As if a weekend trip to Sardinia to mark The Boy turning 30 wasn't enough of a celebration (blog to follow), I decided to take him along to a launch night that I'd been invited to by the founder of a new local wine school. Promising an evening of quality wines, sumptuous surroundings and sparkling conversation, I arranged to meet The Boy at Cambridge Market Square where we buzzed our way in through the door of the exclusive 12A Club, hidden away in the corner of the square behind an unassuming wooden door marked only by a couple of gold balloons. All very cloak and dagger, visiting the private members' club was a special experience from the outset. After a warm welcome from the owner of the club, we enjoyed exploring the decadent surroundings of the club whilst sipping a glass of Champagne. Nestled in the heart of the city, within buildings owned by the University, 12A Club is a delightful warren of rooms decorated and furnished by the perfect combination of traditional, luxurious, old boys' leather and sleek, modern lines and prints. The bar serves a fantastic selection of drinks and cocktails too - I can highly recommend their apple-based gin from Herefordshire, UK.
The launch of Cambridgeshire Wine School attracted quite a crowd, quickly filling the venue with local wine-lovers of all ages. I spotted some local foodies, wine bloggers, and local celebrity chef Alex Rushmer; all snapped by Cambridge photographer Jean Luc Benazet. Founder of the school, Mark Anstead, kicked off proceedings with a lovely warm welcome and then the fun began. To give us a little sneak preview of the school's wine tasting evenings and courses, Mark ran a blind wine tasting test of one red and one white wine. Asked various questions about the grape, flavours and qualities possessed by each wine, participants were tested on their ability to name the wine and it's origin - the last one standing winning some glorious wines from Noel Young. My white was a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (one of my favourites) and the red a Pinot Noir from, I believe, Chile (although there was some confusion about the definitive winner of this round!!). I think Mark definitely achieved what he set out to - we all had lots of fun and learnt something new about wine! Complementing the wines and plush setting were some delicious canapes prepared by Wild in the Pantry personal chef Frank Boddy. We enjoyed fresh and flavourful smoked salmon and quails egg blinis, courgette candles with red pepper houmous, and, my favourite, warm spiced apricot and butternut squash mini samosas. I was lucky enough to pop into the kitchen to meet Frank too. Warm and welcoming and clearly an expert in the kitchen, he's the perfect choice for adding a personal touch to your dinner party and getting your guests involved. Find out more about Frank's personal chef and cookery coach business here.
The evening was a huge success and the Cambridgeshire Wine School looks set to be a popular and accessible provider of wine tasting courses and events. Held in the heart of Cambridge, at D'Arry's on King Street and the 12A Club on Market Hill, the tastings will range from evening events to 4-8 week long courses, from Champagne and Lunch tastings on Saturdays to Food and Wine matching and Corporate Events. Novices can take a tour of wines from all over the world and learn how to taste and identify different styles and varieties. Wannabe wine connoisseurs can enrol on longer term courses to explore particular regions, grapes, or food matching in more depth. Catering to all markets, the school will also offer weekend courses, private events, corporate and team building activities, and even gift vouchers. If you think you'd enjoy tasting some fabulous wines sourced from local suppliers and online retailers, with some expert advice and relaxing atmosphere, check out the school's website here.
A welcome addition to the Cambridge wine scene and a fabulous way to spend a Tuesday evening (and a 30th birthday according to The Boy!).