It seems only yesterday that wine scribe Chris Wilson decided to put his money where his mouth is and make his own wine, setting up what has become Cambridge’s first ever winery, Gutter&Stars. After the rave success of his inaugural wine ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ Bacchus 2020, Wilson launches his second wine, ‘Hope is a Good Swimmer’ Pinot Noir 2020 which also harps back to his days as a music journalist. With orders to fulfil, fruit to check and sun to pray for, what else is on his To Do list? A TV interview and, weirdly, this is the thing that concerns him most.
“Earlier this month the second G&S wine was released and sales have been very strong. The ‘Hope is a Good Swimmer’ Pinot Noir 2020 is made from Crouch Valley fruit from Missing Gate Vineyard,” writes Wilson.
I’m usually the one that asks the questions.
I’ve worked as a journalist for over 20 years and interviewed hundreds of people throughout a career which has spanned music, sport, travel and – more recently – wine journalism. I’ve interviewed Debbie Harry from Blondie on a double bed at the St. Martin’s Lane Hotel, Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards on a chairlift in the Zillertal Valley and Etienne Hugel over a curry in Cambridge.
It’s been a wonderful way to make a living, but since Gutter & Stars launched the tables have turned a little and I find myself on the receiving end of the questions from time to time which is a little unnerving.
Earlier this month I was invited to London to film a spot with William Lowe MW for 67 Pall Mall TV. We tasted two Gutter & Stars wines and chatted about how the winery was established and plans for the future. Considering it was my story to tell and that as a seasoned interviewer I knew what to expect I felt oddly nervous as the cameras rolled… it all went well but I feel much more comfortable on the other side of the couch!
Very soon there’ll be little time to think about anything other than winemaking as the 2021 harvest is lurching into view very quickly.
It seems like yesterday that I opened the doors of the winery and began getting things set up, and now the second vintage is almost here… time flies. Over the next month I will get the cellar ready to receive the new fruit, which involves taking delivery of some new equipment, including three more French oak barrels and a new basket press. There’s plenty of cleaning to do as well and logistics to sort out regarding fruit transport and some additional help in the winery on busy days.
In early September I will visit growers to look at the vines and this year’s crop and discuss target ripeness levels and potential picking windows. Much depends on the weather over the next six weeks, of course, so fingers crossed for a late summer heatwave and a dry, warm September.
Earlier this month the second G&S wine was released and sales have been very strong. The ‘Hope is a Good Swimmer’ Pinot Noir 2020 is made from Crouch Valley fruit from Missing Gate Vineyard and is a bright and crunchy red that’s drinking nicely now but I feel has legs for further time in bottle.
I’ve been asked about the name, and like the ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ Bacchus it has its roots in music. This time the reference is less obvious; it’s a (misheard) lyric from the James song Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) taken from the Manchester band’s 2001 album Pleased to Meet You. We all need a little hope right now, so it seemed fitting.
The song itself is an absolute belter and contains the irresistible line – “Drink like Richard Burton/ Dance like John Travolta” – which I think we can all relate to now and again.
The final 2020 wine to be released is the Chardonnay and it will hit the shelves this side of Christmas. At present it’s still in barrel (2/3 French oak, 1/3 American oak) and tasting really good; ripe tropical fruit, a decent tingle of acidity and a rich weight in the mouth. I expect to bottle this within the next six weeks then refill the barrels with some 2021 Chardonnay juice soon after.
This week I’ve been delivering local orders of the Pinot Noir in and around Cambridge. It’s a great chance to meet my customers and hand-deliver their wine. People seem very keen to talk and many are looking forward to visiting the winery this autumn as and when I get some events and tastings in the diary.
One customer has offered me the use of her chestnut-roasting drum which I was eyeing up in her front garden, so I’ll have to plan a festive session this December now. Mull something up, get the fairy lights out and put Low’s Christmas album on the record player. Watch this space.