It feels like just a few weeks ago that wine journalist Chris Wilson proposed setting up a new winery, Gutter & Stars, and suggested a monthly feature so that The Buyer could follow its progress. And already his first wine, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ Bacchus 2020, is bottled and up for sale. In addition, Wilson has linked up with an urban brewer, making beer out of the fermented skins and is already thinking about this year’s harvest.
“I knew there was wine in the soul of this place and it was great to hear these stories and to meet someone with a real interest in how the windmill is being used,” writes Wilson.
It’s almost time for lift-off at the windmill winery… in a few weeks I’ll have something to sell. The first wine was bottled in mid-March on St Patrick’s Day, and luck was seemingly on our side as the biggest mistake of the day was trying to make an Aeropress coffee without a filter paper. The ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ Bacchus 2020 now sits in a metal cage awaiting labels and wax later this month.
Design and artwork
Continuing the windmill theme, the labels – brilliantly designed by Ed Wright Creative – were printed in Scotland by a company called Windmill Printing, who did an excellent job. The Gutter & Stars wording looks great in raised black varnish and the textured, uncoated paper adds a rustic feel, it’s all part of the urban aesthetic.
The artwork itself was something I created back in 1999 when at art school. It’s been sitting in a box in various lofts for two decades so it’s about time it had its day in the sun. I hope it reflects the wine inside the bottle; bright, multi-layered and full of life.
The labels for the 2020 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines have been designed too (both featuring artwork by American artists) and they look great as a set. The thinking on the Pinot is to blend and bottle in June/July for a late summer release. It’s punchy and fruit-forward at the moment and I feel that a few more months in barrel will round it off nicely and develop further some of its peppery characters.
As for the Chardonnay, it’s very much a waiting game right now so watch this space.
A blast from the past
While prepping the winery for bottling last month there was a knock at the door and a gentleman came in and introduced himself. It was Michael French, whose family had built Chesterton Mill in 1847 and milled on the site until the 1950s. It was known locally as French’s Mill and the road it’s at the top of still bears the family name.
We had a fascinating chat and he was very interested in the winemaking process and pleased that the Mill was being put to use again as a production facility. He remembers spending time in the windmill’s cellar when he was a small boy not long before the mill closed and gave me a potted history of how the basement has been used since. An expert carpenter made all manner of ornate furniture here and it’s been used on and off to store various things, including – excitingly – Mr French’s personal wine collection.
I knew there was wine in the soul of this place and it was great to hear these stories and to meet someone with a real interest in how the windmill is being used. I’ve promised him a wine tasting very soon.
The rest of the Chesterton Mill site is coming along nicely. Most of the restoration work on the windmill itself and other buildings on site is almost complete and the landscaping is underway. It’s been exciting to see it come together and neighbouring tenants (potential customers!) have started to appear in adjacent buildings. It’s all set for a great summer on site and now that I have my premises licence in place I can sell from the cellar door as well as host tastings and events in the winery.
Thoughts often race ahead to autumn though and the 2021 harvest; what plans to make, what wines to make, how to create space in the cellar and which extra bits of kit I might need. It’ll be an interesting few months getting all that sorted and I’ve already started looking at weather forecasts for parts of the UK I don’t live in to check on potential frost and – more hopefully – fine spring weather. Essex, once again, will be central here.
As I write I’m toasting the start of the Easter weekend with a glass of Reincarnazione beer from local brewery Pastore who made this ‘oud bruin style ale’ with the skins from the Gutter & Stars 2020 Pinot Noir as well as spent cherry and raspberry skins from a previous brew. A wild-cultured ale was conditioned on the three sets of skins and it’s created dry and acidic brew shot through with all that juicy red fruit. There’s another brew on the way which also utilises the Pinot skins, and it’s great to be involved in collaborations like this.
‘I Wanna Be Adored’ Bacchus 2020 will be available from the winery cellar door and the www.gutterandstars.co.uk web shop from 3rdMay. To pre-order this limited-edition wine drop Chris a line – firstname.lastname@example.org