So last week I was invited on a day of wine tasting and dining in a vineyard – an English vineyard. English wine is highly regarded these days, and I was intrigued to find out more so I headed into Surrey on the train to Denbies in Dorking.
I love travelling by train, it’s relaxing and comfortable and gives you plenty of time to work, read or simply ponder as you watch the countryside go by. Dorking is a short journey from London and as you emerge from the tunnel just before the station, it feels like you’ve magically arrived in a different world (or country at least). There are vines growing both sides of the track and hilly, lush green countryside surrounds you. Good start!
Set just minutes from Dorking Station, Denbies is the largest vineyard in the UK, grows 19 grape varieties and produces 400,000 bottles a year. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful. There are walking paths through the estate that are open to the public, so there are quite a lot of people walking their dogs, which I’m always happy to see.
There’s plenty to do at Denbies. You can take the train tour up to the highest point of the vineyard where you won’t be able to help yourself gasping at the view. You can also enjoy a Vine & Dine experience where you are taught about grape picking (and pick grapes), have a wine tasting and lunch. Or on bad-weather days there are even indoor wine tours in their unique circular (and slightly bewildering) cinema with surround vision.
And then there’s the restaurants. The Conservatory is a spacious atrium which is open for lunch and tea. The Gallery (which is where I had lunch) is upstairs and is a beautifully light-filled room with panoramic views across the vines. It’s open every day for lunch and Thursday, Friday and Saturday for dinner.
The food is truly lovely (as the pictures clearly show), made using local ingredients where possible. To start, their signature duo of soups which is a healthy and hearty combination of Heirloom tomato and butterbean served in the same bowl, but separate – novel!
I enjoyed the most perfectly cooked piece of salmon (I’m quite a fussy salmon eater and if it’s even slightly overdone I can’t eat it…sorry), served on bed of creamy pesto mash with lovely roast tomatoes and peppers. It looks as lovely as it tasted.
And to finish off, a fabulous cheese platter with grapes, naturally. All local cheeses, the middle one was garlic and herb and incredibly moreish.
There’s also a lovely farm shop (how I love a farm shop) and a modern wine tasting area. And the wine is excellent, too, I loved their Juniper Hill white which I had with lunch.
Find out more at www.denbies.co.uk