Yotes Court Estate is located just outside the village of West Peckham, Kent. The main house is an English Heritage Grade 1 listed property dating back to 1656 and was built for James Masters. Susannah & Rich Ricci bought it in 2008 and spent 2 years completely restoring it and returning it back into a family home after it had spent several years as a hotel & wedding venue. The 20-acre garden also needed a lot of work & was completely redesigned & planted by RHS Gold Medal winner Tom Stuart-Smith.
In 2014 the neighbouring farmer Harry Wooldridge decided to retire & asked Susannah if she would be interested in purchasing his fruit farm. Knowing nothing about farming she initially declined but, after some research and discussions with Strutt & Parker’s Rural Division & Stephen Skelton (Master of Wine), she decided to go ahead as the majority of the land was ideal for growing grapes. Stephen assisted with the recruitment of a Vineyard Manager to run it day to day and Yotes Court Vineyard was born.
Apart from managing the Estate’s properties and Vineyard office, Susannah is heavily involved in National Hunt racing. She and her husband Rich Ricci have been very fortunate to own a number of successful horses trained by Willie Mullins in Ireland and, until his recent retirement, ridden to victory by Champion Jockey Ruby Walsh in Susannah’s famous pink & green colours.
Yotes Court Vineyard is a beautiful sloping site looking towards Bidborough Ridge with free-draining soil full of chunks of Kentish ragstone. It has almost 30 hectares planted with vines of which 25 are contracted to Chapel Down. 95,350 vines were planted in spring 2016 and about 10,000 more in 2017. Chapel Down is England’s leading winemaker and one of the UK’s most exciting drinks companies and their sparkling wines are created using the Traditional Method i.e. in the same way as champagne. Yotes Court Vineyard grows & supplies the 3 principal grape varieties for Traditional Method sparkling wine: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier grapes.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019 the remaining 5 hectares were planted with Bacchus, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. These vines will start to produce a crop of grapes from October 2020. Yotes Court is not set up to make its own wine so this fruit will either be sold on the open market or go to a contract winemaker to make wine under the Yotes Court Vineyard label.
Yotes Court Vineyard is managed by New Zealander Tony Purdie. Tony and his young family moved over just before the first vine went in the ground in 2016. He was formerly Hawke’s Bay Regional Vineyard Manager for Babich Wines in charge of 71 hectares over 4 vineyards. He is committed to developing strong healthy vines & producing top quality fruit using sustainable practices.
Tony has a number of full-time Vineyard workers and supplements staff with local students in the summer and contract labour throughout the year but principally for pruning and harvest.
In October local friends and family lend a hand picking grapes.
Susannah Ricci runs and manages all the office and administration side of the business.