Sharpham Wine and Cheese
Susy Atkins writes: It says “booking for lunch is highly recommended” rather prominently on the leaflet for Sharpham Vineyard – you're telling me! Tucked away on the pretty road between Totnes and Kingsbridge, drivers head down tiny lanes, through the gorgeous Devon village of Ashprington to get to Sharpham. But somehow over 30,000 people find their way each year.
Despite the numbers, this is a calm, peaceful place, in keeping with the slightly hippyish Totnes community, and it's somewhere to hang out for a good half-day, tasting the Sharpham range of wines – be sure to include the new strawberryish, off-dry pink fizz – and having an alfresco lunch at the Vineyard Cafe, sitting just outside the winery under huge navy blue and cream parasols.
On a recent visit, I tucked into delicious green pea, mint and Sharpham Rustic cheese fritters with herb leaves while drinking Sharpham rosé, while my young son tackled Cornish sardines with tomato salsa and drank locally made Luscombe Sicilian Lemonade. Sharpham is a dairy too, so there's plenty of chance to taste and buy cheeses. As for the wines, expect some of the best English offerings, including fresh and mineral fizz, and crisp, floral Madeleine Angevine.
Then we went for the self-guided Trek and Taste tour of the 10-acre vineyards. The vines are planted on a particularly warm spot by the banks of the winding river Dart, and you can choose the red, blue or purple routes, depending on how much of the vineyards and beautiful scenery you have time for. The red route takes you past the South Quay and boathouse, a water meadow, home to many varied birds, and a volcanic outcrop (now dormant, happily).
We were driving, so loaded the car with a few samples of wine and cheese to take home, but next time I want to arrive by boat, up the river Dart, mooring at the boathouse and making my way through the vines for lunch at the café. A perfect summer's day out, in my book.
NB: I went on the Trek and Taste tour, available all year. From April–Sept, there is also the Vine to Wine tour – guided, with a wine and cheese tasting – and The Sharpham Experience, with tea or coffee on arrival, a guided tour of the vineyard, a scenic river walk, a guided tour of the winery with explanation of the winemaking process and a light lunch with Sharpham wine. Advance booking for this tour is essential.
See the information tab on Sharpham's entry for more details
A regular on the BBC's Saturday Kitchen, Susy Atkins is based in Devon and writes the weekly wine column for the Sunday Telegraph Stella magazine and is wine editor for Delicious magazine. Author of many accessible drinks books, Susy's latest, How to make your own drinks – from elderflower cordial to cinnamon schnapps (Mitchell Beazley) is reviewed here. You can follow Susy's exploits on twitter too.
Check out the October Best of British issue of Delicious magazine, out 1 September, for news of a great competition being run to win a DrinkBritain.com Kent Daytrip.