their flagship wine, culled from estate vineyards planted on shallow volcanic soils 1,000 feet or more above the Napa Valley floor. The 2006 is 76 percent Cabernet Sauvignon; winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus added 18 percent Merlot plus dashes of Malbec and Petit Verdot.

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