Aahhhhh a celebration of English wine with a taste of the English Riviera!
Although our stay at Eastcott Vineyard was sadly over, it was not the end to our time in Devon. Now heading South East to what is known as The English Riviera, we spent the next couple of nights in Torquay. Our hotel was conveniently located next to Torre Station, only two minutes ride from Torquay seafront, quayside and amenities.
After getting settled in, we made attempts to sniff out a local wine merchant, with a particular emphasis on finding English Wine, however our search was sadly fruitless (or to be more precise ‘grape-less’). Therefore we took advantage of the continuing sunny weather and decided that a trip to the seafront and a nice cool glass of local beer would be justifiably in order.
After a pleasant walk, we landed upon The Offshore Bar overlooking the harbour where a couple of local ales could be purchased. Kel particularly enjoyed the Bays Gold, fruity with a touch of hops, a great accompaniment to the summer’s evening.
South Devon Railway
Not too far from Torquay is the South Devon Railway that runs between Totnes and Buckfastleigh, with most of the journey skirting the banks of the River Dart. It’s a great tourist attraction with plenty to see and do, also just next door is the Otters and Butterfly Sanctuary.
We passed an enjoyable hour or so at Buckfastleigh station, museum and locomotive works, enjoying lunch at one of the picnic tables that were dotted around the site.
A short drive away from the South Devon Railway is Sharpham Vineyard, set in the glorious Devonshire Dart Valley countryside, with its fields of Jersey cows whose milk goes to make Sharpham’s award winning cheeses. The views from the drive into the Estate are quite breathtaking, enhanced by wood sculpted artwork that appears along the road and around the Estate.
We arrived to a buzzing vineyard cafe and bar, with people enjoying lunch alfresco (what? In England?) sampling local produce washed down with a glass or two of Sharpham’s wine.
A range of tastings and tours are available at the vineyard including wine and cheese pairings from the Estate. Starting at £6.95 you can visit the vineyard on a self guided walk and taste one wine. Three wines with two of Sharpham’s cheeses is better value at £8.95 and takes place each hour on the hour. Alternatively you can attend a full 2 hour tour with tastings for £19.95 or half day events at £65.
Bacchus 2011 – English countryside in a glass, nettles, hawthorn with a fresh citrus zing, rounded mouthfeel.
Whole Berry Rose 2011 – Dornfelder, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry, soft mouthfeel, fairly low acidity which to us seemed to affect the structure a little.
Pinot Noir & Pinot Precoce 2011 – typical English red, deep in colour, red fruits, red currant, cranberry, elderberry, spices, hints of cinnamon and some sweetness from the oak.
Sharpham Red 2011 – Rondo, deep purple in colour, dark fruits, plum and blackberry, hints of chocolate and pepper, smooth mouthfeel, low tannins, intensity tapers off towards the finish, which is not unusual for English red.
We noticed in the shop that Sharpham makes a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, for the Beenleigh Estate, their sister vineyard. It would have been interesting to try this but unfortunately it wasn’t on offer by the glass.
On prior recommendation, we procured a round of Sharpham’s Brie, creamy and rich, which we thoroughly enjoyed over the next few days on baguettes with locally grown tomatoes for lunch.
As part of our English seaside extravaganza, we stopped to take in the atmosphere at Brixham Harbour. The Dartmouth Railway runs close by the town so a trip here can be made all the more worthwhile.
Dartmouth Steam Railway
This railway runs from a mainline connection at Paignton along the Dart Estuary to the picturesque harbour town of Kingswear. Here if you have a little time on your hands, you can catch the steam ferry from Kingswear to Dartmouth (this ferry passes by and stops at Sharpham Vineyard). Totnes is located a little way up the river where you can catch the heritage steam or diesel train to Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway.
We took a little respite from the heat of the day by visiting the Museum of Mid-Devon Life in Tiverton, in order to gain a better insight into Devon life past and present. Although the museum appears small in size, it contains a large amount of artefacts all very well displayed and Kel even managed to score his last required 1400 Class Collet loco ‘The Tivvy Bumper’.
We had a short stroll around the town centre and got very excited when we discovered there was an independent wine merchants just 5 minutes away from us, where we hoped we would be able to buy some English wine … but unfortunately we arrived to a closed door, ho hum! Finding English wines beyond the cellar door seemed to be proving a little difficult.
Devon Railway Centre
Situated at Cadeleigh Station, on what was once the Great Western Exeter – Tiverton – Dulverton branch line, the railway centre is host to a narrow gauge and miniature railway, great for a family day out, and is also next door to Bickleigh Mill, with its shop, restaurant, pub and working 18th Century water wheel.
Old Walls Vineyard
One bright, early morning another great vineyard visit took us to Old Walls Vineyard situated in the picturesque village of Bishopsteignton. Navigating our way there through the narrow high hedged Devonshire lanes was a bit of a challenge especially when faced with a car approaching from the opposite direction.
The sharply inclining driveway leads you to the boutique winery and cafe, which is set against the very steep slopes of the vineyard, certainly the steepest English vineyard slopes that we have seen so far on our travels.
You can take in the spectacular panoramic views of the winding valley from the terrace outside the cafe and while away a little time admiring the vines from the benches at the bottom of the vineyard. We could have easily spent the day here, sipping wine and taking in the views.
The full range of wines was available to sample for free in the cafe as well as purchase by the glass. Whilst tasting a few of the wines we had the pleasure of meeting owners, Ken and Lesley Dawe.
Chapel White Medium English – Reichensteiner, floral and fruity with a nice creamy body and a good finish.
Chantry White Dry English Wine – Auxerrois, floral and citrus character, light bodied and easy drinking.
Rose – Pinot Noir, red currant fruit, cranberry, a dry style. Portrayed on the label as a light red wine we discovered that allowing the wine to warm up a little from its chilled state enabled the flavours to come through better.
Follow us in our next instalment along the Jurassic Coast to Dorset and finally Hampshire, before taking a break in London at the International Wine Challenge 2013 Summer Ball Awards Dinner.