I have been looking forward to staying at the Rathfinny vineyard estate ever since I went to their launch, last April, of their Sussex Sparkling wine at the very glamorous venue of Somerset house in London. Here is my blog from last year. Rathfinny Launch
After a few emails back and forth to sort dates (I wanted to make sure Richard James – (my buddy from twitter) was there as I wanted the guided tour of the estate) I booked to stay for a long weekend, which I did two weeks ago.
The Estate, owned by Mark and Sarah driver, is in the Cradle Valley on the South Downs in the county of Sussex near to the village of Alfriston. The estate is only 3 miles from the sea, 17 miles from Brighton and about 60 ish miles from central London.
A 200 mile drive from home and with a pitstop in Brighton for lunch, we arrive in the very picturesque village of Alfriston, just the other side of the village is the entrance for the Rathfinny Estate.
Immediately, after turning off the road, what strikes you, is the sheer attention to detail across the whole estate.
The Rathfinny Logo welcomes you as you pull into the driveway, the logo is based upon the Sussex coat of arms, however the birds have been replaced by Grapes.
Up the drive way we began, within a hundred metres the road winds up the hill and you are surrounded by vines. Its about a mile until you reach the winery and tasting rooms but we were going to the end of the estate to stay at the Flint Barns.
On arrival you can only be impressed by these once derelict old barns that have been lovingly restored, using reclaimed and locally sourced materials.
We checked in, best check in ever… as it doubles as the bar too.
Alice and all of the Flint Barn team were brilliant and nothing was too much trouble even though It was a busy weekend for them with lots of people staying and eating there.
We were shown to our room, everything is of the highest quality with all the fixtures and fittings to a very high standard. Wetroom bathrooms are always a winner. There are no TVs in the rooms or the lounges, which I think is fabulous. This is a getaway and you really do not need a TV! Pets and even children!(haha) are welcomed too.
Dropped the bags in the room and headed back to the bar…. well it was way past wine o’clock, opting for a large glass, as would be drinking wine later with dinner and Rich was joining us after, of the estates only still wine, which I believe is unfortunately for the estate only. The wine is called Cradle valley, vintage 2017, its a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris and is really delicious indeed. With glasses in hand it was time to relax in the lounge before dinner. You can buy this wine at the estate to take home though…. as I did.
The lounge is a wonderful place to relax, loads of comfy sofas, armchairs and a log burner too. There are loads of books to read, including a great wine book shelf.
I did notice “Wine for Dummies” too…. I forgot to ask Rich if it had been planted there for me…. HAHA. Also lots of board games available too. This really is a great place to relax.
After a 30 minute rest to chill out and enjoy the wine, I decided to go and have a wander amongst the vines, as the sun was going down, before dinner.
What strikes you immediately as you step out of the flint barns and into the vines , which is literally a few steps, is that the Cradle Valley is so serene and absolutely stunning. The birdsong, which was plentiful, in the early evening was a great backing track to my walk. This estate has been thoughtfully planned, to become one with the environment.
Back in for a freshen up and off to dinner in the Flint barn dining room.
We perused the menu, produce all locally sourced Sussex where possible which is part of sustainability ethos that the estate has. The kitchen is open to the dining room, you can see the chef making your dinner.
Opting for fresh tomato and pesto soup, lamb with seasonal vegetables, and then Rhubarb compote …. oh and the most delicious Chocolate tart with Ginger ice-cream.
There is quite a good wine selection too, by the bottle and by the glass. We opted for glasses of Rioja and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
After supper Rich joined us for a great evening chatting about the estate and chewing the fat about wine….. while drinking a couple of bottles epic vino.
DAY 2 up early as I wanted to see the valley in the morning light and boy oh boy was it worth it….
Now down to the serious business…. BREAKFAST… nothing to disappoint here for sure.
I always judge breakfast initially on COFFEE! perfect start and then cornflakes and onto a very good full English breakfast indeed.
Superb breakfast time for another quick wander around the vines before Rich was to show me around the winery. I am going to write another piece about the winery because to give it justice it really needs to be a stand alone blog. Wont be too long!
So after an amazing tour from Rich I had 20 mins to kill before going to the tasting room for lunch.
I decided to check out the terroir.
What is interesting is the level of flint in the soil, which they are repurposing to build walls on the estate.
The top soil is approx. 10cm ONLY in depth and then it is pure chalk. This is the same chalk also found in the champagne region.
The following day we went down to the coast to get some images of the white cliffs which are known as the Seven Sisters, these images show the make up of the soil from sea level. The level of retained moisture in the chalk is approximately 70% water!
Now it was time for lunch!
The tasting room is attached to the winery building and is a superb piece of architecture and was nominated for awards in architecture too.
Into the dining room, with stunning décor and an even more stunning view.
The menu was fabulous, here was our lunch menu for that day. It is constantly changing depending on seasonal produce. Most produce is from sourced locally in Sussex.
Their take on the bread basket was divine, rosemary and grape bread with radishes.
For the first course we chose the Rosé Veal and Salt cod.
Second course was the Halibut with local leeks, potted shrimp and chip shop mash..
JUST WOW…. if you have never tried chip shop mash… you haven’t lived.
Last but by no means least came the puddings, Guanaja bitter chocolate crémeux, fig, salted caramel, crème fraiche and Yuzu tart, with black sesame
Normally we would have been drinking Rathfinny sparkling wines, however everyone now has to wait until the launch on the 1st of May for the new vintages as they have sold out. Launch is at the Ritz in London.
Launch Blog Rathfinny at the Ritz
There are a good selection of wines to choose from, I opted for the Pascal Bouchard 2015 Chablis Premier Cru.
All of the food has the feel of a very seriously fabulous restaurant indeed. I await your Michelin star Rathfinny!
Quick note about the Chefs, taken from the Rathfinny website.
CHRIS BAILEY, TASTING ROOM HEAD CHEF. Chris, trained at Westminster College, has worked in some of the top restaurants in London and Spain which culminated in being awarded a Michelin Star at The Black Rat in Winchester. Inspired by all things seasonal and local to Sussex, Chef Chris Bailey joined the Rathfinny team in April as head chef in the Tasting Room.
MARCIN, ASSISTANT CHEF. Marcin Lewicki, originally from Poland but has been living in London for the past 20 years relocated to East Sussex to join the Rathfinny team. Martin is very passionate about food and delivering great customer service.
MARK, FLINT BARNS HEAD CHEF. Mark Goodwin has worked at the Moonrakers in Alfriston and also at The Wingrove. His main experience was working in a directors’ dining room in the city of London.
I paid for my stay, all my drinks and food, except Rathfinny kindly provided three course lunch in the Tasting room for the two of us. Thank you once again.
I have no affiliation with Rathfinny nor am I being paid for writing this blog.
I have written 3 blogs about them now because I am hugely passionate about wine and the English wine industry.
I would once again just like to extend a huge thank you to everyone at the Flint Barns and at the Tasting room for a fabulous stay, that includes you Rich!. I’m looking forward to returning in the not to distant future I hope.
A few links below for Rathfinny:
The Rathfinny Estate http://rathfinnyestate.com/about-us
The Flint Barns (To stay) http://rathfinnyestate.com/flint-barns/
The Tasting Room (To eat and drink) http://rathfinnyestate.com/tasting-room