So how much do you really know about Welsh vineyards? Did you know that there are now as many as 30 welsh vineyards producing great wine across Wales? And that there are more than 20 different grape varieties grown here in Wales. On top of that, the Welsh vineyards have been winning awards for their crisp whites, rose and sparkling wines. Local wine from the Glyndwr Vineyard in the Vale, has been served at European State banquets. Its even on the wine menu in the House of Lords. So I think we can safely say, that Welsh wine is on the map.
The best bit – you can stay at some of these vineyards too. Sampling not only their fine wine but their fine food. So you can taste plenty of their wine without having to drive home.
As part of my recent press trip, in which we got to try lots of welsh delicacies, we also had the privilege of staying at two local vineyards. Whilst my stay and food was complimentary, I wasn’t expected to write a post on my stay at the welsh vineyards. But in all honesty they were just too good to not share with you. This post, covers my stay at the welsh vineyards of the charming Jabajak Vineyard in Carmarthenshire and the lovely Llanerch Vineyard in the Vale.
Jabajak Vineyard in Carmarthenshire
Jabajak is a 5-star award winning restaurant and vineyard set in the beautiful Carmarthenshire countryside. When you arrive you immediately feel at home. The welcome is heartfelt and the farmhouse is cosy and inviting. The owner, Amanda Stuart-Robson, is passionate about her family run business and has put all her heart into renovating the place and making Jabajaks something very special for guests to enjoy and to return to again and again.
There are just 8 bedrooms, all with a different decor giving them a nice individual feel. From the smaller cottage rooms (in which I stayed) to the larger suites. My room was was lovely; cosy and warm with an ensuite shower room. In line with Amanda’s ethos of supporting local suppliers, all the teas, coffees and toiletries were Welsh which was fantastic to see.
The main building and restaurant was utterly charming. Full of character, with lots of Moroccan influences and trinkets which Amanda had collected while living there. Whilst the place was spacious, as it had lots of nooks and crannies there was a lovely intimate vibe.
The Wine at Jabajaks
Jabajaks planted their first vines during the spring of 2007 with nearly 2,000 vines of Seyval, Phoenix, Rondo, Rheichenstiener, Huxelreber and Pinot Noir. After 7 years, they realised their first harvest in 2014. With links to the White House, with the second US President’s grandfather having worked at the farm and calling Jabajaks the White House, they named their wines The White House.
While visiting, you could opt for a guided tour and wine tasting. There is also the opportunity to conduct a self guided tour around the grounds which have the most magnificent views.
First I tried a glass of their White House Sparkling Blush which was launched in September 2017. This was a delicate fruity rose wine with hints of strawberries and summer berries. It made for a perfect aperitif.
Next we sampled their Silver international award winning White House White wine, which they have been producing since 2014. This was a delicate crisp white wine with hints of elderflower. Whilst both were very tasty, this was my favourite of the two and would be perfect accompaniment to fish dishes.
The Food at Jabajaks
Along with the wine, the restaurant has also received much praise. They were highly commended in the Gary Rhodes food hero campaign, have featured in the Good Food Guide and are Trip Advisors Winners of Excellence. This is even more impressive when you discover that Amanda, who is also the Head Chef, is completely self taught.
Amanda’s philosophy is to let the food do the talking. She offers fresh seasonal dishes with ingredients straight from their gardens or foraged for in the wild. Amanda is clearly passionate about supporting other local businesses and so where possible all her dishes are made with locally sourced products. Expect plenty of seasonal vegetables, herbs and edible flowers and plates which are pretty as a picture.
Dinner at Jabajaks
The restaurant itself was very elegant with ambient candle lighting and fresh wild flowers on the tables. For starter I chose the wild nettle soup which was delicious. A vibrant green soup which tasted full of healthy goodness. This was followed by line caught mackerel served with their homemade horseradish dressed with foraged sea aster. I was surprised to find that the horseradish didn’t overpower the fish, but instead, it was perfect match. We were then offered a refresher in the form of a honey Gin and elderflower sorbet which was just heavenly.
For main I had chicken breast stuffed with wild garlic pesto and peppery nasturtium leaves. Like my previous starter dishes, it was very tasty but also felt pretty healthy as there was no sauce. Of course if I’d wanted something more indulgent I could have opted for the Celtic Pride fillet with a creamy Perl Wen Blue sauce which my fellow guests raved about. The mains were served with Pembrokeshire earlies and buttered honey carrots.
Despite being stuffed, I succumbed and somehow managed to find some space to tuck into a homemade rhubarb crumble. Again this did not disappoint, the crumble having the right amount of crunch and the filling deliciously oozy and sweet.
With our coffee we were spoilt with Gin and Tonic truffles from Nom Noms chocolatiers in Wales. These would make for a great stocking filler at Christmas, if you can resist giving them away that is.
Jabajaks offer a full Welsh breakfast, but as we were all still stuffed from the evening before, we settled for a continental breakfast of freshly bakes croissants and locally sourced preserves.
By the time it was time to leave, I was sad to go. It is such a beautiful and laid back place to stay that it is like medicine for the soul. I have a feeling that it won’t be long until I head back for a return visit.
Llanerch Vineyard, Vale of Glamorgan
The Vineyard, is a five star hotel based in the Vale of Glamorgan. Set amongst its 22 acres of lush land, with its rows after rows of vines, its amazing to think this welsh vineyard is just a 20 minute drive from the centre of Cardiff.
It has 11 rooms but is currently expanding the hotel by a further 27 rooms. I stayed in one of the Courtyard studios which was lovely. The rooms have a modern feel and are well appointed and spacious with everything you need.
There is a cosy bar area, a small shop selling local produce, along with their wines and a bistro and a more formal restaurant. On a sunny day you can sip wine on the wonderful terrace which overlooks the vineyard.
Next door to the hotel is the Angela Gray Cookery school. Having tried the Easter Bake class there last year, I can thoroughly recommend her classes.
The Wine at Llanerch
Llanerch Vineyard, first planted in 1986, with a mixture of French and German hybrids. Their wine is labelled as Cariad wines, which means sweetheart or dearest in Welsh. The vineyard harvests between 8 – 12 tonnes of grapes each year and produces around 10,000 bottles of its Cariad wine.
The guided tour and wine tasting (£12.00) which lasts for an hour and a half, is well worth it. It starts with a brief history of the vineyard and gives you some tips on how best to taste the wine. You then venture outdoors for the guided tour around the vines whilst sampling some of the different wines as you go.
Llanerch Vineyard has five varieties of Cariad wine: the Cariad Sparkling Blush, Cariad Sparkling Brut, a dry white, medium dry white, and a rose. I really enjoyed the sparkling blush as an aperitif before tucking into dinner.
The Food at Llanerch
Dinner at Llanerch
As with Jabajaks, Llanerch are committed where possible to using local and seasonal produce to produce a range of classic Welsh and British dishes. I have to say, the food at Llanerch was superb. My starter of ham hock, with a scotch egg and a crispy chicken skin tuile was delicious. It was like a mini posh ploughman’s lunch.
For main I tucked into perfectly seared pink duck breast, served with carrot, duck crackling and an exceptionally yummy duck bhaji. Beautifully cooked, beautifully presented and quickly devoured.
My guests also tucked into their food and there were nods and adoration for the other dishes from around the table. Our meal was accompanied by a red Montgomery welsh wine, which was very quaffable. It was so good it will be on my list for Christmas.
I could not manage a dessert, however, a spoonful of my fellow diners chocolate ensemble ensured me that the desserts were equally as good.
Don’t ask me how I managed it, but I even had the full Welsh breakfast the following morning in the beautiful breakfast room with its views out towards the vineyards.
Despite only living around 20 minutes from Llanerch Vineyard, I had never ventured there before except to attend Angela Grays cookery class. Crazy really when I’ve heard such good things about it. I’m pleased to say, it lived up to its reputation on our visit, and I look forward to going back again soon.
Other Welsh Vineyards where you can stay over:
Cwm Deri Vineyard, Pembrokeshire
Where better a location than in Pembrokeshire, surrounded by the lush Pembrokeshire National Park. When staying you will be able take a stroll around the vineyard as well as venturing out for some beautiful woodland walks nearby. The vines at Cwm Deri were first planted in 1990 and took three years before their first crop of grapes. It now also produces fruit wines and liqueurs, which they have adapted to over the years as these require smaller amounts of grapes and more fruit and flowers which are also grown on the estate.
They provide a range of wine tasting and vineyard tours and they also have a restaurant in a beautiful setting with views across the vineyard. You can stay in their Shepherds huts or book a pitch for your caravan or tent to stay in its camping field.
Ancre Hill Estates, Monmouth
You will find Ancre Hill Estates in the middle of the Wye Valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Blessed with its own unique meso-climate it has ideal conditions for their vines of Chardonnay, Albariño and Pinot Noir grapes. They have used Biodynamic practices from 2011 to help maintain their beautiful piece of Wales and protect the integrity of their vines
Ancre Hill offers wine tasting, guided tours and wine tasting with full Welsh cheese platters. They have a three bedroom self-catered cottage on-site where you can stay. If staying you will have a welcome hamper with local produce and a a complimentary bottle of their estate wine.
Sugarloaf Vineyards, Monmouthshire
At the foot of the Sugar Loaf Mountains, the Sugar Loaf Vineyards have panoramic views over the Usk Valley. Their wines have achieved ‘Quality Status’ from the European Wines Standards Board and have won many awards in national competitions. They have 7 varieties of grapes and produce 3 white wines, a rose, sparkling wines and occasionally a red if the weather permits.
If you would like to stay over, they have 4 star self catering cottages on site which offer a great base for exploring the Brecon Beacons and the Wye Valley. You can take a self guided tour of the vineyard followed by wine tasting in their licensed coffee shop.
Disclosure – I stayed at the Welsh Vineyards of Jabajaks and Llanerch as part of a press trip with Food and Drink Wales. All food and accomodation was complimentary. However, I was not required to write a review and always all views are my own. My commissioned post was The & Wonders of Welsh Food.
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