Cellar Door Visits

Visits are by prior appointment on weekdays only. Please click here for bookings and information
Felton Road
17th May

A Fruit Day

A Fruit Day

Nigel’s Harvest Blog 2024

Wednesday May 1st

Today I can celebrate the fact that my intermittent blogs now come with added colour as our new website platform allows me to include pictures. So, we’re going to kick off with a brief summary of harvest with the glamour of added pixels. This weekend will be the last and probably the toughest. Harvest is long done, see the picture of fruit, (Abel clone from Cornish Point) to get an idea of just how perfect our fruit is when it arrives at the winery.

But we are now in the middle of digging out the fermenters, a job done by hand, or more accurately by shovel to start, famously ending with spoon, but at the same time we are racking the 2023 wines for the first bottling run in just a couple of weeks’ time. So, two vintages collide. Here’s a shot of James cleaning the barrels he’s just emptied. These have been already sorted by age, and the oldest barrels have left to enjoy a quiet retirement at Cardrona Distillery, where they lend their gentle influence to both Gin and Whiskey. 

There is no question that the Pinots are looking very smart indeed. Of course, we can’t see the nuance at this stage, we’ll need to wait for the end of Malo, towards the end of the year, before that starts to emerge. But we understand the broad fruit character, the weight, the balance, the tannin, so the big factors are there to be seen. Chardonnays are happily fermenting the last sugars on their way to Dryness, and Riesling is still a few days away from the point where Blair will call a stop to the Bannockburn and lock in that harmonic between sugar and acid. 

Fog has descended this morning, which means that there will be sun just above us somewhere. Snow is staying on the mountains for now, but it will melt next warm spell we see. 

It is getting time to pull the last of the veggies from the garden, but I’ll leave beets out into the winter. We’ve actually had a great run of late tomatoes, which doesn’t happen so much here; you’d think that tomatoes would ripen well outdoors in a place that ripens Pinot so well, but tomatoes take longer than Pinot does, so they often run out of steam as the winter moves in. 

Ten kilometres of irrigation pipe arrived last week, part of the programme to continue laying underground lines to help us manage irrigation alongside regenerative farming, which is a necessary part of our carbon reduction (we don’t actually get any credit for regenerative farming under the regulations right now, but we know it works, so we’ll do it regardless and cut the carbon, whether we get the credit or not). To run an underground irrigation line down every row will be 150 kilometres of buried line, a huge task. But we have been making steady progress and we will focus first on every alternate row (so, every vine will have a source on one side). 

You can get the idea of how much it is all quietening, that I’m talking about irrigation pipe! But in the next few days bottling supplies will be ramping up until the winery will be chock full.

Tuesday 9th April

‘The gathering storm’ would not do it credit. We woke to boiling grey and black clouds, stacks of lenticular mountain clouds; the sorts pilots are terrified of. This was a ‘Close Encounters of the 3rd kind’ sort of day, something we regularly see in this wild landscape. On mountain tops we can see sheets of rain, but in the valley it is staying dry. The full squad of pickers are tearing through the last of the Pinot Noir in Block 5 and MacMuir. They are just a few hours from success. Experience tells us our luck will probably hold. There will still be Riesling out, but that can wait until the storm passes if needs be. 

It seems extraordinary how often we end harvest in this race against an incoming storm, and we nearly always succeed. Perhaps it is self-inflicted? Perhaps we deliberately tease the weather Gods by leaving fruit out when we should duck and run for cover?

Yesterday was a key moment: the first six fermenters of Pinot have gone dry and we can taste the first of the 2024 Pinots. All are from Cornish Point. This first taste is an acquired one: the wine is raw with malic acid, the tannins neither fully extracted nor fully formed, so it is a squealing angry child of a wine. But no matter; we can see the character lurking underneath the tantrum. This wine is special, that much is clear. Early Cornish Point picks have a chequered history, often the first pick is a little earlier than ideal; wait until you are at optimum to begin and you risk everything that follows getting to be too late. But these are concentrated, deep and at a lovely crest of ripeness, not too far, just on the peak. 

There isn’t some big sigh or relief; these days we probably already know if we’ve made an error. But it is a confirmation that we know how to time this so much better than a decade or so ago. And the personality of the wine matches the fruit: dense, concentrated, but not heavy. 

PLEASE oh weather Gods, don’t rain on our parade tomorrow: end of harvest lunch and celebrations are already being prepared, I’ve just being jointing chickens and roasting aubergines. If it holds until tomorrow afternoon, we’ll be harvested and celebrated. What more can we wish?

Friday 5th April

This is starting to turn into one of the vintages that really frustrate me; Blair is relaxed, letting it all happen in its own good time, but I’m no good at the waiting game. The weather stays cool, with a surprising amount of cloud, but nothing to damage the crop, just creating classic ‘hang time’, which is what we always think of as a positive. 

The first Riesling in today, from Block 2 of Elms, and a series of small Pinot picks, just nibbling at bits as they come ready. The weekend will be fine, but we don’t need to rush, then Monday is good weather, Tuesday threatens, but probably won’t deliver anything nasty. By then, we may have Pinot pretty much done, as it looks like we’ll see enough warmth over the weekend to get properly stuck into the balance on Monday.

Delicious, raw Diamonshell Clams at lunch with a venison open sandwich. We’ll do another end of day meal for the pickers this afternoon, then do the same Monday, maybe Tuesday as well. I’ll be getting tired of rattling the pans by then, but we settle down to a quieter regime of making wine rather than processing grapes. It really lifts the pressure to know it is safely in, we may live in a world of AI and cryptocurrency but the millennia old fear of the farmer with a ripe crop still in the field is a tough instinct to put aside. There are still billions of people who still rely on that annual ritual for their very survival. They are in countries that are at every stage of economic evolution but the sophistication of their society is still underpinned by the food being grown. Too many are now in a climate regime that fills their farmers with fear.

Monday April 1st

I really haven’t been sending out anything since we started picking. That’s largely because it has been one of those harvests; cool, slightly dull weather, no dramas, just quietly getting the job done. Of course, that’s exactly what we want: cool, dull weather slows up ripening, so we can pick with greater precision. We aren’t fearing some approaching apocalypse, so we can take our time, pick as we choose, and they are the conditions that please winemakers, if not photographers or amateur harvesters, (the professionals know that dull weather is better on the body as well as on the fruit). Yesterday a hunter turned up with a carnage, if that is an appropriate collective noun, of deer. Gareth’s SUV looked like something out of a Tarantino movie. So today, I snaffled a leg, weighing close on 25 Kg, before it went in the freezer. Apart from anything else this deer has not been skinned and I hate skinning meat that has been frozen. But this is a cornucopia of venison, with Bourguignonnes, Curries, Rendangs, Carpaccios, even Tartars on the menu. 

We are just a touch past halfway with the fruit: all Chardonnay is in, all Cornish Point and Calvert, and the first pick of Elms Pinot from Block 13. We could pick in four days if we had to, but we don’t, and my guess is, we won’t. Hopefully there will be enough slack in the schedule for a couple of pickers lunches: Venison, natch, but a Paella looms, especially as we have Cloudy Bay Diamonshell clams coming this week. The veg garden needs attending to with some fantastic potatoes and sweetcorn ready for harvest. That alone suggests a stuffed baked potato and roast corn lunch for everybody. 

The team are all good, both in the vineyard and the winery. Slow and steady gets it done right this year.

Tuesday March 19th

Game on…

In fact the game started yesterday, with Chardonnay from a number of the Elms Blocks: 2, 6 and 9. We’ve been watching ripening just taxiing towards its arrival, block by block, with weather cool and near perfect, and a slow steady progression that makes precision picking a lot less frenetic. A cold sky with scudding clouds reminded us there wasn’t a rush.

Blair actually called an end to picking a little early yesterday, a reflection of how relaxed and steady it all feels. But today dawned cold, bright and eager with the promise of a couple of warmer sunny days to follow, so we know that a whole tranche of the harvest is likely to shout ready in the next few days. We can also see Easter heading towards us in about ten days time and it would be good to have it all over bar the shouting by then. 

This will be the sixth consecutive harvest with no significant sign of climate derived warming. Of course, we are absolutely thrilled to be seeing this, but not for a minute do we doubt that the effects are out there and waiting to knock on the door. Right now, we’ll take the good luck while we can! Volumes are a touch down, but nothing too scary and fruit is looking picture perfect with quite thick, structural skins, an artefact of the dry weather we’ve seen for quite a time through the second half of the season. 

That dry weather has produced very healthy fruit, the only sorting is for a little bird damage and any unripe berries.

And I’m cooking for the first time in a few years as our fantastic run of luck in persuading some brilliant chefs to come onboard ran out. 

Grilled chicken with black rice and a chicken cappuccino today. Maybe Southern Indian tomorrow; still not sure. 

Nigel

Back Read more
Felton Road
17th May

A Fruit Day

A Fruit Day

Nigel’s Harvest Blog 2024

Wednesday May 1st

Today I can celebrate the fact that my intermittent blogs now come with added colour as our new website platform allows me to include pictures. So, we’re going to kick off with a brief summary of harvest with the glamour of added pixels. This weekend will be the last and probably the toughest. Harvest is long done, see the picture of fruit, (Abel clone from Cornish Point) to get an idea of just how perfect our fruit is when it arrives at the winery.

But we are now in the middle of digging out the fermenters, a job done by hand, or more accurately by shovel to start, famously ending with spoon, but at the same time we are racking the 2023 wines for the first bottling run in just a couple of weeks’ time. So, two vintages collide. Here’s a shot of James cleaning the barrels he’s just emptied. These have been already sorted by age, and the oldest barrels have left to enjoy a quiet retirement at Cardrona Distillery, where they lend their gentle influence to both Gin and Whiskey. 

There is no question that the Pinots are looking very smart indeed. Of course, we can’t see the nuance at this stage, we’ll need to wait for the end of Malo, towards the end of the year, before that starts to emerge. But we understand the broad fruit character, the weight, the balance, the tannin, so the big factors are there to be seen. Chardonnays are happily fermenting the last sugars on their way to Dryness, and Riesling is still a few days away from the point where Blair will call a stop to the Bannockburn and lock in that harmonic between sugar and acid. 

Fog has descended this morning, which means that there will be sun just above us somewhere. Snow is staying on the mountains for now, but it will melt next warm spell we see. 

It is getting time to pull the last of the veggies from the garden, but I’ll leave beets out into the winter. We’ve actually had a great run of late tomatoes, which doesn’t happen so much here; you’d think that tomatoes would ripen well outdoors in a place that ripens Pinot so well, but tomatoes take longer than Pinot does, so they often run out of steam as the winter moves in. 

Ten kilometres of irrigation pipe arrived last week, part of the programme to continue laying underground lines to help us manage irrigation alongside regenerative farming, which is a necessary part of our carbon reduction (we don’t actually get any credit for regenerative farming under the regulations right now, but we know it works, so we’ll do it regardless and cut the carbon, whether we get the credit or not). To run an underground irrigation line down every row will be 150 kilometres of buried line, a huge task. But we have been making steady progress and we will focus first on every alternate row (so, every vine will have a source on one side). 

You can get the idea of how much it is all quietening, that I’m talking about irrigation pipe! But in the next few days bottling supplies will be ramping up until the winery will be chock full.

Tuesday 9th April

‘The gathering storm’ would not do it credit. We woke to boiling grey and black clouds, stacks of lenticular mountain clouds; the sorts pilots are terrified of. This was a ‘Close Encounters of the 3rd kind’ sort of day, something we regularly see in this wild landscape. On mountain tops we can see sheets of rain, but in the valley it is staying dry. The full squad of pickers are tearing through the last of the Pinot Noir in Block 5 and MacMuir. They are just a few hours from success. Experience tells us our luck will probably hold. There will still be Riesling out, but that can wait until the storm passes if needs be. 

It seems extraordinary how often we end harvest in this race against an incoming storm, and we nearly always succeed. Perhaps it is self-inflicted? Perhaps we deliberately tease the weather Gods by leaving fruit out when we should duck and run for cover?

Yesterday was a key moment: the first six fermenters of Pinot have gone dry and we can taste the first of the 2024 Pinots. All are from Cornish Point. This first taste is an acquired one: the wine is raw with malic acid, the tannins neither fully extracted nor fully formed, so it is a squealing angry child of a wine. But no matter; we can see the character lurking underneath the tantrum. This wine is special, that much is clear. Early Cornish Point picks have a chequered history, often the first pick is a little earlier than ideal; wait until you are at optimum to begin and you risk everything that follows getting to be too late. But these are concentrated, deep and at a lovely crest of ripeness, not too far, just on the peak. 

There isn’t some big sigh or relief; these days we probably already know if we’ve made an error. But it is a confirmation that we know how to time this so much better than a decade or so ago. And the personality of the wine matches the fruit: dense, concentrated, but not heavy. 

PLEASE oh weather Gods, don’t rain on our parade tomorrow: end of harvest lunch and celebrations are already being prepared, I’ve just being jointing chickens and roasting aubergines. If it holds until tomorrow afternoon, we’ll be harvested and celebrated. What more can we wish?

Friday 5th April

This is starting to turn into one of the vintages that really frustrate me; Blair is relaxed, letting it all happen in its own good time, but I’m no good at the waiting game. The weather stays cool, with a surprising amount of cloud, but nothing to damage the crop, just creating classic ‘hang time’, which is what we always think of as a positive. 

The first Riesling in today, from Block 2 of Elms, and a series of small Pinot picks, just nibbling at bits as they come ready. The weekend will be fine, but we don’t need to rush, then Monday is good weather, Tuesday threatens, but probably won’t deliver anything nasty. By then, we may have Pinot pretty much done, as it looks like we’ll see enough warmth over the weekend to get properly stuck into the balance on Monday.

Delicious, raw Diamonshell Clams at lunch with a venison open sandwich. We’ll do another end of day meal for the pickers this afternoon, then do the same Monday, maybe Tuesday as well. I’ll be getting tired of rattling the pans by then, but we settle down to a quieter regime of making wine rather than processing grapes. It really lifts the pressure to know it is safely in, we may live in a world of AI and cryptocurrency but the millennia old fear of the farmer with a ripe crop still in the field is a tough instinct to put aside. There are still billions of people who still rely on that annual ritual for their very survival. They are in countries that are at every stage of economic evolution but the sophistication of their society is still underpinned by the food being grown. Too many are now in a climate regime that fills their farmers with fear.

Monday April 1st

I really haven’t been sending out anything since we started picking. That’s largely because it has been one of those harvests; cool, slightly dull weather, no dramas, just quietly getting the job done. Of course, that’s exactly what we want: cool, dull weather slows up ripening, so we can pick with greater precision. We aren’t fearing some approaching apocalypse, so we can take our time, pick as we choose, and they are the conditions that please winemakers, if not photographers or amateur harvesters, (the professionals know that dull weather is better on the body as well as on the fruit). Yesterday a hunter turned up with a carnage, if that is an appropriate collective noun, of deer. Gareth’s SUV looked like something out of a Tarantino movie. So today, I snaffled a leg, weighing close on 25 Kg, before it went in the freezer. Apart from anything else this deer has not been skinned and I hate skinning meat that has been frozen. But this is a cornucopia of venison, with Bourguignonnes, Curries, Rendangs, Carpaccios, even Tartars on the menu. 

We are just a touch past halfway with the fruit: all Chardonnay is in, all Cornish Point and Calvert, and the first pick of Elms Pinot from Block 13. We could pick in four days if we had to, but we don’t, and my guess is, we won’t. Hopefully there will be enough slack in the schedule for a couple of pickers lunches: Venison, natch, but a Paella looms, especially as we have Cloudy Bay Diamonshell clams coming this week. The veg garden needs attending to with some fantastic potatoes and sweetcorn ready for harvest. That alone suggests a stuffed baked potato and roast corn lunch for everybody. 

The team are all good, both in the vineyard and the winery. Slow and steady gets it done right this year.

Tuesday March 19th

Game on…

In fact the game started yesterday, with Chardonnay from a number of the Elms Blocks: 2, 6 and 9. We’ve been watching ripening just taxiing towards its arrival, block by block, with weather cool and near perfect, and a slow steady progression that makes precision picking a lot less frenetic. A cold sky with scudding clouds reminded us there wasn’t a rush.

Blair actually called an end to picking a little early yesterday, a reflection of how relaxed and steady it all feels. But today dawned cold, bright and eager with the promise of a couple of warmer sunny days to follow, so we know that a whole tranche of the harvest is likely to shout ready in the next few days. We can also see Easter heading towards us in about ten days time and it would be good to have it all over bar the shouting by then. 

This will be the sixth consecutive harvest with no significant sign of climate derived warming. Of course, we are absolutely thrilled to be seeing this, but not for a minute do we doubt that the effects are out there and waiting to knock on the door. Right now, we’ll take the good luck while we can! Volumes are a touch down, but nothing too scary and fruit is looking picture perfect with quite thick, structural skins, an artefact of the dry weather we’ve seen for quite a time through the second half of the season. 

That dry weather has produced very healthy fruit, the only sorting is for a little bird damage and any unripe berries.

And I’m cooking for the first time in a few years as our fantastic run of luck in persuading some brilliant chefs to come onboard ran out. 

Grilled chicken with black rice and a chicken cappuccino today. Maybe Southern Indian tomorrow; still not sure. 

Nigel

Back Read more