Around a month ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a food and wine pairing at Toppesfield Vineyard. I was also allowed to take a plus one, so Tom came along with me and it turned out to be one of the best days we’ve had this year! The day was organised to coincide with the East of England Co-op’s #sourcedlocally fortnight and British Wine Week. All of the food was provided by the EoE Co-op and expertly executed by Jonny, from The Western Railway, in Suffolk.
Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by Abi and Emily who helped to organise the event and bring it all together. We were given glasses of Toppesfield’s sparkling wine and it was unbelievable. Some people have misconceptions when it comes to British wine, but I honestly believe that the sparkling was as good as champagne (and I drink a lot of that), and miles above Prosecco. It was light, fruity, bubbly and left a lingering taste on the palate in the best possible way. It was so moreish and I’m pretty sure I had a good 4 or 5 glasses before even touching any food!
The owners of the vineyard were the perfect hosts. Pete and Jane both have full time jobs in London, but have somehow managed to find the time to produce fantastic wine and continue to grow each year! They decided to start producing wine in 2012 and as a part time project, the growth of the vines was initially slow. As part of the day was a ‘Q&A’ with Pete and Jane, we learned that producing wine is far from easy, it’s not just planting vines and hoping for the best. You have to do certain things during certain months of the year to try and encourage growth and have a healthy harvest come the end of the summer. It’s also something that is very weather dependent. One year, Jane told us how they had a particularly poor harvest due to the late frost in April and it will destroy the flowers and it’s hard to bring it back from that. Last year though, was very prosperous with the heatwave and it turned out to be their best year yet. The grapes that grow at Toppesfield are; Bacchus and Pinot Noir, the latter being used for their award winning rosé.
Now, back to the day. As I’ve said, all of the food was sourced locally (from East Anglia), and we were thoroughly spoilt! We had canapés upon arrival and throughout the activities, then we were lucky enough to have a feast in the gorgeous spring sunshine. The grounds of Toppesfield are quintessentially English and are stunning. The views are breathtaking and it really was the perfect setting. The canapés we had were;
- Curried smoked salmon mousse with crab, avocado and pickled chilli. The spices used for the mousse were from ‘Choose Spice’, and the crab was from ‘Jonas Seafood’ and finally the salmon was from ‘Pinney’s of Orford’. I adored all of the canapés, but I have to say, this one was my favourite. It was the perfect marriage of ingredients and I think I could have eaten the whole lot myself.
- Goats cheese fritter, olive stuffed tomato and pesto. The cheese was sourced from ‘Hamish Jonston Cheese’, the olives were from ‘The Greek Olive Company’, the tomatoes were from ‘ Valley Grown Salad’, and the sumptuous pesto was from ‘Purely Pesto’. I’m a huge fan of goats cheese and these were incredible. The pesto worked in harmony with everything and didn’t overpower the other ingredients, which it sometimes can do.
- Chicken and Asparagus terrine with a pea puree. The chicken was from ‘Sutton Hoo Chicken’ and the asparagus was from ‘Abbey Farm’. Again, I adored this one. It was so moist and had so much flavour! The pea puree was silky and sweet, and it all tied together perfectly. I had a fair few of these too!
- Peppered fillet steak, crostini, mushroom duxelle and cyder dressing. The crostini was made out of ‘Adnams’ bread by the Cake Shop, the mushrooms were from ‘Capel Mushrooms’ and the dressing was made using ‘Aspalls Cyder Vinegar’. Although I enjoyed this one, it was my least favourite, mainly because I’m not the biggest fan of cracked black pepper. The mushroom duxelle however, was an absolute treat!
- Caramel popcorn cheesecake with fudge. Marybelle provided the dairy to make the cheesecake and ‘Yum Yum’ fudge was used for the topping. If you have a sweet tooth, you would devour these in seconds. They were too sweet for myself but I could appreciate the flavours.
The canapés were so good and professionally put together, that they’re the sort of things we’re using as inspiration for food at our wedding! Whilst enjoying the canapés and the sparkling wine, we also got to dabble in a spot of croquet. I’ve played it once before and didn’t really know the rules, but it was so much fun! I was partnered with a lovely lady, Lindsey, and we ended up winning! I really felt like I was in an episode of Midsomer Murders at this point! It was so refreshing to meet likeminded people and do something I would never normally do.
After the canapés and croquet, we were given a glass of their rosé to sample. I must admit, I was not looking forward to this bit. I bloody hate rosé normally and was thinking I would have to pretend I liked it. But not this one. I have never been more surprised by a drink in my life. It’s nothing like rosé you have tried before. You can taste the strawberries in it and the pinot noir is subtle. It leaves a delicious taste on your tongue. It’s dry unlike most rosés, and allows you to taste the grape, rather than being sweet. We enjoyed it so much, we then went to the Co-op to buy some for ourselves!
A glass of Bacchus was given to us for the tour of the vineyard and then to enjoy with the feast. The bacchus is amazing, I don’t normally choose to drink flat wine now as it’s rare you find a decent one. Any wine that is mass produced is not produced to be enjoyed, rather than to get drunk. Meaning, there’s no depth in flavour and leaves a nasty texture on your tongue and palate. The Toppesfield Bacchus is not like this. It’s crisp, refreshing, light and flavoursome. I’m so glad Tom was there to drive me as I would have been gutted not to be able to drink! The spread that followed was a mixture of locally sourced produce and from the Co-op’s ‘Truly Irresistible’ range. As you can see from the pictures, we certainly didn’t go hungry and I loved everything!
It was such an eye-opening day and it really made me think about buying local, rather than from corporate companies. The following day we actually went to the co-op and stocked up on local produce, enjoying them with a BBQ, Toppesfield wine and some sunshine! You can now buy Toppesfield wines at all East of England Co-op stores and a number of Majestic wine stores in the region.
Thanks for inviting me and for such a wonderful day!