When the dream job came up for professional winemaker Jonathan Medard he had no hesitation in swapping perpetually sunny California for occasionally sunny East Sussex.
Jonathan and his wife Lisa relocated from the Napa Valley to Alfriston’s new Rathfinny Wine Estate. Winemaker Jonathan, originally from Epernay in France, said, “It was an easy decision. I have had the opportunity to help start a new winery from scratch. And the soil and climate here is very similar to the Champagne region.”
As well as adjusting to a different working environment, a suitable home had to be found for the couple and their dog this side of the pond. Their search for the perfect house has been chronicled on screen via Househunters International, the US equivalent of our home-grown Location, Location, Location. Filmed helping them in their quest was Mike Reid from Cornfield Road, Eastbourne estate agency Reid and Dean.
Jonathan and Lisa accepted they were moving into “ambiguous territory” involving a shift from a well-established winery into a vineyard and wine business which must be created, planted, tended, harvested, made and marketed.
But they fell in love with the “wonderful” Downland landscape and professed a preference for living as close to the sea as possible, ‘rather like California.’
The first house viewed in East Dean was ‘near perfect’, close to the Tiger Inn and surrounded by its own cottage garden. Although the property ticked most boxes on their wish-list they hankered after town life.
Next came an ultra-modern single-storey house with elegant outdoor living space in Wilmington but Lisa thought this was tucked away in the suburbs and too far from Eastbourne.
Finally Mike showed them a Georgian style house in Meads. In spite of its semi-derelict state the couple fell in love with its proximity to the sea, access to town and fantastic potential. Lisa said, “I find this terrifying; we were trying to avoid work,” and even Jonathan admitted the refurbishment was beyond his abilities. But the pluses outstripped the minuses and thanks to a cut in price, they embarked on a successful revamp and are now settled in their seaside home.
Jonathan too is thrilled to be involved at ground level in the 600 acre Rathfinny Estate at Alfriston which will produce about a million bottles of sparkling wine a year, when demand for English wine is outstripping supply.