I find myself to be in the midst of something that can perhaps be best described as some sort of mad adventure, totally out of character for me because it doesn't involve Flying or anything to do with Consultancy work and instead involves navigating myself through an enormous challenge full of uncertainty! I have somehow been morphed into an adventure that is none of my own doing ..... I find myself in the bizarre situation of owning a Vineyard with a reputation for making award-winning Wines.
Now, I'm the first to admit that I love good wine, but growing grapes and producing a world class Sparkling Wine is a serious challenge and requires a huge amount of commitment, drive and determination, something my Wife has in spade loads and my challenge is how to keep up with her expectations and her gigantic level of energy, enthusiasm and passion and deliver on my targets that she has set for me! Yes …. I am in business with my wife!
We have laughed at how we stumbled somehow into owning a Vineyard that sits at the very heart of a small Country Estate here in the glorious rolling countryside of the South West of England very near to the Coast.
How did this Family (affectionally known as "The O-Ts") end up growing the classic champagne Grape varietals to produce Sparkling Wine knowing nothing about wine making or viticulture beforehand. More to the point, how did I end up here when I was very happy doing Consultancy work in the corporate world.
Well there must have been some sort of crazy magic in the air in the early Autumn of 2016 when "Mrs O-T" stumbled upon Kenton Park Estate and went wild with excitement. My wife was on a mission and was unstoppable! Few would believe it possible that I had not seen the property myself until my wife had agreed the purchase price and the sale was going ahead. Neither was I there on the moving in date in the early part of January 2017 as I was working away for a few weeks. Nothing short of a military operation had taken place whilst I was away and all was happily in its place when I arrived at my new home at the end of January. My wife had achieved something of a miracle.
I was not the only member of the family who was bemused to find himself living somewhere else. Our oldest son Ben was away travelling in Asia on his Gap Year at the time.
I am still a little bemused to this day as to how I ended up owning a Vineyard and all that it entails and marvel at what a truly "Motley Crew" we are, caught up in this incredible adventure together, because there is far more to it than just owning a Vineyard and making Wine. I say adventurebecause this is what my wife promised me it would be for the next 25 years at least. I had envisioned spending more time Flying. However I seem to spend more of my spare time in muddy boots than flying boots!
We are an odd bunch of characters who have been thrown together to make this Dream work to bring this former Vineyard "back to life".
Instead of the hustle and bustle of travelling and running from meeting to meeting, I am surrounded by the madness of over zealous dogs chasing rabbits, pheasants flapping everywhere, mud flying, chasing escaping sheep and noisy tractors. Not to mention the sound of my oldest son revving his Motocross Bike as he rides up and down the Rows inspecting the Vines.
To set the scene .... at weekends, I can usually be found trying to "facilitate" a Vineyard meeting over morning coffee outside the Winery Building huddled over the bonnets of the Estate's Defenders with pheasants and dogs running a mock trying to assemble some sort of action plan for the day. I cannot operate without a plan! My wife will be reading "the Principles of Wine Making" and listening to a Wine Podcast at the same time oblivious to the chaos going on around her.
My oldest son Ben (alias our Estate Manager) will be trying to do press ups from the front bumpers of the Defender to "build those ever expanding biceps and flex those bulging muscles" in readiness for Rugby. As a professional player for a Premier Rugby Team here in the South West, his time is split overseeing the Vineyard and all the comings and goings and combining it with serious fitness training session 3 times a week or more. It's enough to make anyone feel inadequate!
Our slightly younger son Josh on the other hand is usually sitting on one of the Defender bonnet's aiming a rifle at something and is totally disengaged from the proceedings. Josh is also a Rugby player with a passion for a career in the Military and anything that involves shooting. Both of my sons tower above me completely in height and are the most challenging individuals I have ever had to manage.
Then there is our teenage daughter Sienna who is very keen to help out with all aspects of the Wine business and gets involved with any events that we host here in the Vineyard in our Winery Building and has entrepreneurial spirit oozing through her veins!
To balance this complex act, we also have the formidable double act of Milena and Will. Both can turn their hand to any problem or situation that arises and can be found cooking in the Vineyard Kitchen for a Breakfast event one minute, or manning the Wine Bar for an evening event, or working out on the Vines the next. Often they are involved in the capture of our rare breed sheep (the infamous Swiss Valais Blacknose).
We have additional support in the form of Duncan (our Vineyard Consultant), Matt & John (our Agronomists), Adrian & Vinny (who achieve miracles in the Vineyard), Clive (our Mole Man), David & Sam (who manage the Grounds around the Estate) and Neil & Angie (who are our Horticulturist Team) and then there is Peter (our Beekeeper) as we apparently have over 150,000 Bees.
To add more complexity to this already "motley crew", we also enlisted the support of Ben's fellow Rugby Team players who helped us to plant 15,000 NEW Vines. It was a mammoth task and we couldn't have done it without them. A team of all shapes and sizes befitting a Rugby Team, who all had to perform using their muscles and brawn one moment and then displaying a very delicate, more gentle character the next as they handled our precious new Vines. What an incredible day that was. All of them felt totally rejuvenated or was that from their experience in our on-site Cocktail Bar afterwards with Ben (who also happens to be a qualified Bartender with flair skills and makes a fantastic Espresso Martini and other fabulous champagne cocktails).
In honour of this motley crew, we labeled our first Sparkling Wine "The Motley Cru". A Classic Cuvée made in the Traditional Method using the three Champagne Grape Varieties of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunièr and Chardonnay. A totally delicious combination with an incredible effervescence!
For inspiration for our Wine Labels we wanted to incorporate our glorious Pheasants who roam freely across the Vineyard and have each become characters in their own right. We turned to the help of Bryn Parry OBE (an incredible Cartoonist with a Military background who also set up the Help for Heroes Charity which has raised over £115 million to support those wounded in current conflicts - an incredible achievement!). Bryn created a series of caricatures to imitate the antics of our pheasants & our "Vineyard Dogs" (Sapphire & Indie) both German Short-Haired Pointers (Gun Dogs).