Tech Tastes Wine with Google DeepMind

FeaturedTech Tastes Wine with Google DeepMind

18:30 Introduction to Tech Tastes Wine evening format by Maya Plentz, founder and CEO Tech Tastes Wine

18:35 Introduction to the wines to be sampled throughout the evening by Michael Wagstaff, CEO of Greyfriars

18:45 Speaker: Trevor Callaghan, General Counsel at Google DeepMind AI

DeepMind, founded in the UK in 2010, created the first computer program to ever beat a professional at the game of Go (AlphaGo), created a DeepRL system to play Atari games at beyond human level performance (DQN), and is engaged in various research projects with the NHS to apply machine learning to radiotherapy planning for head and neck cancers and identification of conditions like age related macular degeneration in optical coherence tomography scans.

19:10 Michael Wagsatff, CEO of Greyfriars Winery introduces the wines.

19:20 Speaker: Dan Möller is one of the founders of VINAYA, a company creating wearable technology products that enhance modern wellbeing. Known for their first product ALTRUIS, a line of designer wearables promoting digital balance, as well as their next generation product ZENTA, a cutting-edge emotion tracking wearable for both body and mind. Originally from Sweden, Dan holds a Master’s degree in Engineering and has a background in operations a nd product development in the fashion and consumer goods industry.

19:30 Short break to change places/tables

19:45  Speaker: Michael Wagstaff, CEO and founder of Greyfriars Winery

20:30 End

 

 

Tech Tastes Wine with Blippar.com

Tech Tastes Wine, May 3rd at 6 pm at Digital Catapult. Get tickets here.

Jessica Butcher is the co-founder of Blippar.com, the visual discovery app that is taking by storm the advertising and education worlds. Blippar is the world’s leading mobile visual-browser and one of Britain’s most promising ‘unicorns’ on the global tech scene. Jess managed the commercial, marketing and communication functions of the business earning Blippar 60M+ consumer downloads in 5 years, and a blue-chip client roster.

Floral Wines and Cheeses? Yes, Portugal.

The 2016 Atlantico UK Portfolio Tasting showcased some of Portugal’s finest cheese and organic wine producers.  I attended a master class led by The Hampton Cheese and Wine Company, with the producers themselves introducing four unctuous, elegant, and spicy cheeses made the traditional way, with minimal intervention, and no added colours or other chemicals that are often present in mass produced industrial cheeses.

These cheeses are perfect accompanied by a saline white Siria, and the 100% Touriga Nacional Reserva 2012, of Quinta do Cardo. These are wines to drink right away and the Reserva to keep perhaps for 4 to 5 years more. Click here to know more about our forthcoming events where you will have a chance to taste these wonderful wines.

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The four regional cheeses presented:  Azeitao PDO (PDO means controled provenance), Terrincho – which is aged in rye and brandy for 90 days, and the Sao Jorge, aged 12 months, and my favourite: the soft Sao Romao (pictured), an “amanteigado” or “buttery” style cheese, has a pungency and creaminess which makes it extremely versatile, one could have the 100% Touriga Reserva or even a sweet wine, a Port or Sauternes, with it.

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At around £10 plus VAT per bottle for the organic red blend 2014 of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca –  if ordering a case of six –  you cannot dream of a better match.

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The 100% Touriga Nacional Reserve is roughly under £20 plus VAT, also great value.  Both wines go well with the soft and unctuous sheep’s milk cheeses as well as the cheddar–like cow’s milk Sao Jorge from the Azores island, with its firm and crumbly texture.

Quinta do Cardo’s vineyards are situated north of Lisbon and enjoy an Atlantic microclimate. The estate sits on 80 hectares of limestone and slate soil, mostly planted with indigenous grapes.

This singular microclimate, at 700 metres above sea level, with warm days and cool Atlantic breeze nights gives us some beautiful aromatic wines: a white organic made with the indigenous Siria grape presented a lush cream and almonds nose and the restrained red with forest berries scents, a dark cherry jam palate, and a long finish –characteristic of well-executed wines made with Touriga’s grapes.

The floral notes of the 30 days  aged Azeitao by Simoes Queijaria are obtained by slowly draining the curds after coagulation of the raw sheep’s milk own salt with thistle flower rennet.  It has very mild pleasant odour and lingering buttery taste, redolent of Summer vacations in sunny countries. It goes well with, you guessed right, a sweet ruby-coloured Port too for good contrast and for cutting throught the delicious fatty milky aftertaste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Software is Eating the Catering World

La Belle Assiette, the French startup that brings a chef to the comfort of your home raised another round of seed funding to diversify its product lines.

Starting as a private chef hire, to make entertaining easier for busy City professionals, it soon discovered that there was huge demand for catering services that married the artisanal aspects of cooking at home, a chef’s creative input, and the need to entertain at a larger scale.

Now they are branching into office lunches,  cooking classes, buffets, and receptions.

I interviewed Stephen Leguillon, CEO and co-founder of La Belle Assiette to find out more on the latest round, and what is store for the company in the next 18 months.

I love the concept of entertaining at home. I grew up enjoying great enogastronomic cultures within my family (that is a fancy word for combining amazing wine and home-made food with your family and friends around a table, talking for hours on end).

We have French, Portuguese, Italian, Swiss, Dutch, Spanish, and German-Jewish blood running in our veins and as diverse culinary tastes.  We entertain regularly at home, for pleasure and business, and no cuisine was and is out of our reach, plate, glass, and palate.

Someone showed up uninvited? No problem. Just add more water to the feijoada, the Brazilian black bean stew with head-to-tail piglet bits, sorry my vegetarian friends, it is delicious. Or add flour to the biscuits, or ask your neighbours to bring a roasted chicken, or grab grapes from the vineyard and oranges from the orchard to make fresh juice.

Entertaining at home was a requirement for my father in his work as editor-in-chief of the financial newspaper Jornal do Comercio, Jornal do Brasil, Globo TV, and founder and executive producer of major television networks, and an advertising agency in Brazil.

Political pundits, economists, and a rainbow of philosophers of different persuasions graced our tables, debating current affairs, the global economy, and Brazilian politics, enjoying lavish meals with wines from producers we knew well.

I later did the same in Paris and New York, gathering friends, colleagues, and professional acquaintances, to know what was up in the air, in the media industry, dans les coulisses.

To break bread, to share a meal, that is at the centre of community building in many cultures, and in my book. Nothing like it to bond with colleagues and friends.

While a student at Columbia University, and at the same time working long hours at Bloomberg TV and at the UN, I was keen on making time to cook and entertain whenever I could, as my son was little and I would rather have him around, instead of dragging him out in the evening or having to hire a baby-sitter.

Thanksgiving dinners, and end of year celebrations were always at home, to enjoy food and wines from different cultures in the company of my lovely, cosmopolitan, well-travelled friends and acquaintances.

When I married and moved to France I discovered that the French love and value entertaining at home as much as my family did.

There is nothing more pleasurable than sharing great food, with wines from your private cellar, around great conversation with people you work with or just like to kick back with.

But then the time it requires, add the hours shopping and cleaning, and entertaining at home can fall wayside, as one leads a busy urban lifestyle.

Enters La Belle Assiette.

A private catering service that will cook, serve the food, and clean? I am in.

If you do not know what to offer your mother this coming Mother’s Day here is a great option. Get her a La Belle Assiette private chef for a day.  She will love it.  What better way to outdo your siblings and ensure your place in her heart and her will? Just kidding. Not.

         Interview with Stephen Leguillon, CEO and co-founder of La Belle Assiette

Maya Plentz: What do you know now that you did not know when you launched?

Stephen Leguillon: I didn’t know how large La Belle Assiette could really be when we launched. At the start, La Belle Assiette was focussed on the Private Chef Dining service. Our aim was to make entertaining at home simple, enjoyable and delicious. Private Chef Dining seemed to be the most appropriate service to deliver on that mission. However, over the past 2 years, we’ve seen our clients ask for all sorts of catering services (buffets, canapés, office lunches etc…). This still matches our mission, but on a much larger scale. With time, La Belle Assiette will be expanding from a relatively niche market of Private Chefs to the huge market of Catering.

MP : What are the plans for expansion?

SL: We are currently expanding our service line to enter the events catering industry. Over the next 6 months, La Belle Assiette will launch 4 new catering services: Buffets, Canapé Receptions, Office Lunches and Cooking Classes. To execute this service line expansion, we recently announced that we have raised a further €1.3M in funding, bringing our total funding to €3M. This is a huge task and the current focus of the company.

MP : Who are your main competitors in France and the UK?

SL : We consider every player in the catering industry as a competitor, whether online or offline. However, we’ve identified that this industry is very fragmented, with a lack transparency and is ready to go online. Today, we estimate that under 1% of the catering market sales are booked online. We expect this to change fast, which will radically change the industry’s competitive landscape.

MP : What is your competitive advantage?

SL : Our competitive advantage comes from two key concepts that define La Belle Assiette. First, we determine the prices on our site and the expected level of service for each price point. Only then do we let suppliers (chefs and caterers) create menus which deliver on that price/service ratio.

This means that it becomes very easy for clients to select their budget and view hundreds of menus at that price point. This is a huge innovation in a market that lacks transparency. It also requires La Belle Assiette to operate expensive curation, to make sure the price/quality ratio is respected. It is key to our success and challenging to replicate.

Second, La Belle Assiette works with chefs that create their own menus. Even though we define the prices and expected service level, the food you taste is the chefs’, not a standardised menu that you’ll get at a traditional caterer.

MP : What are the challenges to increase market share abroad, in the UK and US in particular?

SL : We have already expanded in the UK, it is our 2nd largest market after France (where we started). We expect the UK to become our largest market over the next 18/24 months. There are no defined plans for the US yet.

The key challenge is to adapt our service to local demand. Clients consume catering services in very different ways in each country. Sometimes even within a country, clients in different regions have different catering needs. This requires a lot of client contact, listening and learning.

MP : Different markets require different approaches, what are your 3 top tips on scaling to the UK and US markets?

SL : Have a team with local knowledge to expand into a new market, you need to understand it and have an extensive local network.

“Start by doing”. This is actually a core value at La Belle Assiette. We believe that planning only gets you so far, and that you should start by trying to pitch/sell/do rather than over-plan. You’ll get market feedback much faster and that will generate much more value than an extensive plan.

Centralise as much of the operations as possible. Working for the local team responsible for the market expansion is tough. It’s a great help if a lot of the operations are handled centrally at HQ. This enables the local team to focus on generating value and not worry about operations.

For example, at La Belle Assiette, our customer support operations are centralised in Paris, where we have English, French and German speaking team members. Same goes for online advertising, finance etc… Try to keep “local” just execution that requires local market knowledge and/or presence.

MP : What about emerging economies? What are the opportunities and risks in Latin America (Brazil and Argentina), India, China?

SL : There are huge market opportunities for La Belle Assiette in emerging economies. Catering services are developing at a rapid pace as the middle classes expand. However, it would be too early for La Belle Assiette to explore those opportunities, but we’ll get there!

 

Business Insider UK Tech 100

Business Insider UK celebrated London’s tech with a list of its 100 top influencers  This is the second year that the American business, celebrity,  and tech news website publishes the list.   Last year there were only 50 on the list. 2016 brings that number to 100. And while there are hundreds more that make London’s tech ecosystem tick, those who made the list this year are la creme de la creme in venture capital raised and policy-making influence.   If you are thinking of opening offices in London for your startup, looking to hire, or investing in the many companies that are springing up in the UK thanks to its favourable seed capital investing regulatory measures, this was the party to attend.
You missed it? Here is a recap of the evening.  As I walked in I saw Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge, who has a luminous aura about her. How do I say this without sounding like a Hallmark card? She looks approachable and smart.  Like good angels and VCs do. Burbidge was appointed Chair of Tech City UK in the Fall of 2015, where she works alongside CEO Gerard Grech (who also made the #UKTech100 list) to shape policy for the sector working directly with government representatives and leaders in the  digital economy.

Then a quick chat with Jessica Butcher, co-founder of Blippar, the augmented reality startup that allows users to search based on image recognition. It creates unparalleled opportunities for content. Image recognition software is not new, but the way that Blippar is approaching it is.  The applications are endless: from advertising to integrated, contextual, learning experiences.  There is more to come and we are catching up with her soon to find out more, at our upcoming Tech Tastes Wine.

A step further in the room and I see Uber’s Harry Porter having a chat with  Eventbrite’s founder Renaud Visage, both made the list too and for good reason. Eventbrite is going strong even as the event management software space continues to be nibbled away by new entrants every week.  Uber continues its relentless expansion, tweaking delivery of services and training of drivers, improving outreach to disgruntled cabbies, and doing everything right to accommodate policy and regulators in London and the world.

I spoke with Porter about wine and Tech Tastes Wine and he proudly pulled out Vivino, saying it was the second best app he had in his iPhone. After Uber, of course.

We chatted with Ruth Barnett of Second Home fame and more, one of the earliest movers and shakers in the ecosystem.  We digged in the Second Home expansion on sight, finding the right MD to launch in Lisbon in May, architects, and how Portugal seemed the natural fit, with a vibrant ecosystem and a more welcoming cost-of-living for startups at seed and pre-seed levels.

Somewhere I have a very dark, flashless, picture of Uber’s Harry Porter having a chat with Twitter’s Bruce Daisley. Maybe I will rescue it. Hang on.

I had a great chat with Robert Small, founder and CEO of Miniclip. Miniclip is a game juggernaut now translated in 17 languages. Rob also made the list. He started Miniclip on his college dorm 15 years ago with £40,000 and the app has now more than a half billion downloads. Tencent recently acquired a majority stake in the company.  We spoke about the Chinese market, the cultural contrasts, and the sheer scale of things in urban centers in China.

In spite of economic contraction news and the gloom and doom we see reported in the media these days we agreed that there is no lack of appetite in entrepreneurs who look at the long run stretch to tackle going to market in China. In particular when one remembers that China’s current middle class is equivalent to the size of the entire US population.

I reminisced about e-gov startups with Michael Nahoum from YouGov.com and told him that I had left Bloomberg TV to join the darling of Wall Street in 2000, govWorks.com – the coolest startup in the e-gov sector then (we made Forbes Best of the Web for content).

Gabriel Gambetta, head of marketing for Improbable.io and I chatted with Ben Goldsmith of Balderton Capital.  Gabriel is from Uruguay, a region that is known for its superb wines. So, I steer the conversation to wine and pique Ben’s curiosity telling him all about Climate Change.

Those who know me well know that I take any opportunity to pontificate on global warming and wine. I tell Ben how the UK wine industry, which is poised for expansion and brilliance in the international markets, is already making strides in the most discerning palates in the rarified wine world. One more conversion to English Wines. Yes.

I had a chance to speak with  Jim Edwards, the founding editor of Business Insider UK, fellow Columbia University alumni, who was a Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia Business School and who’s reporting has influenced US court of law and was cited in court proceedings. Now THAT is influence, in my book.

I must say that I was delighted by the design of Rich Pleeth’s hyperlocal app: supmenow.com and I hope he will come to present at Tech Tastes Wine soon.

They launched in NY and London. Go download it now. 

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Kieran O’Neill of Thread. They raised £5.5 million last August from UK investors, including Balderton Capital. A quick glance to the sitting area and I see the lovely Sarah Wood of Unruly, whose video adtech startup was acquired by NewsCorp. And when I called a night, waving goodbye to Charles Cartland, of totaljobs.com, one of the evening’s sponsors, I bumped into AOL’s crowd and John Nolan. Happy peppy people in dashing blue colours and full of joie de vivre. All looking forward to be at Mobile World in Barcelona on Monday.

The event organisers’ got everything spot on: a stellar crowd, deliciously fresh Spring rolls and sparklings which they served in true “champagne” glasses, instead of flutes that do not let you appreciate the aromas. They served the sparklings on the round shaped ones. You know, those Art Nouveau Leonardo di Caprio, Great Gatsby ones. The ones my grandmother used to have hidden away and pull out only on very, very, special occasions. They are called the coupe. Flutes do not really allow you to sniff the aromas, although a tulip might. But the coupe’s shape is where it is at for serious sparkling wine tasting.

We at Tech Tastes Wine could not be happier.  One feels so removed from the present drinking on them. Stepping in a time of glorious happiness and just before the market bells tell us that we must not let ourselves be carried away by hype.

Eunicorns or not, we celebrate.

 

 

 

Sweeping Views. Impeccable Wines.

Sweeping Views. Impeccable Wines.

When the invitation arrived to attend a wine tasting in Bedfordshire at the historic Luton Hoo Hotel, just a half-hour away from London by train from Kings Cross,  I was delighted.

Even more so because I was going to meet the wine producer, Milena Pepe, CEO of Tenuta Cavalier Pepe, who flew in for the evening from her Italian estate in Sant’ Angelo all’Esca, near Napoli, to present the wines to a crowd of fine wine investment professionals.  It is not often that one gets a chance to meet the new generation of wine producers from Italy.

I had seen the property many times before in James Bond films. I moved appointments and made sure to arrive before the tasting to tour the property and enjoy my fabulous suite with sweeping views of Bedfordshire Fall folliage and Luton Hoo’s famous gardens designed by British architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown and established by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, in the late 1760.

Besides Luton Hoo has a fascinating history, intertwined with the Second World War, and the code breakers who helped fight the Nazis. Many great films were shot in this magnificent estate, including A Shot in the Dark, The Secret Garden, Wilde, The World Is Not Enough, Quills, Enigma, and Bright Young Things – to name a few.

Luton Hoo has appeared in more films than any other manor in UK’s history.

From Bond’s movies, to Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut, to the delicious comedy with Britain’s enfant terrible Hugh Grant, Four Weddings and a Funeral, you will have plenty of opportunity to relive your memories of Luton Hoo through Netflix.

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Lancelot “Capability” Brown designed the gardens in 1760 

Mrs. Pepe has a very international background and global outlook as a wine producer, being of Belgian and Italian ancestry.  She studied international marketing and business administration in Holland, and oenology in France.

Her family in Italy was already in the wine business for decades, growing the most desirable grapes for the top winemakers in the region. Milena saw that there was a huge opportunity to own the vertical and created a range of fifteen wines that are currently distributed in the Asian markets, in Germany, the UK (luck for us), and the US.

We started with Irpinia Coda di Volpi DOC, Bianco di Bellona 2014, a fresh zingy white that was versatile both as an aperitif with canapés or paired with sumptuous macadamia nuts. It is made with 100% Coda di Volpe grapes, and its aromas of pineapple and apricot make it the perfect aperitif wine, with its full round structure that lingers in ones’ palate.

Mrs. Pepe walked us through the stories and history of the region with warmth, wit, and charm. She told us that the name Bellona is a reference to a beautiful Roman goddess of war who was known for being ruthless in battle and sweet and yielding at rest.

Sounds right.  After a bite of the delicious canapes served with the Bianco di Bellona 2014 one takes a sip and an explosion of flavours follows. Wait a bit, take another sip, and let your tongue dream. This is your wine of choice for a wedding reception aperitif.

For the starter we had the 2014 Greco di Tufo DOCG. It was the perfect complement to a soft crab tortellini, that was presented surrounded by mashed celeriac with sea salt, adorned by thin strips of crispy pork belly, and delicately dotted with an apple dressing.

It was as if one were taking a bite of a white fluffy cloud, its soft texture contrasting with the crispness of the pork belly, as if tasting sea foam, which enhanced the foward fruit of the Greco di Tufo 2014.

For the main course we had Fillet de Buccleuch, Scottish grass fed beef. Buccleuch cattle development is carefully monitored. It is then aged for 21 days to bring its flavours out.

The first thing I noticed was the vibrant-pink, almost psychodelic, colour of the flesh.

The fillet was accompanied by a well-behaved parsley and artichoke risotto where the garlic glazed beef cheek sat on, staring at us, elegantly.

This dish made everyone happy.

We could hear the cadence of ahs, and ohs, spread throughout the room.

Then the third wine was served.

When the amazing 2008 Taurasi Riserva DOCG made its royal entrance the whispers of delight continued rippling through the crowd.

Bouteille-Taurasi Riserva

It was just one of those perfect evenings when the conversation flows, the crowd is worldly, well-travelled, and the sensorial experience is enhanced by the good company and the lavish surroundings of a building steeped in Great Britain’s history.

The 2008 Taurasi Riserva DOCG is a perfectly balanced wine with a deep ruby red colour with a hint of sienna, smooth tannins, opulent as our surroundings were that evening.

Blackberries, black cherries, eau de vie aromas, an intense and persistent palate that marries perfectly well with complex sauces, red meats, and mature cheeses. This is my wine of choice for the drippy red meat roasts in the Fall.

To close the evening a deliciously dangerous dessert wine, Cerri Merry, that was paired with a warm chocolate brownie, chocolates in various stages of perfection, a cherry compote that sided nicely with an creamy apple sorbet, and made the evening and our taste buds much sweeter. Cerri Merry, as its name indicates, is pure cherry bliss.

I can easily picture it dripping slowly, slightly warm, over a Madagascar Vanilla and Devonshire cream ice cream. It is the kind of wine that is mandatory to have a few bottles in the cupboard, for impromptu visitors with a sweet tooth, and if you had no time to think about dessert as it will also complement a lemon sorbet with dexterity.

The conversation turned then to the marvellous and mysterious history of Luton Hoo Mansion and its magnificent estate. The word Hoo is a Saxon word that means the spur of a hill, as the Mansion, the main property in the estate sits on its highest elevation. Romans occupied the land once,  coins and artefacts were found in the property, in the 70’s.

The History of Luton Hoo 

In 1445, when the last family using the name “de Hoo” was recorded, one of the daughters of the Manor’s owner married a Sir Geoffrey Bullen (Boleine or Boleyn) whose son Thomas married the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, who gave birth to Anne Boleyn, who married Henry VIII, who become mother to Elisabeth I. There are accounts that Mary Queen of the Scots also visited Luton Hoo where she saw the flourishing straw hat cottage industry in the region, and introduced the craft to Scotland upon her return.

Fast forward to 1903 when Sir Julius Wernher, a very successful diamond merchant that became a keen art collector and philanthropist, bought Luton Hoo to please his wife, London socialite Alice Sedgwick Mankiewicz, who enjoyed entertaining in grand scale, as Luton Hoo Mansion with its high-ceilings, and 300 rooms, deserves.

He also bequeathed £250,000 to establish a university in Cape Town, and £100,000 to establish the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, nearly £30 million in today’s adjusted currency values. It is reported that at the time of his death in London he was one of the richest men in the United Kingdom.

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One can see absolutely why Alice Wernher used the mansion for entertaining.

As I stepped into my suite, the very same that was once her bedroom, I felt as if I had stepped through a looking glass and had returned to a moment in time in the 19th century.

I could only think that the dwellers of this once-upon-a time grand family house would not want anything more than to entertain in a large scale.

The sweeping views from the five floor-to-ceiling windows, the canopy bed, the largesse of it all.  Yes, it calls for smart cocktail parties, garden parties, opulent weddings.

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But I strongly recommend that you convince the powers that be at your company to rent out Luton Hoo Warren Weir venue and lodges for corporate retreats, to enjoy the rolling hills for power walks and brainstorming, to perfect your game of golf, and to trickle away your worries at the spa and re-energise your team at the superb wine and food tastings.

 

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With so much to do, such spectacular scenery, a rock garden, a lake, a fantastic selection of wines from around the world –  it is certain it will invigorate the management team.

They offer great packages for families too, with special room rates if one is booking a wine tasting evening and a spa visit at the same time.  My first thought was to call my son and my daughter-in-law, my cousins, my niece, and nephews and tell them where we should celebrate Christmas and Hannukah when in Europe.

The adjoining rooms that are part the Lady Zia suite, where I stayed, are perfect for family reunions. Minutes away from Luton Airport, the Mansion is the perfect choice for arrival after a long flight from the US.

Its fairy-tale rooms, corridors, tall windows, they are made for inviting your family along, and indeed they have amazing packages that include events such as the tasting we had with the wines from Tenuta Cavalier Pepe. But of course you must not book a long weekend, or your wedding, or any other such celebration for the rooms alone.

The golf course is considered a pretty challenging one and if standing in the sun and breathing in the rolling gentle hills of Bedfordshire is not your thing then you can book yourself fit in the spa, that has a lovely indoor pool, sauna, and treatments to bring your youthful self to the fore.

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The Lady Zia suite with its three entertaining spaces is very spacious, and has lovely chairs to sit and read by natural light.  Someone knocked on the front door, it took me a good two minutes to reach it!

The welcome treat of a delicious sparkling the Cremant de Bourgogne, Oedoria, and strawberries covered with white chocolate were perfect.

Between the sweeping views, the sumptuous surroundings, the perfect tastes of the evening I was charmed forever.  With a spa, hot tubs, a pool, golf, superb food and selection of wines, I cannot think of a better place to spend the end of year celebrations.  I felt like royalty for a day staying at Lady Zia’s suite.

The spaciousness of the rooms, the gardens, the amazing food and wine, the lovely welcome with a Cremant de Bourgogne and white chocolate covered strawberries, and my favourite British toiletries’ brand: Molton Brown. These are just some of the reasons why one should book a long stay, a romantic weekend, and a wedding at the Luton Hoo.

And then the history of the place, picturing the dancing in the ballroom, the people, the laughter, the WWII relics, Churchill, the joy of having space above, around, beyond you.

Picturing the illustrious visitors, the Queen and Prince Phillip, the tabloid gossip, the fading aristocrats, the weary guests, the spies, the tales of love lost and found, and of fortunes made and spent.  I cannot think of Luton Hoo without thinking of these moments in history, of the opulent and glamorous lifestyle that these walls once witnessed.