IF IT'S FRIDAY AT NINE IT'S TIME FOR WINE!

Tony and The Guru leads you to the vineface

A NEW WAY TO VIEW THE WORLD OF WINE

WINEFULLNESS

 

 

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 It's taken so long to bring out this edition that we thought it was rather silly to divide 15 Questions with the marvellous Paul Draper and so we're printing the lot here for you.

 

Question 1: What varietal do you wish Ridge grew and why?

Paul Draper: At Monte Bello in the cool Santa Cruz Mountains appellation we grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. In addition, since 1949 we have grown a small amount of Chardonnay, given our limestone subsoils and cool climate. The Cabernet was replanted in 1949 and is one of the three oldest surviving Cabernet vineyards in California.

  In Sonoma we own the historic Geyserville vineyard which includes Zinfandel and mixed black fruits planted in 1882. There is Petite Syrah and Carignane, the principal varietals included in older Zinfandel planting plus tiny quantities of twenty-one other varietals typically interplanted with Zinfandel in the 19th Century. We also own the Lytton Springs Vineyard, including Zinfandel and mixed blacks going back to 1902. There are a few blocks of Syrah, Grenache and Mataro, and a small block of Viognier which we co-ferment with Syrah. If there was another varietal I wish we grew at Ridge, it would be Pinot Noir on our limestone soils in our cool climate but we have no more open land.

 

Question 2: When was your first memory of knowing that winemaking was for you?

Paul: I was attending a six form public school on the East Coast and was in the fifth form and was sixteen years old. My roommate's parents were Swiss and invited me to stay with them in New York on the occasional weekends when we earned good grades, and also at Thanksgiving when it was not worth travelling all the way home for me.

  At every lunch and dinner they had either a good bottle of Rhone, Beaujolais or Burgundy. I was reading Hemmingway, Huxley and European novelists in translation where wine was a part of everyday life in those novels. Growing up, my family only served wine on special occasions. As a romantic, I loved the idea that wine added a sense of ritual to a meal and fuller enjoyment in each day.

  I had grown up on a farm working with mother nature in raising crops, fruit and animals and having our two Guernsey cows. We lived entirely off the land during the last five years of the Depression and during World War 2. This idea of taking something you had grown and allowing it, in the case of simple fruit, to go through a natural process that transformed it into something complex, delicious and mildly mind altering was altogether fascinating to me. I decided then that I wanted to make wine.

  I went out to Stanford University in large part because they grew grapes and made wine in California. My plan was to attend the University of California at Davis after finishing at Stanford to get a degree in wine chemistry. However, at Stanford I discovered that I was very bad in science, particularly chemistry and biology and that I would never make it through Davis. I thought you had to have a degree in Enology to be a winemaker, so I put my dream on hold with no idea if I would ever be able to pursue it. In those days, the late fifties and sixties, the world's finest wines were very inexpensive. I was drinking and beginning to lay down, even on my own very limited income, '46, '48. '49 Latour, and taste the '20, '28, '29, and '45 Latour and several other first growths. These wines and many more lesser growths were my first mentors.

  Working and studying in Europe after Stanford I visited many producers and found, in that era, the people making those wines did not have degrees in enology. I also realised that those wines, and a few California wines from the late 1930's had been made traditionally, basically the way the finest wines had been made in the 19th Century. I found that they were more complex, more interesting and developed further with ageing than did the wines being made by the modern techniques coming into use. These techniques Davis brought to the California industry in the last years of the 1930's were launched in France after the war.

  Five or six years later I was in Chile with two friends running a non-profit working on nutrition. We soon began looking for a way to get off our minimal salaries. We only considered things that would help Chile and we looked at the export of fruit and seafood to the US and Europe, and then we realised that Chile was only exporting 2% of its wine production. As wine lovers we knew what we would do. We met with the producers that were exporting and discussed changes in wine making, for example, among other things, eliminating the use of rauli wood with its less appealing flavours, and less heavy fining as well as packaging. The Chileans are very polite and expressed great interest, but after six months it was clear that they were not about to make any changes.

  As a start we set up a small import company in the US and selected several wines that met our standards and shipped them to the States. We then leased a beautiful, old bodega in the southern coast range that had recently closed and began to make Cabernet Sauvignon from four small, very old vineyards in our remote area. My first winemaking mentors were those great wines I had tasted and my second was a book published in 1882 by Emmett Rixford. He had planted his La Cuesta vineyard with cuttings from Margaux. From the 1890's to 1920 and Prohibition, he produced one of the finest and the most expensive Cabernets in California. His book laid out the day to day practice used by the best producers in California and Bordeaux. His mentor had been a professor, Raimond Boireau, in Bordeaux whose two volumes from the 1870's Rixford studied, as did I. Both Rixford and Boireau laid out what I came to call 19th Century fine wine techniques and more recently have called 'pre-industrical' techniques. I read Pascal Ribereau-Gayon and Peynaud on traditional as well as modern approaches. I used the 19th Century techniques in Chile and brought them with me to Ridge where they are still the basis of how we make wine today.

 

Question 3: What is your favourite Ridge vintage?

Paul: As with most winemakers, I consider them all my children which doesn't make it easy to choose. In the early days I used to think our great 1970 vintage, my second at Ridge, was the model to emulate and build on. As I have watched the 1971 develop and win the thirty year repeat of the Paris Tasting by 18 points, and last year saw that it was still in superb condition at 40 years while virtually every other wine in the lineup was fading or gone, it became an equal to the 1970. They demonstrate the two styles we make depending on the makeup of the grapes each year. The '70 fuller and more structured and the '71 more elgant but equally complex. After that would come the '78. '85, '91 and '95.

 

Question 4: In a competitive market do you see Ridge ever changing its philosophy of winemaking?

Paul: I joined Ridge because besides liking the Ridge partners very much, they had me taste their first commerical vintage, the 1962 and the excellent 1964. They had never made wine before. They used the simplest techniques; ripe grapes, naturally occuring yeasts and malolactic bacteria, submerged cap fermentation, (so they could be absent Monday through Friday at their work) minimal SO2 after malolactic, and no fining or filtration.

  With my long and continuing experience with great vintages of Bordeaux and my more recent experience of tradtionally made wines by Inglenook and Rixford's La Cuesta from the 1930's, these two wines were of the quality of the best I had tasted. It was clear to me that they had simply not gotten in the way and what I was seeing was the character and quality of the Monte Bello terroir. I knew if I joined them I would have the chance to make exceptional wines.

  Obviously they had made the '62 and '64 with no thought of what they or someone else might think the market wanted. From the beginning I made the wines that the site dictated and that I wanted to make, again with no thought of the market. Fortunately, our customers agreed with what we were doing and I have continued that approach for my fifty years. We have been unaffected by the overripe style from Napa despite its popularity. Ridge has more demand than we will ever be able to fill as our production will only increase minimally in future years. Our commitment and that of our ownership, leadership and vineyard and production teams are committed to this philosophy. We are setting up safe guards to try to guarentee that that commitment continues for many years. We will be a sixty year old operation in another year and we intend to be a one hundred year company dedicated to the same philosophy forty years from now.

  Education is the most important element after making fine wine, taking care of your own people and your customers. California in general is making better wine than it ever has in the past. My one objection would concern the style of Napa Cabernet and most other Californian Cabernets. Since 1997 with the approbation of critics like Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator, they have pursued a higher alcohol overripe style. Often the grapes picked over 15 degrees brix and even 16 degrees and then the alcohol cut back to around 14.9%. In my opinion this style is dominated by a single characteristic, that of overripe dark fruit. At that ripeness the wine loses the complexity of fully ripe fruit as well as its ability to continue developing in quality with age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 5: What do you think is the single greatest aid/device that has helped you to improve as a winemaker?

Paul: My greatest improvement as a winemaker has been to learn in my first ten years to vary the timing and the approaches of traditional winemaking during fermentation to the differences in the make up of the fruit mother nature gives us each year. First, of course, has been to start even earlier in the vineyard to pick each block at its ideal point of ripeness. This has meant that our vineyard director, two head winemakers, members of the vineyard team and the interns are carefully sampling each block multiple times before the winemakers decide exactly when to harvest each one. With each sample the juice is squeezed out, analyzed for sugar, pH and levels of malic acid. Then comes the most important part. The winemakers and vineyards managers blind taste the juice samples, ten to twenty at a time. They aren't deciding based on the sugar or acid numbers but on the flavours in each juice sample. This has meant that over the years we have made more consistently the finest wine possible in each vintage despite the varying makeup of the fruit. Given that the decision on when to pick depends on tastings, and that the varying of timing and approach during fermentation to control tannins and colour extraction depends on tasting, clearly the most important device is a good wine glass.

 

Question 6: Can you name another winemaker outside of Ridge whom you admire or who has influenced you and why?

Paul: I have already stated my admireation for Emmett Rixford back in the late 19th Century. We have never used a winemaking consultant at Ridge or found a winemaker who was looking back to tradition instead of to additives and processing. I admire what Cathy Corison and Diana Seysses, as well as Ehren Jordon at Failla are doing. There are also a number of other young winemakers who I think are really doing interesting things.

 

Question 7: Is your winemaking style terrior or blend driven?

Paul: The distinctive character first of Monte Bello, then Geyserville and Lytton Springs and any outside vineyard we continue to work with over the years is based on terroir. They are all single vineyard wines and not blends of vineyards. The fact that all the elements needed to transform grapes into wine are present on the grapes and that a different soil, and climate can provide a range of quality from mediocre to great are what make wine making somethig of a miracle.

 

Question 8: What is your favourite time in the vinyard?

Paul: (At last a really short answer). Spring and early morning.

 

Question 9: What do you think makes American oak better than French oak for Ridge?

Paul: In 1967, in reopening a small, historic bodega in the coastal range of Chile, I found tha barrels were not being used to age fine wine. This forced me to find small supplies of air dried European oak grown in Chile and being used for other purposes. I had to convince my local artican cooper to make my barrels. To do that I had to research the design, dimensions and techniques used to make the best wine barrels in France. So early on I got into the history and detail of barrel making. When I joined Ridge three years later, I found the same to be true in California. Barrels were not being used to age fine wine, but rather as in Chile, larger ovals, casks and upright tanks. In the early 1970's Andre Tchelistcheff and Dick Graff of Chalone working together bought French oak barrels from the Bordeaux cooper, Demptos. The superb 1962 and 1964 Monte Bello's that had convinced me to join Ridge had been aged in old, totally neutral, bourbon barrels, The slow oxidation of barrel aging had contributed to their quality, but no oak was present in the nose or taste. Those California winemakers trying to make better wines, often in imitation of the wines of Bordeaux, logically began to seek out barrels that had been made by French coopers who had perfected wine barrel making over at least the last 200 years. American coopers had been making barrels for the bourbon inudstry for at least 150 years, but the staves were steam bent and the inside charred for bourbon aging. I'm a chauvinist, so the idea that a fine California wine had to be dependent on oak from Europe as part of it's quality was not acceptable.

My first mentor, Emmett Rixford, who I've discussed, quotes his Bordeaux mentor, Raimond Boireau, on an oak experiment done in the 1870's. As a port city, Bordeaux has access to oak growing regions other than just France and in the 19th Century the top Chateaux preferred and used oak grown in the Baltic regions to that grown in France. The rating included these favourite regions as well as others. The results were; 1st Riga, 2nd Lubeck, 3rd Stettin, 4th American eastern white oak, 5th Bosnian oak and in 6th (and last place) the centre of France. This result had stimulated my interest in American oak from the beginning.

  In 1968, a French friend, who, with his family, owned a small chateau in the Medoc for which, as an enologist, he was the technical director, showed me his thesis on oak ageing written for his degree. He had included the most detailed experiment on oak that the University of Bordeaux had ever done. It was a ten year study based on the great vintage of 1900. Two barrels each of six different regional oaks were placed in each of the First Growth Bordeaux Chateaux - Margaux, Haut Brion, Lafite and Latour. The wines were analyzed and blind tasted each year for ten years, first in the barrel, then in the bottle. The combined results were identical to those from from the 1870's.

  Two years later, having joined Ridge, I visited several of the best American coopers to see what they would be willing to do to make barrels for fine wine. I found a cooper, no longer in operation, in Arkansas working with tight grain white oak from the Ozarks. He had remnant quantities of seven and five year old, air dried staves in his yard left over from previous large orders for bourbon barrels. He agreed to give a medium toast to the barrels instead of charring them as he normally did for the whiskey industry. He shipped those 200 litre barrels directly to me at Monte Bello at a total cost of $35.

  At the same time I ordered a few 225 litre Bordeaux barrels from Demptos, including transport from France, customs duties and trucking from the dock to Monte Bello for a total cost of $50 for a slightly larger barrel. As the wine's aged we found we had a preference for the American oak that contributed rounder, less tough oak tannins to the Monte Bello that already had sufficient tannins. The nose of the French oak was very apparent and appealing when the wine was young, but with bottle age, the two oaks contributed more equally and we preffered the effect on the body and finish of the American oak.

  From 1970 onwards we have had a French oak control each year. It began as roughly 10% and now is around 3% in the final wine. We taste these oak trials over the time as they age and have continued to prefer our selection of coopers and regions for American oak over what we had selected as the best from French coopers.

  In 2015 we had six barrel experiments from four coopers and two regions for American oak and two French coopers and two French regions for French oak. We think we may have done more research over the years on oak than any other producer. In blind tastings of Monte Bello and, for example, Chateau Latour, we have virtually never had top tasters, say Masters of Wine, identify the Monte Bello because they noticed American oak in the wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 10: winefullness.co.uk is an English wine website. Have you tried English sparkling wine, as it seems to be growing in popularity?

Paul: I first tasted a very successful attempt years ago with Hugh Johnson and now am tasting a number of very good and even truly excellent examples of sparkling wine with much of the appeal of Champagne.

 

Question 11: What winemaking tool are you never without?

Paul: A good wine glass.

 

Question 12: Who spots potentially new vineyards?

Paul: Until stepping back to a degree two years ago, I had sought out potential new, small outside vineyards. Today, David Gates our vineyard director of the last twenty-eight years, is responsible for virtually all new outside vineyards. These are all very small, old vine vineyards. We try them for one year and see if we want to ontinue. Some will be with us for years.

 

Questions 13: What part of the job do you dislike the most?

Paul: I have lived on the edge of our highest vineyard at Monte Bello for almost fifty years. I have made the wines, and directed the company as CEO and now continue the latter role as chairman, sharing it with the expertise and ideas of my team of more than twenty years. It has been a joy. It has never been work despite or because of my near devotion to it. As an equal prtner, then as CEO and now as Chariman, I have had the chance to choose what I want to do.

 

Question 14: When I was last in Sonoma I was told that the best wine is made with the best beer. What's your favourite tipple?

Paul: That's a variation on the old expression in the wine country in California that, 'It takes a lot of beer to make wine.' When your winemaking crew are young 'Anglos' they tended in the past to drink beer during crush. I don't know if they still consume as much as they used to. At Ridge in the early '70's we moved away from weed during crush for simple reasons of safety. As I spoke Spanish from my years in Chile, I brought the best of our vineyrd workers into the winery as my crew as they are far more careful and dedicated than ambitious young 'Anglos'. While the rest of the industry thought Latinos were only good for picking grapes and working in the vineyards, I had no such prejudices. So we were probably the only winery with a Latino winemaking crew. Several winemakers though I had brought my mestizo Chilean campesinos up to Ridge, but they were so ignorant of the quality of the work of Mexican mestizos.

  There are only two 'Anglos' on the winery and two in the vineyard. All the rest, seniority well over twenty years, are Spanish speaking as a first language and all American citizens. They drink good Mexican beer but only at parties and only occasionally at home. I guess that like any responsible operation with machinery and high catwalks and ladders, we don't really want alcohol involved during working hours. My favourtie tipple is Anchor Steam beer until recently made by my oldest friend Fritz Matag.

 

Question 15: Is it possible to retire from winemaking? Don't you have a seaky vine or three in your backyard that you visit each day?

Paul: No, not for me. As I write this, I've just finished a blind tasting with Eric Baugher of the 2016 Monte Bello and the 2016 Estate Cabernet to see if the estate is even better if we add a further amount of excellent press wine.

  I continue as Chairman and put in about thirty percent of full time. For almost fifty years this has been my life's work and it has never been work. My team, winemakers - Eric Baugher, here and John Olney at Lytton as well as David Gates as Direcor of Vineyard Operations have all been with me for well over twenty years. They are even more rigorous than I have been. Mark Vernon who I made CEO when I stepped back is approaching twenty years. David Amadia, marketing and now President has been with us for twelve. After my wife Maureen, daughter Caitlin and 5 year old grandson Caden and 1 year old granddaughter Brynn, as somewhat of a loner, my team is my extended family. No, I can't really retire.

 

  Paul Draper, I would like to thank you for your generosity with your time and your answers. The next time I visit Ridge at Monte Bello I will definately be bringing som Anchor Steam beer, an American brew we can actually get in the United Kingdom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Questions

with

Paul Draper

 

More 15 Questions

in the next edition

15 Questions

with 

Cathy Corison

Look behind the glasses and into the eyes of Cathy Corison and you see a steely determination. The sort of viticultural determination that makes her a top choice to be featured in this edition's 15 QUESTIONS.

 Not only does she make one of the most terrific Cabernet Sauvignon's you can get your hands on, but she refused to take no for an answer when others thought that a woman's place was nowhere near the winemaking area of a Napa Valley vineyard.

She has worked in most areas of the wine industry (from selling in a wine shop to pouring wines in the tasting room at Sterling Vineyards) before becoming an intern at Freemark Abbey, and then finally making it as the head winemaker at Chappellet Winery. All this despite one of her first tutors telling her that women didn't make wine in Napa!

Never one to stand still, Cathy founded her own winery, Corison in 1987, with the help of her husband William. At first she purchased the grapes for her wine, but longed to produce a single estate wine that could compete with the best. With the purchase of the Kronos Vineyard in the south end of St. Helena in 1995 she was able to produce the sort of fruit for which her wines have become famous. Her sturdy, powerful beauties are so well put together (thanks to some of the oldest Cabernet vines in the Napa Valley) that I imagine Cathy Corison walks through her vineyards talking poetry and saying beautiful things to the vines as payment for them providing such awesome fruit.

When I drew up a list of people I wanted to answer 15 QUESTIONS there was no doubt in my mind that Cathy Corison was a must, and as you read her answers I'm sure you'll agree that she is the sort of winemaker who you want to listen to all day. In the next edition there will be a feature about my visit to the Corison Vineyard, but what better introduction could one have than to hear what she has to say.

QUESTION 1: `When you first decided to build the Corison Winery, did you decide on Cabernet Sauvignon because soil samples told you it would grow the best, or did you hunt for land that would be best suited to growing Cabernet?'

 

CATHY CORISON: `We didn't build the winery until 13 years into the project. Until then it was all done with smoke and mirrors, using other people's facilities. We bought the best grapes and barrels money could buy and did all the work ourselves. I make Cabernet Sauvignon because I live in the Napa Valley, which has been making world-class Cabernets since the 19th century. I believe we can make Cabernet Sauvignon as well, or better, than anywhere else on the planet.'

 

QUESTION 2: `Do you ever feel the weight of being one of the leading women in the California wine industry?'

 

C.C: `I certainly feel a responsibility to be the best I can be and to help other women along.'

 

QUESTION 3: `In Stephen Brook's book, 'THE FINEST WINES OF CALIFORNIA' he says that you look more like a New England schoolteacher than a Napa winemaker. What might you have been doing with your life if you hadn't have become a winemaker?'

 

C.C: `I might have worked in a zoo. I might have become a stage manager in a regional theatre or a marine biologist.'

QUESTION 4: `Was the decision to produce Gewurztraminer made because you thought everybody would expect you to work with Chardonnay as your second varietal in the Napa Valley?'

 

C.C: `The Corazon Gewurztraminer is inspired by the wines of Alsace. I've always loved them for their singular use of Germanic aromatic varieties made with French sensibilities. It's generally too hot for aromatic white varieties in the Napa Valley so I source the Gewurztraminer from the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County well to the north. Alsatian wines are terrific with an astonishing range of food.'

QUESTION 5: `How does Cathy Corison relax when she's away from the vineyard?'

 

C.C: `I hike, cross-country ski, garden, cook, read, knit and see theatre.'

 

QUESTION 6: `Paul Draper has said that you are one of the people he most admires in the wine industry. Who are the people you most admire in the wine industry and why?'

 

C.C: `Paul is one of them. Ted Lemon at Littorai because of his integrity and biodynamic farming. Great wines too.'

 

QUESTION 7: `You've added Sunbasket Vineyard Cabernet to your portfolio of wines. How does this differ from the Kronos and Corison Cabernets?'

 

C.C: `Though Sunbasket is a mere stone's throw from Kronos, the soils are even gravellier and sandier loam. The vines are younger because the vineyard had to be replanted in the 1990's due to Phylloxera, the vine spacing is tighter and the trellis is much more modern. Sunbasket wines tend more toward the bright red and blue end of the Cabernet flavour spectrum whereas the Kronos tends more towards the darker, purple and black side.

 `The Corison Cabernet is a blend of three benchland (alluvial fan) vineyards all located between Rutherford and St. Helena. Complexity is the Corison Napa Valley Cabernet's strong suit.'

 

QUESTION 8: `You've had to fight for your place in the world (firstly when you were at college, and then when you wanted to become a winemaker). Do you feel the struggle has made you harder?'

 

C.C: 'I have had to develop a thick skin. I was once called scrappy by a close friend. But I don't know which came first, the chicken or the egg.'

 

QUESTION 9: `What is the best piece of advice that you've ever been given?'

 

C.C: `Don't take 'no' for an answer.'

 

QUESTION 10: `What is a typical day like for Cathy Corison?'

 

CATHY: `There is no typical day. I grow the grapes, make the wine and run the winery (with a LOT of help). My work is very seasonal and varied.

QUESTION 11: `Are there any other varietals that you've thought about growing?'

 

C.C: `I love most of the wines of the world so I'm often tempted to branch out, but I've chosen to focus on a few things in the hope that I might do them well.'

 

QUESTION 12: `Which vintage of Kronos really stands out as Cathy Corison at the top of her game and why?'

 

C.C: `2001, but it's not me, it was Mother Nature. Everything aligned that year.'

 

QUESTION 13: `What's your favourite tipple?'

 

C.C: `Wine, but to name a favourite would be impossible. There are so many great wines in the world.'

 

QUESTION 14: `What are you reading at the moment?'

 

C.C: `I just finished EDUCATED by Tara Westover and BECOMING by Michelle Obama. I'm also reading several books about evolution and the Galapagos Islands in preparation for a trip there this summer. That has been on my bucket list since I wrote a paper on them when I was a junior in high school.'

 

QUESTION 15: `How do you see Corison wines progressing in the future?'

 

CATHY CORISON: `I hope they get better and better.'

 

She's one of the first names you think of when California Cabernet comes into the conversation, but read on and you'll find out that there's so much more to this amazing person.

'I'm sure you'll agree that she is the sort of winemaker you want to listen to all day.'

'I might have worked in a zoo. I might have become a stage manager in a regional theatre.'

'Sunbasket wines tend more towards the bright red and blue end of the Cabernet flavour spectrum'.

'My work is very seasonal and varied'.

And with that the questions are over and Cathy can get back to tending her vineyards and producing wine that is arguably among the best out there. Don't just take my word for it, look at the mountain of awards that have been given to her and her wines. In a world where critics can be fickle, the consistency with which she is honoured shouts loudly of epic success.

And with that the questions are over and Cathy Corison can go back to tending her vineyards and producing wine that is arguably among the best out there. Don't just take my word for it, look at the mountain of awards that have been given to her and her wines. In a world where critics can be fickle, the consistency with which she is honoured shouts loudly of epic success.

Winefullness Cover August

Romanian Tasting

If yustry.

ALmres.'

In these times, how are you managing for labour?

we try to use as many local people as possible, so we've had the level cricket team. It’s all by hand  so it's quite backbreaking, and we end up using a team of Romania’s that go around we know them really well. it's hugely Labour intensive but then that all goes into appreciating the drink later, so that's why with our tours we welcome them to the barn, give them a bit of history, walk them round the vineyard, encourage questions because we just want to help and share. Then come back and sample the wine and then it really makes him understand the wine a bit better.

 

There’s a lot of synergy between the history and the product. Can the average wine understand the terroir in what they’re drinking?

some can definitely, especially if they've enjoyed English wine before, but people definitely love to hear the history and understand, and we think this is an incredible initiative that we have embarked upon. it's important that people understand why you do something and they want to know bit about it and the fact that a wine named after the girls. when they meet the girls it just connects them a bit more and they just feel more. With our open days people come and we call them friends. we want to know he's drinking our wines.

 

What is your favourite genre of music?

I quite like pop and on the quiet side I quite like my classical music. There are certain genres of  music that help your state of mind, for example when everything's been hectic with the children and I've got a lot going on in my head with the businesses, I either have silent or Classic FM, and when my heads not was so fuzzy and muddled we have kitchen discos all the time with pop music. Our girls are musical, so I I'm trying to expose them to as many genres as possible of which you realise you’re the only one in the kitchen dancing, but I think it's important to have a broader knowledge. as I grew up listening to my mum listen to Radio 2 which is fine, but it was the same songs all the time, but I think they're different genres of music for different times.

 

Of which award are you the most proud?

Best family run business. we were up against our friends who are mersea oyster, they come to our events here and hopefully they're getting married here, and we're at the table and they I think they came second and they were so kind…

 

Were they gracious?

They were so very gracious and then two weeks later they were coming to do and event and we had such banter, but it was great. That's because it's it was about our personality, not just the quality of the wines. I'm not being remotely arrogant because that’s our goal but this was somehow felt it was all six of us.

 

are wine writers a necessary evil?

I don’t think evil, definitely necessary. I think it's better to have a range of opinions, because people also need a bit of guidance. consumers but also we as vineyards need support, and I think it helps everyone. why shy away from stuff hit head on and learn.

 

Is there one question you wish I’d have asked you and how would you answer it?

Would you like a free trip to a winery with you and Angus and I’d say yes

 

 

WINEFULLNESS: 'Do you think that Romania producing varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc gets in the way of developing varieties that are specific to Romania?'

ALINA & NICHOLAS de ROUMANIE: 'We think it is fantastic that they are grown in Romania and the fact that the producers can create different blends with them. Even though Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are grown in Romania, they won't replace the local varieties which are specific to Romania. Even though they are not completely understood abroad, they are very much respected nationally and internationally.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'What were the last good books that you read, and what made them interesting?'

ALINA: 'I read '12 Rules for Life, an Antidote to Chaos' by Jordan Peterson. I discovered several explanations for man's behaviour from the Animal Kingdom. I have also read The Bible from which I found deep inspiration during the lockdown period.'

NICHOLAS: 'I have read '27 Steps' by Tibu Useriu. He and his family are friends. Tibi has not had an easy life and has faced many challenges. He has won the Ultra 3366 Artic Ultra Challenge, which he has won several times. His book is inspirational and motivational, especially if one has found oneself in a challenging period in life.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'When times are normal, how often do the two of you visit the vineyards of Romania?'

ALINA & NICHOLAS: 'At the beginning of this year we planned an extensive winery tour in spring, however we now hope to do this by the end of the year. Usually we try to visit wineries that are in the areas that we travel to.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Do you see viticultural tourism growing in Romania?'

ALINA & NICHOLAS: 'We see this as the future. Tourism in Romania has been growing steadily in the past years and wineries have not necessarily been on the itinerary, but we see them playing an important role for tourism and the Romanian brand. One of our activities is to promote Romania as a safe tourist destination where wineries play an important role in promoting what the country has to offer. When promoting our country abroad through certain wine events, we are hoping we can offer personalised trips to Romanian wineries.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Who is the better cook, and which are your favourite restaurants?'

NICHOLAS: 'Alina is the better chef, however we both enjoy cooking together.'

ALINA: 'I enjoy cooking traditional dishes which we miss while living in the U.K. One of our favourite restaurants is Biutiful by the Lake, Alioli (Argentinian) and Kaiamo (Experimental Romanian Cuisine in Bucharest).'

WINEFULLNESS: 'Although the size of the Romanian wine industry is quite large, do you ever see it becoming a major player in the world of wine?'

ALINA & NICHOLAS: 'Romania has the potential, however we need to help it and we need time. The wine industry is like a bottle of Red that needs time to mature. Many friends of ours, as well as those who attended the tasting in London have been impressed by the quality and the variety in a positive manner. I think the event in London helped people to become more open about trying new wines,  especially from developing wine countries like Romania. We have the volume and the quality but as yet we do not have the maturity, which was due to the communist period. At the turn of the century we were very renowned for wine.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'What is your favourite time of the day?'

ALINA & NICHOLAS: 'We both enjoy mornings, especially in the summer. Summers in Romania are very hot but the mornings are cool and quiet.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'At the recent London tasting, one winemaker told me that it was impossible for the Romanian industry to adopt an appellation system because of differing interests. Do you believe this?'

ALINA & NICHOLAS: 'Indeed, to create an appellation system would be difficult in Romania due to the varieties of grapes planted at each estate. Romania is very lucky to have the right climate for most varieties, however, producers have not necessarily respected the areas they have planted in. Therefore, in each area or even on each estate it is possible to find several varieties that are best suited to other areas of the country. In order to achieve an appellation system, Romania would have to replant up to 50% of the vines that already exist and replant them in more suitable regions of Romania.'

WINEFULLNESS: 'How would you describe yourselves in five words (five words each of course)?'

ALINA: 'Creative, honest, courageous, sporty, natural.'

NICHOLAS: 'Sporty, outgoing, sociable, traveller, dutiful.'

WINEFULLNESS MAGAZINE: 'To those people wishing to visit Romania for the first time, where would you recommend they visit and why?'

ALINA-MARIA & NICHOLAS de ROUMANIE: 'It depends on the time that is available, however with no time limit the places we would recommend are below, and although not all are on the main tourist path, they deserve to be visited:

'1. Via Translivanica - This is a long distance trail that crosses Romania over the hills and through forests, villages and cities. On this trail people will discover the real Romania, national history, local traditions and products.

'2. Danube Delta - Our delta is the only one in Europe that attracts wildlife from all over Europe and Africa.

'3. Sinaia and the royal castles - A beautiful town set in the mountains near Bucharest which was the seat of the Royal family.

'4. The Dealu Mare Region - This is a region that has a large proportion of Romania's wineries that are set on a hill the stretches 65 kilometres long.

'5. Timisoara - The Cultural Capital of Europe in 2021. This was a strategic base during the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

'6. Zabola - The hidden gem in Transilvania, a country estate close to Brasov that offers weekend getaways.

'7. Bucovina and the painted monasteries - Bucovina is a region found in the north of Romania with unique scenery that is filled with history and legends. Here visitors will find Sucevita, Moldovita, Voroneti and Putna monasteries which are (other than Putna) painted with 15th century frescos.

'8. Sarmisegetuza Regia - This was the capital and the most important military, religious and political centre of the Dacians prior to the Roman Empire.

'9. Sighisoara - The birth place of Vlad Tepes, better known as Vlad the Impaler. Sighisoara is one of the most well preserved Saxon citidels in Europe that dates back to the 12th century.'

 

 

 And with these recommendations I'm already thinking about when might be a suitable time to visit Romania. It's a big place and I'm going to have to plan carefully if I want to visit some of the places Alina & Nicholas suggested, as well as some of those wineries I've already tried.

They are not just charming people who enjoy sharing the wines of their country, they are the sort of people I like to meet and talk with because their enthusiasm for life is so obvious.

So, we've met the Ambassadors for this exciting region, later on I'll be chatting with one of the producers.

One to Try

Colgin - IX Estate 2016

 

I could have picked any of the wines I tasted at Colgin, but I decided that this fitted the bill perfectly. It's another wine that needs a few more hairs on its chin, but that doesn't mean that one cannot enjoy the crisp acidity, medium tannins and mixture of structured black and red fruit.

It might be expensive, but when this much care has been taken to achieve so much that seems to be a minor quibble.

'We tried the Valpolicella Red from Ferragù and loved it.'

'Theack.'

'Wege.' 

WINd!

'Alina is the better chef, however we both enjoy cooking together.'

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Tuffon Hall

 

Nicholas, Alina-Maria and the Romanian Ambassador

Hugh Johnson picking up information...

An intimate gathering

The pourers were very generous

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You’re a new kid on the block and have won many awards to what do you attribute this>

Angus, my husband, it's at his family farm said his fourth generation farmer here and we win awards for arable crops and conservation and about 13 years ago Angus and his father decided to diversify a bit and his father set up the first whiskey maltings in Scotland and sold it to Scottish and Newcastle in the 80s so booze has been in the family so they decided to study viticulture and we planted at first vines 9 1/2 years ago, and I think the success would be down to the quality of the grapes so to us it’s another crop. So Leslie who is our farm manager and vineyard manager has been working here since he was 15 and he's now 76. So it’s his baby so he looks at the grapes and we spend a lot of time and effort producing the best quality crop rather than quantity so the winery always wants to buy a grapes because of the quality of the fruit, but we want to sell it ourselves and actually that's what we win all the awards for, so we've won three in the last two weeks globally and nationally.

which ones have you won?

it was a London wine competition but there were 1200 wines. it just happened to be based in London. We won a gold for our wine GB national competition and silver for other wines as well. And then in the London spirits and wine competition we won a silver and gold for that, and then the regional competition is announced on the 31st of August so we're hoping, last year we won one of five golds there.

Do you think winning those awards adds pressure?

No, not pressure. I think it benefits us hugely. so we're in Waitrose. There’s the house rose at the Dorchester Park Lane and that was through three rounds of blind tasting with French Roses and  roses from around the world. I think what it does is it secures confidence in the consumers and the trade that it’s a quality product they’re buying.

 

How is your harvest shaping up this year?

Fantastic, and we need this sun. Last year was an incredible year, but this year seems to be out doing that, so it's getting better and better. We’re a cooler climate obviously, so we're nowhere near producing a good red but the intensity of the sun is helping at this time. We've got much better at canopy management and exposing the grapes. we’re forever trimming because this year’s been slightly bonkers with the rain and everything's growing at such a rate. We have to keep stripping back and tucking them in coz it's quite wild out there and exposing the grapes to get more sun, but yes it's looking to be really good.

What is your first  wine memory?

Firs? I can say my favourite. I remember drinking dreadful wine when you were younger. My mother is an oaked Chardonnay drinker and I'm not a particular fan of that. I'm not the best palette compared to Angus but I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. My favourite, which was part of the inspiration for the vineyard, was about 15 years ago Angus and I went to a friend’s wedding in a vineyard in Australia and we did a little tour en route around Tasmania, and we ended up just dropping into a couple of vineyards on the way, not really planned, and they were just so welcoming, and the experience was so enjoyable. One winery we got a bottle from the local vineyard, a dozen oysters trekked over to this private beach, just shucked these oysters, drank this wine and they just seemed to do the experiences very well which builds into the wine. You want a good product, but you also want to enjoy it in a nice environment. (she gestures around her) Hence converting this, but yes that was a lot of the inspiration for wanting to bring that to the UK. I just don't think we've quite cracked it yet.  

So we converted this last year predominantly for wine tastings, but of course everyone wants weddings and events here which is fine and really exciting and we want to use it share it but it is building into the experience. I think people want that, especially now with staycations. This year has been totally bonkers from a business perspective but also reminded people to support local wine.

 

Who in the world of wine inspires you, if anybody does?

I’ve grown up with Oz Clarke because my parents were into drinking wine, and then we've come across him at various events and he's a huge advocate for English wine. He’s brought his new book and he's come along to few things and we've met him at a lot and it I I'm just always pleasantly surprised how motivated and open he is to try new wine and he just wants people to enjoy them. The spark rubbed off on you a bit.

Obviously we follow various Masters of wine on social media and we're in touch with them, but what I’d ideally like is having three daughters is for one of them to go down the wine route and maybe become something themselves.

 

What food pairs the best with your various wines?

The white fish and the lighter meat because our wines are quite light and lower in alcohol percentage. They're enjoyable with lunches. Nice with Barbeques and not too heavy meat-wise, but what we have gone down the road of is launching a supper club in February. It was due to be quarterly and we use all the produce from the farm, so our game, our rabbit. All sorts and we do a five course tasting meal. We also produce a great gin as well as a sloe gin. There is fizz and our still wines, and we just use as much locally, so all the herbs and everything with foraged from all around the farm and we just tried to bring in a local feel to it as well as the smoked side which is a natural match for them.

Is there a wine book you refer to?

Hilariously  I bought this Janis Robinson book . About five years ago and it was sort of learning wine in 24 hours questions and it was all those questions that you get asked, tips and things like that. Screw cap versus Cork and that was just quite interesting. I find her quite her books quite easy to follow and good to read.

 

What’s the first thing you do after a hard day?

After I’ve put the kids to bed?

After you’ve put the kids to bed.

I like to open a bottle of our Bacchus.  I'm actually only drinking our white at the moment finding them a bit too heavy. We're very busy at the moment. We’ve got four children and we’re running four businesses and we’ve been home schooling so coming home from work doesn’t really work like that. As you know your inspiration is often after a glass. It's not a nine to five job so you don't really clock off. After a glass I plan events and because my focus is children. in the evening that's when I haven't got random questions like what's for supper or when are we doing that,  so it's my thinking time when everyone's gone to bed.

How has the business been affected by Covid?

At the beginning, hugely affected so 60% of our wine businesses is trade so when the pubs and the shops closed, it dropped overnight, so what we did was turn it around and did a huge direct to consumer offer and drive-by so people bought online and they're just come round on a Friday afternoon and we’d load it into their car. It was a week before we were launching our wedding and events business so had to cancel the open date and put wedding events on hold, but with that, Interestingly, I've done a couple of interviews for the wedding side of the business and we are benefiting because venues who are established can't fit in all their weddings next year as they’re already booked up, so we've benefited from people who have lost their deposit, so we’ve decided to not ask for such a heavy deposit. We’ve had quite a few bookings with people who weren't even able to visit. I did a virtual tour on my phone, most weekends, I did every lunchtime when the baby napped, and people booked. We’re included our wine in the package. We’ve managed and it’s been hard work, but there’s been incredible support locally, and now Waitrose is open again and the local pubs we’re getting back there quicker than I anticipated.

 

I was looking at your website and stuff like that and your sparkling wine. Was it a conscious decision to not include pinot noir?

this is the first year with not included the noir and we’re producing a lot more with planted several more of the vines, another 6000 actually. it's just we need it for the still interestingly  coz we just sell out straight away. so that our pink sparkling sold out and there's a two year waiting list. Angus planted the vineyard with white sparkling in mind which was the classic three varieties and then all of a sudden, the still Rosie just flew, hence planting more. the noir goes into three out of their four wines so we’re just not growing enough for our demands for the moment. It's being slightly bonkers year which is great but we now realise that there’s a equally big demand for the pink fizz. £27 it was going.

Do you find it difficult to find right price point for your wines?

I'd say that's changed since I have only been selling mine for five years. At the beginning I was slightly apprehensive, but now I think the whole point in us opening the cellar door is to help educate people and once people understand why it's so high; because of the quality, the price of duty is the highest in Europe, but as soon as people taste it they get it.  All it is getting people to try it and then our target market is wide and includes local builders coming buying case after case after case. It's such a broad target audience. People are enjoying the quality of it, so actually the confidence came pretty quickly. You get the odd person who wouldn't but actually that's fine you know the wines not for you then you can't win everyone over. It’s a preconception isn’t it?

Once people are open to the world of wine so fascinating,  but you're always going to have people who go with what they know.  They don't want to go to pub and order an extremely expensive glass of wine and not enjoy it.  I just want people to think about trying an English wine. It doesn’t have to be ours. I just want them to try it from their local region.

 

Is there a wine you used to love but have drifted away from?

It would have to be a Sauvignon because I was hooked on New Zealand wines and I just fell into that trap of it’s what I know. Now I’d really rather try is one glass of a really different wine that I've not tried such as a nice buttery one that I wouldn't have at home because I drink our Bacchus. It is quite nice to go out and have something different but I find pubs a tricky one whereas friend’s houses are interesting. People are sometimes nervous about offering us wine because they sort of think oh no it's not your wine or if they come to supper back they wouldn’t bring wine, we’ve brought you chocolates and we have to tell them that we do drink other wines and we’re happy to try them. We’ve got some friends who are brave and make a real effort to bring something they think you haven't heard of an will try.

 

What is your guilty pleasure?

I'm trying to get into triathlons. I started off a bit of mindfulness at the beginning of Covid, you know with the four children at home.  I’ve now started jogging and I'm thinking I'm going down that route. I've got my work balance, I've got my family, I'm very happy. We eat nice food, drink lovely wines, we meet people through our job and with the kids at school it’s actually finding the ‘me’ time. I'm not a shopper, I don’t buy loads of a stuff. I just Like getting fit.

You’re a boutique vineyard. Is it your ambition to stay like that or grow?

it would be good to grow is just finding the right balance because we don't want to lose our personality from it and I think if you grow too quickly that can happen so just needs to be managed. I think we've done quite well to build the brand we've got at the moment with loyal followers. We were interviewed last week for ITV and we're going to be on a programme so that will inevitably bring new customers and grow it but I think as long as Angus and I and the children are involved, which I think we will given the history of the farm. I think it's important to keep that and retain the quality and integrity of it. yes we obviously like to grow but I can't see us being sort of a huge Nyetimber. It's a different model and they’ve done amazingly well. It's just not for us.

 

Do you think that as the demand comes for wines the demands on your land will become a real problem?

Yes. Where the vineyard we could extend all the way across and it just depends on farming at the moment. We're in a joint venture with two other farms so we pull our machinery and our staff and it's a really good model that works. We've got the option and that was the point in diversifying and hopefully this becoming a wedding venue that we're going to launch now in September, that will add a different dimension and again the fact that we're only serving our wines plays a big part in that because we want people to buy into us. We don’t just want to be a sort of a venue without a personality.

When you do the wedding will there be a way for people to buy your wines on the day?

It depends the bride and groom well the wedding world is different and you have to be careful rather too salesy because it's someone's big day so you have to tread carefully yes they'll be drinking our wines, but what we found is it is a lot of local people wanting to get married so they've tried our wines and come to an open day, and they've gone ‘Oh my God yeah I do want to get married here’ and we quite like that because we know them. so I do the face to face tours. A lot of them funny enough are wine drinkers and happy to help promote that and enjoy it because I think they buy into the fact that they can get married in the vineyard and have their photos there. everyone milling around there and comes back and enjoys the wine that is grown here, and that story plays a huge part and get it comes back to the experience. it's more than just a wedding and people drinking wine, it's wow get what this family trying to do.

When you do the wedding will there be a way for people to buy your wines on the day?

It depends the bride and groom well the wedding world is different and you have to be careful rather too salesy because it's someone's big day so you have to tread carefully yes they'll be drinking our wines, but what we found is it is a lot of local people wanting to get married so they've tried our wines and come to an open day, and they've gone ‘Oh my God yeah I do want to get married here’ and we quite like that because we know them. so I do the face to face tours. A lot of them funny enough are wine drinkers and happy to help promote that and enjoy it because I think they buy into the fact that they can get married in the vineyard and have their photos there. everyone milling around there and comes back and enjoys the wine that is grown here, and that story plays a huge part and get it comes back to the experience. it's more than just a wedding and people drinking wine, it's wow get what this family trying to do.

 

What disappoints you about the average wine consumer and how would you change them?

It disappoints me that people think they're not going to like something,  which is exactly coming back to the medals and the wins, and that sort of reassures them if they're on the cusp of trying it that just tips them. We’re doing more and more tastings and that's Angus’ and my job is to try and educate these people and to get them to just try that's all we want. t99% of the time they’ll enjoy it, especially with the cuvee people always pleasantly surprised cause I think some champagnes are caused quite strong and heavy you don't always want that yes there is a place for it but actually try the fizz. We serve it at various events and people don't know what it is but they know if they're enjoying it. it's always quite interesting to get a reaction.

 

Do you get anybody who thinks he's French?

Yes loads, yeah all the time and then then they are quite shocked it’s English but then what I want them to realise this how available it is and if they keep asking at the local pub then maybe there pub will get English wines in, or at the restaurant. we all just need to work together and get it in these places it's quite hard doing it when it's just you as the vineyard. We need people to know that it's readily available to other places, so it's sort of building it overtime.

At the beginning when Angus mentioned to our friends about planting vineyard everyone said he was mad, and this was 10/12 years ago to which Angus loves a challenge and thrives on that attitude.

 

Did the local community rally round?

Yes but when we produce wine it takes 4 years and people think that wow, that's a huge investment, and now we get many calls from people asking if we  going come and advise about planting a  vineyard.

Could you have done it without the help of a management company?

We had help from the East Anglian vineyard Association. which usually I became the secretary there and it was just such a pleasant surprise that everyone wanted to help us rather than be closed books and competitive, that's what was so lovely, so we had help from Jane Mohan West Street vineyard and she knows Toppesfield we’ve all gone down the path together, sometimes shared equipment and it was just such a pleasant surprise. At Gifford’s Hall Linda and Guy were amazing. Linda is so friendly and incredibly knowledgeable and supportive, and so actually working together and then you see each other awards and we've got to just open days, it's just so lovely to see the support and that was a real eye opener to me. I thought people would be a bit more closed about it but we managed to pool knowledge and learn from each other.  

 

What was the last thing that made you really laugh?

My girls nights. There are eight of us. We’re all mums and that’s our common link, with very different businesses and every six weeks we get together and we really belly laugh. It’s not about children, it’s not about work. It’s just utter nonsense and we come away crying and they’re the best nights.

 

What is the best view in your vineyard?

My wedding gazebo. You see all the neat rows. I'm quite a neat person and it's just the landscape. There is a second view actually that I love is in the middle of the vineyard at the top end looking down, just the way sweep some rolls. We’re forever taking photos of that one.

 

if you have to pair your personality with the wine what would it be?

bubbles for sure.  Something sparkly and bubbly. It wouldn’t be a hugely strong flavour so it would be something quite light but very bubbly.

 

Do you think that your wines will have the ability to age?

I think they will age better the longer we produce. it comes down to hours of daylight and sunshine, which is working in our favour. I think the longer time goes on the better they will age.

 

Have you strategy for the vineyard changed?

we hadn’t envisaged the wines selling out so quickly, hence planting more pinot noir so I've planted an additional 3000 once and another 3000 because of that demand, so we’re wondering whether we develop additional product and do blends, which is an option, but at the moment Bacchus is doing so well on its own as a variety in East Anglia, and we do tend to be winning all the golds against our competitors which is really important. At the moment what we've got we seem to be doing well with so let's stick it for awhile. we have developed our two gins. We’ve got sloes from the farm going into gin, and then we’re reusing the grape skins from the Bacchus for the grape gin which people are loving and that’s quite exciting, but I think it's too easy to have grand plans but actually you’ve got to do what you do and do it well. that's more important

 

so you’re still finding your feet?

again it just goes back to the quality. we want to do it right, and I think at the moment we have and we've got a lot on, so keep doing what we're doing right.

 

which skill do you wish you possessed?

I wish I was better at public speaking. Angus is extremely good with groups of people and very knowledgeable. He’s got the right personality, injects a bit of humour and I admire that hugely in him, but that's why we work as a team.

 

Where does your Pod come from?

my name is Catherine and it's a nickname.

 

you've not been in the wine game long, but have there been moments when you’ve wanted to get out?

no it's been so exciting. It’s really fun. bad and it just keeps getting better.

 

You don’t want to export abroad at the moment?

we're looking into it because we are obviously have planted more, but there's such demand here that we're not we're not going to say no.

 

Do you think that the changing aspects of Britain trading relationship make it difficult when you want to start?

It will definitely make trading relationships harder, but the flipside of that is, as a country we're looking out for each other better or hope to, but already what I've seen during this pandemic has worked in our favour. people here are supporting rather than relying on exports. I think that there's a balance and sometimes people go too far down the export route. once you re in sure it's great but it depends on your business model.

 

What is the one thing that would make life in the vineyard easier for you?

predictable weather. We had a lot of frost damage this year, in May. We suffered about 4 to 5% damage whereas our competitors had 20 to 50% damaged, because we had three late May frosts compared to normal after Bud burst. Then the wind. It’s always windy here and we’ve got  wind breaks. Then there’s full on rain when you’re trying to mow, especially when you’ve got tours and tastings, cause it needs to look nice. I got three tours and tastings tomorrow and we’ve just spent weeks, even the children have been helping Angus tuck in the vines and 24 hours with this weather it’s wild again. So the weather makes it so hard sometimes. Farmers are getting such a tough deal these days but it's benefiting the vineyard.

 

In these times, how are you managing for labour?

we try to use as many local people as possible, so we've had the level cricket team. It’s all by hand  so it's quite backbreaking, and we end up using a team of Romania’s that go around we know them really well. it's hugely Labour intensive but then that all goes into appreciating the drink later, so that's why with our tours we welcome them to the barn, give them a bit of history, walk them round the vineyard, encourage questions because we just want to help and share. Then come back and sample the wine and then it really makes him understand the wine a bit better.

 

There’s a lot of synergy between the history and the product. Can the average wine understand the terroir in what they’re drinking?

some can definitely, especially if they've enjoyed English wine before, but people definitely love to hear the history and understand, and we think this is an incredible initiative that we have embarked upon. it's important that people understand why you do something and they want to know bit about it and the fact that a wine named after the girls. when they meet the girls it just connects them a bit more and they just feel more. With our open days people come and we call them friends. we want to know he's drinking our wines.

 

What is your favourite genre of music?

I quite like pop and on the quiet side I quite like my classical music. There are certain genres of  music that help your state of mind, for example when everything's been hectic with the children and I've got a lot going on in my head with the businesses, I either have silent or Classic FM, and when my heads not was so fuzzy and muddled we have kitchen discos all the time with pop music. Our girls are musical, so I I'm trying to expose them to as many genres as possible of which you realise you’re the only one in the kitchen dancing, but I think it's important to have a broader knowledge. as I grew up listening to my mum listen to Radio 2 which is fine, but it was the same songs all the time, but I think they're different genres of music for different times.

 

Of which award are you the most proud?

Best family run business. we were up against our friends who are mersea oyster, they come to our events here and hopefully they're getting married here, and we're at the table and they I think they came second and they were so kind…

 

Were they gracious?

They were so very gracious and then two weeks later they were coming to do and event and we had such banter, but it was great. That's because it's it was about our personality, not just the quality of the wines. I'm not being remotely arrogant because that’s our goal but this was somehow felt it was all six of us.

 

are wine writers a necessary evil?

I don’t think evil, definitely necessary. I think it's better to have a range of opinions, because people also need a bit of guidance. consumers but also we as vineyards need support, and I think it helps everyone. why shy away from stuff hit head on and learn.

 

Is there one question you wish I’d have asked you and how would you answer it?

Would you like a free trip to a winery with you and Angus and I’d say yes

 

 

What disappoints you about the average wine consumer and how would you change them?

It disappoints me that people think they're not going to like something,  which is exactly coming back to the medals and the wins, and that sort of reassures them if they're on the cusp of trying it that just tips them. We’re doing more and more tastings and that's Angus’ and my job is to try and educate these people and to get them to just try that's all we want. t99% of the time they’ll enjoy it, especially with the cuvee people always pleasantly surprised cause I think some champagnes are caused quite strong and heavy you don't always want that yes there is a place for it but actually try the fizz. We serve it at various events and people don't know what it is but they know if they're enjoying it. it's always quite interesting to get a reaction.

 

Do you get anybody who thinks he's French?

Yes loads, yeah all the time and then then they are quite shocked it’s English but then what I want them to realise this how available it is and if they keep asking at the local pub then maybe there pub will get English wines in, or at the restaurant. we all just need to work together and get it in these places it's quite hard doing it when it's just you as the vineyard. We need people to know that it's readily available to other places, so it's sort of building it overtime.

At the beginning when Angus mentioned to our friends about planting vineyard everyone said he was mad, and this was 10/12 years ago to which Angus loves a challenge and thrives on that attitude.

Did the local community rally round?

Yes but when we produce wine it takes 4 years and people think that wow, that's a huge investment, and now we get many calls from people asking if we  going come and advise about planting a  vineyard.

Could you have done it without the help of a management company?

We had help from the East Anglian vineyard Association. which usually I became the secretary there and it was just such a pleasant surprise that everyone wanted to help us rather than be closed books and competitive, that's what was so lovely, so we had help from Jane Mohan West Street vineyard and she knows Toppesfield we’ve all gone down the path together, sometimes shared equipment and it was just such a pleasant surprise. At Gifford’s Hall Linda and Guy were amazing. Linda is so friendly and incredibly knowledgeable and supportive, and so actually working together and then you see each other awards and we've got to just open days, it's just so lovely to see the support and that was a real eye opener to me. I thought people would be a bit more closed about it but we managed to pool knowledge and learn from each other.  

 

What was the last thing that made you really laugh?

My girls nights. There are eight of us. We’re all mums and that’s our common link, with very different businesses and every six weeks we get together and we really belly laugh. It’s not about children, it’s not about work. It’s just utter nonsense and we come away crying and they’re the best nights.

What is the best view in your vineyard?

My wedding gazebo. You see all the neat rows. I'm quite a neat person and it's just the landscape. There is a second view actually that I love is in the middle of the vineyard at the top end looking down, just the way sweep some rolls. We’re forever taking photos of that one.

 

if you have to pair your personality with the wine what would it be?

bubbles for sure.  Something sparkly and bubbly. It wouldn’t be a hugely strong flavour so it would be something quite light but very bubbly.

 

Do you think that your wines will have the ability to age?

I think they will age better the longer we produce. it comes down to hours of daylight and sunshine, which is working in our favour. I think the longer time goes on the better they will age.

Have you strategy for the vineyard changed?

we hadn’t envisaged the wines selling out so quickly, hence planting more pinot noir so I've planted an additional 3000 once and another 3000 because of that demand, so we’re wondering whether we develop additional product and do blends, which is an option, but at the moment Bacchus is doing so well on its own as a variety in East Anglia, and we do tend to be winning all the golds against our competitors which is really important. At the moment what we've got we seem to be doing well with so let's stick it for awhile. we have developed our two gins. We’ve got sloes from the farm going into gin, and then we’re reusing the grape skins from the Bacchus for the grape gin which people are loving and that’s quite exciting, but I think it's too easy to have grand plans but actually you’ve got to do what you do and do it well. that's more important

 

so you’re still finding your feet?

again it just goes back to the quality. we want to do it right, and I think at the moment we have and we've got a lot on, so keep doing what we're doing right.

which skill do you wish you possessed?

I wish I was better at public speaking. Angus is extremely good with groups of people and very knowledgeable. He’s got the right personality, injects a bit of humour and I admire that hugely in him, but that's why we work as a team.

 

Where does your Pod come from?

my name is Catherine and it's a nickname.

 

you've not been in the wine game long, but have there been moments when you’ve wanted to get out?

no it's been so exciting. It’s really fun. bad and it just keeps getting better.

 

You don’t want to export abroad at the moment?

we're looking into it because we are obviously have planted more, but there's such demand here that we're not we're not going to say no.

 

Do you think that the changing aspects of Britain trading relationship make it difficult when you want to start?

It will definitely make trading relationships harder, but the flipside of that is, as a country we're looking out for each other better or hope to, but already what I've seen during this pandemic has worked in our favour. people here are supporting rather than relying on exports. I think that there's a balance and sometimes people go too far down the export route. once you re in sure it's great but it depends on your business model.

 

What is the one thing that would make life in the vineyard easier for you?

predictable weather. We had a lot of frost damage this year, in May. We suffered about 4 to 5% damage whereas our competitors had 20 to 50% damaged, because we had three late May frosts compared to normal after Bud burst. Then the wind. It’s always windy here and we’ve got  wind breaks. Then there’s full on rain when you’re trying to mow, especially when you’ve got tours and tastings, cause it needs to look nice. I got three tours and tastings tomorrow and we’ve just spent weeks, even the children have been helping Angus tuck in the vines and 24 hours with this weather it’s wild again. So the weather makes it so hard sometimes. Farmers are getting such a tough deal these days but it's benefiting the vineyard.

In these times, how are you managing for labour?

we try to use as many local people as possible, so we've had the level cricket team. It’s all by hand  so it's quite backbreaking, and we end up using a team of Romania’s that go around we know them really well. it's hugely Labour intensive but then that all goes into appreciating the drink later, so that's why with our tours we welcome them to the barn, give them a bit of history, walk them round the vineyard, encourage questions because we just want to help and share. Then come back and sample the wine and then it really makes him understand the wine a bit better.

 

There’s a lot of synergy between the history and the product. Can the average wine understand the terroir in what they’re drinking?

some can definitely, especially if they've enjoyed English wine before, but people definitely love to hear the history and understand, and we think this is an incredible initiative that we have embarked upon. it's important that people understand why you do something and they want to know bit about it and the fact that a wine named after the girls. when they meet the girls it just connects them a bit more and they just feel more. With our open days people come and we call them friends. we want to know he's drinking our wines.

 

What is your favourite genre of music?

I quite like pop and on the quiet side I quite like my classical music. There are certain genres of  music that help your state of mind, for example when everything's been hectic with the children and I've got a lot going on in my head with the businesses, I either have silent or Classic FM, and when my heads not was so fuzzy and muddled we have kitchen discos all the time with pop music. Our girls are musical, so I I'm trying to expose them to as many genres as possible of which you realise you’re the only one in the kitchen dancing, but I think it's important to have a broader knowledge. as I grew up listening to my mum listen to Radio 2 which is fine, but it was the same songs all the time, but I think they're different genres of music for different times.

 

Of which award are you the most proud?

Best family run business. we were up against our friends who are mersea oyster, they come to our events here and hopefully they're getting married here, and we're at the table and they I think they came second and they were so kind…

 

Were they gracious?

They were so very gracious and then two weeks later they were coming to do and event and we had such banter, but it was great. That's because it's it was about our personality, not just the quality of the wines. I'm not being remotely arrogant because that’s our goal but this was somehow felt it was all six of us.

 

are wine writers a necessary evil?

I don’t think evil, definitely necessary. I think it's better to have a range of opinions, because people also need a bit of guidance. consumers but also we as vineyards need support, and I think it helps everyone. why shy away from stuff hit head on and learn.

 

Is there one question you wish I’d have asked you and how would you answer it?

Would you like a free trip to a winery with you and Angus and I’d say yes