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With 2020 wrapped it’s time to take a look back on what can only be described as a whirlwind of a year and instead of focusing on the obvious negatives, I’d like to look at the triumphs of 2020 of which there were many ...

In March 2020 the World went into disarray and we were forced into a National Lockdown and with it came the chance for creativity and a sense of “well we may as well try it out now” and so we launched our first Podcast “Motley Matters”. It was great laugh and very fulfilling and whilst it may have stopped for now, it gave us food for thought and perhaps it will return in some form in the near future.

Then as the Lockdown began to ease we were able to open The Motley Cru Bar in the Winery Building, a space that had previously only been used for private functions. It was our first foray into opening to the public and we can’t express just how much we enjoyed it!

To say we were overwhelmed by the reception would be an understatement, it was brilliant! On a sunny day, overlooking the Vineyard, seeing people sitting out on the Deck of the Winery enjoying a coffee, a glass of wine or perhaps a cheeky G&T with one of Milena’s famous dishes of the day was a fantastic sight. The opening of the Winery Bar was filled with highlights so here’s a few that come to mind...

The “Dish of the Day” were a masterpiece thanks to Milena in the Vineyard Kitchen. Very quickly our fully loaded Cheese & Charcuterie Platters had gained a formidable reputation, not to mention we had my personal favourite “Dim Sum Day”. We will certainly be bringing it back this year along with a few exciting new dishes which are being created in The Vineyard Kitchen as we speak so that we can tweak them and make them perfect for when we re-open.


Then came the chance to host our Friday Night Pizza & Cocktail nights. For me this was a huge moment, as for a long time now it has been my dream to have my own Cocktail Bar. I was nervous and just a little bit stressed at times ... which I’m sure my co-workers will attest too. A pre-service Beer or two to calm the nerves became essential. I need not have worried however, the Cocktail Evenings were a huge success! I remember being shocked at the rate at which Tables were being booked up for our first night.

A Summer’s evening filled with friends and family, making my favourite cocktails to be enjoyed overlooking the Vineyard with a home made wood fired pizza was a highlight of the year for sure and It was an absolute pleasure to share this with so many of you, it brought real joy, every Friday night and I cannot wait to pick them up again this year with some exciting new cocktails and spaces to be used.


I also have to thank my team .... Mitch, Josh, Rach, Sienna, Freya, Imi and Josh for making these evenings largely disaster free and a genuinely enjoyable experience.

There were a couple of notable disasters that were too good not to mention... not least the time Mitch decided he’d have a go at making one of our famous Mango Daiquiri Cocktail Towers, famous for being dangerously good! We got to witness a few weary guests leaving with grins on their faces after completing a couple of Towers. I hope they had something strong to cure the inevitable hangover they would have had the next day! Anyway back to the story of Mitch, he was making a Tower and all was going fairly well. He’d measured out all of the ingredients into the blender perfectly, and so happy was his expression at his own success that it made it all the more hilarious when he proceeded to switch on the blender and watch as it splattered all over the Kitchen, floor to ceiling, as he had forgotten to put the lid on ..... but the customers were very happy with the end result .....


We were also incredibly fortunate to be able to run many Vineyard Tours over the Summer. The feedback from these Tours has been amazing and we can’t thank you all enough for the kind words, they mean a lot.

We had a huge amount of fun running the Tours and sharing the best family stories of bringing the Vineyard to life, showcasing the unorthodox style of “The Motley Cru” was extremely entertaining and we were gifted with some phenomenal days where you’d be hard pressed to beat the views over the Vineyard looking towards Mamhead Forest and the surrounding rolling hills of this beautiful countryside, with a glass of Sparkling Wine then heading down to the Winery Bar for one of our famous artisan Cheese & Charcuterie Platters, before tasting our Sparkling Cider in the Orchard, meeting all the animals of the “Motley Farm”. We’ll be a zoo at the rate mum wants to continue, who knows what animals she’ll introduce here next... (Motley Cru Team member Rachel helping to muck out the Pigs).


And then we had Gin Tastings in the Herb Garden, building Cheeky G&T’s before sitting back on the Deck or in the Vineyard with a glass of Whisky, watching the sun go down. I was very lucky to host many of these days that always brought a great sense of happiness.

WINE in the WILD

Amongst the Vineyard Tours we ran several ”WINE in the WILD” Paddle Boarding experiences which were great fun.

One experience in particular sticks with me, as although you could look at it and say it was an absolute disaster, I prefer to look back fondly and realise that it was actually a triumph as it was truly an unforgettable experience.

It all started well ..... Beautiful weather, tranquil out on the water and a great atmosphere. About halfway through the experience however, it took a turn for the worst. The wind picked up and it became fairly choppy. My group and I were forced to head back, into the wind and against the current. I can only imagine it must have been quite comical to watch us from the shore as we appeared to not move for a very long time. Eventually we started to make some headway, then disaster struck as my paddle snapped under the force I had been exerting trying to get us back. As the Guide, I was forced to paddle with my hands and surf on my belly...

By this point one of the groups was beginning to struggle so I offered to tow the lady and it was at that point I heard the unmistakable sound of air being released from my board. I couldn’t believe it... how could things be going so wrong! It then became a question of just getting out of the water and getting back by any means necessary and so paddling like crazy with my hands towing another board behind me. Somehow we made it back to shore about half a mile away from the finish point. I left the group there to run back and grab the Land Rover to come back and pick the group up. Thankfully, my brother Josh was on hand to help with his car to transport all the now incredibly muddy gear back to base, whilst I helped the group. Anyone who’s been down to Starcross at low tide knows how muddy the shoreline is...

And so we managed to get everyone clean and dry, back to the finish point where we had an amazing picnic with our Sparkling Wines set up and the guests were treated to one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen over the estuary. So whilst It may have technically been a disaster I will always look back on it fondly and I’m very grateful to the guests we had for being brilliant throughout. Laughing with a glass of wine afterwards, they promised me it would certainly be an experience they would never forget and that’s all we can’t really ask for!


Then before we knew it, it was time for the harvest. This came out of nowhere and caught us all by surprise. This was our first experience of a proper harvest and truth be told we didn’t really know what to expect. Honestly, it was some of the hardest work I have ever done. Hours and hours of monotonous grape picking! Whilst it may not sLund like fun, and I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed every minute of it, it did bring a real sense of camaraderie to the family and to all those who came and helped us from the local area. Again we cannot thank you all enough. I mean it when I say, truthfully we couldn’t have done it all in time without your help.

Motley Cru Team member Freya helping with the Harvest ....


It was a great sense of achievement when we cut off the very last bunch of grapes and now it‘s a waiting game .... our “Cheeky Fizz” is fermenting as we speak and will be bottled and ready to go by the time we re-open this year. We cannot wait to try it, whilst of course we’ve tasted snippets of it along the way, it will be a truly momentous occasion to crack open the first bottle and enjoy it properly!

kenton park’s very own “Cognac” (Brandy made from our Grapes)

As well as this, we decided to make Brandy this year and this is going to be a real passion project! I am a huge Whisky fan .... I can’t get enough of the stuff whilst my Dad has always been a Brandy lover. So hopefully we’re going to marry the two and come up with something rather special. It will be called Appassionata (an Italian term meaning 'with passion'),

The barrel room

We have already created our brand new “Barrel Room” where our Brandy will be allowed to mature in select Barrels to create some really exciting flavours. The Barrel Room is also going to play a major part in our Tours and Events this year. It’s a truly unique space and I’m sat in here now creating this Newsletter. I am incredibly excited to share it with you, its a stunning space with huge potential.


We will be using it on our Wine Safaris as well as our brand new Mixology Tours which I’m very much looking forward to. You can read more about these and see the Barrel Room for yourself by looking on our website.

I also have plans to use it for another very special Cocktail evening with more information on that to come later in the year...


Another apple harvest went seamlessly this Summer and another Vintage of our “Hardcore Sparkling Cider” will be ready next month. It was awesome to see so many of you enjoying a bottle with your pizza or purchasing a case after a Tour.

Transformation of the grounds

In the meantime since we have been hit with Lockdown 2 and now 3, we have been incredibly busy transforming the Estate ready for this year.

Anyone passing will have noticed the new Entrance that has been created to welcome visitors to the Estate. We have installed some spectacular Lighting effects to light up all the newly planted Italian Cypress Trees at the entrance to the Vineyard as well as the Cheery Trees that run the whole length of “Winery Drive”.

We have also installed new Lighting effects throughout the whole of the Winery Building which look incredible and I can’t wait to show everyone on the first Pizza and Cocktail night this year!


We are also creating more accommodation so that we can welcome more guests to come and stay and ”The Loft“ should be ready for the Summer. It’s a large open plan space With it’s own Sauna and opens out onto the Pool and Hot Tub.


We‘ve worked with a great photographer throughout 2020 and managed to capture some fabulous images not only of life here on the Estate but also of our Drink products which we really feel capture the essence of The Motley Cru here at Kenton Park Estate.

So it’s all been happening here on the Estate, now all we need is for this vaccination programme to be a success and fingers crossed we can re-open in April and share everything with you all.

Ben Oliphant-Thompson

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