March Newsletter Blog

1. Pruning has finally Finished | 2. New Stockists | 3. Self-Guided Tour & Tasting | 4. We've hired | 5. Cellar Door Decking Decor | 6. More Space | 7. Wine News | 8. Visitors Down, Hope is High | 9. Easter Event on the Farm | 10. Buy Wine

1. Pruning has finally Finished

The mammoth task of pruning is complete. The thing with all vineyard tasks is that they are all of epic proportions whatever the size of your vineyard. For those of you who have spent time with us either leaf pulling or harvesting will know. For those of you who haven't spent time with us during these times, I don't want to put you off, because it's a lovely and fun thing to be able to do... once or twice.

You start to understand why grape growers and wine makers are a special breed, or rare breed would be more appropriate in our situation. Vineyard and winemaking tasks for the majority of people are a lovely thing to do as an occasion. But for us, oh no! We want to do it again, and again and again. It's a part of our DNA. We do something, we learn, we tweak it for next time and we understand the result or consequences, or at least hope to understand, and then we go again.

After pruning, we move straight onto pulling the cut wood, or brush, out of the trellising. This is so that you are left with just the vine with the fruiting canes for this growing season. Removing the brush is one of those jobs, like many in the vineyard, that is tedious, time-consuming and anger inducing. I am exaggerating a bit, but by just a smidgen. The wood (last years growth) is tangled up in the canopy wires, wrapped around posts and intertwined with one another. All kinds of crazy going on. Us lowly and humble grape growers go out and pull this wood away from the wires and trellis and lay it in the middle of the row (I'll come back to this later). Sometimes you have to pull with such force, you get yourself into all kinds of trouble. Imagine an original Laurel & Hardy episode - silent but with kinds of physical trauma occurring. You pull the canes out, they whip you in the face, you lose your footing whilst pulling and you trip on the wood you just put in the middle of the row behind you. Argh! You pick yourself up, take a deep breath and gather yourself before you move onto the next bit, all the while hoping no one saw you for the sake of your dignity.

After a few years of this, it can get a little frustrating. Some genius has come up with a mechanised pulling out machine that means you can sit in your little tractor cab and drive along drinking your spiced latte whilst the metallic giant gets dragged behind receiving a good old whipping from the vines. We had her booked in and ready to come and do what takes us up to two weeks, in half a day! We were rubbing our hands together and chuckling to ourselves about how clever we were. There were talks of badges being awarded.

Of course it's too good to be true. One week delay, then another. The weather was warm at this point in March and the buds had started to swell. We were thinking "uh oh, we need to get this done, and pronto!". So, we made the decision to crack on and pull out by hand. I must say, I didn't do much myself, as I can pretend to be busy in the office these days. But my goodness did Toby put in solid shift. With help from our Dad, Jer, they managed to finish pulling out 15,000 vines in about 10 days. That's an extraordinary feat for basically one person. Bravo, Toby! Well done. This boys commitment to the health and quality of our vineyards is second to none. One of THE most committed vineyard managers in the country. Hands down.

The warming weather towards the end of March meant that the vines had begun to wake from their wintery slumber. The sap starts flowing due to the warming of the soils and the dormant buds on the fruiting canes start to swell. This is when we get slightly worried.

The dreaded Spring frost.

In early April we have already had some cold early mornings with some reports of -4C. This can be dangerous, especially for the earlier budding varieties like Chardonnay. At this point, we aren't so worried about our Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier as these bud a little later. I think it is safe to say that we won't be out combatting frosts just yet. Where the weather has become chillier again, this will slow the development of the vines buds, therefore becoming less vulnerable to frosts in the coming days.

2. New Stockists

We are very pleased that we have new stockists to tell you about.

Jack has been tirelessly working behind the scenes getting in touch with some of the best local business, from holiday cottages to hotels and delis to restaurants, so you can get a bottle of Bluey in your hands in a number of different settings.

We will be adding a new page to our website soon that will showcase all of the amazing businesses that we work with and where you can go and have a great time.

In the meantime, here are couple of our new stockist partners for you to explore:

Rollestone Manor, Shreweton, Wiltshire

The house looks beautiful and the food, delicious. You don't even have to be a guest of the B&B to enjoy a meal here, which I reckon is more of a secret than Paula and Cyrille would like. I am certainly going to be going here to explore their menu and enjoy a glass or two of Bluestone whilst I am there.

The Swan Inn, Wilton (Marlborough), Wiltshire

A fantastic traditional English pub set in the picturesque village of Wilton, near Marlborough. With loads of classically Wiltshire things to do and see in the area, you won't regret stopping off here and enjoying proper pub food with an excellent focus on homemade meals and supporting local businesses. Oh, and did I already mention that they now stock Bluestone Classic Cuvee & Cuvee Rosé ;).

3. Self-Guided Tour & Tasting

The long awaited Self-Guided Tour & Tasting should be up and running by the Easter holidays. I say long awaited because I have been waiting ages for it, I don't think anyone else is particularly excited for it... Though, I may be mistaken.

I will tell you a little bit about why we decided to add something like this to our repertoire. We are a small team, as most of you will know, as being a part of the mailing list it is likely that you have met the whole team. We are limited in delivering our guided tours and tastings as one of us is often at events and one on site. The Self-Guided Tour was supposed to be an experience that one could do without as much intervention from us. If you preferred not to be a part of the guided tour, then we have an alternative for you. So, it solved a little bit of an issue for us, but also added options for our guests. We took some inspiration from our friends at Langham in Dorset and Sharpham Estate in Devon.

We have been working with a local illustrator, Francesca Mclean, who has created some beautiful illustrations specifically for us. We have used them on the info-boards that you follow around the vineyard whilst you discover Bluestone, your way. Chess has also designed and illustrated the map that you will use to guide you around the vineyard and to help you on your self-guided tasting.

4. We've Hired!

We have had a few positions out of late. We were hiring for a Customer Experience Team Member, a Marketing Manager and a couple of positions to help at the Cellar Door as Cellar Door Team Members. We have filled almost all of these spots and you'll be glad to know that they will all double up as help for Toby in the vineyard.

We will be doing a spotlight post on all of our team members so we can introduce you all to the new members of the Bluestone family.

5. Cellar Door Decking Decor

Olga, the groundskeeper for the farm who looks after our rose gardens, polytunnels, all of the raised beds and other seasonal garden areas (pretty much everything actually) has designed us a lovely potted Mediterranean scene for our decking outside the Cellar Door Tasting Room. Things are currently being ordered and we will share the results with you with some snaps on Instagram.

6. More Space

We have cleared and created more space behind the Vineyard Shed to extend the fun. This area used to house some of our British rare breeds piggies. They have been moved to the other side of the farm and now we have a lovely space that, once seeded, will be a beautiful area for private garden parties, functions and events.

7. Wine News

We are very excited to be bottling our own red wine this year. This is from the 2020 harvest and is 100% Pinot Noir. We only have 70L and it has been ageing in a glass carboy and a glass orb in the woods between the vineyards. The cool woodland environment has allowed a slow development of the wine but enough for the acidity and tannin to have mellowed. It is a nice crisp and refreshing red with lovely upfront cherry flavours and aromas. It is perhaps a little darker in colour than a lot of English pinot noirs we have seen. This is due to the fact that we actually fermented on skins for 21 days and extracted a little more colour and therefore, a little more grip than we had anticipated.

The fruit was hand destemed by a group of us after the main part of the harvest was finished. Thanks to our lovely volunteers who helped with hand destemming, which is quite a task.

We foot stomped the grapes with our feet to gently break open the skins of the berries. The idea was that we would also leave some berries whole, which would give us some carbonic maceration, often contributing very fruity aromas and specific characteristics such as bubblegum and sometimes banana. This wine may be available to purchase pending our winemakers licence. Get in touch if you are interested in trying some/ buying some. It won't last long, that's for sure.

One barrel of our chardonnay will go back to Hambledon to be re-fermented with this year's harvest. This is an excellent technique which helps clear up some wine that is perhaps not where you want it to be. As we only have a barrel (228L), this will be a drop in the ocean and by fermenting it in the juice from the 2022 harvest we will be able to rescue it.

Our other two 2020 barrels of chardonnay have been given the ecstatic nod of approval by the winemaking team at Hambledon. The intention for this wine was a still 100% chardonnay to be kegged so we could serve it in the Cellar Door by the glass and reduce wastage and packaging by not using glass.

Our two barrels of chardonnay from 2021 will be blended and bottled for a small run of sparkling wine that will be aged on its lees for a long time.

8. Visitors Down, Hope is High

We had lower visitor numbers than we had planned for in February. A bit of a long shot at this time of year. We were hoping that the self-guided tour would be up and running by now, but we aren't far off now. March numbers were a little better considering we hadn't planned on doing much. It was the Mother's Day Sparkling Afternoon Tea and Tours that saved us a little. They were great fun and our guests enjoyed their time with us very much.

Having just crept over into April our tour season has officially begun. We had our first weekend of tours on the 2nd and 3rd of April. Jack is leading the tour scene this year and is being helped by our new starter, Molly, who is due to join us at the end of April. We are putting more emphasis on our local lunch platter this season as well because, why not? It is the perfect addition to an afternoon or morning in the vineyard. So, come, relax, eat, drink and simply enjoy your time with us.

9. Easter Event on the Farm

Our sister business, Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm, is holding a huge bonanza of different things over the Easter holidays, perfect for family fun. There is a cross over event that is bringing the Easter egg hunt into the vineyards where parents can try the wines and chat with us all while the kids are buzzing off of some chocolate.

10. Buy Wine

If you're in need for some celebratory bubbles in the coming weeks, then look no further. Our Classic Cuvee 2017 and Cuvee Rosé 2018 are both tasting beautifully at the moment. For me, the Classic currently pips it. It is just delightfully pure and crisp with the hallmark toasty notes singing through all of that apple and dashes of fresh lemon.

These wines would be the perfect gift for someone you know will appreciate a high quality product. Especially one that you already have a connection with, whether you have visited us, met us at a show and purchased from us before.

Remember, you can always enhance your gift by purchasing a hand-printed wooden gift box or make use of our personalised message laser-engraving service, giving someone a truly unique gift.

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