Hush Heath Estate - 10 September 2020
Five Oak Lane, Staplehurst, Tonbridge TN12 0HT
Hush Heath is an absolutely beautiful 400 acre estate located in the breathtaking Kent countryside. With vineyards, apple orchards, wild flower meadows and ancient oak woodlands, it was the perfect place to spend a sunny day in September!
Owned by Richard and Leslie Balfour-Lynn, who bought their home, a 16th Century Tudor Manor House, back in 1986, they acquired the surrounding estate in 2001 and planted the first vines.
Their first harvest in 2004 produced 10,000 bottles of Balfour Brut Rosé, which won them a Gold Medal at the International Wine Challenge in 2008.
The following few years saw Richard assemble a team of wine experts and create a state of the art winery and tasting room, which opened in 2010. In 2018, this was developed further with the new Cellar Door building, housing the Visitor Centre, with space for corporate and private events.
There are a number of tours you can take at Hush Heath, from “Vineyards to Glass”, “Lunch and Tasting”, or even a unique “Balfour Experience” complete with private transfers from Marden Station.
We opted for the self-guided tour which takes between 1 hour to 1.5 hours. No need to book, just pick up a trail map from the Winery and you’re free to wander at your own pace.
You start the tour at the Cellar Door, which houses the tasting rooms, rooftop terrace, upstairs viewing gallery and shop. From here, proceed to Nannette’s Vineyard, planted in 2018, with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Bacchus.
Once you reach the top of Nannette’s Vineyard, you proceed into two Orchards; Turner’s Orchard planted in 2007 and Valarie’s Orchard planted in 2004, both of which grow Egremont Russet and Queen Cox apples. The apples are used to produce Jake’s Orchard Cider which you can buy from the Cellar Door. Jake is the producer’s youngest son and the brains behind this range.
Once through the Orchards, you enter Oast House Meadow. This is the first vineyard planted by Hush Heath back in 2001 and is said to be the heaviest cropping vineyard in England. It is planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay and used exclusively to produce the Balfour Brut Rosé.
The tour continues through the middle of Oast House Meadow and then heads back, with Old Bramley vineyard on your right. This used to contain 35 year old Bramley apple trees but was replanted in 2018 with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
As you return to the Cellar Door, you have a very pretty walk through the ancient woodlands, which, at the time of our visit, had some interesting forest produce including nuts, acorns and very pretty fungi.
Finally, back to the Cellar Door via Nannette’s Vineyard.
Wines are rotated in the Cellar Door and you can taste 3 wines for £5 per person, which is redeemable on any purchase from the shop over £20. On the day of our visit, the below wines were available to taste.
Balfour Skye’s Blanc de Blancs 2014 - £45
Only produced in the very best years, this elegant Blanc de Blancs is produced from Chardonnay grapes from the Old Eight Acre vineyard. Pale gold in colour, with aromas and flavours of green apple, lemons, limes and white peach, complimented by high acidity and a hint of cream on the very long finish. This was a Gold Medal winner at the International Wine Challenge in 2017.
Balfour Skye’s Blend 2018 - £18
Bacchus • Chardonnay • Pinot Blanc
Skye’s Blend is named after the producer’s eldest daughter. Pale gold and extremely aromatic; think cut grass, fresh gooseberries and nettles. On the palate, dry, with high acidity, green apples, greengages, gooseberries and a hint of lime. Crisp, light and fruity.
Balfour Nannette’s Rosé 2019 - £18
Regent • Dornfelder • Pinot Noir • Pinot Meunier • Chardonnay • Bacchus
Nannette is named after the producer’s youngest daughter. Pale salmon in colour, with ripe red fruit on the nose; fresh raspberries, strawberries and cranberries. Dry, with medium (+) acidity, this is exceptionally fruity and all those beautiful ripe red fruits follow through on the palate. Fresh and light, with a medium finish.
The Sharing Platters:
The perfect compliment to the beautiful wines is the “Create your Own Sharing Platter”. Choose from a selection of local Cow’s, Goat or Sheep cheeses, Moon’s Green Charcuterie and seasonal vegetable dishes, including chargrilled courgettes in almond pesto and whole globe artichoke in vinaigrette. Choose 6 for £35 or 9 for £45, all served with Captain’s Crackers, quince, biscotti, flatbread, capers, and a selection of pickles.
I really enjoyed my visit to Hush Heath, the beautiful estate, lovely woodland walks, wildflower meadow, apple orchards, stunning vineyards, great wines and super tasty lunch! Thoroughly recommended a visit!
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