history of Stanlake Park

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Stanlake Park

Berkshire wine since 1979

Settled in 130 acres of peaceful English countryside, Stanlake Park is an impressive historical estate in the Royal County of Berkshire. Built for the first time in 1166, its charming main barn houses one of the oldest and largest wineries in the area, and is able to process 70 tonnes of grapes.

Nico Centonze, Stanlake Park’s skilful Italian winemaker, personally takes care of our 10 acres of vineyards and produces a wide range of wines, including white, rosé, red and English sparkling, using our own grapes. 

Customers are welcome to visit our Wine & Gift Shop, as well as to enjoy a glass of wine with some nibbles in our charming Wine Bar and Garden. Tours and Tastings are organised all year round. 

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English wine made in Berkshire since 1979

S t a n l a k e P a r k W i n e E s t a t e ®
Stanlake Park Berkshire

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The rich history of one of the oldest vineyards in England

As you approach the gravel driveway of Stanlake Park you get an immediate sense of the rustic charm of the current estate but there is so much more to this historic rural location in Berkshire.  Whilst the estate has been making English wine since 1979, this hidden gem has been in existence since 1166 when the land was held by Patrick Earl of Salisbury and known as Hinton Pipard.  During the 15th century, the estate passed to the Thorpe family of Surrey. Elisabeth Thorpe, a daughter of the family, inherited the estate and married Nicholas Stanlake and from that time the estate became known as Stanlake Park.    

The manor house was rebuilt in brick as a two story H-shaped house for Richard Aldworth in 1626 and its proximity to Windsor Castle leant itself to a number of royal connections.   The exact date of the building can be seen in the royal coat of arms (House of Stuart) on a stained window in a first-floor bedroom commemorating a visit by Charles I.   In fact, over the centuries the estate has also been visited by Henry VIII, George III and Queen Victoria. Rumour has it that Charles II also stayed at the manor house to rendezvous with Nell Gwynne at a nearby hostelry.

However, moving onto more recent times, it became the Leighton Family home from 1952 to 2005, but it was not until 1979 that Jon Leighton returned from living in Australia and realised the potential for growing grapes. Jon planted a variety of 500 vines as a pilot for establishing a vineyard. The pilot was a success and Jon called it Thames Valley Vineyard which was renamed a few years later to Stanlake Park Wine Estate.  

In 2005, the estate was acquired by Peter and Annette Dart who continued to develop the vineyard and surrounding facilities until it was sold to the current owners in 2013.  Whilst the vineyard and winery continued it was obvious that it needed a fresh, modern international approach to winemaking.  It needed someone with passion and imagination to really put Stanlake Park Wine Estate on the map with the finest quality and selection of wine possible.

By chance, a well-travelled enthusiastic wine loving couple were looking to settle in the UK and out of the blue the stars were aligned.

A couple of passionate professionals

Nico Centonze was born into a wine making family in Puglia, southern Italy and attended the Viticulture and Oenology University in Tuscany then Piedmont.  It was here that he met his soulmate Natalia Pezzone.  Natalia was working at a Veterinary School in Turin and both liked to travel.

Nico’s first professional winemaker role was in the Rioja region in Argentina, the home country of Natalia. From here, he returned to Puglia to help with the family grape harvest whilst Natalia worked as a researcher in Madrid.  She moved to Puglia in 2010 after deliberately missing her flight home to Argentina so she too could start her career in wine. 

After this period, they both packed their bags and moved to the UK and Nico secured a position at the renowned Nyetimber in West Sussex.  Unfortunately Natalia didn’t have an EU passport at this time so they relocated to Bordeaux in South West France.  

Whilst working in Bordeaux, Nico was offered a Head Winemaker role at a boutique winery in Romania, and the opportunity and their taste for adventure made it too good to turn down. It was here that Nico had full responsibility for all areas of the business including all of the processes, the staff, and the entire buildings.

Nico very soon realised that he preferred the less mainstream wine producing countries, as it’s only through these challenges that make you grow as a winemaker. In the large modern wineries in France or Italy, everything has a protocol with little room for experimenting, evolving and learning.   Nico didn’t want to be just an independent winemaker, but an innovator too.

After Romania, Nico and Natalia decided it was time to work for themselves and moved back to Italy to initiate their own winery. However, starting a business in Italy turned into a nightmare with so much bureaucracy and taxes, it soon became clear that Italy could not offer them the opportunity they desired. 

By 2018, they decided it was time for a change, so they turned their eyes to the country they loved most during their travels – England.

Making wine in England

Stanlake Park Wine Estate were looking for a new winemaker with passion and new ideas, but after meeting them it was clear that both Nico and Natalia would be the perfect team. All those years together, facing so many different challenges and making hard decisions, made the couple very resilient and eager for success. An ideal match for the modern international approach needed at Stanlake Park.

Nico and Natalia could see that Stanlake Park had enormous, untapped potential. It was one of the oldest and largest vineyards in the area with 10 acres of vines across the 130 acre estate. 

The rustic charm of the buildings and stunning grounds made the estate ideal for wine tourism.  Natalia couldn’t believe her eyes when she visited for the first time and instead of the usual unattractive industrial stainless-steel tanks, there were charming barns and walls older than her own country! She stared at the 17th Century barn’s clock tower and imagined people sitting by the ancient wisteria enjoying a glass of wine.  It felt perfect.

It was clear there was much work to do so they worked as hard as they could with no weekends or bank holidays.  Stanlake Park needed passionate professionals, and Nico and Natalia needed Stanlake Park. In the first full year, Nico introduced a number of award winning new wines whilst Natalia’s dynamic approach to brand awareness and marketing saw sales triple and the cellar shop and wine bar packed with people every weekend.

During this time, Natalia also passed her WSET Diploma with Distinction to add to her impressive qualifications allowing her to educate Stanlake Park’s tour guides and customers alike. Today, the local community is grateful to have such a fine establishment nearby and customers from far and wide visit the shop and wine bar or order online. Nico and Natalia continue to make new and exciting quality English wines whilst ensuring that customers are always at the heart of what they do. 

Contract Wine making