The city of Cambridge is about to welcome its first winery! We interviewed Gutter & Stars‘ founder, journalist and winemaker Chris Wilson, to find out more…
What inspired you to open Gutter & Stars? And how did you come up with the name?
Since graduating with a winemaking degree from Plumpton College in Sussex I’ve always wanted to make wine. While many of my peers went straight into winemaking or grape growing roles I jumped into the wine trade on the communications side but always harboured a desire to set up my own winery. When the opportunity came up to establish Cambridge’s first urban winery in the basement of Chesterton Mill it seemed like the perfect fit.
The name was hard to decide upon, and I have a long list of potential names (some prosaic, others faintly ridiculous) which my wife and I mulled over for many months before deciding upon Gutter & Stars. The name itself comes from a line in the Oscar Wilde play Lady Windermere’s Fan and I liked its poetic and romantic bent, and also the reference to my own situation. Financially this is a self-funded operation, so while I may be watching the pennies I am also aiming for the stars.
Is this your first business venture?
I have worked as a freelance journalist for over a decade writing about everything from rock music to skiing, but in the past five years I have written mostly about wine. Writing has been my business in this regard, but the winery is my first ‘bricks & mortar’ operation and it’s an exciting time to be setting up a business in a city which thrives upon small, independent operations. It’s a steep learning curve – and there have been many hoops to jump through – but we’re getting there!
What are some of your favourite experiences from working in the wine trade?
Unsurprisingly the wine trade attracts some of the most interesting, eccentric and – above all – fun people you are likely to meet, so there’s never a dull moment. I’ve been very fortunate to have tasted a vast spectrum of wines from across the world, often in the company of the winemaker, and this is a privilege which should never be taken for granted.
Favourite experiences outside of the tasting room include a game drive in South Africa with some of the country’s top winemakers, my time studying wine at Plumpton College (especially the study tours to Champagne and Burgundy), hosting round table discussions with the UK’s leading wine merchants and spending two months making wine in Napa Valley, California with my great friend (and winemaker at Norfolk’s Flint Vineyard) Ben Witchell.
Are there any plans for the winery that you’re particularly excited about?
I can’t wait to have wines in tank and barrel to show customers when they visit. It will be very exciting to be able to release my wines in the New Year and to work with local restaurants and merchants with a view to seeing Gutter & Stars wines on wine lists and shelves across Cambridge and beyond.
I also I think the winery space will make a great intimate venue for tastings and events like candle-lit suppers, so that’s something to consider down the line too.
What are your hopes for the future of Gutter & Stars?
Let’s see how the first vintage goes, but the sky’s the limit. We’re aiming for the stars!
Keep an eye out for the Gutter & Stars website, due to go live this month (September 2020): gutterandstars.co.uk
Until then, you can find them on Instagram @guttersandstarswine