You might remember this handsome chap from harvest 2020? No...? Oh... well he was there and he was ever so helpful. He was one of the poor buggers who was roped into serving food, tea and coffee. Still no? Ah well, there is a photo just below and this may jog your memory. So, this is Jack Grey and I asked him to write a wee bit about himself and what he's up to. I know, we are really struggling for material ;).
During the Covid pandemic I have taken the opportunity to change my career course. I worked previously in the recruitment industry and decided to switch paths to wine, which has been a passion of mine for many years.
It was clear that the first thing to do was to gain some experience in the industry. I did not know quite where to start. Would I prefer working on the commercial front, hospitality, or in the vineyard and winery. Or maybe a bit of everything!
I was lucky enough to start with some blog writing for Stanlake Park Wine Estate in Berkshire. I wrote on a variety of topics from more technical subjects to the events that they were running. They then very kindly took me on to help with the harvest. It was here that I started to recognise the enjoyment and satisfaction that I took from more physical work. I was able to get stuck in both in the Vineyard and the Winery which was exhilarating and also exhausting!
My experience with Bluestone started just after. The first volunteering work I did here was with Nat and Toby, the brothers who run the vineyard. They are a young, enthusiastic team who work very hard on all parts of the business and have a great time while doing so. On this occasion we worked on plucking leaves back from the vines prior to the harvest. My time there was at the end of September/beginning of October. I was only there for a few days but it was lovely to meet the Bluestone Brothers, and get amongst the vines.
Next up was the harvest itself. There are around 15000 vines so I knew it was going to be a tiring week. We started work on Saturday 10th October 2020 with a large group of local volunteers. Everyone got really stuck in and we made sure that they were all well fed and watered. The next day continued in a similar vein with a sizeable group picking their way through the vines. We needed several days more work to complete the harvest, and during this time we also experimented with some wine-making. Nat and Toby had bought a ratchet press and fermentation egg, along with a couple of old 228 litre oak barrels. For all of us, this was a wonderful experience, even if it was incredibly hard work!
Now is the time for winter pruning. This is one of the most important parts of the vine-growers calendar as it sets up this years growth plus the potential for the year after. We have been working steadily through the red grapes using a gentle pruning technique. It has been quite tricky for me as it is my first time doing vine pruning and has proven to be much more technical than I thought! Thankfully, both Nat and Toby have been great instructors, helping me to improve my technique. Our current work is taking place on Three Acre Vineyard and is progressing nicely.
The last few months have been exciting and frankly a bit of a learning curve, but I can’t imagine having spent them any other way, and I am very grateful to Bluestone for the time they have spent with me, helping me become more and more experienced in the different workings of the Vineyard and in Winemaking.