Alder Vineyard, like many Devon vineyards, is a family affair. Having originally been a farm and in grandad’s hands, 2nd and 3rd generation of the family decided they could do more with the land, and so 10 years ago the first vines were planted. The family team are Mike and Sarah Hodgetts, son Tom and his partner Adam and their website really oozes with their passion for the vines, wine and sharing this passion with others. After being a labour of love over the past decade, albeit whilst holding down full time jobs too, the family have finally been able to take that leap into full time vineyard and café life.
The latter, café life, is their new baby; whilst lockdown has inflicted ups and downs on personal and business life for many, Alder Vineyard grabbed the opportunity with both hands (literally – son Tom has a background in construction) and ploughed on with their new building.
After putting together our Devon Vineyard Map & Directory, and having followed their journey for about a year now, they kindly invited me up to experience their new offering and have a tour amongst the vines.
Kitchen Café and Shop
Their new building is a large and spacious clean structure with floor to ceiling windows running all along the front of the building, making the most of the lush green views towards surrounding Dartmoor.
There were maybe 10 tables indoors with 4 or 5 outside, allowing plenty of space for customers to be spaced comfortably. Of course pre-covid, this space would be even more amazing rammed to the rafters with more tables, and people, chatter and clinking glasses but, for now whilst space is king they have it and are making good use of it.
At the entrance to the building they have a little shop area showcasing many local producers wares – from rum to vodka, soft drinks to chocolate, soaps to crackers – almost all Devon produce, and anything that isn’t is still from within the South West. They hope to grow the offering as time goes on.
The menu is a good manageable size with some very tasty options – cheese and charcuterie boards, open sandwiches (incl. vegan), kids options and sweet treats. More importantly – there is wine! Their wine is available by the glass or bottle, as a ‘wine flight’ (smaller glass of each white and rosé) or you can also choose a bottle of Polgoon’s (Polgoon Vineyard in Cornwall has helped process their grapes and bottled for them up until last year), and all the alcoholic and soft drinks are from Devon – I just think that’s amazing!
So we had to dive into their ‘winemakers platter’ – a lovely array of Devon charcuterie and Devon cheeses (Sharpham brie, Ticklemore’s Devon blue and Quickes mature cheddar), cornish sea salt crackers, grapes, olives and feta stuffed red peppers. At first I thought this was a bit petite for two, but it was deceiving and really filling once you’d worked your way around combining various slices, crackers and nibbles together – it was absolutely delightful.
We also enjoyed the chicken, apple and brie melt, which contains honey mustard and was really delicious and different with the apple cutting through the rich cheese. To finish off we found room for a homemade brownie, Exploding Bakery orange and pecan polenta cake and a great flat white coffee.
Vineyard and Winery
Tom took us for a stroll around their 3 varieties of grapes (Seyval Blanc, Madeleine Angevine and Rondo) across 5,000 vines, explaining their history at the vineyard and how they look after these vines at different times of the year. We ended in their new winery where Tom grinned from ear to ear telling us what all the shiny new machinery would be doing with this years harvest, the first they will be doing themselves as they have previously taken all the grapes down to Polgoon Cornwall for them to process on their behalf (this can be quite common for smaller vineyards, to share facilities with another vineyard).
We tasted their white Madeleine Angevine – fruity overtones of melon, apple and gooseberry, this wine is a bronze medal winner from the 2020 WineGB awards as well as bronze winner from the IEWA this year.
Then onto their rosé Rondo, an almost cherry-ade electric pink/red colour, this wine may be bright like a Zinfandel but isn’t sweet like one. Bursting with summer fruits and with a crisp finish, it is a 2019 bronze medal winner from WineGB awards plus bronze winner from this years IEWA. An amazing achievement from the team, and we really loved the rosé so bought a bottle to bring home.
They hope to make a sparkling from the Seyval Blanc in the next year or two.
The families passion is clear, in the café and when they talk about the vines and the new winery. I think they have done a tremendous job, and wish them the best of luck as their venture matures.
Wine tours can be booked online here, and are run on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30am, lasting 1 hour and are only £12.50 per person (under 18’s free), which includes a wine tasting at the end. Max group size is 6 and of course, being outdoors, it’s easy to allow space for everyone without being to self-conscious about it.
The outside seating at the café is dog friendly, and with my corporate head on, I would say this is a great space for hot desking one afternoon or a having a small socially distanced meeting thanks to wifi and the space at end, whilst supporting a local business and all the producers they showcase.
Lewdown, Okehampton, Devon, EX20 4PJ
Open Wednesday to Sunday, 9am – 5pm
#Ad #invited – I was invited to experience lunch and a tour in exchange for an honest review, this does not affect our opinion. Views expressed are independent of the business and has not been seen or approved before publication. We paid for the bottle of wine.