To book your tickets for this workshop please click here. (Please note, there will be a small surcharge for this workshop. You must also be over the age of 18 to participate). You will also need a festival ticket prior to booking onto any of the workshops.
The following article was written by Katy for the Chilterns Food Magazine, about the wonderful Chiltern Valley Winery:
“Picture dancing in a beautifully restored 18th century barn, a canape reception in cobbled courtyards, a night in a quintessential English farmhouse, a stroll through a vineyard and delicious English sparkling wine on tap. What better place for the most important party of your life? And so it seems, the couples of the Chilterns have caught on… over the last few years Old Luxters Barn has quickly become one of the area’s most in-demand wedding venues. Over 80 couples now tie the knot every year at the modest venue, tucked away near the hamlet of Hambledon in the beautiful South Chilterns countryside surrounding Henley and Marlow.
There is much more to Old Luxters Barn than at first meets the eye and undoubtedly part of the draw as a unique wedding venue is the fact that the site is also home to an award-winning winery, micro-brewery and more recently cookery school and farmhouse B&B. Yes it may be located in sleepy rural surroundings, but this is a hard-working corner of the Chilterns and home to the multi-faceted enterprise that is goes by the dual names of Chiltern Valley Winery and Old Luxters Barn depending which part of the business is being referenced (Old Luxters being the original name of the farm).
The story began in 1980 when David Ealand, a successful maritime solicitor, purchased Old Luxters Farm as rural home for his then young family. The site was at that point a pig farm with mixed arable but Donald was drawn to a more refined use for the land. The chalky hills of the South Chilterns, set close to former Thames riverbed course, had been gaining momentum as offering similar conditions to those found in the Champagne region in France and attracted the attention of viticulturists and winemakers to the region. David’s research back in the eighties inspired him to plant some vines on the hilly ground at Old Luxters. In 1984 his first harvest produced over 7000 bottles and hence Chiltern Valley Winery was born.
Despite beginning as a hobby winemaker, from the onset David immersed himself in the industry, quickly taking on an advisory role for other fledgling vineyards or offering up his services to produce their wine in his purpose-built winery housed in one of the farmyard barns. Chiltern Valley now boosts an enviable range of English wines, which includes an exceptional Sparkling made from Reichensteiner grapes, a popular variety for English sparkling wines hailing from Germany. In addition to the very popular Bacchus wine and superb Pinot Noir- one of the few red grapes that can thrive in the UK’s cooler climate.
It wasn’t until 1990 that David retired from his legal career to focus on the business full-time and at this point he quickly added another string to his bow, the micro-brewery. The brewery is housed beside the winery in a converted wood store, and in fact makes use of some of same equipment. The method of in-bottle fermentation is similar to that of champagne, and is marked by the presence of sediment in the bottle. All the ales are made using top quality UK sourced malt and hops, which are then processed using traditional methods. Visitors to the brewery can experience the heady scents of the hops sparging (the process of running hot water through the grains to extract the sugars and starch) and see the majestic copper and fermentation vessels.
The whole ale-making process takes 3 months including time for the in-bottle conditioning, but the result is a far superior real ale. So superior in fact that the Old Luxters Barn Ale –rightly dubbed ‘the champagne of real ales’ – proudly held the Royal Warrant for a decade after it became a favourite of Prince Philip’s.
David’s son, Donald now heads up proceedings and is certainly not one to rest on his laurels. Having grown up on site Donald boasts extensive knowledge of all aspects of production and works closely with the very busy production manager, Neil. He turns his hand to anything, whether its solving a niggle in the state-of-the-art bottling machine or overseeing the operations of a wedding to ensure he understands all aspects of his evolving business.
The conversion of Donald’s former childhood home to the Bed and Breakfast came as a result of the extremely popular tours offered to visitors. At the end of a full-tour of the vineyards and intricacies of micro-brewing, attendees are treated to a sampling session of Chiltern wines and home brewed liqueurs in the dedicated onsite tasting room. Given the site’s rural location lots of visitors were looking for somewhere to stay so they could fully immerse themselves in the experience (I mean does anyone really use a spittoon?). “We were sending inordinate numbers of guests down to the couple of B&Bs in the local area- so it made perfect sense to open our own”, explains Donald.
When Donald’s wife, Lucy, joined the business, she brought with her extensive events experience following a career with a top London events company, and she now heads up the wedding department. The opening of a Farmhouse Cookery School last year ties together different strands of the business, giving visitors an immersive experience whereby they can tour the site, use local ingredients and enjoy a hands-on cooking and dining experience in idyllic surroundings all washed down with some superb English wine.
Old Luxters/Chiltern Valley Winery may span several industries, but it oozes countryside charm and family history. The winery and brewery remain very much at the heart of the business, the importance of which Donald is only too conscious of; with plans to expand the range of beers on offer and add even more to the tour offering, you don’t need a wedding invite and a hat to explore this charming corner of the Chilterns”.