Windsor Great Park Vineyard
The story behind the Windsor Great Park Vineyard by Tony Laithwaite.
One day at our Head Office the phone rang at an unmanned desk, and was answered by a passing colleague who listened intently as the customer explained that they felt the service they had recently received fell below our usual high standards. Anne Linder took the call that day and apologised on our behalf.
The upshot of this was an invitation to go and meet the customer: Major General Sir Michael Hobbs, now former Governor of The Military Knights, at his then home in Windsor Castle.
Anne took a bottle of Theale Vineyard with her and Sir Michael kindly showed her round and also began to speak of The College of St George, that he was heavily involved in at the time (the autonomously run and owned entity within the Castle walls – comprising College, Chapel and School). The walk went past several South-facing slopes and Anne said what lovely vineyard sites they would potentially make.
Following the first visit Anne returned with me and Laithwaite’s Wine was invited to become a Companion of the College of St George (at the same time as supplying them with wine and also for other functions within the Castle community).
A few months later Sir Michael rang to ask if the vineyard idea was serious. The answer was ‘yes’ and he very kindly introduced us to Philip Everett, former Deputy Ranger, so a meeting could be set up.
The meeting was held – myself, Anne Linder and Philip Everett - and several sites were visited (as earmarked by Philip Everett on arrival). Mezel Hill / The Old Boathouse site was chosen as it was best sited and largest.
Laithwaite’s Wine was set to become a tenant farmer on a 4-hectare plot of land in Windsor Great Park, Berkshire.
It did take some months to have a contract drawn up and agreed but very kindly we were able to start the ground preparation – ploughing, subsoiling, rolling …until finally it was ready to plant in May 2011.
Monday, 9th May 2011 most of the vines were planted: 55% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier. A small part of the plot was planted on the 10th due to a clutch malfunction in the planting machine on the Monday. The final area of the plot was planted Monday, 13th June as the vine supplier had miscalculated the number of vines for the plot. The vineyard site is 4 hectares with just under 3 hectares planted (just under 19,000 vines). It is deer fenced, rabbit fenced and a watchful park keeper is in place. Regular checks are made to ensure the vineyard is kept healthy.
The First Harvest
The first harvest was on 20th of October 2013. The first wine was released late September 2016 and sold out very quickly. The first full harvest was in 2014 and was released towards the end of 2017.