On Tuesday this week 35 members assembled at Ridgeview Wine Estate for what has become an annual treat – an introduction to the winery, a presentation and some wine tasting. We were greeted by Tamara Roberts, the CEO, who runs the estate with her family. Tamara is not only welcoming but wonderfully unpretentious and matter of fact about the business, which now makes national news in the wine industry for its excellence.
The rain held off while we stood outside to get some idea of the scale of the operation. Tamara took us through the first planting of vines in 1995 and went on to explain the changes in scale of production and the ongoing challenges to be overcome annually in producing top quality wine in England. Apart from a number of potentially lethal plant diseases, frost is the biggest worry in the spring and early summer. The picture here shows the night in April this year when all the candles in the vineyard had to be lit to provide the extra warmth needed to protect against a sharp frost. We then went inside to hear Tamara describe and explain in brief the processes involved in making the wine after the grapes have been harvested. Interestingly, the harvesting is always done by workers from the European mainland, and I wonder now if the recent referendum decision, which clearly did not delight the Roberts family, will impact on that aspect of the business.
We then went up to the tasting room and heard a fascinating presentation by Tim Rose, the Facilities Manager at Rockwell Collins UK. This is a giant of a company, with HQ in Iowa, USA, who took over the former SEOS business five years ago. Tim gave us an insight into what they do in the fields of aviation and avionics. Among many other things they produce flight simulators, including most of the ones currently in use in Sussex for pilot training. This is another company of which Burgess Hill can rightly be proud – Rockwell Collins features among the top 100 companies worldwide. I’m pleased to report that they also offer visits and support sessions to local schools in the quest to produce more students of engineering.
Finally, we enjoyed almost an hour of networking whilst tasting the finest sparlking wine accompanies by some nibbles. The wine was of course very well received, the atmosphere was extrememly pleasant and I feel sure that most people went home happy, although it was still raining when we left.
My thanks to all those who came along on a damp summer evening and especially to Tamara and her family for once again putting on this event for us. It is always a pleasure to visit Ridgeview, and theirs is a success story of which Burgess Hill and Sussex can be very proud.