If there is one thing I have learnt over the past four and a half years, it is that we are on a steep learning curve in so many ways! Not only with the world of wine and creating the perfect Sussex Sparkling but in relation to starting a business, taking on a staff (now 19), opening a shop, understanding PR and branding, designing websites, fitting out Flint Barns (recently described by Sawdays as a ‘poshtel’!) but I have also learnt more than I want to about planning applications, bats and waste water treatment plants!
We’ve had a really busy time in the Gun Room preparing for Christmas and re-arranging the layout. Regular visitors will notice that we now have two new, dedicated sections on the Estate Tours and the Flint Barns and they’ll also notice the brand new stock.
Come and see for yourself!
We’ve having an ‘Open House’ on Sunday, 7th December, 10.00 am until 4.00pm, where you can enjoy a glass of English Sparkling Wine as you browse and take advantage of the 10% discount that we’re offering. In particular, look out for
- Estate Tour Vouchers – perfect for those people in your life that you always struggle to know what to buy.
“ The whole experience was uplifting, informative and motivational”
- You can buy a voucher in a beautiful presentation box for either a Winemaker’s Lunch or an Estate Tea Tour. As part of a small group (maximum 16) the Tour includes a walk through the vineyard where our experts will talk not only about Rathfinny and our vines but also about the land and the wildlife on our part of the South Downs. See our brand new presses and shiny stainless steel tanks and learn about the process of making Sussex Sparkling wine before having a super lunch or tea in our new Tasting Room. This really is an exclusive offer; whilst there are footpaths across the land there is no other way to see the vines up close or the Winery and Tasting Room.
- Winemakers Lunch Tour £55 per person and Afternoon Tea Tour £35 per person. If you come along on the 7th December and purchase vouchers you will receive 10% discount. http://rathfinnyestate.com/visit/tours/ Alternatively if you can’t come and see us you can book vouchers online (discount only applies in store)
- Flint Barns our “home from home” is nearly open- come and chat with us about how you can come and stay in the Flint Barns. Our website goes live in the New Year.
- Our section aimed at the man in your life – gifts he will really appreciate this Christmas – cufflinks, cocktail bar (!) and much more
- Delicious treats, luxury chocolates, slow baked Dottato Figs, Grape Nectar, Ouse Valley jams and chutneys. We’ll happily make up hampers at no extra charge.
- Our books on wine – there’s something for everyone from World Atlas of Wine to Wine Makes Mummy Clever!
- Brand new range Noble Isle is a high-performing bath and body range that uses the finest fragrance and natural extracts, and the best of British design, to create a lasting sensory impression.
- For the woman in your life – try our luxury Caudalie range. All the ingredients come from grapes, vines, leaves and seeds and are transformed into these luxurious, premium products. Hand crafted pots, prints by local artists, a warm blanket to snuggle up in front of the fire with – the list goes on – you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!
Sarah Driver – shop dresser extraordinare
For those of you who regularly read our blog, you may have noticed a distinct absence of news from me. It is not because I have been doing nothing, but rather that I have been doing a lot and I am shamelessly hijacking our Rathfinny blog to tell you about it!
Many of you will know that I have been actively involved in the world of dyslexia for many years now, that our Trust is part of the national Dyslexia SpLD Trust and that I have lobbied hard to change the way teachers are trained in this country. It is estimated that 10% of the population are dyslexic, that’s 3 children on average in every class.
The Fish in the Tree report http://driveryouthtrust.com/index.php/reports/ that we published last year, showed that 74% of teachers didn’t feel that they’d been trained with the skills necessary to teach those with dyslexia, yet 84% thought it was important that they had this training.
The problem isn’t just about dyslexia – it’s about teachers having the skills to teach any child who struggles with literacy. The national statistics show we have a problem:
- 1 in 4 children fail to master the basics of writing in primary school.
- 1 in 9 children fail to master the basics of reading in primary school.
- A third of pupils did not reach a grade C in English GCSE last year.
- We have 6 million functionally illiterate adults in the UK, unable to read a tin of baked beans!
Over the past 5 years I’ve been working with Ark schools to put in place a literacy programme that addresses this. It’s called Drive for Literacy. None of it is rocket science but what makes it different is that it addresses the problem from a whole school perspective, from senior leadership recognising the need for their teachers to understand that some children have literacy problems like dyslexia and that there is merit in addressing this. Teachers are trained, children are screened, interventions are put in place and parents are consulted. So far, it’s had really encouraging results, with these children with a SEN (special educational need) achieving almost as well as other children without issues do nationally on their phonics test, and over twice as well as other children with SEN in our country.
Today, we’ve launched a website www.driveforliteracy.co.uk that details Drive for Literacy and offers easy to access, free resources for teachers, parents and dyslexic pupils. There’s a series of short films, the most poignant I think is ‘What it feels like to be dyslexic’ – and you may recognise some of the participants!!
Why am I telling you this? I need your help to spread the word to schools and teachers you know, parents of dyslexics and other dyslexics.
Join the campaign:
The Trust is encouraging everyone to support the campaign:
· Tweet using the hashtag #YouKnowADyslexic – take a picture!
· Follow @DriverTrust on twitter
· Download free resources from www.driveforliteracy.co.uk
Tell all your friends and especially any teachers and parents with children with dyslexia about this free resource.
The builders have gone, the kitchen’s complete, the beds have been made, the furniture’s gradually filling the rooms and we have had our first visitors. All so exciting!
The Flint Barns truly are a ‘home away from home’ – so much so, that I want to move in! Ade, Georgia and I have worked really hard at sticking to our core Rathfinny values whilst fitting out the building that can sleep 46 people. That means we’ve ensured that everything from the fittings and fixtures, the bedding and the décor speak of quality and attention to detail. We are not talking about a 5 star hotel here; these are converted barns for seasonal workers at certain times of the year after all. However we are talking about a place where you can walk the South Downs, amble around Alfriston village and then curl up with a book in front of a fire, play cards, eat simple, home cooked, locally sourced food and sleep in a comfortable bed.
We have 10 rooms, which house a combination of bunk, single and double beds. It’s ideal for walkers, families (perfect to take away the whole extended family!) and groups of friends. Our nephew is getting married in the courtyard next year, hay bales and all, and we’re already getting enquiries. It’s also perfect for educational visits, with so much to do in the area from geography in the Cuckmere Valley, history with visits to Hastings and locally, arts and culture with Charlston and the Towner Gallery nearby. We’re also looking at running writing retreats and other special interest weeks and weekends.
So if you’re interested, do contact Adrian at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been another lovely week at Rathfinny with the sun shining high in the sky. We are thrilled to have been awarded our first award, the Sussex Heritage Award – design for the future, respect for the past – for our Gun Room. Congratulations are especially due to Martin Swatton and Anthony Sherwin who worked collaboratively to create the fine building we now have on the Tye. Do come along as see what we have to offer in the shop, where we’re now doing delicious take away coffees, and what is on show upstairs in the Heritage Centre.
On another note, (literally!) Emily and I have been planning our programme for next year’s concerts with London Conchord Ensemble. Make a note in your diaries now of the date – June 12th – 14th 2015 – as tickets will go fast. Every session will be completely different from the opening night on the Friday through to the Gala evening on the Saturday, interspersed with a morning coffee concert, an educational session, a piano recital and much, much more. Watch this space!
Talking of events you can now book our Estate Tours online. Here’s an extract from a satisfied customer who went on one of our Tea Tours,
“thank you for the brilliant time we had at Rathfinny’s last Saturday. The whole experience was uplifting, informative and motivational. We enjoyed the first class tea and thank you for sharing Mr and Mrs Drivers awe inspiring vision/reality with us.”
Thank you for those kind words.
Finally, I was given a card the other day with the words that I have seen before, but which always make me smile! I shall have to start working on my quote for our Sussex Sparkling!
“I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with if if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” Lily Bollinger
Just a very quick blog in what is already shaping up to be a busy week. I’ll say nothing about Mark reaching his 50th birthday – but suffice it to say that I shall be happy when he finally joins me in the same decade of age!
We are really excited about our concert on Wednesday when the London Conchord Ensemble play at Rathfinny [ http://www.rathfinnyestate.com/events/ ]. We still have a few tickets left but they are selling fast. Booking taken at the Gun Room!
If you missed it, you can catch it on iPlayer http://bbc.in/1p5nJNN and hear what they had to say and play. Described as an Ensemble “Supergroup” because of the distinction of each and every one of the players, they discussed their new association with the Rathfinny Wine Estate.
Unfortunately when asked about whose idea it had been to team up, Emily Pailthorpe of the oboe had to confess how it came about. Emily and I have a ‘guilty secret’ that goes back more than 10 years. We love quilting and met years ago at a local quilting group where we lowered the average age to about 75! The peace of sewing was complimented by the wonderful older ladies who shared their wisdom of the world and somehow put the stresses of being young mums into context. Emily and I have continued to quilt, snatching stolen hours when we can, just to pause and reflect and enjoy each other’s company.
Emily has watched Rathfinny develop as I have watched the London Conchord Ensemble grow in stature over the years, culminating in their performance at the Proms last year. When I talked about Rathfinny being more than just a vineyard, where culture, music and art have space and where we share our journey with others, especially children, Emily knew what I meant. The Ensemble had been looking for somewhere to call their home and so, what started as a gentle friendship, has developed into a really exciting partnership.
I do hope you will be able to join us on Wednesday, but if not, put the weekend date in your diary for next year – 12th – 14th June 2015.
Sarah Driver – Secret Quilter
I am so excited about our latest venture at Rathfinny. I have always seen a real link between wine and the arts and am therefore delighted to announce that the London ‘supergroup,’ London Conchord Ensemble, http://www.conchord.co.uk have agreed to become our resident chamber ensemble.
For their debut here, we are presenting an exciting Gala evening of sparkling wine and music, in our brand new Winery set in the heart of the vineyard, the full details of which you’ll find here – http://www.rathfinnyestate.com/events/
I have worked closely with world famous oboist, Emily Pailthorpe, to put this all together. We went to see her great friends, David and Mary Bowerman, who have established one of Britain’s most prestigious chamber music venues and recording hall, Champs Hill. Mary was a wealth of advice and knowledge and kindly treated us to lunch. We were invited to sit in on part of an afternoon recording session, surrounded by exquisite art, and it brought home to me how magical live classical music can be. Mark, Emily and I completed our concert hall tour by visiting Douglas and Miranda Patterson who put on concerts at Cranbourne Farm and they too, were so helpful. Both visits opened our eyes to what was possible at Rathfinny.
The thought of being able to host world-class music in our Winery was tantalising but we still didn’t know if the acoustics would work. So it was with some nervousness that we stood back and waited as Emily unpacked her oboe, stood in front of the picture window overlooking the vines and then began to play. I can only describe the effect of her music floating to the high winery roof as spine tingling. We are in for a real treat when she plays here as part of the London Concord Ensemble. There was a collective “Hurrah!” to the Winery’s beautiful acoustics!
Looking ahead, the plan is for Conchord to present a weekend festival of chamber music every June. Ideas are already afoot for celebrating famous local composers, wine themed programmes, a collaboration to commemorate the ties between Bloomsbury and music, educational workshops for the young and also guest performances by some of classical music’s most dynamic stars. Watch this space for a full programme soon.
In the meantime, we really look forward to seeing you at our first major event – come and be part of it and enjoy a a feast of chamber music whilst you sup a class of English sparkling wine, standing on the balcony of our brand new Winery, on the 11th June.
We have had the most wonderful weather over the last few days – long may it last! Sunny, warm, blossom on the cherry trees and no mud – truly gorgeous. Our local farmer is now concerned that we’ve had our rain for the year! In the vineyard the pruning has finished, the buds are starting to swell and Cameron is telling me we may have an early bud burst this year. There is a sense of excitement around the place that is all to the good.
What have I been up to? Well, the most exciting thing has been that Georgia and I took our WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 – and passed, with distinction!! (I think I even got a higher grade than Mark, though he responds with ‘a little knowledge can be dangerous Sarah!’)
Anyway, as I’ve long wanted to do, I want to write an easy explanation of tasting and enjoying wine, which I have to confess I am starting to learn to do. I never thought I would be the one to swill a glass and say “mmmm, spicy, black fruit with hints of pepper!”
Here goes ….. (for the experienced among you, just skip this bit)
Approach your tasting as you would a glass of wine – no, not a grab and gulp but with your
EYES – is it clear or hazy?
How intense is it – pale or deep?
What colour is it? If it’s white, is it lemon or amber. For red, purple or ruby? Hold it, slightly tilted, above a sheet of white paper and see the difference.
NOSE – does it have an intense smell and what can you smell?
Clue – at first I didn’t notice much, but after you’ve tasted a chardonnay a few times and everyone says oak, you’ll start to notice it, especially if you put it next to a un-oaked one, which is currently becoming more popular. You may start to think lemons and limes or mango and pineapple, depending upon where the chardonnay came from. Mark says go to a supermarket and literally smell the fruit.
Clue 2 – hotter climates produce more tropical flavours – just relate it to what you would find on your holidays. If you’re in northern France, it’s more apples, whilst in Australia or South Africa it’s melons and passion fruit and pineapple. (Now someone’s going to tell me you don’t get those in S Africa!!)
MOUTH (though it’s posh to say Palate!) – 5 things here:-
- Sweet – this isn’t too hard to work out
- Acidity – here you’re judging how much your mouth waters – think ‘lemons’ and you’ll know what I mean
- Body – mmm, kind of the depth and feel in your mouth.
- Flavour – to be honest, often much the same as the aromas you’ve smelt.
- Finish – how long the taste lingers.
To do all of this you need practice – and more practice – yah!!!
I thoroughly recommend the WSET course – check out http://www.wsetglobal.com – because it gives you the chance to try lots of wines and then you’re off. See – an expert already. Watch this space for more exciting info on how to be a wine whizz! You never know, one day it might be me they want to interview!
For an outline to the WSET systematic approach you can download the following file: http://www.wsetglobal.com/documents/l2_wine_satcard_2012_eng_new.pdf
Another busy, varied week which started with a trip to the Home, Craft and Top Drawer exhibition at Earls Court with Georgia and Nikki. Not only were we looking for ideas for the Gun Room’s spring and summer collections, we were on the look out for everything to fit out the Flint Barns. After what seemed like miles of trekking down row after row of over-lit aisles, trying to keep up a pace, we left exhausted but full of ideas.
The Gun Room and Heritage Centre with its history of Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, has been a big success and Nikki and her team have done wonders in creating a stylish, peaceful place to escape, read and browse. I for one am sold on the Caudalie range of beauty products (made from grape and vine extracts) – you may not recognise me, I look so young and radiant! The candles, wine jellies, leather notebooks, gorgeous glasses, vases, books about Sussex – the list goes on and on – are soon to be supplemented by a new spring range and we are talking to local artists about new ideas. Watch this space!
Equally exciting was my first visit to the Flint Barns since the roof has gone on. It has really changed the space and made it seem much bigger. Within the ‘body’ of the old barns, two floors have now appeared and you can really begin to see the vision. It’s been, and will continue to be, a challenge. I’m so glad we started work on them before the recent storms, as I’ve no doubt they wouldn’t be standing if we hadn’t. (They were originally damaged in the 1987 hurricane). As always, we are trying to mix the old with the new, keeping and restoring the original flint walls for example, yet creating windows that will allow the light to flood in.
We are aiming to achieve a comfortable, stylish ‘home’ that will house and feed up to 50 people at a time, be they seasonal workers tired from the vineyards, groups of school children who have spent the day exploring the Cuckmere Valley and the South Downs or a special interest group of 12 who have spent the day bird watching, painting or writing. It’s an ambitious project – we’re not a hostel, but we’re not a hotel. We hope to be a ‘home away from home’.
Final exciting ‘high’ of the week is that we have agreed to become sponsors of the Charleston Festival, a literary festival that runs between 16th – 26th May and again with Small Wonder, a short story festival in the autumn. We aim to collaborate with them on a range of things as time goes by, so again, watch this space.
I’m in trouble, should have done this by yesterday and instead I find myself doing it early on Saturday morning before we go on and beat the All Blacks later today, Cam! (Might have to edit this later!)
So what has been going on? The Gun Room is up and running and we are having our first opening on Monday evening, to thank all those involved in the project. Anthony Sherwin has done an incredible job, working with Martin Swatton, in designing the interior of the building so that it complements all our other designs on the Estate and blends ‘the old with the new,’ which is a recurring theme at Rathfinny, and Paynes Builders have been a delight to work with.
Nikki and Georgia have been working flat out for several weeks getting all the stock ready and this week have been concentrating on getting it on the shelves. It looks fantastic, as I think you’ll agree.
Their attention to detail is incredible and Nikki, as the Manager, has really set the standard. We’re also delighted to have recruited two new members of staff who we know will fit right in with the Rathfinny family.
So as well as interviewing prospective staff, what else have I been up to? It’s the range of work that always amazes me. I’ve been working on the Employment Handbook, ably assisted by my daughter, Faye. We’ve been battling with those crucial issues such as, under the heading ‘Appearance’, how do you encourage deodorant and yet say not so much perfume that it interferes with tastings in the future? Don’t get me started on the debates about tattoos (a personal bug bear of Mark’s, though I’m sure one of our kids has or will have one lurking away) or piercings. All high-powered stuff!
Then there’s the Tasting Room, which has all come together under the wonderful eye of my designer friend, Susie Atkinson. She has done an amazing job, again linking the ‘old and the new’ to create a room that will sit at the heart of the Estate and deliver a really unique experience to our visitors.
We held our end of year party there last week, which was brilliant. The vineyard boys had us in hysterics as they donned facemasks of the Great British Bake Off judges to judge all the entries of the Great Rathfinny Bake Off.
Not that I’m bitter and twisted! (I did think that in revenge I would put in the photo of her winning the wooden spoon that Cam made, but even I couldn’t do that to her.)
Finally, the notes arrived for the Level 2 WSET wine course that Georgia and I are going on in the New Year. Being a swot (Georgia, be worried!) I opened the pack with interest. I’d like to say that I started with ‘The Wise Drinker’s Guide – Alcohol, Health and Responsible Drinking – first, because it was obviously the most important part, but that would be a lie. It was the only booklet small enough to hold in the bath in one hand while balancing the much needed large glass of wine in the other!!
PS Here’s a quote about Champagne that will work whatever the result this afternoon.
“In success you deserve it and in defeat, you need it.” Winston Churchill