Our little county really is an amazing place. The fertile valleys, mild climate, rolling hills, plentiful hedgerows and two coasts make it a region where we can grow the widest variety of produce in the whole country.And as the nights draw in and the Autumn weather arrives, we begin to enter the peak picking season on the farm…
The annual Pebblebed Vineyards Community Harvest is just around the corner, and we will soon be calling on you to help get grapes off the vine and into wine. For those of you that haven’t joined us for this before, you must – it’s a really special day! After handpicking the grapes of the vines in the beautiful, quaint vineyard, we all come together for a glass of fizz, a Darts Farm Big Green Egg Barbie, some sweet treats and a little bit of music… It really is a community event.
At the moment, our Head Winemaker, Alex, is checking the grapes daily, keeping a close eye on their phenolic ripeness and sweetness, to ensure that they are picked at their best. Depending on the variety, will depend on when they are harvested. The first to ripen, usually around the end of September, are the Rondo grapes; these are used in our Red and Rose still wines. By mid-October our Seyval Blanc grapes should be ready; for me the is the most exciting harvest as they are the ones that we use to make the award-winning English sparklings – my favourite!
To craft the sparkling wines, we use the traditional champagne method… We press the whole bunches of grapes in small batches and leave them to ferment away in cool temperatures for 3 weeks. After this, they are left to naturally clarify over the winter months, before being bottled for the second fermentation the following summer. All this allows the liquids develop the complex, intense flavours English wine is famous for.
It’s not just the vineyard fruit that is beginning to ripen though; our apple orchards are flourishing too. As some of you may know, earlier this year, with the help of Barny Butterfield, founder of Sandford Orchards, we planted our heritage apple orchard here on the farm. With 40 of our favourite Devon varieties, it is a way for us to be able pass on traditional varieties, flavours and heritage and ensure that our rich farming history here at Darts survives and thrives. Although we are unable to harvest the fruits from these trees for a few years, the immature apple buds are a representation that the apple harvest across the county will soon begin and we are looking forward to Barny doing the first pressing in our new Cidery.
Back in the fields on the farm, we are coming to the end of the summer crops, handpicking the last of our tomatoes, runner beans, courgettes, lettuce and tenderstem broccoli; and our sturdy winter crops are coming through. Broccoli, cauliflower, Romanesque, leeks, potatoes, kale, savoy, red and white cabbage, celeriac, squash, carrots, sweetcorn, flower sprouts, beetroot, spinach and chard; the real hearty stuff.
Whilst the harvest is flourishing, our new restaurant, The Farm Table, is taking shape and we are starting to host a few pre-launch trail events and enjoy what the new season has to offer. Last weekend we hosted our first sit down meal for our Field, Fire, Ferment Feast. The restaurant was full, with people enjoying a seasonal 3 course feast; home-grown ruby red beef, fresh veg from our fields, our own handmade gelato and truffles made by our in-house chocolatier, Louise; paired wines from Pebblebed and Ciders from Barny. It’s exactly what we wanted to achieve… it really is The Farm Table!
For us, nothing says Spring like a delicious lamb roast accompanied by minted, seasonal veg and garlic butter new potatoes!
We are thrilled to announce that our expert florist, Anna Slade, was awarded a Silver medal at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.