Vineyards are almost always planted in beautiful locations. Have you ever seen a picture of a field of grapes that didn't make you want to be there? That’s why when Tipically Inspired approached us at Astley Vineyard earlier this year about holding an exclusive event right here on our vineyard, we absolutely couldn’t say no.
Last month, around 60 people joined us for a terrific, intimate afternoon of food, wine and nature amongst our vines. Aided by talented chef Mark Hammond and the charming Sean McGahern from The Royal Forester and Tipically Inspired, our local businesses joined forces to hold an event that we would have loved to attended ourselves, if we hadn’t been hosting it.
Our vision was to hold an event that people would talk about for months to come. With limited numbers, a beautiful location and only the finest food and wine, our mission was to WOW everyone who came.
In early March, Chris joined Mark at The Royal Forester for a tasting of the planned menu. First, Mark whittled down the choice of suppliers – Lightwood Cheese for the starter, Hereford Meats for the main, Wye Valley asparagus, Ceci Hill for speciality supplies, and Arnold’s Farm rhubarb. Then came the selection of the product itself. For each course, three or four options were presented, and each was judged as per its suitability. The variety of the apple that would be scorched and paired alongside the St Thom goats cheese, for example, was a choice of higher acidity, higher sweetness, firmer texture, or softer texture. Each had its merits, but only one was perfect.
There were also instances where a whole component of a dish had to change due to its interaction with the wine. Spring onions noticeably affected the juicy ripeness of our Bacchus so they were excluded from the final dish, whilst a fatty piece of lamb dulled the tropical intensity of our Sabrinna compared to a leaner cut, for example. It was a great experience for both of us, and we think that ultimately our pairings worked extremely well.
The final menu comprised of:
In the run up to the event itself, setting the scene for our diners was paramount.
It began with the erection of Tipically Inspired’s amazing safari tents. Although able to seat more than 60 people at full capacity, we decided that our event would be best if it felt more intimate and personal. We limited attendance to 40 people per day and laid out the tent to encourage chat and interaction between the groups.
On the day, Sean and his team went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure everyone was having the very best time possible. From scouring the crowd for wine to pour, to introductions and friendly chat, the whole event had the atmosphere of a buzzing dinner party…albeit with waiters, and on a vineyard!
As for us at the vineyard, Chris and Matleena were dashing around for days and days before the event to make sure that everything was ready for, honestly, our largest event to date. From hand labelling one hundred bottles of wine, to creating informational leaflets and displays for the guests, to ensuring the woodland and vineyard were in tip-top condition, every element of the day was gone through with a fine-tooth comb.
On the day, guests were guided through our woodland (which was just springing back to life at that time of the season), up to the vineyard where they were given a glass of our highly celebrated Vintage Sparkling Kerner. After a sip of wine and a while to admire the view of the Severn Valley, the groups were then taken on a tour of our five acre vineyard where they were introduced to the trials of growing grapes in England, to the art of viticulture as a whole. Finally, after a glorious stroll in the sun, everyone took their seats to enjoy a three course dinner with matching wines; each introduced by Chris.
We had a wonderful time, and it has really encouraged us to hold more events like this. We love meeting new people and introducing them to the wonderful world of English wine, and we are already thinking ahead to what we can do next on our small family-owned vineyard.
Finally, thank you to Don Fossey for all of the beautiful photos he took.
Thanks to everyone who came, and we hope to see you all soon.