As published by the Express & Echo about thebestof Exeter member Pebblebed A VINEYARD near Exeter which shot to fame on Dragons' Den is investing in developing its own winery.
Until now, thebestofexeter members, Pebblebed has sent the grapes grown at its plantations in Ebford, Clyst St George and West Hill to award-winning winemaker Juliet White at the Yearlstone winery at Bickleigh.
But with an increasing area under vines, founder Geoff Bowen decided it was time to take Pebblebed to the next stage of its development.
The 2012 harvest will be the first to be made into wine at its new base on a farm at Clyst St George, with Juliet continuing to lend her expertise during the process.
Establishing the winery at Marianne Pool Farm is expected to cost £250,000.
"It's a big investment and one I haven't taken lightly," said Geoff. "Over the years I have established the vineyards and now I know that they are working reasonably well and there is a good market for our wines, I can go to the next stage of investing in the winery."
Equipment is starting to arrive and over the next 12 months Geoff intends to concentrate on getting the winery ready to start production. Pebblebed will keep its tasting cellar in Topsham.
Around 30 companies, organisations and individuals have so far signed up to Pebblebed's partner vineyard scheme, which last year attracted £60,000 of investment from Duncan Bannatyne on the BBC show Dragons' Den. These include Stephens Scown solicitors, accountants Kirk Hills, Fresha cafe, Otterton Mill, Bicton College and Plymouth University.
Partners who have paid £2,000 to sponsor the planting of new vines will get their money back in the form of personalised bottles of sparkling wine over the next 10 years.
"I'm really happy with how things have gone this year," said Geoff. "Dragons' Den has really increased our profile, which is very good for our business.
"We have planted three acres this year and because it's been successful as a concept we will be looking to plant another two to three acres of vineyard next year as more people join us."
In a further boost, Pebblebed's wines will be stocked at Exeter's new Waitrose supermarket.
On the outlook for this year's crop, Geoff added: "I'm very optimistic for the quality – it should be better than we have ever had – but the quantity is a bit down on what I had hoped."
The lower yields mean Pebblebed is likely to produce 10,000-15,000 bottles of wine this year, down from around 25,000 last year.
"That's how it goes – it's agriculture," said Geoff.
Member since: 3rd May 2012
I am the Membership Manager at thebestof Exeter. My role is to maintain good relationships with the best businesses in Exeter. I am also involved in organising our bi-monthly networking events and help...