David Parkin on hard work, wine, Dakota dining and Persimmon pandemonium

David Parkin on hard work, wine, Dakota dining and Persimmon pandemonium

SOMETIMES work just doesn’t seem like work.

I’m currently writing a blog about wine for a client and met up with Adam Ketteringham of Corney & Barrow, the 230-year-old wine merchant which holds Royal Warrants as wine supplier to the Queen and the Prince of Wales.

Adam, who used to be a restaurateur and has a wealth of knowledge about wine, kindly invited me to join him at a Meet the Winemaker Dinner with Californian producer Cakebread Cellars at The Pheasant Hotel in Harome in North Yorkshire.

Well, there’s worse things to do on a Tuesday evening in November.

And I was intrigued to meet exotically-named winemaker Bruce Cakebread.

I’ve only ever visited Andrew Pern’s Michelin-starred restaurant The Star at Harome once and had heard great things about The Pheasant, just down the road in the picturesque village near the market town of Helmsley.

Opened several years ago by Andrew Pern and his wife Jacquie, following the couple’s divorce the Pheasant is now run by her and chef Peter Neville.

Overlooking the village duckpond, The Pheasant is a warm and welcoming destination – especially with Bruce’s wines laid out in the candlelit conservatory.

Cakebread Cellars was launched in the early 1970s when Bruce’s parents, Jack and Dolores Cakebread bought a small ranch in Napa Valley, California and planted some vines.

With 40-odd harvests now under their belt, the couple’s sons Bruce and Dennis now run the winery and Cakebread wine is one of the most successful in America and exports its vino across the world.

Jack Cakebread is now Chairman Emeritus of the family wine business while his wife Dolores is Senior Vice President of Facility Ambience.

I like that title.

The winery now produces 21 different wines but unfortunately Bruce only brought six wines for us to taste.

So I feel I’ve got a bit of unfinished business with Cakebread Cellars.

Adam from Corney & Barrow said Cakebread’s Chardonnay Reserve can compete with some of the best Burgundys.

And having tried it, I’d agree.

When one of the diners asked Bruce about the challenges faced by wine producers from the weather and pests he said one of the biggest problems they had faced was from bears.

Apparently bears love eating grapes from the Cakebread vines and so the winery was recommended to install boom boxes and flashing lights to deter these giant hairy night time visitors.

“Unfortunately it didn’t quite work and the bears brought their friends to the vineyard where they all had one big party every night!” laughed Bruce, who now makes a Cabernet Sauvignon called Dancing Bear Ranch.

Corney & Barrow exclusively distributes Cakebread Cellars wines in the UK. For more information see www.corneyandbarrow.com

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ANOTHER very enjoyable experience has been becoming an Ambassador for the Dakota Deluxe Hotel in Leeds.

The luxury property in the city centre is certainly the best hotel in Leeds and boasts an impressive grill restaurant in its basement as well as the Salon Prive bar and lounge on the first floor which is perfect for corporate events.

Manager Andrew Creese has worked at some of the best hotels and restaurants in the UK and he and director of sales Debbie Dobson are creating a destination that Leeds, lacking a top quality hotel for so long, can be proud of.

http://leeds.dakotahotels.co.uk

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SO farewell then, Jeff Fairburn, the boss of Persimmon who found that his £75m pay award eventually made his CEO’s seat too hot to sit in.

The chief executive of the York-based house builder will leave his role by the end of this year after coming to a mutual agreement at the request of his employer who said that the “continuing distraction around the scale of his renumeration” had had a “negative impact” on the firm’s reputation.

He must have thought that the furore over his Euromillions-size share payout had blown over.

Earlier this year Fairburn voluntarily gave back £25m of his original £100m pay award and said he planned to put a substantial amount of what he retained into a charitable trust.

But the issue hit the headlines again last month after his ill-advised interview with a BBC Look North reporter when, questioned about his pay award, he cut the interview short.

If Fairburn and his PR advisers didn’t expect a question about the bumper payout then they were naive at best or just arrogant and daft.

Perhaps they were lulled into a false sense of security as Fairburn, standing next to a pile of bricks on a Persimmon building plot, was asked some gentle questions by Spencer Stokes the BBC Look North business correspondent, a gangly, unassuming individual wearing a hi-viz tabard.

But they were just the warm up as Stokes delivered the killer question and Fairburn appeared first totally flummoxed on how to answer it and then complained that he hadn’t agreed to tackle that subject in the interview.

When you trouser 75 million nicker then sorry pal, it’s news, whether you like it or not.

The staggering share payout was the result of a bonus scheme put in place several years ago.

To be fair to Fairburn, Persimmon’s stock market value has doubled since he took over in 2013 and it has returned more than £2.2bn to shareholders.

And he didn’t set his own bonus targets, they were decided by the renumeration committee who didn’t put a cap on the award of shares which rose in price from £4 to £24 on the back of low interest rates and the government house buying scheme which provided boom times for house builders.

Not surprisingly the chairman that presided over the share awards, Nicholas Wrigley, and Jonathan Davie, who was head of the renumeration committee, have both departed the Persimmon board, stage left.

And now York-born Jeff Fairburn, at 52 must ponder what the future holds.

That share windfall means he never has to work again, but for a man who has grafted all his life, he will need to find a new purpose.

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HUGE names from the world of entertainment, business, sport and beyond have united to donate a record number of exclusive items and once-in-a-lifetime auction prize opportunities for the annual Firecracker Ball, in support of Barnardo’s.

I have described the event, which takes place tomorrow evening at Rudding Park in Harrogate, as the hottest ticket in the Yorkshire business calendar.

I’m fortunate to be the media partner for the Firecracker this year and will have a table at the event where pop star Sophie Ellis Bextor is performing and there is a Brazilian Carnival theme.

Sequins at the ready babes!

This year the Firecracker has opened up online bids for both its live and silent auctions and bidders will have the chance to go aboard a three-day luxury yacht charter in the bay of Palma de Mallorca, whilst sport fans will have an array of prizes to bid for including signed sporting memorabilia, VIP ladies day at Ascot, a day at Henley Royal Regatta 2019 and various Six Nations packages.  

Other lots include the opportunity to meet Take That in a private box at their concert at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield next June and, wait for it, a chance to be in the audience of TV show Loose Women as well as a champagne afternoon tea with Fay Ripley and Hermione Norris of Cold Feet at the Lanesborough Hotel in London.

Also up for grabs is a sound check experience with Sir Paul McCartney and various items of clothes by renowned fashion designer Bruce Oldfield, as well as exclusive ski holidays, luxury lingerie sets and a Life Ball in Vienna experience, plus lots more.

All funds will be donated to Barnardo’s in Yorkshire, who each year help around 12,500 children, young people and their families in over 80 specialised projects in local communities.

Since 2002 The Firecracker Ball has supported Barnardo’s, raising over £2.5m helping the most vulnerable children overcome their problems and transform their lives.

The online auction will close at 23:45 on Saturday, 10th November. For people not attending the event the Firecracker Ball encourages you to use the ‘Maximum Bid’ feature in order to increase your chances of winning auction items.

For more information and your chance to bid on these ‘money can’t buy’ auction prizes, please visit https://www.fcbauction.com/lite-ui/?controller=home

If you would like to find out more about the event please visit www.thefirecrackerball.co.uk

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LAST week’s mention of the launch of a new documentary by Nick Ryle of Moneyglass Films charting the fortunes of world featherweight boxing champion Josh Warrington brought a message from accountant Robert Solyom of Brown Butler.

He told me: “Thanks to your blog a couple of years ago I contacted Nick Ryle and became Moneyglass’s accountant obtaining SEIS Relief for the (London!) based investors and obtaining valuable Film Tax Relief

“You may have noticed I was mentioned in the credits and at that moment a cheer went up in the Town Hall.

“Fame at last!”

And there was me thinking that the audience were cheering world champ Josh Warrington.

It reminded me that Robert was one of the many Yorkshire accountants, lawyers and bankers to be banned from La Grillade restaurant in Leeds because its irascible Gallic owner didn’t like their advice.

And talking of films, that list was lengthier than the cast of The Longest Day.

Have a great weekend.

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