It’s January, which means for some of us a dry month. For me, it’s also a month where I plan and book my holidays for the year ahead…. It’s a habit I’ve built over the years and helps give me something to look forward to in the bleak winter months.
If, like me, you are researching and planning your 2019 holidays, and Cornwall is on the list – here is a big tip for your break in the Duchy. It involves sunshine, spectacular scenery, delicious food and happily, wine.
Last month, I was lucky enough to be invited on a Cornish Wine Tour with the incredibly knowledgeable Kate McBurnie.
Kate and I go way back – in our previous lives, Kate came on work experience at the communications agency where I was MD whilst she was studying a PR degree.
Our paths crossed again when I mentored her with her start up business – Cornish Wine Tours. Kate has also been working with my friends Alex and Rob at Hutch Agency, who created the stunning brand identity and website for the business. She fast became one of our favourite clients for her focus, drive and commitment to excellence.
Going on a tour with Kate was the chance to find out first-hand how quality of experience is at the very heart of her offer.
We were joined by another old friend, Kirstie Newton from Cornwall Today. Kirstie and I became mates on the yoga mat, pregnant with our daughters who are now aged eight.
Kirstie bumped into a fellow mum on the school run the very morning we were going on our Cornish Wine Tour. “You’re going on a wine tour with Rachel Picken? That’s amazing! Everyone knows how much Rachel likes wine.”
Eek. My reputation precedes me. I have a two house moves, a divorce and a business start-up under my belt in the past three years, meaning that many an evening involves collapsing on the sofa with whatever bottle is on offer in the supermarket.
Kirstie’s wine consumption is a lot more sensible than mine. A moderate drinker, she can make a bottle last a whole week. This could be an interesting day.
First stop was the world famous Camel Valley, right on the Camel Trail near Bodmin. We arrive in Kate’s immaculate mini bus. It’s a December morning but the sun is warming through, and you can see how these vines and slopes soak up the rays all year round to create wines that beat the world’s best in blind taste tests.
It may have been 11am, but I was excited to get sampling. Kate has studied wine qualifications, and is able to share her knowledge in a completely friendly, accessible way so even the most neglected of palates can enjoy tastings.
Before long, we were assessing colour, nose, acidity and understanding the different grapes and techniques that go into producing English wines. We tried seven varieties here – starting with the Bacchus Dry and comparing it with the Darnibole Bacchus – same grapes but grown in a specific vineyard further along the valley, offering a very different character. Darnibole has also been offered Protected Designated Status.
This connection to where the grapes are grown continues with Annie’s Anniversary Brut – made from grapes pruned only by Camel Valley fellow founder Annie Lindo. We also try different sparkling roses – including Kate’s favourite Pinot Noir and celebrity chef inspired Cuvee Raymond Blanc de Noir.
Our second stop was a complete surprise. I’ve driven past Trevibban Mill on numerous occasions. We are welcomed by husband and wife team Engin and Liz, who show us around. They bought the site near Padstow with the view of restoring the old mill onsite, but soon had a more ambitious idea for the land, which was unsustainable as farmland.
The planted vines around 10 years ago and are only just starting to see the fruits of their labour.
At Trevibban, Kirstie and I are getting into our stride. We declare Constantine Chardonnay reminds us of a smoked cheese, with its vanilla, smokey nose, contrasted against Merope’s crisp, pear taste. I enjoyed and bought a bottle of Black Ram – the first English red I’ve tried, with its blackberry nose and dark chocolate finish.
Kate suggested I let this one sit for six months before enjoying it, which is unheard of for me. But dutifully it now sits in my wine rack, waiting for the right moment to enjoy.
An indulgent highlight of the day is three course lunch at Appleton’s At The Vineyard, above the winery bar. This is part of the full-day tour, and takes an already special day into forever memorable.
The restaurant is the venture of Andy Appleton, former head chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in Cornwall. We tried spectacular sourdough from Coombeshead Farm, which was a new discovery for me, plus squid ink linguine and an incredible panna cotta with fennel meringue. Mind and tastebuds – blown.
All of this, with a beautiful view across the vineyard, which could just as easily be in South Africa or Barossa in Australia.
With our bellies full and our palates indulged, Kate drives us safely home. Kirstie and I rarely have time for a full day to ourselves, and this is an unusual but very special day to remember. My preference for a pamper is usually a spa day or pub lunch, but with a wine tour I felt I was able to learn a lot too.
For 2019, I am looking forward to more mindful wine appreciation and fabulous holidays. With Cornish Wine Tours, you can do both.
Rachel Picken – Agile PR