Our Story So Far
Who in their right mind looks at a double glazing sales office and thinks "That would make a great winery"... well, it turns out that at least two of us did!
I've been training in winemaking at Plumpton College in Sussex for around three years now and had just embarked on a MSc degree when Jamie, an expert sommelier, got in touch and brought up some of the crazy ideas we'd discussed when out drinking.
Jamie had tasted my early wines and felt that they had real promise, but that they would benefit from his expert feedback. I followed his advice and they got better! A partnership was formed.
We went in, saw the rows of desks, the window / conservatory showroom and the junk-filled garage and suddenly it all made sense. A winemaking space. A barrel store. A retail and tasting space where Jamie could also run his WSET courses (I did one and genuinely found it completely changed my appreciation of wine), then a lab, kitchen, store room and toilet. What more did we actually need? Who cares about the graffiti on the back wall?
Wine doesn't always get made in the glamorous multi-million pound wineries of Napa Valley or Tuscany; you're crushing grapes not competing for architecture awards. One of our favourite winemakers in the world, Rajat Parr of Domaine de la Cote, makes Pinot Noir in an industrial unit that looks not a million miles away from ours. His wine recently got picked by famous wine critic Jancis Robinson as her favourite Pinot Noir in a global competition and tied with one of the most expensive Burgundies.
Now we are a long way off reproducing such feats, but we really felt that there was potential for local micro wineries, just as there was for local micro breweries. We were bored sick of supermarket wines, as tasty and great value as they are, but we think people want new, different and interesting, as well as some great experiences.
So, after collecting the keys, we set to work ripping out the office equipment and grey carpet tiles, to turn it into a welcoming retail space.
We put down new flooring, fitted the seating areas and arranged for a carpenter to create our bar and shelving. It looked OK, but it was still an office. We needed to soften things around the edges, so added nicer lighting (including the infamous barrel monkeys) and Jamie got his paintbrush out and started painting. Then we had an idea – we would take some of our left-over wine boxes and decorate the wall with amazing logos. It worked great and suddenly everything was looking much softer.
So the retail side was well on its way but the winery was still a garage and a dream. We needed equipment, but that takes time. Our first load of kit arrived from France and Germany on a huge lorry that barely managed to squeeze into the site by some incredible driving.
We're trying our absolute best to do everything on a really limited budget; we've begged, borrowed and bought second hand whatever we can, but we know we can already make some really cool wines with what we've got today. And we've got until late summer to sort the rest out. Hopefully this Coronavirus / Covid-19 will be under control by then. Could we have launched at a worse time??
Anyway, we are absolutely delighted with how people have responded so far. The welcome that Tring has given us has been astonishing. Local businesses all seem keen to support us (and we look forward to supporting them too), the mayor went above and beyond to come along to open the winery, suppliers and even competitors have lent us kit to help us get going and more than 200 people came through our doors on the opening weekend!
We gave a sneak preview of some of our unreleased wines to our visitors and they rated them above some of the best red wines that England makes today, which is really reassuring. We were interviewed on local radio by the lovely Nick Coffer. Our first tour & tasting was a huge success and our first tasting is a sell-out, despite the winemaker being stuck in Argentina because of, yep, Covid-19... it's going to be great fun anyway and we're hoping to have a personal video message from him.
The next big things for us are having wine flights on taste every day, evolving the website so we have a calendar, an easier online shop, getting our re-fillable bottle system in place, getting more wines onboard by the glass, doing work with local businesses and charities and more from of our private events offerings.
But my biggest conundrum is how on earth to get 300kg of Shiraz-filled barrel out of my garage at home and into our winery! Any ideas very welcome :)
Do pop in and check out our great wines - we're open most days of the week whether you want a glass or a bottle for dinner and Jamie will help you decide.