Denbies Wine Estate is one of Surrey’s well-kept secrets. Hidden in the outskirts of North Downs Way and the iconic Box Hill in Dorking, the 265-acre wine estate produces over 400,000 bottles of wine a year offering a variety of locally produced English wines.
Despite being only half an hour away from London, a visit to Denbies offers a feeling of a Tuscan tranquillity with its wide-spread lush green vineyards dotted across the hills. The estate itself offers a public footpath which includes part of the 153 miles of countryside National Trail spreading across Surrey and Kent. Denbies offers its visitors and abundance of activities, as well as a luxury hotel accommodation for those eager to fully immerse into the countryside experience and I was headed there to do just this.
With the September sun high above and bringing out the kind of blue in the sky that you only see when you are on holiday I arrived at Dorking station and decided to take the 10-minute walk to Denbies. The walk might be short but it is a picturesque one, nevertheless and you can spot the vineyards almost immediately.
The endless emerald grapevines covering the hills of the Downs look as though someone has just dipped their brush into the brightest green palette and sprinkled it all over the canvas. As I walked further into the estate, I couldn’t help but stop and just look around. The vineyards have taken every spot of land around, resembling poison ivy swallowing an old building in its greenery.
The little pathway leading to the entrance is shaded by an array of oak trees leading to the main building. The first thing that I spotted on the left side is the rent-a-bike station, and I immediately pictured myself riding through what feels like an eternal greenery. Though I did not cycle through the estate, Denbies’ seven miles long footpath seemed like the perfect place to indulge in such activity. The Just Pedal Bike hire pop up offer bikes from £36 pp.
The second thing I spotted is the sightseeing Denbies train. This is one of the prime attractions for visitors of all ages. The train experience offers a 50-minute vineyard tour through some of the main viewing points of the estate and panoramic views of the area. The Outdoor Vineyard Train Tour also allows visitors to learn about the history of the estate through a recorded commentary. And to top it off, passengers can enjoy a glass of Denbies’ finest bubbly. The price for the experience starts from £8.95 pp.
As I entered the estate, I was greeted by the reception staff informing me that, as there was still an hour to my wine tasting experience, I had time to walk around and explore the area. And so, I was off. With only an hour to explore before my head would be hazily infused with wine, I started pacing through the array of grapevines. For this part of the visit, cameras are strongly recommended as, once you’ve reached the top of the hill, a stunning view of the vineyards opens up, showing off the estate houses and Surrey Hills in the background.
Whilst wandering I found the estate’s farm shop which was filled with locally produced products. From Surrey distilled gins, Dorking grown asparagus, seasonal flowers and herbs, to freshly picked fruit and vegetables. The Village Green Farm Shop offered an impressive selection of English cheeses which were all mapped by the region of production. A star taste for my guest and I was the charcoal cheddar which as the name suggests was black in colour with a smoky flavour.
Next, I paid a visit to The Vineyard Hotel which offers great accommodation within its 17 en-suite rooms. Situated to the right of the main area, the hotel’s décor reflects on its countryside location with wooden crafted furniture, warm natural bark walls and an open landscape garden. A new addition to the hotel is the Surrey Hills Physiotherapy, located in The Barn next to the hotel which offers variety of relaxational activities such as reflexology, pilates, yoga and tai chi.
The Gallery Restaurant is located on the third floor of the winery overlooking the gorgeous Box Hill and the North Downs. The restaurant sources its food from local producers (when possible) complementing the seasonal menus crafted by the Gallery team. The restaurant is only open for lunch between 12pm and 3.30pm and as part of some of the wine tasting experience.
As expected, Denbies Wine Estate offers a plethora of wine related activities. From the Sparkling Afternoon Tea and Tour, Tapas and Wine, Harvest Vineyard Trail followed by a picnic, to a Gin and Vine Experience. We had booked ourselves for the Indoor Wine Tasting Experience. The tour includes a 20-minute cinema experience where you learn about the geology behind growing the perfect grapes and history of the estate.
The estate’s history dates to the 16th century when the journey first began. Through the centuries the estate has changed a lot but the Denbies that we know today has existed for over 35 years. Denbies has welcomed many guests through the years and had special visits from Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Once our history lesson was finished, we excitedly strolled to the courtyard where our wine tasting began. Our wine concierge, Jeremy, explained that the first tasting glass in front of us was the Denbies Surrey Gold wine. This is Denbies’ medium-dry wine made with Muller-Thurgau grapes, making it very pale in colour. Though dry, the wine offered a sweet note fresh apricot and peaches flavours with a hint of ginger on the palate.
As Jeremy took us though the wine making process he quizzed us on things we should’ve learnt in our history lesson prior. Next off was the Denbies Flint Valley wine and my personal favourite, it was another white but this time much drier offering a nose of lime zest and ripe pear.
Third on the list was the Denbies Rose Hill wine, which was a full flavoured rose, rich in colour and bursting flavours of strawberries and raspberries with a hint of toffee apple. We learnt that the individual red grapes were gently pressed to help achieve the salmon pink colour of the wine. We finished off with a glass of Denbies Whitedowns sparkling wine offering citrusy bubbles which we enjoyed at the front café area of the estate.
After our visit to Denbies we took a short taxi ride to The Gin Kitchen, which works collaboratively with Denbies offering the gin experience mentioned above. The Gin Kitchen consisted of a few renovated barns located in the outskirts of Dorking. Its in-the-middle-of-nowhere location offered an amicable hideout for a restful end of a busy day.
At the time of our visit there was a local live band which contributed to the tranquil feeling that The Gin Kitchen offers. One of the co-founders, Katie, took us on a short tour around the distillery teaching us all about the process of making their delicious Gutsy Monkey gin.
Tasting experiences can be booked from £14pp. Tours are available April to November.