Summertime in the United Kingdom may be fleeting, but when it’s here we love to make the most of it with chilled drinks and signature cocktails! In the Driver household, a ‘V&T’ has been the family favourite during lockdown. Here, Sarah shares her secret summer drink, which pays homage to the chalky Sussex climate that produces a rich, fortified wine.
As we enter our 9th week of isolation, having ‘locked-down’ a week before we had to (our new granddaughter, Peggy and some of our children are living with us making me feel 102 as I am slightly asthmatic), I am reflecting on what it has meant for us at Rathfinny. Incidentally, having locked down, we all promptly fell ill with what we are sure was Coronavirus. Mark suffered the most (of course he did) and he coughed for a month. Honestly, if he hadn’t stopped coughing, I was tempted to…!
What very strange times we are living in! I was reflecting on a Chinese proverb, well actually a curse, that says “may he live in interesting times” and when I looked it up it referred to a speech that Kennedy delivered quoting it. I thought it was interesting though that he added “Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.” Let us hope that we too can find the creativity to battle this latest challenge.
On Tuesday we had to close our Cellar Door and the whole Estate to visitors, however the good news is that we are still taking orders for local delivery within a 10 miles radius – please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Cellar Door (01323) 870022. We have also made more stock available to our on-line retailers across the UK so please check out our website to find your local on-line supplier. After all, it’s times like these in particular that we need cheering up, and what better way to do so than with a glass of our lovely Sussex Sparkling wine.
It’s the start of a new decade and I’ve been reflecting about our journey that started almost 10 years ago – it’s hard to believe. If I’m very honest, last year was very hard work. Not that the earlier years weren’t, but it was hard in a different way. From 2010-2018 we were so focused on just doing what had to be done. Vines to be ordered, early staff to be recruited, buildings to be renovated and a winery to be designed and built. The vines arrived and then we needed to put in the trellising and wires, deal with planning issues, start to design and plan the Flint Barns, work out a waste water plant all alongside developing a brand, stationery, cards and a logo. More staff were recruited and suddenly we had an accounts team and a growing back office.
We are so proud of our young chef, Charlie, who at just 21 has been nominated as one of three Grand Finalists in the Sussex Young Chef of the Year award. I spent some time with him understanding just how much work he had put in, in creating his spring menu for the Master Chef style competition, where he really wanted to showcase Sussex produce. Just reading his menu makes me hungry!
On Friday 8th March I hosted International Women’s Day at the Tasting Room Restaurant and I was delighted (relieved!) to see that we had sold out. There was the fear of being ‘Norma No Mate’s’ on the day. Delicious food from our Michelin starred chef, Chris Bailey, as usual. If you haven’t been for lunch yet, served Wednesdays to Sundays, or to our tasting menu on Fridays and Saturdays, you’re missing out!
Sarah Driver remembers her ‘most wonderful’ stepfather, the lawyer, politician and social reformer Brook Bernacchi, and roaming free in the wilds of his tea plantation
BY STUART HEAVER
29 SEP 2018
Link to article on SCMP
Within the grounds of a former tea plantation, concealed in a corner of the Ngong Ping plateau, in sight of the Big Buddha, Sarah Driver is retracing her childhood. In the 1960s, she and her brothers, Robert and Ian, were the only European children living on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island.
We’ve had a lovely two week ‘pop-up’ at the incredible Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, part of the Firmdale Hotels group and what a treat it was for all involved. Exclusive tickets to their gorgeous roof top garden saw a real mix of people coming to taste what Rathfinny had to offer. There was our Blanc de Blancs and Rosé Sussex Sparkling and Cradle Valley wine alongside cocktails, developed by Eoin Kenny, Firmdale’s Group Mixologist, using our
Seven Sisters Gin with an emphasis on using English and Sussex ingredients.
As the hot weather continues and the sun shines brightly over the Estate, it’s sometimes hard to remember we are in England. I have to keep reminding myself to appreciate the long, summer days as it’s so easy to get used to them and when the weather does eventually break, we will wonder how we could have ever complained of being hot.
Only 20 days to go until our launch!
I’m in trouble as I should have written this blog last week! In fact, I feel a little bit like that all the time at the moment as there is just so much going on. I checked back and I think my last blog was in November, at harvest, and it’s made me reflect about what’s gone on in between.
We’ve finished our harvest and it was completely wonderful. Not only did we have a bumper crop, over twice what was harvested last year, but we had so many other things to celebrate. As Mark mentioned in a previous blog we had a super team of local pickers come and join us. Mark was away the first morning of harvest so it fell to me to do a rousing, welcoming speech.
Mark and I had a lovely evening last week, hosted by the Rotary Club in Eastbourne. They invited us to talk about Rathfinny and we did as a ‘double act’. We’ve given a fair few talks now and have settled into Mark talking about the wine and the vineyard, with me talking about our ‘engagement with the public’ side of the business – the Flint Barns, Sunday lunches, tours, Gun Room and events generally. Obviously, as is our want, we interrupt each other as we go along.
After another stint of sailing we are both back and getting used to life on dry land. It’s not hard to do with all this lovely weather we are having. Look how well the vines and grapes are doing …
It was full on last weekend with Alfest, the festival that showcases Sussex food and wine along with music on the Tye in our local village, Alfriston. We sponsored and set this up last year together with our award-winning neighbours, Longman Brewery and the Star Inn . It was an absolutely fantastic day with delicious