Camel Valley Vineyard
Passionate and sincere owners? Check. Oustanding views? Check. Welcoming and informative visitor facilities? Check. And most importantly: distinctive, high quality wines. Check. Where am I talking about? Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall.
About the only thing I don't like is the booming sound of gun fire used to scare off birds. That was scary, but we'll gloss over that.
Long, long ago, when Artisan & Vine had only just opened, I met Sam Lindo, the winemaker, at the English Wine Trade Tasting. Sam's enthusiasm borders on hyperactive and as such it was clear that I'd met a kindred spirit.
I loved that Sam had made the conscious choice to make Cornish wine. Camel Valley's wines don't taste like Champagne or Sancerre. They taste like they're from Cornwall and that's a pretty special thing to pull off when there's few outstanding precedents beyond the pasty for a taste of Cornwall.
We stock wines from 13 English vineyards at Artisan & Vine, which means I've visited a good many more vineyards than that. Sam and his father, Camel Valley founder, Bob, are exceptionally welcoming. Camel Valley may be winning a multitude of international awards but this remains an overwhelmingly family business. I challenge anyone to not be moved by the winning combination of excellent wines, passionate hosts and a glorious countryside setting.
o As a footnote I must mention a few close runners up on my favourites list. Davenport Vineyards in Kent makes incredibly complex still and sparkling wines, though as an impressive one man show it's not really open to visitors. Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex, headed by charismatic and creative Samantha, has a wide range of wines and runs good visitor tours every weekend. Lastly, a'Becketts Vineyard in Wiltshire punches well above its tiny weight with some very flavourful wines. My heart breaks regularly at the fact that Nyetimber does not have visitor facilities.
Kathryn O’Mara is founder of wine bar and retailer, Artisan & Vine in Battersea, specialising in natural and English wines. She won the Small Independent Merchant of the Year award in the 2010 International Wine Challenge