To Durham Cathedral for a Vineyard Partners dinner, a pandemic after the last one in Westminster Abbey, March 5 2020.
Durham was my suggestion. That Westminster Evening was a delight and having spent three hilarious years just across the road – one in a little house in North Bailey right outside the gate – I’ll always love Durham.
So 64 Partners met up to sample our three Laithwaites English fizzes in the Chapter House – otherwise known as Professor McGonagall’s (Maggie Smith) Hogwarts classroom!
After Grace, a very appropriate one from our new friend, Canon Michael, we all sat down to a dinner in the ancient Refectory. We ate better lamb than the monks did, I wager. Certainly drank better. Jean-Marc Sauboua (just back that morning from Chile via Spain and Bordeaux) was pouring imperial bottles of his Altos Rioja, Anne Linder went round with double-magnums of La Clarière, and our Master of Wine friend Norrel Robertson was pouring his Sierra de los Sueños. We’d started with crisp Altos and La Clarière whites for the salmon, we ended with magnums of the very finest Sauternes … but then big ‘pots’ of dark old Armagnac began going round to finish us off.
We were surprised that this wasn’t the expected ‘local’ affair. Partners had travelled the length of the country. Durham is a place many have always wanted to visit. Everyone should. We just provided that extra incentive.
Next day, after a lie-in, our little events team travelled a long and winding route over the moors to a tasting of Vineyard Partner wines, tutored by Grant Hedley and I, at our Alderley Edge shop. The audience was more local … except for the couple who began buying from Laithwaites in Hong Kong – yes, we get around – then moved home and were surprised to find a shop on their doorstep. Driving back home through the evening, we begin to feel a bit like a travelling rock band.