Cambridge’s first winery opens its doors this month at Chesterton Mill, off French’s Road, Chesterton.
Winemaker and wine journalist Chris Wilson is behind the new venture, Gutter & Stars Wines.
The urban winery – a first for the city, and following in the footsteps of city-based wineries in London, New York and Paris – is housed in the basement of Chesterton Mill, a Grade II listed windmill less than a mile from the city centre.
Wilson is sourcing fruit for the venture from neighbouring Essex and plans to crush his first grapes in late September, with the harvest continuing into October.
“I’ve wanted to start my own winemaking business for some time,” says Wilson who has a degree in winemaking from Plumpton College in East Sussex, “but I never thought that it would be in the basement of a historic windmill in Cambridge.”
“Having looked at a number of sites across Cambridge and into The Fens an opportunity came up to house the winery in Chesterton, 10 minutes from where I live with my family,” he adds. “It’s the perfect spot for a boutique urban winery and I’m excited to be bringing a production facility back to Chesterton Mill for the first time in more than 60 years.”
Chesterton Mill was built in the late 1840s and thrived for over 100 years on its site just north of the River Cam, producing grain and flour for the city’s bakeries, delivered by horse and cart.
Known locally as French’s Mill after William French, who began milling here in 1847, the sails and milling stones of this imposing smock mill turned grain into flour until 1955 when the French family business closed. The family left its mark on the area – the road which leads to the mill today is called French’s Road – and the mill itself still stands proudly some 173 years after it was built, albeit without its sails which were removed in 1912.
Wilson – who has made wine in California, Germany and the UK – will make a number of different styles of wine under his Gutter & Stars label using locally grown fruit from Missing Gate Vineyard near Chelmsford in Essex’s Crouch Valley.
The inaugural vintage gets under way this month with the first wines ready for release in Spring 2021. Wilson is using a mix of French oak barrels and small tanks to produce the wines and will bottle and label each wine on site.
“Working in the wine trade as a journalist for a number of years I have visited countless wineries around the world, getting to know winemakers and a variety of winemaking techniques along the way,” says Wilson.
“I hope to tap into this experience here at Gutter & Stars, but I also want to make my own mark and produce wines with a nod to the very unique surroundings in which they are being made.”