The man who stands up at the gloriously-decorated banquet table has a rather naughty sense of humour. In a setting so elegantly refined and imbued with centuries of aristocratic and royal history, it adds a certain pleasant surrealism to the evening’s experience. “Let’s be honest, a semillon is unsexy,” the man before us says. “No sex appeal whatsoever – it’s like going to dinner with your grandmother, you had a lovely time but you don’t want to tell your friends about it.” Myself and the 19 other guests at the table giggle, although we aren’t entirely sure what he’s referring to – hopefully his wine.
We’re sitting down to a sumptuous five-course dinner in the quintessentially-British stately home, Goldsborough Hall in North Yorkshire. Australian wine producer and supplier Bob Berton, of Berton’s Vineyards, is here to talk us through some of his delicious fruity numbers. His sense of humour, as dry as the Foundstone Semillon Sauvignon he references.
After starting with a glass of sparkling Winemakers Reserve Vermentino and canapes in the oak-panelled Jacobean Library, we take our seats in Princess Mary’s Drawing Room. This was the then Princess Royal’s first family home in the 1920s before she moved over to Harewood House with her husband Viscount Lascelles in 1929. Walking through the grounds and beautifully-restored 17th-century hall, their history is still very much present in this remarkable building. From the copse of Japanese cherry trees gifted by the Emperor of Japan, to the stained glass windows on the second floor, another wedding gift from The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
We start with a sumptuously light confit salmon leek and potato terrine. Berton goes on to explain that the vermentino we were drinking is like a pair of comfortable slippers: “You can have it with everything – we like it with toasted sandwiches.” But food is taken seriously here and the hall has been awarded an AA Rosette for culinary excellence. Produce is locally-sourced where possible and the herbs and vegetables are grown in the kitchen garden. It’s a delicate and well-presented gourmet feast. Several delicious courses later, my highlight being the melt-in-your-mouth 12-hour braised ox cheek with the most delectable truffle potato puree ever tasted and the (very sexy) Bonsai Shiraz High Eden, I feel almost too full and satisfied to walk upstairs.
The other 19 guests are happily chatting to each other over their Berton Botrytis Semillon dessert wine, a few of them now friends of owners Mark and Clare Oglesby who saved the hall from developers when they bought it in 2005. Once restored to reflect its 400-year history, the Oglesbys opened it up to the public as a luxury five-star b&b with 12 individual, deluxe guestrooms so visitors could enjoy a unique ‘stately stay’. Throughout the year, regular dinners are hosted to celebrate the unionship between the hall and its treasured suppliers. After a while I decide to head to my exceptionally stunning presidential suite, the four-poster Lascelles Suite with a 150-inch projector screen and a whirlpool tub in the windowsill overlooking the gardens, and I feel like royalty myself.
Wine and Dine evenings at Goldsborough Hall are held throughout the year and cost from around £75 per person. To find out more, see: goldsboroughhall.com.
Read the full review: Goldsborough Hall, North Yorkshire