Monday, 29 January 2007

JWW4 does the Vineyard

The day started in typical English fashion, bright blue skies, chirping birds and a full English breakfast with layer upon layer of hot toast, dripping butter and plenty of hot piping tea. Chilford Hall Vineyard was a mere 2hrs down the A1 and across into Cambridgeshire but would the travelers be blest with a dry and sunny day.

Chilford Hall is set in 40 acres of rolling Cambridgeshire countryside and has been the Alper family home since 1965. An ambitious building and restoration project has transformed it into one of East Anglia's leading conference and banqueting centres. Chilford Hall has benefited from many improvements and changes over the years. The Great Hall, a grade II listed building dating from 1820, has been tastefully refurbished and is lined with an extensive collection of agricultural artifacts.

As the travelers approached the vineyard, comprising 18 acres of free draining "flinty" soil, overlaying chalk and situated on a south west facing slope to maximise the sunshine available during the summer months it became obvious that the day would be overcast with grey skies and rain. But would this deter the travelers from enjoying a wonderful gift that might open new avenues, create untold networks and lead to new friendships? A no brainer’s the answer your looking for.

The internationally famous vineyard at Chilford Hall, originally laid out in 1972 with further planting between 1974 and 1976, currently has 18 acres in production. Award-winning pink and white wines are produced, both in still and sparkling styles, with 'Aluric de Norsehide' Quality Sparkling Wine being the flagship product. Winemaking and bottling are carried out in the timber-framed winery building, which was moved from the village of Linton in 1976 prior to its demolition thereby protecting a classical heritage building. The purpose-built cellar features pillar-facings from the Long Bar at Waterloo station also saved from destruction by the foresight of Sam Alper, the founder. The Vineyard and Winery play a leading role in the region and currently export to France, USA, Holland and Norway.

After a warm welcome with a deserved mug of piping hot coffee a tour of the vineyards was put off in favor of an indoors tour of the barns that made up the conferencing suites and winery. At every turn art, sculpture, artifacts and architecture, reveal themselves, to relay a classic story of preservation and collection.

Links with the world of art were strengthened in 1989, when the existing Chilford Hall Press was merged with the world renowned Curwen Studio when it moved to its present site at Chilford Hall. It continues to work with artists on a collaborative basis in the production of fine art original printmaking. This operation specialises in lithography with a heritage over many years of printing for Henry Moore, John Piper, Barbara Hepworth, John Lennon and many others. Today the studio now concentrates on limited-edition lithography, numbering among its artists H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Paula Rego, Kyffin Williams, R.B. Kitaj and Rolf Harris.

The main event was near at hand as the travelers gathered with the main group to gaze at the bright, highly polished stainless steel vats that would house the equivalent of 20,000 bottles of pure quality white wine. Intriguing as it was the travelers became restless but sooner rather than later the tour ended and a mad rush was on to gain the best seats in the house for the Wine Tasting.

Seven bottles later the inevitable happened, as it normally does, who would be driving home.

JWW4 has always been a supreme navigator and on this occasion he didn’t let the team down. As they approached signs for Newmarket the cry went out – about turn.

Look out for more adventures – JWW4 does the skies – 190708

Baron Jean-Guillaume Neuilly