You can't lose your way with that huge a signboard.
Wife and I have got this curious weekly routine. Every Thursday afternoon at around 3pm, I will receive a very short email from her
"So, what's our plans for the weekend?"
You must understand that I am not exactly what you termed as an 'idea' person. Well, I'm more of an 'action' person or 'doer' if you prefer. In other words, you come up with the idea and I'll get it done. Actually, that pretty much sums up how Wife and I work as a team. Throughout the week, she'll come up with all sorts of ideas of how we're going to spend the coming weekend and pretty much the subsequent weekends. I, on the other hand, will do the planning.
That's how we booked ourselves for a vineyard tour at the largest vineyard in England. At 265 acres, Denbies English Vineyard and Wine Estate is also one of the largest vineyard in the world.
Initially, I was pretty reluctant as the last thing I wanted was to spend hours on the train to some godforsaken place, get drunk and then back to London the very same day. But after checking out the precise location on Google Map, I was surprised to find that Denbies English Vineyard and Wine Estate is located at Dorking, which is a mere 50 min train ride from London Waterloo train station. That clinched the deal.
Unripen grapes on the vines. They're sour by the way. Don't ask how I knew. I just did.
It was quite a walk from Dorking station to the vineyard itself. Along the way, we came across several blackberry bushes by the road and even toyed with the idea of foraging some for a blackberry pie on our way back.
The scarecrow greets visitors to Denbies in-house grocery store.
Something to distract you from the wines.
Denbies English Vineyard and Wine Estate has apparently fine tune the reception of visitors to the vineyard to an art. While access to the massive vineyard itself is totally free of charge, many visitors opted for the paid guided tours. Though both indoor and outdoor tours are sold separately, we got the combined ticket at just over £10/person - a discount of around one quid per person.
A quint little shed by the edge of the vineyard.
The external tour took us around the vineyard in train cars hauled along by a rickety rover. In the 40min tour, we were brought through the wine estate to its topmost point where a small chapel resides. Apparently, that chapel is open for wedding bookings. It must be quite an experience to get hitched in the middle of a wine estate amongst rows and rows of grapevines against the setting sun across the horizon.
Rows of vines dominated the landscape with the winery at a distance.
The 50min internal winery tour started with a 360 degree cinematic experience, which Denbies highly publicised. We were whisked into a octogonal room and were treated to 360 degree film show on a brief history of the vineyard. Apparently, Denbies sits on a site that enjoys the same geographical features as the Champange region surrounding Paris. Not surprisingly, Denbies claims to produce sparkling wine that is identical to the famed Champange save the name due to trademark concerns raised by the French.
James May's stunt creating more publicity for Denbies Wine Estate.
Volunteers hard at work stacking up those Lego bricks.
The tour brought us past a group of volunteers helping our James May's latest endeavor - to build a life size house using nothing but Lego bricks on the Chardonnay (see photos below) vineyard slope in the heart of Denbies Wine Estate. He promised to stay in it for at least a couple of days and that got people excited and wonder about how he's going to accomplish certain daily tasks that we shouldn't probably discuss in polite company.
English oaks destroyed by a huge fire were cast into wine barrels.
The entire estate. In fact, 75% of it is given to woodlands.
If you're wondering about when we would come to the point when all of us will get drunk like all winery tours, well, that was right at the end of the tour, which took us to the celler. Over sparkling wines, grape juice and my favorite Surrey Gold, our guide helpfully informed us the difference between British and English wine. Basically, the former is anything that is bottled in Britain while the latter demands that the grapes be produced, processed and bottled in England. Another interesting fact is that the colour of wine (red or white) depends not on the colour of the grapes but on how long the grapes are fermented - the longer the fermentation, the redder the wine.
The Denbies B&B
Five tips if you decide to make your way to Denbies English Vineyard and Wine Estate:
Tea time at the Conservatory. A bit too excessive but I needed to line my stomach after all that wine tasting.
A wedding held at the wine estate when we were there
Foundation of James May's Lego house laid beside the Chardonnay vines
Have you been to a vineyard? Would be great to hear how your experience was.