Full wine and dine experience
MORE than 20 years ago two brothers and their respective wives got together to start up a restaurant in Eton. Michael and Lin Gilbey joined forces with Michael’s brother, Bill, and his wife, Caroline to launch Gilbey’s in the fashionable riverside town and, a few years later, a second eatery in Old Amersham. Both restaurants are still flourishing and an increasingly popular tipple requested by customers comes from the Pheasant’s Ridge vineyard which is also owned and operated by Lin and Michael.
Adam Whitlock, head chef at Gilbey’s in Amersham, said: “The couple live in Hambleden and the vineyard is really just an extension of their family home. They took responsibility for it about 15 years ago.
“It is on the site of a previous vineyard that was allowed to fall into disrepair, but since the Gilbeys have owned it, it has been completely restored and is now run on traditional lines.
“It has become a community project and each year the villagers come out to help pick the grapes and generally help to keep the place going. It’s totally organic and there is no automation – the grapes are alway picked by hand and then transported to the winery at Stanlake where our wine maker, Vince Gower, takes care of production.”
The vineyard occupies approximately 1.6 acres of south-west facing chalk hillside in Hambleden where the Gilbeys grow two grape varieties to produce two distinct wine
Pheasants Ridge Bacchus Dry is based on the Bacchus grape – England’s answer to Sancerre – while Pheasants Ridge Brut (sparkling) is produced from the Faberrebe grape and is made using the traditional Champagne method.
After a small scale start, the vineyard now produces six tons of grapes each year – enough to turn out around 6,000 bottles – 3,000 of each variety.
And judging from the fact that the sparkling wine won first prize in the Thames and Chiltern Vineyards’ Association 2013 Wine Challenge, it’s got all the hallmarks of a really good wine.
But perhaps the most impressive part of the operation is that every penny earned from the sale of the Pheasants Ridge wines is donated to the Hambleden Village Church Trust to help maintain the 12th century place of worship in the village.
The wines are available in both Gilbeys restaurants.
The Eton eatery tends to cater more for the tourists who flock to the area drawn by Windsor Castle and the famous public school.
But Adam Whitlock believes that the Amersham restaurant has carved itself a different niche.
“You could probably describe the fare here as modern British neighbourhood bistro,” he says. “We aim to offer good food, well prepared and presented but at prices which are competitive.
“Having home-produced wines that complement the food is a real bonus.”
For more information, contact Gilbey’s, Amersham by phone at 01494 727242 or visit the website at www.gilbeygroup.com/restaurants.