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…!
Meet Sarah. Sarah’s addition to our Vineyard crew was long in the making. Having previously missed the opportunity to work at a vineyard while she was living in Australia, Sarah was delighted to discover Rathfinny was nearby when she moved to Seaford 2 years ago and welcomed the chance to get involved with Harvest 2019. Sarah enjoyed the work so much she has continued to work during the pruning season and is now enjoying learning other aspects of vineyard maintenance.
2020 was set to be another milestone year for Rathfinny Wine Estate as we are releasing all four sparkling wines for the first time in our history, completing our wine portfolio. Well, events have indeed overtaken us, but here at Rathfinny, essential grape growing and wine production have not stopped.
Meet Julie. Having previously enjoyed running a delicatessen, Julie endured a difficult year and felt the time was right to make a change to her lifestyle, which timed perfectly with joining Rathfinny’s 2019 Harvest team. Since then, Julie has enjoyed working with the team of brilliant characters who spend a lot of time laughing as they pass each other in the vines.
A popular choice in our Flint Barns Dining Room, this brioche and butter pudding recipe from our Chef, Mark hits the spot when it comes to comfort food.
Meet David. In a past life, David worked as a bond trader in London for 27 years and during that time he had an 11 acre vineyard at his home in Wadhurst. Unfortunately, long hours at work meant he had very little time to get involved and enjoy the vineyard, but he did develop an interest and a belief in the potential of Sussex wine.
David was attracted to Rathfinny from a desire to work locally in the fresh air and was intrigued and impressed by the commitment and passion shown by the owners.
I must have missed the “Dealing with a global pandemic and impacts on your business” training day, but I’m glad that I’m not the only one.
As the coronavirus crisis worsens, and we have more and more restrictions put on our daily lives, there is always one thing we can look forward to: the constancy of nature. The sun will always rise and set and each day brings us further into the year as the seasons change.
Reminiscing about the amazing desserts we had on our Tasting Room menu last year, this carrot cake and walnut ice cream was a stand out winner. We used some fabulous fresh British carrots from and one of my favourite foraged herbs, meadowsweet (but you can of course just use the carrots you have and spice the syrup with cinnamon). If you don’t want to make the ice cream which requires an ice cream maker, you can either add a dollop of whipped cream or shop-bought vanilla ice cream alongside.
Situated close to the Rathfinny Wine Estate is Namayasai Farm, a local farm who produce the most amazing fruit and vegetables and always deliver with a friendly smile. I feel lucky to be able to cook with the ingredients and serve to our guests. That being said, you can of course source your berries for this sweet treat wherever is most convenient for you!
This is Jim Stanford. Jim is a semi-retired Nurse who has been working in the Vineyard, three days a week for the last two years. Previously, Jim spent 30 years working as a Nurse and Manager in an HIV unit in Brighton, where he continues to work a couple of days a month alongside his job at Rathfinny.
What attracted Jim to Rathfinny? The flexible working hours, stress-free work, easy commute, fresh air and beautiful countryside, partnered with a team spirit, made it the perfect first step towards retirement.
Jim is very excited to be involved in the UK’s growing wine industry and particularly enjoys learning the skill of pruning which he sees as a form of art as well as a science.
As a result of the current health crisis, Jim has recently been asked to return to nursing at his old unit on a full-time basis as the number of patients is expected to rise alongside staff shortages.
We wish you the best of luck Jim and look forward to welcoming you back to Rathfinny for harvest.
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 email@example.com 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 will come as no surprise to you all that as of this Wednesday (18th March) in order to protect our staff and customers from spreading the Coronavirus, we have been forced to close the Tasting Room and Flint Barns. It has put considerable pressure on our business, with lost revenues and a mounting wage bill. The government is helping to bridge some of that gap with the suspension of business rates, a small grant to businesses and the provision of loans. However, loans don’t replace lost revenue and I would urge those of you who can help out your local businesses, to do so.
We are having to make adjustments with staffing to deal with closing the Tasting Room and Flint Barns and we are doing everything we can to protect jobs. We asked for flexibility from our hospitality team and from next week they will move across to the Vineyard to help with pruning and, in due course, into the Winery to help with labelling.
Chris Bailey, our chef from the Tasting Room restaurant, will be exchanging his kitchen knives for secateurs and putting them in his new cabinets. He will be joined by the whole hospitality team who have shown willingness and taken up the challenge to help out across the Estate, whilst we get through this crisis. We still have over 80,000 vines left to prune and tie-down before Easter, when the warmer weather will arrive and those buds will swell and burst. Once the vines are pruned we need to label all our Sussex Sparkling wine, which is due to be released in June this year. By this time we hope that we will be out of the crisis and will be able to celebrate with a glass of delicious Sussex Sparkling wine.
We have taken the decision to keep the Cellar Door open in the meantime and would encourage visitors, at a social distance – we will deliver to your car! As the Tasting Room is now closed we have limited amounts of our sparkling wine for sale now (previously unavailable) and we’re also offering free delivery of all our wines and Seven Sisters spirits within a 10-mile radius of the Estate. Alternatively, please seek out our wines listed through the various partners across the UK – view our stockists here.
I want to thank all our hard-working staff and customers for showing patience, flexibility, and generosity of spirit; many of our customers converted deposits into vouchers to use on the estate at a future date. Thank you, it will really help us.
I hope you all remain fit and well. Please think about your neighbours, friends and family that are less able to look after themselves. We will get through this.
We have been busy at the Winery over the last few weeks blending base wines from the 2019 harvest. Although it was a difficult year in terms of weather (summer, where were you?), we are very pleased with the quality of the wines produced.
When creating blends, we often use the analogy of the painter, the canvas, the tubes of paint and the palette. It is true to some extent: we have a choice of many different varieties, clones and tanks to play with. But unlike the painter who will mix blue and yellow and always create a green colour, blending wines can prove a bit unpredictable.
Ingredients (serves 2)
150g caster sugar.
50g unsalted butter.
4 to 5 Braeburn apples.
Puff pastry (all butter or best quality you can find).