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Women in Wine

LESLIE BALFOUR-LYNN, CO-FOUNDER

What made you want to open a winery?   

We decided to open the winery once we realised that we wanted to be able to control every aspect of our winemaking and thereby creating a better product. We planted our first vines in 2002, but we did not build a winery or visitors centre until 2010. By 2017 it became clear that we were outgrowing the existing space so that was when we doubled the size and we have the winery and visitor space that we have today.  

 What do you love most about Kent?  

I love the landscape of Kent, the wildlife, the fact that we are so lucky to have 400 acres of our beautiful Hush Heath Estate where sustainability is so important to us and my goal is to protect our surroundings in whatever way I can. This was the reason I added all the wildflower meadows in 2018 and then another five acres in 2021. The important thing is not to have a monoculture, not just growing vines, but to have a mix of wildflower meadows, ancient oak woodlands, arable land and our vineyards. The woodlands are particularly magical here on the Estate with all of our beehives, bird and owl boxes as well as our hedgerows and fallow deer.  We are continuing to plant new hedgerows and are planting a hornbeam hedge this winter.  We are all passionate here about protecting our environment not just for ourselves but for future generations. 

What are you looking forward to the most this year?  

This year I look forward to celebrating our 20th anniversary here at Balfour Winery.  

What is your favourite Balfour Wine? 

I have to say that I love all our drinks but my favourite changes. At the moment I am really enjoying the Balfour Brut Rosé 2018 vintage. It is tasting delicious! 

SARAH EASTON, COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR

How did you get your start at Balfour Winery?   

In 2011 I answered an advertisement in the local paper for a part-time Administrator, tour guide and accounts assistant. Having two small children it sounded like the perfect job! Ten years later and now with teenage children my job as Commercial Director has enabled me to be involved in the development of the business as we know it today and what a privilege that has been. To be part of something and see it develop from a relatively small organisation to the flourishing, tourism, hospitality and wine-producing business that we have today is something that I am extremely proud of and it is a testament to our wonderful team that are so hardworking and dedicated.       

What do you love most about Kent?  

Kent has such a diverse landscape, from beaches to the North Downs, we are so lucky to have such beautiful places to visit on our doorstep. Not to mention fantastic restaurants, country inns and hospitality venues, we are very spoilt!   

What are you looking forward to the most this year?  

2022 is our 20th Anniversary and a real cause for celebration, we have a series of events planned across the year at the winery which promise to be very memorable as well as being the Wine partner of the Rye Jazz festival in August, something we are really excited about.  

What is your favourite Balfour Wine?   

It has to be our vintage collection’s, Balfour Brut Rosé. Each vintage released is always a perfect reflection of our terroir and what makes our wines typically Balfour in style, clean, crisp, and layers of fruit flavours. Delicious and very moreish!     

CATH TURNER, VINEYARD MANAGER

How did you get into viticulture?  

I was previously working in a Nursery in Marden and fancied a change of scenery. Richard was just planting on Oast House Meadow but was looking for a gardener. I started working in the gardens before eventually moving to the vineyards. I now work alongside my husband, Stef and my son, Billy.  

What do you love most about Kent?   

Kent is where I was born and raised, what’s not to love about it. 

What are you looking forward to the most this year?   

I’m really looking forward to great weather (hopefully) and a bumper crop. 

What is your favourite Balfour Wine?  

Leslie’s Reserve Gold NV is my favourite. 

EMMA BARLOW, TECHNICAL AND COMPLIANCE MANAGER

How did you get into winemaking?  

I decided to make a career change from the events industry into wine after completing WSET Level 2. I signed up for the viticulture & oenology BSc course at Plumpton College and found I really enjoyed the sensory analysis and scientific side of winemaking so continued my studies with a Food Science MSc in London. Now I’m lucky enough to be combining both as technical manager at Balfour Winery.  

What do you love most about Kent?  

The beautiful countryside together with the amazing variety of seasonal and artisanal local produce available.  

What are you looking forward to most this year in the winery?  

My favourite time of year at the winery has to be harvest. It’s great to see the quality of fruit coming into the winery and be a part of the first steps of the winemaking process. It’s a challenging time and quite hard work but also very rewarding and fun. It also helps to be working with a talented bunch of people.  

What is your favourite Balfour Wine?  

My favourite Balfour Wine has to be the Suitcase Pinot Noir. I love burgundy style Pinot Noir and this is a great example of the high-quality red wine England can produce. 

LINDY HAYTON, SENIOR TOUR GUIDE AND CONSERVATIONIST

How did you become a tour guide? 

Having worked in London for some time I had long thought about a return to studying. 

I was accepted on a full-time degree course but still wanted to remain in the workplace and use my interpersonal skills while combining this with studying conservation which is so important on the Balfour Hush Heath estate. My interest in wine and the beautiful surroundings were a ‘no brainer’ when I applied for a position.   

What do you love most about Kent? 

Kent deservedly remains one of the most visited and popular counties after London.  Its connectivity to the capital, Europe and beyond is a major plus to living and working here.  I like the diverse culture and history and for me – landscapes, ecology and areas of scientific interest are precious.  To be on a beach in the morning, a city at lunchtime and walking the Pilgrims Way in the afternoon is something to cherish. 

What are you looking forward to the most this year? 

Every day in every season presents opportunities on the estate.   

I am excited to explain the story of wine to our visitors and this year hopefully without lockdown interruptions.  The portfolio is increasing and there is always something new to tell even the most seasoned wine buff.  As a naturalist, I am looking forward to sharing the stunning backdrop and some really lovely nature walks in areas that have not previously been part of our tours. 

What is your favourite Balfour Wine? 

I love Balfour Brut Rosé and with every new vintage, it seems to get better and be even more delicious. 

However, the style of all the wines at Balfour Winery suit my palate and I enjoy the crisp, precise tastes of pretty much all of them.

SARAH STOTT, JUNIOR CELLAR HAND

How did you get into winemaking?   

Working in the hospitality industry for the past ten years has enabled me to travel all over the world, this naturally led me into the journey of wine discovery. Along the way, I studied WSET wine courses. I became further interested in the winemaking & viticulture side of things so I made the decision to study Plumpton College’s BSc degree in Viticulture & Oenology.  

Along with winemaking, my interests lie in botany and homebrew fermentation from all the wonderful seasonal produce I can forage! 

What do you love most about Kent?  

The vast amount of vineyards and wineries to visit! The beautiful countryside scenery reminds me of my hometown, Yorkshire! 

What are you looking forward to the most this year?  

Following the journey of sparkling wine production, through grape processing at harvest time in 2021, all the way through to tirage and then disgorging. 

My own personal achievements in getting to grips with technical winemaking, such as blending, fining and filtering. Plus learning the skilful process of decision-making in the cellar.  

 What is your favourite Balfour Wine? 
Late Harvest Chardonnay ’18. A fine representation of what England can produce in a great year. 

ANGELICA FISHER, PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

How did you get into winemaking? 

My ancestors worked in winemaking, from my great, great grandfather P.B Burgoyne being the first man to import wine from Australia to my great grandfather Godfrey Seys starting his own company ‘Godfrey & Duchene’ importing wine into London from the Champagne region. My grandmother became the director ‘Godfrey & Duchene’ and my father set up his own company ‘The Norfolk Cider Company’ back in 1987. 

You could say I was destined to follow in their footsteps and join the drinks industry myself as the 5th generation. 

After working for 12 years as a director & partner in the Norfolk Cider Company, and learning all the wisdom my dad had to teach, I decided it was time to explore a different direction and expand my knowledge in another sector of the drinks industry. This is what brought me to Balfour Winery. 

What are you looking most forward to this year?  

There are a few things I am really looking forward to this year at the winery and that is seeing how the line of work that’s involved changes with the seasons (as it does with cider making). But what I’m most looking forward to, is harvest. 

What do you love most about Kent? 

Something I really admire about Kent is the abundance of orchards. It seems there is a real passion in this part of the country for growing a variety of trees and plants, sustaining thriving wildlife amongst the green garden of Kent. 

What is your favourite Balfour Wine? 

My favourite sparkling wine has got to be Skye’s Blanc de Blancs 2014. It is full-bodied and rich in flavour- light and delicate, refreshing and delicious too! 

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