The Deli Shack, the artisan food business that I started with my wife Lisa four years ago, has taken us on so many adventures that even with the column that I write periodically for the Devon Week, I can barely begin to describe just how life can change in a heartbeat.
I’d like to tell you story about local wine and cheese, but if you’ll oblige me with a minute of your time I’ll give you a bit of background on how the last 12 months have shaped up.
Last November Lisa came home to tell me that the she’d been made redundant and that that we’d lost the income that we relied on to keep The Deli Shack growing. Not good news at all and perhaps a few of you reading this article might be familiar with that particular situation.
So fast forward to early March 2012 when a phone call interrupted yet another navel gazing session where Lisa and I were still asking ourselves the age old question, ‘OK, so what do we do now?’ The caller’s simple question was ‘Would you be able to take over the running of the café bistro at Yearlstone Vineyard?’ Well what could we say other than ‘Oh yes please… you beauty!’
Set in Bickleigh, in the Exe Valley, Yearlstone is Devon’s oldest vineyard, owned and run by the wonderfully talented Roger and Juliet White. What a place! Even before you get down to the business of learning about the beautiful wine on offer, the scenery and accompanying views are simply stunning. I think most people have created meals at home to match a good wine or a special occasion, but to create a menu that reflects rolling Devon countryside, well that’s an unusual challenge and one that has probably given both Lisa and I more pleasure than anything else that we’ve done in our careers.
To be honest at the time when we started I knew a lot more about English cheese than I did about English wine. I don’t think I’m alone here and the reasons for that are varied no doubt but it seems to me that English wine has a reputation for being a bit ‘sharp’. Well, I’ve sampled more Yearlstone wine over the past six or so months than I’d like to say in polite company and I have to say I can understand why someone might think so.
But let’s just take a breath here and ask ourselves the question ‘compared to what?’ If you like a big fruity Australia then yes, English wine may seem sharp in comparison, but if you like a fresh New Zealand wine or perhaps a Pinot Noir then no, the wine at Yearlstone isn’t sharp at all. I find that each of the English whites and reds that I’ve tried have each had a very distinctive character, but share a common note of fruity freshness that I can really appreciate in comparison with the more familiar thumping great reds.
As for the cheese to go with the wines, then The Deli Shack has over 50 of them on offer at anytime, all fabulous and great accompaniments.
Given the fresh flavours of Yearlstone wine I think that goat and sheep’s milk cheeses work particularly well. There are so many cheeses to choose from, it seems that picking a few from the region, or thereabouts, seems only fair since we’re talking about a Devon wine.
In terms of goat’s milk cheese then I think that Norsworthy from Devon is just the job, snow white in colour, firm and with a mild flavour. If you fancy something a bit more robust then there’s the excellent rind washed Rachel from Somerset.
As for sheep’s milk my preference is Fosseway Fleece, again from Somerset, with a lovely silky texture and fruity tones. There’s also the marvellously unctuous Wigmore brie from Reading, my personal favourite of all the artisan cheeses that we sell.
Like any listing there are plenty of great cheeses that I could mention, and probably should have, but this is just a guide to some of the great zesty cheese and wine combinations that have graced our platters at the cafe over the past couple of weeks.
Accompaniments, well again it’s all personal choice but our customers’ favourite at the moment is a chilled fruity white wine with any of the cheeses that I’ve just mentioned, warm buttered toast and a generous spoonful of locally made red onion marmalade. Clean plates and satisfied smiles all around!
We’re moving into to autumn now and as I write, the views from the vineyard terrace are a stunning montage of golds, crimsons and yellows. If you want to sample some of the very best that Devon has to offer then drop in to see us, you won’t be disappointed. You might also be interested to know that Roger and Juliet run wine tasting events and there’s no one better in my opinion to tell you the history of English wine making and let you sample some of the vineyard’s finest.
As a final thought there’s also a supper club for people wanting a unique evening dining experience. So if you’d like to know what’s on or catch up on the vineyard news, email us at [email protected] and we’ll pop you on the mailing list.
Or for cafe bookings and wine tasting events tel 01884 855700.