A couple of weeks ago I was very lucky to be invited along to a fabulous press trip in Essex, having a look at some of the vineyards and breweries in the area. It was organised by Visit Essex and a superb day out.
We fitted a huge amount into the day, so I couldn’t possibly share every single thing with you, but I’m going to try to cover the most important parts.
We started our day at New Hall Vineyard where we had a whistle-stop tour of the winery and got to learn a little about their wine, plus the wine they make for other smaller vineyards who bring their grapes to them. It was so interesting and Lucy, who was showing us around, is just the nicest person, her passion for what they were creating was a thing to see. We also ended our day at New Hall, enjoying a taste of their wine, nibbles and chat.
So what do you need to know about New Hall Vineyards? It’s the oldest and largest commercial vineyard in the UK. The wines are amazing, especially the Elderflower fizz. You can go for tours of the Wine Cellar and arrange tastings.
Importantly, if you want to get festive they have the most amazing Santa’s Grotto (I’ve seen it and was immediately turned into an excitable child) which is free, they just ask for a little donation for charity. There will be mince pies and mulled wine, snow machine, kids crafts, a discount wine sale and of course Santa! It’s the 2nd and 3rd of December and open 10am – 5pm.
Next on our agenda was Brentwood Brewery. Now I’m not an ale drinker, not at all. But I did find one at Brentwood that I didn’t mind, Sombrero, so husb now has high hopes that it will be my gateway ale.
We had a tour of the Brewery and got to try some ales and it was really interesting hearing about how it got started and how they brew things slightly differently to other people to find their flavours. Once again it was the passion of everyone there about what they were creating that really stuck with me.
What you need to know about Brentwood Brewery. It’s got a fabulous little shop and is right next to a farm shop and wonderful looking cafe, so you can really make a day of it. They run tours on the first Saturday of every month and you can even book an experience day where you’ll get to brew your own beer!
Not to be left out of the Christmas fun they are holding a beer festival on 9th December 10.30am – 5pm, with beer, food and games for the whole family. Plus entry is free.
We stopped at West Street Vineyard for a tasting and lunch. The wine tasting was brilliant. Getting to try a great selection of wines and learn a bit about each one, I can wholeheartedly vouch for the Rosé, it is amazing. It was great fun chatting with Jane and finding out just how much work has go into creating amazing wines.
Lunch in the restaurant at West Street Vineyard was a real treat, everything was so delicious. With brie bites to start, followed by the most amazing risotto, having to choose which of the three dessert options to go with was a hardship, but I went for the most chocolatey or chocolately things, which was amazing.
What you need to know about West Street Vineyard. You have to eat here, the food is amazing. The restaurant has a lovely atmosphere and there is a great decking area which would be lovely on a sunny day. You can also arrange wine tastings and also enjoy a Saturday course, teaching you about wine and incorporating a two lunch.
You would never find Dedham Vale Vineyard unless you were looking for it, in fact, even looking for it we nearly missed it and I genuinely thought the coach was going to get stuck at one point.
Dedham Vale really bought it home to me how different each and every place we visited had been. Dedham Vale was very natural, nestled away in this perfect little spot. Next to a large pond which has kingfishers and otter that visits every year it really is the most delightful spot. We sampled a few wines at Dedham Vale as well, which were once again, different to those of the other vineyards.
What you need to know about Dedham Vale. You can take a tour and enjoy wine tasting afterwards. Hire bikes and explore the local area. There are plenty of walks and you can just pop into the shop and wander round the vines whenever you fancy it.
For Christmas you book onto a Wreath Making workshop which sound delightful or pop along on 25th November for their winter wine and turkey tasting!
It was almost dark when we arrived at Tiptree for our final stop of the day before heading back to New Hall Vineyards.
We got to have a look round the museum and learn a bit more about how this iconic brand came to be, which was incredibly interesting. Then we moved on to more important matters. Gin matters. My favourite kind of thing. They have four Gin Liqueurs in the range, Little Scarlet Strawberry Gin Liqueur, English Raspberry, English Damson and the quite delicious Rhubarb Gin Liqueur. They really are fabulous.
What you need to know about Wilkin & Sons, Tiptree. You can smell jam as soon as you get out in the car park which is wonderful. The cafe sells amazing scones. There is a large gift shop which I found was surprisingly well priced, I had to do a double take at some of the Christmas Hampers, the value was amazing. The museum is small but perfectly formed and worth a visit on its own.
I loved how each venue we visited during the day was so very different, Wilkin & Sons was the most commercial and ‘touristy’ as you would expect. West Street Vineyard was very contemporary and chic. Dedham Vale was hidden and rustic. Each venue really did have its own charm. They all had a few things in common though, they were all so welcoming and friendly and also incredibly passionate about what they were producing, the passion was infectious.
I would have loved to have spent a bit more time at each location and think if you could arrange to do the same tour we did, but over two days, staying at a nice hotel with friends, it would make the most marvellous weekend. I honestly didn’t know Essex had this much to offer on the Vineyard front, so it was really enlightening for me and I’m pleased to have found such gems.
I’ve added links to each of their websites so if you are thinking about visiting have a quick look at them first to get all the information you need. The Visit Essex site is a great resource as well.
I also have to give a massive shout out to some of the other lovely bloggers I spent my day with. It was a great group and I felt immediately welcome and amongst friends, which after a very stressful drive down and my usual anxiety was just what I needed.
Disclosure – I was a guest of Visit Essex for the day and all the venues we visited. All opinions are my own.