Do House Martins have Sat Nav?
Now then, it's raining folks. When it rains we can't work on the vines so it's an indoor day here and the latest issue of our magazine is finished and published so I thought I'd take this excellent opportunity to write the next blog.
What a shock it was to realise that my last blog was back in April! Now this tells you a number of things - firstly we have had the most fantastic weather for months therefore outside most of the time (just think what that means for the grapes!) and secondly since the end of May (and I'll come back to that) we have been incredibly busy!
So busy in fact that to go through everything would end up a novel - ooh more of that too!
So to summarise............
Beginning of June, to coincide with Welsh Wine Week, we launched two more wines. Our first still white from the Solaris grapes we harvested in 2021 and our, long awaited traditional method Velfrey Sparkling Cuvée Reserve 2019 Vintage.
The launch of Solaris 2021 and 2019 Velfrey Cuvée Reserve
We have been overwhelmed by the positive responses to both of these wines from sommeliers and visitors alike. It does make you feel very proud and very protective of the vines - good job! In fact our Solaris sold out by August and people were panic buying!
Earlier this month we launched our dry still white Naturiol. This wine is naturally fermented, low alcohol, low intervention and has had a great deal of care and attention from biodynamic winemaker Dave Morris at Mountain People Wine in Monmouthshire. As much as possible, Dave likes to leave the grapes to do their own thing so they ferment in old oak barrels under the naturally present yeast and the juice clears by being left to settle in tanks and then carefully drained off into another tank. The resulting wine is crisp and clean and full of flavour - it is going down a storm!
Since Welsh Wine Week we have been attending exhibitions to showcase our wines. Now, exhibitions may be tiring but they are lots of fun! One that sticks out in my mind was the Swansea International Wine Fair organised by a local wine merchant. There were wines from all over the world, well known huge wine businesses - and stuck down the end of a corridor was little old us. We thought it was going to be a quiet night but word got about that there was a Welsh vineyard with Welsh wine - and it was good! Next thing we knew there was a tsunami of people thundering down the corridor and we were swamped! The usual initial reaction was scepticism followed by immense surprise at the quality of the wine. Many people said our wines were the best they had tasted - and this was at a show featuring wines from France, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Chile … and so on. Anyway at one point the organisers battled their way through the throng, to our stand, got up onto a box to be able to see us and ask if we were okay!
LtoR: Lindley Hall for the WineGB Trade and Press Tasting; Four Welsh vineyards; The long corridor at the Swansea International Wine Fair; The calm before the storm at the Swansea International Wine Fair; Exhibiting at the National Geographic Travellers Food Festival; The Velfrey stand as part of the Welsh Pavilion
We exhibited for a whole weekend in London at the National Geographic Travellers Food Festival as part of a Welsh Pavilion and that was a lot of fun! Our Velfrey Cuvée Reserve was chosen to serve with Wales inspired canapes as people arrived at the exhibition which again was one of those jaw dropping moments of immense pride. The extra special part of that exhibition was that our son Craig and his wife Jemma were able to join us.
The last show we did was the WineGB Trade and Press Tasting in the wonderful RHS Lindley Hall London. We were one of four exhibiting Welsh vineyards and there under the banner of Welsh Vineyards Association - of which Andy is now the Chair (another new development in the Velfrey Vineyard story!)
Ryan Davies from Llanerch Vineyard congratulating Andy on being elected as WVA Chair
While we were on our way back from London Andy (as WVA Chair) got a call from BBC Wales asking if they could come the next day to the vineyard with a camera crew and their reporter Elin Davies. Well of course we said yes and continued our journey saying 'this would never have happened if we'd planted cabbages!! Sure enough the lovely Elin and her cameraman arrived the next day and not only Andy but also our tour guests became TV stars! They were speaking about having a dedicated name for Welsh sparkling wine - as champagne does - and the piece will be aired some time this weekend.
BBC Wales filming and interviewing in our lodge!
It has also been a summer which has brought our first award - quite a surprise but only as we'd forgotten we'd entered! The Global Masters 'The English and Welsh Wine Masters 2022' is a competition where the wines are judged blind by the finest palates in the world – a panel of Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and senior buyers only. They say: "The best competing wines will be awarded medals from Bronze through to Gold, and ultimately “Master” for exceptional examples. The calibre of the judges guarantees international recognition of all the medals awarded."
We were utterly delighted to be told that our Velfrey Traditional Method Sparkling Wine has won the ultimate accolade and been awarded "Master" status!!
We are also finalists in the Visit Pembrokeshire Croeso Awards for tourist innovation plus we are waiting to hear the results of the Glass of Bubbly2022 judging and daresay there will be more competitions to come.
During the summer we also held a cheese and wine party to say 'thank you' to our harvesters from last year. It was one of those beautiful warm summer evenings and great to see so many people here.
Thank you Harvesters!
Up to now, we have kept trade sales of our wine fairly local in Fire and Ice Narberth and The London Road Butchery in Whitland but as we knew that number of bottles is only going to be increasing year on year, we felt it was time to get our wine into a few more places. So now we have great fun delivering to The Little Pantry in Tenby; St Davids Food and Wine, Bayview Stores Solva, Annwn Restaurant Lawrenny, Rib & Oyster Kilgetty, Elmgrove House Hotel St Florence and The Grove Narberth - to name but a few! As you can imagine delivering our wine takes us to some of the most beautiful parts of Pembrokeshire and it is so much fun to meeting the owners and having a good old catch up.
And of course we have been open for visitors! Sophie takes her work very seriously and when she is preparing menus for afternoon teas and our grazing boards, well of course, she wants us to try all the different components! Oh, dear readers, what a difficult job(!) but we were prepared to battle on - I think Sophie is getting a little bit suspicious that we might be wanting to do more tasting than is necessary! I've seen the Christmas Afternoon Tea menu and I can't wait to do the quality control!!!
A tour in progress
Near the beginning of my ramblings I mentioned a 'novel' - well the vineyard now has a biographer! Our good friend Lindsay Pritchard (author of the fantastic 'The Violin' - well worth a read!) asked if he could write a biography about the vineyard, our story and wine in the area. How exciting!
While all this has been going on, never fear, the vines have not been neglected - quite the opposite in fact! The vines and grapes have been pampered all season and they are looking good!
After the tying down process is finished (back in April) it is not long before you see the first shoot growth, flowers and inflorescences appearing and the calls of 'we're going to be on it this year!' starting to ring round the vineyard. So this season we have been working hard to keep the leaf canopy tidier and carrying out constant leaf stripping - there have been leaves flying in all directions! Oh how we've stripped in the vineyard!!
Looking neat and tidy and ready for some treats!
And the vines have been getting treats of seaweed, compost tea, smelly comfrey and nettle infusions, orange peel extract and the like.
The up shot is that the vines are looking tidy and healthy - and the grapes I hear you ask? Well, (touch wood, find me a black cat with a four leaf clover in its mouth...) we have another really good crop of clean, plump grapes! The Pinot Noir in particular are looking quite majestic - maybe a still red on the horizon? We'll see but the signs are good.
Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc
Of course the fact that the grapes are ripening not only means that our kitchen turns into a chemistry lab as we test grapes to check their readiness for picking, but also the local wild life start to take a very keen and unwanted interest! We have not had such an issue with wasps this year but the birds have been getting in there early. So out came the bird netting for the Pinot Noir and the Solaris, up go the bird kites and the 'UFO' balloon and on goes the screeching bird scarer.
On with the blue hair net!
And for all you Solaris fans out there - good news! We harvested the Solaris grapes this week and they are now at the winery and starting their wine making process!!
Solaris harvest with a little help from Bash!
We're starting to get excited/anxious messages asking when our main harvest will be this year and, although, it's so difficult to say, we think it will be mid to late October - but if you think you would like to come along and help pick the grapes sign up to our newsletter (follow the link on our home page) and we'll keep you informed!
Oh and tomorrow (Saturday 24th September) we will be at the Narberth Food Festival which looks fantastic! Andy is giving at talk at 1pm and then we will be offering tastings of our Velfrey Cuvée Reserve and our Naturiol. So if you're in the area pop along and say 'Hello'!
P.S. In my previous blog I asked if any of you knew where bees sleep at night and many thanks for all the replies! So at night bees sleep in nests in little holes which can be vole holes, holes in trees, gaps in walls. After I asked the question I actually watched a bee working its way under some leaves into a little vole hole in the garden and wished it a 'good night'! They will even sleep in flowers that close up at night, like late crocuses - means they can have a midnight snack too!
So today's question! We are privileged to have house martins and swallows nesting here and we just love watching them over the summer and listening to their bubbling chatter. Now then - how do they find there way back every year? I find it absolutely amazing although the others laugh at me for getting concerned if they've not arrived by the date they landed the year before!
Fledgling house martins and a terrace of nests
P.P.S. Back to my mention of the end of May - well that was when Craig and Jemma got married! It was the most perfect, laughter filled, lovely weekend and we now have a new Mrs Mounsey :-)