I am used to wandering round glorious sun-drenched vineyards in France but I didn’t know what to expect when I was told we were visiting a vineyard in Devon. We turned off the main road onto a steep lane and reached a cabin-like building surrounded by lush greenery, blissfully isolated and tranquil.
Yearlstone Vineyard was started in 1976 by pioneering English viticulturist Gillian Pearkes. Gillian planted a variety of vines, collected on her worldwide travels and experimented with vine growing techniques for the English climate. In 1993, Roger and Juliet White bought the vineyard and began building on the site. Using traditional materials they built a house, a shop and office, the equipment and indoor space to make the wine completely onsite and most recently a café and outdoor terrace.
Sitting on the shaded terrace overlooking the endless vines, I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic setting in the British countryside. I felt ignorant for assuming UK’s vineyards were inferior to those in France and elsewhere. As it turns out: “Yearlstone vineyard is located on a steep southerly slope on a hillside above the river Exe at the picturesque village of Bickleigh… 200 feet above sea level and has natural protection from the west, north and east. The soil is a silty clay loam over fragmented Devon red sandstone with excellent drainage and is perfect for vines – red soils are the most sought after for vineyards all around the world. In all, Yearlstone’s position is perfect for growing vines and ripening grapes.”
The Deli Shack cafe at Yearlstone offers wholesome and delicious sharing platters and meals, perfect for enjoying alongside a glass of their wine; we tasted a variety: a soft and floral dry white, a light fruity red and a delicate dry rose which we opted for. To eat, we shared a huge platter of artisan meat and cheese, olives, pickled onions and crusty bread. For main course we tried most of the menu: salad with goat’s cheese, creamy smoked salmon linguine, Spanish style chicken with tomato, peppers and beans, and Taleggio and asparagus tart. The dishes were simple and healthy with a focus on fresh seasonal ingredients.
As well as the vineyard, there is a mature orchard at Yearlstone with many apple trees, from which cider is made. If you are visiting Devon, Yearlstone Vineyard definitely deserves a place on your itinerary. Sitting amongst the beautiful vineyards sipping Yearlstone’s wonderful wine made me feel proud to be British.
More information here: www.yearlstone.co.uk
Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with First Great Western trains.
Advance single fares from London Paddington to Tiverton Parkway are available from £12.50 each way. For the best value tickets and fares buy before you board at www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk or 08457 000125.