Saturday, 27 September 2014

"Wine of the Sky; Wine of the Earth" Wine Tasting and Classic Cars at the Mielzynski Wine Complex, Warsaw, Poland - 25 September 2014

Click on photographs to enlarge - far superior rendition

Mr. Fincham together with his nose deeply involved in the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wine
Torre Dei Beati 2009 Cociapazza  (Crazy Head)

This event took quite some setting up but was well worth the effort. Mielzynski's is certainly one of the chicest places in Warsaw to imbibe the finest wine within a picturesque courtyard ambience. We had quite a large number of cars promised but uncertain weather always affects the turnout of immaculate cars and it was uncertain later in the day. Also a few CCC members were forced to fly out of Warsaw to attend short notice business meetings mainly in order to earn the money that feeds their consuming passion. All excused on this basis as we are a casual club both in name and nature. There was one unfortunate breakdown of a dear friend of mine and CCC member who was driving his MGA from Poznan. More on this later.

First arrivals - 1962 Fiat 1200 Spider owned by Edward Mier-Jędrzejowicz, Michael Moran's 
1949 MG TC 
Andy Fincham's MGC outside the Mielzynski Tasting Room.

I handed out some CCC badges I had made up at short notice and am not terribly happy with but there you are - fonts are controversial. The first part of the day began at 11.00 am with a professional vertical tasting of the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines of Torre Dei Beati. 'Vertical Tasting' does not indicate the drinker remains in manly fashion vertical rather than horizontal after large quantities of alcohol have been consumed. It merely means the comparison of different vintages of the same wine. Two of different years were offered - the “Cocciapazza” (Crazy Head) Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC and “Mazzamurello” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC.

I will not burden you with my tasting notes but there were remarkable differences in maturity in wines ranging from 2011 to 2007. Great label designs. The owner of the vineyard, the charming Fausto Albanesi, gave us a fascinating talk (in excellent English) on the terroir, climate, history, geography and vinfication methods of his wines.

Fausto Albanesi in lecture rather than viticultural mode at the Mielzynski Tasting Room

From the left CCC members Andy Fincham, Bill Flint, Dorota Flint, by an amazing coincidence a friend who broadcasts for Radio 2 (Dwojka) from the Duszniki Zdroj Chopin Festival each year and Robert Mielzynski. 
Unknown seated man.

Attached to this wine tasting there was also what must surely be unique, a tomato tasting! The company Langany under the direction of the owner brothers Dariusz and Andrew Strot have 18 hectares under tomatoes near the city of Olsztytn. There were many varieties on display to taste together with an excellent tomato soup and Focaccia.

Fausto Albanesi at the Langany tomato tasting stand
After a glass of excellent CAVA we then retired to lunch around 1.00 pm which was also particularly interesting based as it was entirely on tomatoes - the main course a brilliant Risotto (recipe please Robert!). This was accompanied by a white wine from Torre Dei Beati known as “Giocheremo con i fiori” Abruzzo DOC Pecorino. A perfect complement. The dessert was also most diverting - sheep's cheese with tomato 'jam'. I absolutely loved the naive label of this wine which was actually painted by Fausto's daughter.

The lunch table with an invisible Robert Mielzynski indicating a ski and food holiday - great idea!
CCC Members Przemek V and Erik Hallgren (who drove his superb modern Maserati quattroporte from the Cote d'Azur only the day before) in the immediate foreground with others in the dim distance

There was also an excellent complex and spicy red on offer, the first wine made by the company, simply named  Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC. The actual Tower is illustrated on this label.

The Torre Dei Beati website is so artistic and beautifully laid out I really recommend you look at it.

CCC members arrived in dribs and drabs throughout the afternoon until the second wine tasting and the concert by the famous and highly popular Polish singer Ania. Photographs and captions tell the story. 

But before we move on I received a phone call bearing sad news. One of the CCC members and good friend Roman Zoltowski was driving his MGA Coupe  from his home near Poznan and had broken down an hour out from the city. Desperately disappointing as it was his first attempt to attend one of our Warsaw events! We would have a line up of many MGs - the TC, A, B and C. This was the first time the car had been recovered in 40 years of ownership including his annual 850 mile journey in the car to the UK to set up a work bench behind Centre Court and engrave the Wimbledon Trophies. 

The MGA crippled by a failed output transistor in the alternator recovered by his son Alex who is an excellent prize-winning racing car driver

The offending part
Roman Zoltowski's MGA Coupe. Why is it open I hear you cry? Not normal!
This was a fascinating MGCC approved conversion.

He writes of the conversion: 

The “A” is a 1600 MkII,with a Burgess tuned B engine and a 5speed Sierra g’box. I bought it as a coupe in ‘69 and had the top chopped off in ‘81 under the supervision of the MG Car Club. They approved of the mod as it was apparently what its designer had intended to do. I drive it to the UK every year for the Wimbledon tennis; it is absolutely reliable and faster than a Twin Cam,in spite of a 3.9 axle. It was partly restored some 14 years ago.

Where this lucky MGA lives with Roman...
Yes, a quite an extraordinary gentleman who you can read more about here in the June FT Magazine. He really uses his classic as it was designed to be used!

Robert Mielzynski achieves immortality between Jaguar E-Type and MG TC.
Note the FRTs worn by the photographer Erik Hallgren
Our photographer Blazej Zulawski spectacularly dressed for the occasion (and for Goodwood later in the day) in blinding white overalls with pipe in gloved hand. He arrived in the superb E-type he drives. He is a card! Oh, he changed later into warmer kit as a chill set in to the weather.
Anita Fincham as proud of the freshly restored and sublimely coloured MGC as Andy 

Period luggage on the MG TC - much used by photographers at the scene to add 'atmosphere' to bottles of excellent wine placed upon it. In the background Moran roots around in the tonneau. 

Moran, greatly in need of a haircut and a face lift, opens the bonnet of the MG TC for
Erik Hallgren and cigar to admire. 
A  rather different motor both in power and appearance to his Maserati quattroporte !

Paul Ayre's fine Triumph TR 6
Watch out! Stand back! He plans to supercharge it!
Blazej Zulawski E-Type and Artur Gabor MGB meet for the first time
And so the evening wore on as we waited for the Polish celebrity singer and songwriter Ania Dabrowska to burst into song. The cars were moved closer to the stage and arranged decoratively with lighting. It was getting very cold and Robert Mielzynski thoughtfully provided red shawls for the shiverers. By this time Artur Gabor had arrived in his MGB.

From the left Bill Flint's Jaguar XJR. Unusually with all hoods up as it was now raining on and off  
Moran's 1949 MG TC , Blazej Zulawski's E-Type, Artur Gabor's MGB and Andy Fincham's MGC (Paul Blackman appears to be attempting entry)

But who is the blondynka in boots?
Waiting for the concert.
From the middle standing men - Paul Ayre dressed in bank robber headgear, Andy Fincham, dapper Paul Blackman. Seated at ladies tables in the middle I recognise Anita Fincham but not the others. Moving to the left the men seated are Michael Wrobel, Blazej Zulawski and 
Artur Gabor who was as freezing as I felt

CCC Chairman Michel Moran and his 1949 MG TC

Such a charming and civilised venue is Mielzynki's.
In the background the cupola of the St. Charles Borromeo Church designed by the distinguished Italian architect Domenico Merlini from 1790-92 in the historic Powazki Cemetery, Warsaw.
Near the casks the statuesque Solveiga chats to the Torre Dei Beati agent
The Concert.
Glamorous singer and songwriter Ania Dabrowska 
in full voice - very enthusiastic applause and multiple encores

And so we made our weary way home - such a long day of sybaritic pleasures so exhausts one!

It rained shortly after I left (when the entertaining concert ended) and I drove home in the open car through unbelievable conditions, sewerage road works in Marymoncka Street where there is no lighting, mud and constantly ill-conceived changes of direction and camber. And those tiddly  MG TC wipers! As I write I have not yet had the courage to go and have a look at the state of the car!

CCC members who attended:

Paul Ayre                                      (Triumph TR 6)
Artur Gabor                                  (MGB)
Blazej Zulawski                             (Jaguar E-Type)
Andy Fincham                               (MGC)
Michael Moran                              (MG TC)
George Makowski                         (Porsche 911)
Paul Blackman
Edward Mier-Jędrzejowicz        (Fiat 1200 Spider)
Michael and Jan Motz
Przemyslaw Vonau                        (Mercedes  1996 500 SL)
Kuba Owoc                                      (BMW 635 csi E24)
Bill Flint                                           (Jaguar XJR)
Erik Hallgren                                   (Maserati quattroporte)
Michael Wrobel

Michael Moran (Chairman)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

'Wings of Glory' Historical Air Picnic, Saturday 13th September 2014, Sobienie-Jezioro, Poland

Click on photographs to enlarge - far superior rendition


We had an excellent day with a lovely display of 8 of our cars one of which was Andy Fincham’s superb recently restored MGC which he had been driving for a full 12 hours after delivery. He came up trumps and appeared!  

The vintage air show  and pic-nic were in brilliant sunshine. One of the closest days to 'an English event’ I have yet attended in Poland and superior in some respects. Of course we all all know Poles are among the most brilliant of pilots – the Spitfire, Hurricane and Bomber Command record we are familiar with but we should not neglect the extraordinary resistance and magnificent and valiant flying in outclassed PZL P11 fighters against the superior Luftwaffe machines at the outbreak of WW II. A truly great and heroic story too often overlooked. 

A PZL P11 fighter 

The above is the sole surviving fighter from the Polish Air Force of 1939. The P.11c was the main production variant of the 325 built. Polish serial '8.63'. c/n 562. It is now on display taking pride of place in the new entrance building at the Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego in Krakow. 

The following is taken from the museum's website:- 

"In the last months of 1927, the Department of Aeronautics commissioned to the Central Aviation Works (which were renamed the State Aviation Works in 1928), the design of a fighter which could be a follower of the commonly used, SPAD aircraft. The work over the new airframe was started by Zygmunt Puławski. The first from the family of Puławski aircraft drew international attention. Next, came the P.6 and the P.7. Again both arose interest in foreign constructors and were awarded at the international air shows. In 1930, the Department of Aeronautics commanded to design a predecessor for the P.6 and the P.7. 

The new, P.11 fighter was a single seat, all metal, upper wing aeroplane with fixed undercarriage. The aircraft featured original technical and technological solutions. The first, was the Wibault metal corrugated skin covered wing, having an unusual shape and construction, enabling to gain low weight, high durability, good aerodynamics features and an excellent front and side visibility. This unconventional solution, called abroad the "Polish wing" or "Puławski's wing" gave a gull wing shape to the wings. Another feature was a scissors type undercarriage with shock absorbers buried inside the fuselage. Worth mentioning was also the semi - monocoque fuselage construction used earlier in the P.7 fighter and (dropped in case of fire) the main fuel tank. 

The work of Zygmunt Puławski, (who died while test flying his new construction) was continued by Wsiewołod Jakimiuk. The prototype of the P.11 was test flown in 1931, by Bolesław Orliński. Displayed in 1934, at the Paris Air Show it aroused big interest among specialists. A technologically advanced, contemporary construction, it possessed excellent flying characteristics and a formidable performance. Fifty of the P.11a, were produced for the Polish Air Force and fifty of the P.11b (powered with the Gnome-Rhone 9K engine) for export to Romania. The PZL P.11c, powered with the Mercury IV S2 engine, flew for the first time in summer 1934. In comparison with earlier versions, it featured an improved flight stability, better cockpit visibility and increased fire power. In total, 175 P.11c fighters were built in Poland. Tests with naval, winter (with skis) and dive bombing versions were also carried out, but didn't come beyond the study phase. The engine was then changed for the Gnome-Rhone Mistral. 

The aircraft in this configuration served as the sample for the licence built P.11f. Seventy aircraft of that version were produced at the Romanian IAR Works. In autumn 1936, the Spanish republican government made efforts to buy 36 airframes, but because of the Polish declaration of neutrality, this transaction was not finalised. The followed type, the P.24 was the last of the family of these aircraft. Armed with two cannons and two machine guns, it was considered as the fighter with the biggest fire power then. In 1937, with the introduction into service in other countries of the more modern, low wing fighters, the P.11 became obsolete. 

The PZL P.11c, was a basic fighter in service with the Polish Air Force in September 1939. It gave way to the new generation of aircraft, as the German Bf-109 was. However, thanks to the skills of the Polish pilots, the "eleveners" scored 120 enemy aircraft to their credit. The exhibit on display, flew with the 121st Flight of the 2nd Air Regiment in Krakow. Today, this aircraft is considered as the most precious exhibit at the Polish Aviation Museum, but not because of the material value. It is the only saved Polish fighter from the September 1939 campaign, the symbol of the Poland's lone struggle with the German Luftwaffe." (photo thanks to Alan Wilson - Aviation enthusiast)

I was very moved to see an excellently arranged and exciting event with fascinating Russian and Polish aircraft never seen in England. Superb restorations which are horrendously expensive. Great atmosphere. The acrobatic display was quite incredible. Such manoeuvres are rarely seen at public displays. 

I used to go to the Duxford Air Show in Cambridgeshire and the Shuttleworth Collection regularly when living in London. This event in Poland (the first at this venue)  has great potential. Five even ten years ago this sort of event would have  been absolutely impossible to mount in Poland. This is all I can say. How the country is coming on….amazing really.

As ever I will allow the photographs and captions do the talking.

Some of the CCC cars at the event  (MM)
From an email sent by one of our particularly outspoken and well-informed CCC members: 
"The plane in the picture is a Soviet Po-2, a piece of shite which we had to produce after the war in order to experience the full humiliation of making something that was inferior to our prewar designs."  (BZ)


A glass is raised by your 'Captain' and Andy Fincham to celebrate the completion of the Rzepecki company's fine restoration of Andy's MGC .
                                          The TR 6 of Paul Ayre hovers in the background                                   (MM)

Andy elucidating those finer points of arcane MG lore known only to MG drivers  (BZ)

The MGC - superb gunmetal/pewter metallic colour  (MM)
Everything open with Iain Batty attempting a dignified exit or any exit as it seemed at the time!    (MM)

Dashing, handsome and happy is our erstwhile Fincham...Andy Fincham  (MM)

The magnificent Stearman replica  (MM)

Robert Mathews, another of our expert aviation CCC members resident in the UK, tells me that for the crashes during the filming of The English Patient a half-scale Stearman replica was used
(see picture below)
He continues in his email:
'To be hypercritical of the film, no Stearmans were in private possession before WW2.'

You know for a small car club we have an extraordinarily well-informed and talented membership.
Just consider the quality of the Bristol Hotel Dinner Lectures...

The Stearman in flight  (MM)

Candy floss at such an advanced age!
Amazing isn't it how some people (such as loyal Mr. Booth) find it so difficult to grow up.
Certainly a fun way (apart from driving classic cars) to reclaim your youth!     (MM)

More relaxed and less people than at Duxford - the blessings of Poland as it discovers...  (MM)

Breathtaking acrobatics   (MM)

'Just look at that!'  Blazej, Kaja and Ian Booth in full pic-nic mode  (MM)

                          The magnificent Jaguar XK 150S of Janusz Z who also generously joined our party.  (MM)

                                                                                            The enigmatic Kaja in the E-Type                    (BZ)

                                                                                                 My 1949 MG TC                                     (BZ)


           A DHC-1 deHavilland Chipmunk powered by an Australian engine leads a line up of classic aircraft                                                                                                               

                                                      Note Ian Booth's Rover SD1 at the end of the row   (BZ)

                                                             The futuristic dashboard of the Rover SD 1     (MM)

                    My 1949  MG TC in full picnic mode. Note original tool roll displayed on pic-nic rug         (MM)                                                                                                                                          

Nifty little tables on a ground spike to prevent precious wine from feeding the grass as far too                                   often happens on picnics! Cannot remember where I bought them, sorry.      (BZ)                    

                            The Stearman on its second flight of the afternoon - the best picture of the group   (BZ)

Time for a spot of lunch at the Sobienie Krolewski Golf Club 
Mirek Staniszewski with his wife Marzena and Artur Gabor head off  in the Fiat 124

                                                                        Blazej and Kaja prepare to leave in the E-Type

'Easy does it!' Negotiating the high kerb in the low-slung Ferrari 328. 
             That blessed kerb prevented some of us parking on the grass!   (MW)                

And so we made our exhilarated and weary way home through a lovely late summer afternoon. September is one of the finest months in Poland. En route I stole a few redundant apples - a highly controversial fruit in Poland and Russia just now - from an orchard along the way.

                                                                                            Michael Moran (Chairman CCC)