The Lurgashall Winery Is History Now
Our Winery was created in a complex of 17th-century farm buildings. My Dad project managed the building at our 38.5-acre estate near Lurgashall village near Haslemere.
My father Professor Jerome Schooler set up the Winery in 1985, after purchasing Malmesbury Mead and Wine Company and Davis Wines. It was a local, family-run Sussex winery specialising in fruit wines, meads and liqueurs. And over the years we had the pleasure to meet and work with so many amazing people.
State Of The Art Facilities
Inside our state of the art facilities, at Lurgashall we used to produce around 400,000 bottles per year. The winery was self-contained with fermentation, maturation and bottling vats, and modern, high-quality equipment in a sterile bottling room and fully equipped laboratory – all elements of the process that were learned about when taking the tour around the facility, occasionally I would do these myself.
It was so much fun seeing the business grow and when we ran out of space we just built more buildings as we had a whole team of epic people working for us with the skills to solve any problem.
Lurgashall Winery History
Our winery came a long way since it began production in 1985 and produced a thousand bottles. My father Professor Jerome P. Schooler created his dream of Lurgashall Winery, which was based in deepest darkest West Sussex and whilst it looked rustic from the outside we had state of the art equipment which was used to ferment real fruits, flowers, vegetables and honey.
He created the Lurgashall Mead or Methglin from his thoughts of exporting to his homeland. His theory was if Americans had read Beowolf and loved the English then they would buy English Mead.
We Never Paid For Press Releases
We would have plenty of press releases and many people would review us online.
I have fond memories of a page three girl coming to the winery to take a picture of us, as my Dad had a Windfall in Windfallwood and they were running a story on Windfalls. There were lots of fake £50 notes. It was highly amusing and something you don’t forget in a hurry.
Lurgashall Winery Tour & Shop GU28 9HA
People would travel from many miles away to visit our shop as online ordering wasn’t big for us at that time. We were based at GU28 9HA near dial green. We used to do tours, sometimes I would do them myself.
At that time there was no Blackdown distillery, in fact, distilleries were not everywhere as obtaining a licence for one was very hard.
We didn’t serve food either as we supported the local pubs, namely The Lodsworth Arms, The Lickfold Inn and the Noahs Arc all of which served excellent food.
We had around 15 signs within a 10-mile radius and each sign cost between £300 and £600 depending on the type of sign if it was single-sided or not…Every time we got a new signpost the sales went up.
Our Winery Produced Mead, Liqueurs And Fruit Wines
We produced 7 meads, nine fruit liqueurs and nine fruit wines, including the delicate Rose Petal Wine (which was sold in Mitsukoshi department stores in Japan); we also used to supply the most prestigious restaurants in New York and other prestigious venues like the Tower of London and Windsor Farm Shop.
My Father also created a special building for a potential Blackdown Distillery which was at the bottom of Blackdown, the new owners rebranded the Winery as Blackdown Distillery and apparently applied for a distilling licence that my Dad could have got at any point, the reason he created this room was that you actually needed a separate building to apply for a licence to distil if you have a winery under customs and excise rules.
Silver Birch Wine – Made From Sap And Lots Of Sugar For Alcohol!
The Silver Birch Wine was not personally to my taste although it went with blue cheese as my Dad reminded me on occasion. I remember taking it to a fine wine merchant in Kent somewhere and the owner turned his nose up at it, which still makes me smile to this day.
My Dad always used time-honoured recipes by always following what he had found in his research. He collected books and researched deeply, creating each product by hand with the team of winemakers in his continued quest for authentic flavours and to keep traditions alive.
My father had permission to have a fully-fledged distillery there at the bottom of the Blackdown hills and could have done that at any time. The years caught up with him, as did the last recession and the new EU regulations with regards to bottle sizes.
Professor Jerome P. Schooler Pioneer Of Country Wines, Meads & Liqueurs
My Father: Professor Jerome P Schooler, will still remain a pioneer of the British Country Wine Industry and in business – he opened up the conversation of using real ingredients to make high-quality wines, meads and liqueurs all made from real fruits, flowers vegetables and honey.
He was also Britain’s leading business expert in the 1980s when he taught many university students, he also won an award from MIT for his service in interviewing prospective students from the UK for 40 years.
Read A Bit More About My Dad’s Ethics In Business
My memories of my childhood and working with him at the Winery, West Sussex, United Kingdom remain. As do the experiences we provided our many customers and the 35,000 visitors we used to have to the shop.
Over the years my Father (Now 88) also managed to buy many companies and he took the employees and integrated them within the winery, as he did with Kirdford Growers and the apple juicing team.
My Father is an industrial engineer educated at MIT as was his Father before him. He will always be a success in my mind and in my heart and made a great success of Lurgashall, we used to supply the Tower of London and many other premium outlets.
His code of ethics was and still is so important and over the years he taught me much from his business knowledge. I only just found out that he taught classes himself at MIT, once he had left the American Air -Force. Many years later, he was delighted to receive the George B. Morgan Award from MIT.
Thanks to Drink Britain for flying the Winery flag still after so much change and so many years.
Fond memories of being part of the English Wine Industry even though we were at the edge for most of the time as there was and still is a lot of snobbery in the wine industry. We did take over Chilsdown Vineyard, although that is another story…
I am not sure what the Blackdown Distillery Gin tasted like and am not sure if they will ever go back into the business as the last thing I heard was they had been fined for using the term Port on one of the labels and since Coronavirus Blackdown Distillery closed their pizza restaurant and have now applied for planning permission for some holiday homes on the site. It is great to see another business adapting to the pandemic.
The Story Of When I Asked Titch And Sheila To Plant A Vegetable Garden
In my late 20s, I worked for my Father’s business and the Winery shop which was also on site.
Starting out in the production department at 12 years old, I attended college to study wine and pursued a Higher National Diploma (HND) in it. When I started at Plumpton College I was the youngest person on the course at 20 years old. We explored making wine, growing grapes, tasting, marketing, importing/exporting and everything in between.
Despite all this experience at college and working in the wine merchants full-time whilst at college. Nothing prepared me for working at my Dad’s place in the production department. I learned some valuable lessons in life, diplomacy and some great people skills.
I have fond memories of working with all the great people my Dad had employed over the years. Like working in most family businesses it was not easy, your co-workers always knew one day you may be their boss and that wasn’t a good dynamic. You were a spy for their boss who was always their boss no matter how much they liked him and he liked them. Despite this, we had a pretty good life at the Winery. How many samples did you actually need!!
Whilst Working In The Winery Shop
I’m not sure why I suggested it, every time we had a tea break when I was working in the Winery Shop we would chat and the conversation would turn to food and I always said: “I really want a vegetable garden over the bridge there near the box shed.” The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea.
So I suggested the idea to Titch and Sheila. They both seemed as excited as I was.
I made an offer. “You know I will plant a vegetable garden over the bridge there if you guys can help me water it, we can have potatoes, runner beans, carrots and lots of other vegetables.”
Titch, the older one of the two said: “I’m up for it, grinning with a cheeky grin.”
Sheila smiled too and nodded her head. “Why not?” she replied.
I said “So I can get some compost from a man in Horsham who was going out of business. We even have an old wheelbarrow (mine) and will take turns planting and digging the ground. I even have a hoe.”
So I started thinking up what vegetables we might plant. Right away there was a plan in my mind on who was going to water the vegetable garden.
Whilst I was dreaming of spuds versus runner beans, potatoes, carrots and lots of other vegetables. Titch and Sheila were dreaming of how to stop the rather over-enthusiastic bosses son from roping them into growing food for him whilst he drove around the country selling booze and enjoying himself.
In my mind, I was thinking I didn’t have to worry about watering it as they would do that for me. After all, they worked at the Winery every day and mostly I was out on the road visiting customers.
They clearly knew how much hard work growing vegetables were and that is why they decided to not even engage in the conversation but to just smile and nod.
The Next Day I Received A Delivery
I was really excited about the new vegetable garden. To my surprise instead, I received a rather interesting package the next morning at 9am.
When I was working in the Shop I was based upstairs in the office until the bell used to ring, so heading upstairs I was excited about the package. Like anyone I was excited someone had sent me a package, I was used to receiving things to try out for the shop and opened the box with excitement.
The box on my desk contained a miniature wheelbarrow, a shovel, a fork and some seeds and a card signed by the famous gardener Alan Titchmarsh, it even had his picture on it. One of the funniest moments of my life at the winery.
This was one of the funniest moments in my life. At that moment I realised they had played me nicely. And their message was clear I was on my own! I should go back into the winery shop and never mention them helping me with the garden again!
And I suppose a big lesson in diplomacy and the use of humour to make someone realise they should think more before trying to get people to do things for them.
I will be writing a series of blogs from my life growing up at the winery and also working there and what I learned from the various life-changing experiences that occurred to me along the way.
We need to look back at our lives to remember the lessons we learnt sometimes. My father retired over 10 years ago now and clearly, I am not in the business anymore and it has ceased production as far as I know.
All things in industry change and evolve
Like the Manns brewery on my mother’s side of the family, Lurgashall is another business for the archives…
Manns Brewery was a sizeable concern and merged with Watneys which was their demise…
You can find Nat Via his personal website here www.natschooler.com