More tales for English Wine Week, up close and personal at Eastcott Vineyard in Devon.
The Guests are put to work
After a good night’s sleep in one of Eastcott Vineyard’s gorgeous holiday cottages, aptly named Cabernet, our first job was to assist Richard with his stall at the summer Ruby Market in Hatherleigh. The market was larger than we expected and was bustling with people in the Devonshire sunshine. All sorts of local produce was on offer: meat; dairy; vegetables; cakes; breads; beers; ciders; as well as arts and crafts, plus a bit of Country music to keep the crowds entertained in the heat. It was great to see Richard in action talking passionately about his wines, of which two were open for tastings.
Throughout the day, a steady stream of people visited the stall, tasting and purchasing from the range of wines. We thoroughly enjoyed chatting with locals, visitors and stallholders alike, coming away with a rather full shopping bag of produce ourselves to take back to our cottage. We can highly recommend Grumpies of Cornwall pies, West Lake apple juices and ciders, Curry Now! sauces by the Anglo Indian Chef, Riverside’s Goat Cheese and the Vegetarian deli.
The following day, Hilary gave us a tour of the vineyard to familiarise us with everything and the kind of work we would be helping out with. It’s a truly beautiful spot with 12 acres of land, 6 of which are planted to vine with 7 varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Rondo, Dunkenfelder, Solaris and Seyval Blanc.
Most of the week, we were out amongst the vines, tucking the shoots into the trellising system, ‘geek alert‘ known as vertical shoot positioning (VSP) where all the vines are trained to grow upright. It is interesting to see the varietal differences between the vines once you get up close and personal with them, such as differences in colour, leaf texture and shape. I’m even getting quite attached to them. We were also privileged to witness the flowering start, although the flowers appear quite insignificant they are an essential part of the process to form the all important fruit. We also helped with general vineyard management, such as tidying up around the hedges as well as other jobs.
We participated in Hilary and Richard’s Vineyard Tours that included a visit to their shiny new and very modern winery. It was interesting to hear more about their story of how they came to own and run the vineyard. These were probably the most educational and informative tours we have attended.
One evening was spent at a tasting and presentation with the Fuchsia and Geranium Group in Plympton. About 40 people attending their local meeting heard Eastcott’s very professional presentation and tasted some of their wine. We assisted with handing out the samples to the group. It was a fun evening and great to meet some of the local community.
We also attended one of Richard’s tutored wine tastings with a group of young lads on a stag weekend, um a challenge maybe? Considering they confessed they didn’t know a great deal about wine, they were great sports, asked lots of good questions and seemed to enjoy it all.
Our final day coincided with it being Kelvyn’s birthday, which we celebrated with homemade strawberry victoria sponge cake (thanks again to Richard) and the cottage suitably adorned with birthday banner and balloons courtesy of Ruth and Hilary. We all enjoyed a glass or two of each of Eastcott’s Sparkling range as well as Furleigh Estate’s Classic Cuvee 2009.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather since arriving, the sun shone every day and the heat warmed our skin, average temperatures hovered between 25-30 degrees, we have never had such good tans – could you really call this work??? On a hot day in the vineyard, we were generously rewarded with refreshingly chilled elderflower cordial and yummy carrot cake both freshly made by Richard.
Most evenings, we relaxed in our lovely cottage or, took advantage of the evening sunshine, lazing on a blanket in the orchard, with a well deserved glass or two of chilled Eastcott wine. We certainly enjoyed our experience of the Devonshire vineyard lifestyle. We were even adopted by the neighbour’s cat, Mrs Tinks.
A plus we found to the cottage was that the bedrooms are on the ground floor, so they are lovely and cool later in the day, especially in the heat we experienced during that week. The bed was also very comfortable, so we slept soundly and solidly every night! On one of the cooler mornings we had, admittedly not many, which is a rare thing I hear myself saying, we had a wonderful early morning jog around the vineyard, and you can’t get better than that really. If you are after a holiday to remember in the West Country, we couldn’t recommend a stay on Eastcott’s Vineyard more.
The days seemed to pass quickly and the next part of our English vineyard adventure was about to begin. It was sad to leave Eastcott behind (for now) as both Hilary and Richard had been most welcoming, great hosts and a pleasure to work with. However, we came away better equipped having gained a sound knowledge from the good direction that both had given on how to do the job well.
To say that Hilary and Richard have only been making wine for the past 6 years, having come from none wine-making backgrounds, and now going on to win awards with both the International Wine Challenge and the International Wine and Spirits Competition says something of their commitment and dedication to the cause, setting a good standard for their future vintages.
Our Eastcott Star Wines:
Brut, 2009, 11.5%, £19.90, Seyval Blanc, strawberry (bonbons) and cream, Kel gets notes of apricot glazed pastry and brioche, lovely lingering aromas!
Brut Rosé, 2010, 12.5%, £24.50, Seyval Blanc and Rondo, strawberry, cranberry, hints of fresh cherry and freshly crushed almonds, good acidity, creamy mouth feel and persistent bubbles.
Other Eastcott wines:
Brut Zero, 2008, 12%, £19.90, Seyval Blanc, lovely dry style sparkling white, crisp green apple, good acidity and freshness, nice creaminess. Surprisingly not as dry as one might expect for a bone dry sparkler with no added dosage.
Furzehill White, 2010, 11.0%, £9.90, blend of English varieties plus Chardonnay, dry style white with aromas of English hedgerow, elderflower, nettles and lime citrus notes. However, the acidity and sugars felt a little out of balance
Gribbleford White, 2010, 10.5%, £9.90, Seyval Blanc, easy drinking medium dry style, apple and kiwi aromas with a hint of crushed almonds.
Two Moors Rosé, 2011, 11.5%, £10.90, Rondo and Madeleine Angevine, strawberry and cranberry flavours, hints of herb, refreshing on a summer’s eve.
In our next blog we’ll tell you more about our visits to other wineries as well as great things to do on days out in The West Country.