With craft gin, English wine and British brewers having a resurgence in recent years we are blessed in The Surrey Hills not only to live in an area of natural outstanding beauty but to have great producers who are bringing lost industries back to life.
If your date nights involve wine tasting on the sofa, a pint of artisan beer or mixing your favourite local gin and tonic then Grape & Grain Tours could be right up your street.
Less of a day date and more a shared experience and passion, Grape & Grain Tours are the perfect tonic for parents wanting something a little different. A weekend treat that you can enjoy together, learn about local producers, taste drinks you might not ordinarily try and still be back home for the bedtime routine.
We recently spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Grape & Grain on a mini-tour to find out what it was all about.
With Little Diner safely being cared from we head to the meeting point at Guildford Station, where we were warmly greeted by Joel Eastman, Owner and Tour Guide for today. Merrily we board the booze bus and Joel explains a little about Grape & Grains and what we can expect.
Born out of years of drinks industry experience and a passion to champion local food and drink producers of the region. Joel explains that our first stop will be Greyfrairs Vineyard, the 50 acres vineyard located on the slopes of the Hogs Back. Like I suspect many of you, we’ve driven past this Vineyard on an almost daily basis and muttered the words “We must pop in the one day and take a look”. Well today was that day.
Now in November the vineyards are not looking their prettiest. Harvest has been completed and all 128 tonnes of grapes ready for blending into more award-winning sparkling wine. The vineyard itself is predominately three varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Greyfrairs use a unique blend to create a spectacular range of sparkling wine to rival any Champagne producer. We were lucky enough to taste five and all of them were delicious. Listening to owners Michael and Hilary Wagstaff you get a real sense of the dedication, love and vision to takes to understand the Surrey Hills climate to create fabulous wine.
Celebrating their 25th Anniversary, we’re met by Barrie who shows us around the brewery with such knowledge, generosity, and insight that I may well be convinced to start drinking real ale rather than wine. We learn about the ingredients it takes to create high-quality beer and lager plus the history of Hops in the local area.
The Farnham White Bine, was once the most sought after hop in the UK due it’s quality. The brewery is now reviving The Farnham White Bine in their 3.5 acre Hop Garden, the largest in Britain. Providing a sustainable source of ingredients but also keeping the British brewery legacy alive. As with all tours we end in the gift shop, which is a beer lovers paradise. With up 300 beers from some the UK best regional breweries and further afield. Moving swiftly onto the bus the for the final stop, I’m thankful we were on a schedule and not tempted to burn a hole in my purse. We’ll be back another day to visit the Shop.
Our final destination was Silent Pool Gin Distillery. Now if you’d have to living in a bubble not to have noticed Silent Pool Gin’s rise to fame in the past couple of years. They have been marketing aggressively and with good reason. We’re greeted by Tom the Distillery Manager who explains each part of the process. His down to earth enthusiasm is refreshingly in contrast to the perception I held.
He tells us legends of the pool, how the Distillery came to exist and their plans for the future. We sample some of the botanicals that give Silent Pool it’s distinctive flavour and learn about the machinery and processing by hand it takes to create each delicious bottle. Then obviously sample a view of the Distillery’s gins, including Silent Pool Gin, Albury Gin Cordials, English Rose Gin and any other that take our fancy.
Mr Diner and I are not wine buffs but we do know what we like. The tour was eye-opening, incredibly interesting and yummy. A great way to explore the local area and get away from the humdrum of family life. It was like we’d been on a mini-break.
Grape and Grain Tours officially launch March 2018. Unlike our whirlwind experience, you can expect a full day 10am – 5pm of exploring the Surrey Hills, tasting our local producer’s tipples and a gastro pub lunch. Priced at £99 this could make a perfect present for your partner (Gift Vouchers are available to buy now) or an alternative to a weekend away.
We would thoroughly recommend it. For more information check out www.grapeandgraintours.co.uk