Eldest:- no crisis – working hard with a large weekend work event looming.
Middle :- slight crisis – dealing with awkward passengers on flights can take some getting used to.
Youngest:- no crisis – enjoying double duvet he persuaded me to buy him.
Me :- slight crisis – caught Middle’s cold so feeling sorry for myself while, of course, struggling on.
O.H:- minor crisis– too much work, too little time and having to fit in extra chores while I’m on a go slow.
‘Fancy coming wine tasting?’ a friend asked. Good idea I thought. Just the sort of random thing empty nesters can do on a Saturday morning! It is also O. H.’s birthday in December. I never know what to get him so a surprise tour around a vineyard and a slurp or two afterwards would make a perfect present. ‘I’ll book it. We’ll meet at 11am.’
It’s always a pleasure when someone takes charge and organises you, (see last week’s post on Acts of Service) so I paid up and left my obliging friend to it and promptly forgot all the details other than noting the time and date in my diary.
Imagine my frustration when O.H. announced two days before my ‘surprise’ that he and a few mates were going wine tasting at the local Majestic that night.
‘How lovely,’ I replied, successfully masking my annoyance.
Our Saturday morning arrived. I prepped OH that we were about to do something exciting (although not quite as exciting as it would have been if he hadn’t just done it, and no, I won’t bear a grudge). I looked for my friend’s email with the venue details. I looked through my phone messages. I could find nothing. The clock was ticking, the engine running and we needed to get going. I turned to trusty google and typed in ‘Wine tasting in Ditchling.’ It’s such a small place there couldn’t be more than one. Ridgeview Wine Estate popped up. Tours starts at 11am. That was the right time. Perfect, must be the place. It was a bright, sunny, autumnal morning so, sat nav programmed, and we were off.
Sitting outside at 10.55 I messaged my friend.
‘Where are you?’
‘5 minutes away.’ Came the reply.
O.H. and I went into the reception area where Hannah, the tour guide, wrote down our name and reassured us that our friends’ late arrival would not be a problem as they could be directed out into the fields where we were now going to start the tour.
I listened to Hannah’s very interesting account of the history of the vineyard, watched the vines stretch out before me and nodded understandingly when she made an informative point, but by the time she explained about using large candles to protect the vines from frost I was starting to get concerned. It was 25 past 11. Where could they be? I kept glancing towards the entrance. They were walking. Had they been knocked down by a car and now on their way to hospital? (I’m not a writer for nothing – no simple explanation for me, I don’t do things by halves.)
After a while Hannah led the group from the fields towards the buildings to continue the tour inside. Lingering to the back of the group I surreptitiously rang my friend’s number. Her husband answered.
‘Where are you?’ I asked.
‘In the fields. Follow the buildings to the end and come and join us,’ he replied. I agreed and hung up. Perhaps there was a later tour and they had joined that?
O.H. looked at me. I shook my head.
‘I haven’t a clue what he means. He says they’re in the fields. But we’re in the fields!’
‘Perhaps we’ll meet up with them somewhere inside.’
We quickly ran to catch the group in a room full of large, shiny vats full of wine. I shoved my phone into my pocket just in time to catch Hannah explaining about the different processes the wine went through. We proceeded into the next room holding more machines for corking the bottles.
Half an hour later, after a few more rooms, we were seated in the most important one – the tasting room. Our friends still hadn’t materialized but this was the bit we were all waiting for. I had given up looking for them around every corner. They were grownups. They would be fine.
Laid out on the table were 5 sparkling wines. We learnt that Downing Street had proclaimed Ridgeview as an official supplier and that the Queen served up a bottle or two to the Chinese premier. If it was good enough for them it would be good enough for me.
We started with this: –Cavendish Ridgeview’s traditional blend.
‘A rich golden colour with exceptionally fine bubbles. The nose is expressive with hints of red fruits.’
I, of course, smelt it, swirled it round the glass and… only took a sip and poured the rest into O.H.’s glass. Well, it was his birthday treat – someone had to be the responsible adult and drive us home.
Next came this:-
Bloomsbury Ridgeview’s signature blend ‘A light golden colour with a fine, persistent mousse. Citrus fruit aromas with hints of melon and honey.’
By the time we got on to Ridgeview’s Blanc de blancs:-
‘100% single estate Chardonnay from our original vineyard,’ the sun was shining, the chatter in the room was LOUD, we had bonded with the delightful couple on our table who were on a weekend break from their young family and we’d bought a couple of bottles for Christmas morning.
I looked at my phone for news of our friends. Nothing.
‘Are we in the right place?’ O.H. whispered in my ear. I hadn’t confessed to my attempts at retrieving the email, nor my googling the vineyard.
I quickly sent a text.
‘We’ve just finished the tour. Where are you?’
‘Court Garden Vineyard’ came the answer.
We finally caught up with our friends in the The White Horse, Ditchling. And, after comparing wine tasting tour notes, I can now recommend two vineyards in the South Downs area.
PS – Just a heads up for anyone looking for something unique – check out HUX – a new boutique specialising in handmade bags and accessories.