… began in France tasting and discussing wine ideas at our place with Jean-Marc, Mark and Mark’s friends Norrel MW up from Calatyud and Jean-Charles from Roussillon. Conversations in Catalan I find tricky. Brilliant wines though.
Tuesday, back to London to see our newly opened ‘Pop-Up’ shop in Borough Market. It’s in the old Market HQ building, unused for years, transformed by my lot in 3 days into a really ‘winey’ wine shop. Southwark Cathedral is just across the road and they kindly gave us some flowers to add the final touch. The rough wood floors and displays in rough wood boxes, the tables on barrels all remind me of my early shops before we got all posh. I’m very grateful to Susan, the two Toms and all for a fantastic effort turning a ‘lemon’ (having to vacate our Arch for the Olympics) into lovely lemonade.
So service continues unbroken for our Arch fans. Do go see, you’ll be charmed; it’s a great building. A couple of interviews with journalists were set up but only one happened. Normal.
Then off down to Poole for a very memorable tasting right on the tip of Sandbanks. 160 tasters is very impressive for a small town but then … it’s Sandbanks! This was the first tasting run by my boy Tom. He ovecame the nerves; it was excellent. Everyone home happy.
Thanks to Felton Road and Ridgeview for turning up to help and not minding being overwhelmed. Thanks to the customers – lots of lovely chats.
Wednesday I was worried sick all morning, wondering if I’d cock up my on-stage interview that afternoon. Reading’s Sports Hall was transformed into the Moulin Rouge for one night and 500 – virtually all ‘my lot’ – were bussed in from Gloucester, Theale and the shops to sit, sipping a little wine at tables in the blacked-out hall with a brightly lit central stage. There were big screens above and loud music as our two Managing Directors – Simon ‘Global’ and Glenn UK – each did their ‘Steve Jobs’ type presentations on our Great Plans as we launch into a new financial year, (having just completed a rather good one).
There were videos of customers and staff. And the presentations were scripted … all except mine. I could’ve got it SO wrong. But I think I was OK. Just.
Glenn said it; “Move over Tony!”
It’s a plot!
We had a party afterwards of course. Never miss the chance for a party is my motto. And again Ridgeview turned up and even Mike MBE himself pouring fizz. Thanks Mike. And Marie, the pretty Split Rock lady came too. And my brewerboy Will brought a few of his mini-kegs.
Ended well. No arrests.
The next morning ignoring the Red Alerts ‘Stream Increasing’ and weather forecasts, B and I took our friends John and Lindsay for a river trip on old ‘Luci’ from Henley to Windsor. The old girl set a record time as in parts it was getting on for white water rafting. We moored near Henry’s Marlow vineyard – just visible – to share some of Barbara’s Wyfold Fizz with him and family for encouragement (its a hell of a year in English vineyards) and flashed onwards.
Picked up a hitch-hiking lock-keeper who told us all about the great towers, new bridge, sealed-off riverbanks and screened off areas around Boveney Lock – usually such a lonely area. Big soldier lads already there for the Olympics. Another soldier greeted us at Windsor; Lindsay’s brother; Military Knight up at the Castle, brought us news of General Sir Mike’s leaving do. All will miss the great man … who amongst so much else, encouraged us, and helped us to plant the vineyard in The Great Park.
I grew up in Windsor. Nostalgia hit at Romney Lock where my amazingly relaxed parents had allowed me to moor a little old pram dinghy my grandfather had made me, when I was about 12 or 13. I messed about there to my heart’s content every summer long. Knew every inch of that bit of river.
Moored up to our friend Teresa’s houseboat for a cosy night out of the rain. The next morning relieved to find Luci had the power to fight the current back home. The rain lashed down, we got drenched, but at least we had the river to ourselves. And we had our Wyfold fizz to warm us.
You can cope with anything … if you have the right wine.