A few weekends ago we took a return trip to Kent to make our way around a few more of the wonderful vineyards that the area has to offer. We’ve made it a bit of a mission to visit them all!
It also saw the start of our latest Instagram, The Vineyard Hoppers! We are going to be showcasing what wineries and breweries we visit as a foursome and hopefully inspire you to take your own tours too!
But, back to the weekend at hand; we stayed in an Airbnb in Ashford that meant we could pre-drink and chill out together which we don’t really get to do when we’re all in a hotel. We used cabs to get between each vineyard and the foodie stops on the Saturday to make sure we all really made the most out of the day!
Our first stop was an 11am booking for a vineyard tour with the owner of Woodchurch, Graham. When it comes to vineyard tours, not much can beat being taken around by the very person that planted every vine!
During our tour, we learnt that Woodchurch’s vision is to create the world’s finest sparkling wines and I am totally here for that kind of aspiration. All of the vines are tended to, harvested and pruned by hand by the small team and you can really taste the love and effort that then goes into each bottle.
After our tour we had a lovely tasting of 4 of the wines on offer; the Classic Brut and Rosé Brut both at £36 a bottle, the still Rosé at £20 a bottle and the Natural Bacchus. Of the 4 we tasted my favourite was the Rosé Brut, but I do tend to be more of a sparkling Rosé kinda gal.
We also had lunch booked at Woodchurch which consisted of two charcuterie boards and two cheese boards between the four of us. All the produce was sourced locally and we had a selection of three cheese, three types of meat and bread, crackers and a selection of antipasti. We came to a firm decision that this was the best way to spend a Saturday with the sunlight pouring in through the windows as we sat at a stunning oak table that was created from an old oak tree on-site.
I was such a fan of the wines we tried here that I joined their Wine Club so I can’t wait to receive my first delivery in May next year and to take part in the harvest!
To get to our next winery, Wayfarer Wines, we just walked 15 minutes up the country lane (don’t worry, it was very safe)!
Our appointment here was for a 5 wine tasting session with Karen, one of the owners. During the hour or so we spent with her, we spoke about they established the vineyard with her father in law starting off as a little retirement project and it really doing well, winemaking in the UK, and how they go about sustainable farming which was all so interesting.
The wines we tasted were in fact the whole range of wines that are currently being produced by Wayfarer as 2020 was their first harvest; the Woodland Chardonnay, Pilgrims Way Pinot Gris, Wandering Wayfarer Bacchus, Pilgrims Way Pinot Noir Rosé and the Hedgerow Pinot Noir Rosé. You may have noticed no sparkling wines here, which may seem odd as Kent is basically the home of sparkling in the UK, but Wayfarer are doing it a little differently and only making still wines.
From here, we picked up the Hedgerow Pinot Noir Rosé and the Wandering Wayfarer Bacchus.
Our final vineyard of the day was around 30 minutes in a cab away which was pretty pricey and if I’m totally honest, not entirely sure it was worth it! Balfour Winery is bloody massive and they make over 400,000 bottles of wine a year; compare that to the 20,000 max at Woodchurch and you see what I mean! We were totally spoiled by the first two vineyards in sitting with the owners whilst tasting and the calibre of wine we’d drank that our final stop felt a little lacking when given a tray of 6 different wines to try and some tasting notes to read ourselves. Admittedly the servings were rather healthy ones, but we did feel that there was a difference in the ambience and the attention to detail wasn’t quite there.
We did have fantastic service, and we’ve had a friend who has visited on more than one occasion who was shocked to the core that we weren’t blown away by what we had experienced. As with everything we do, this is all subject to our tastes and our preferences so please don’t be put off visiting as it may be your next new favourite. We do fully think that our experience would have been very different had we had an accompanied tour and a tasting to have matched the previous wineries.
After a day of wine tasting, we knew we’d want some hearty food so we booked a table at The Riverside Inn. As soon as we walked in the door we were greeted by the smallest Dachshund I’d ever seen and a Cockapoo in a Christmas jumper; we were certainly not disappointed upon first impressions!
We were also not disappointed by the staff or the food that we devoured! We can highly recommend the pie and mash, surf and turf and the Mexicana burger! Plates were left very empty which is always a good sign.
Being a little out of town, The Doghouse Micro Pub was a cab journey away from our dinner spot but we were so glad we visited! The four of us have a love of music and dogs, and this pub is filled with dog and music-themed artwork. There’s even a record player in the corner with a huge selection of vinyls to keep you entertained; we went with Fleetwood Mac and Blondie!
They have a selection of cask beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks for all tastes. The staff were all very lovely too!
If we’re doing a trip away, we just simply have to squeeze in a brewery tour!
Curious Brewery was originally owned by Chapel Down Winery which is how it first caught our eye, but it’s now moved to a new £14mil home with a different owner and different location in quite central Ashford.
Our tour was with Vic and we had such a laugh on the way around, but we also learnt so much about the brand, their brewing and how far they’ve come as a company. We also got to try the range too which is always a highlight of a tour as it just feels different drinking a beer literally next to where it was brewed after learning behind the scenes.
A tour is £20 for an adult and it is well worth it!
We headed home after the brewery tour as the weather was beyond awful, but if you want to stick around, there’s the Ashford Outlets just a short drive away. It was on our list to do next but we fancied getting home and dry!