IT'S been an amazing 12 months for David Ealand at Chiltern Valley Wines near Hambleden. And not just in the vineyard.

As well as producing award-winning wines from the sunny slopes of his vineyard, his new range of liqueurs took off last summer, and a busy year culminated in the royal seal of approval.

Old Luxters wines and beers were chosen to feature in the Royal Farm Shop at Windsor which opened in the autumn, including Old Windsor Gold Ale and Dark Ale, two brews which David and his brewer developed specially for the shop.

A few weeks later David heard that the Duke of Edinburgh had tried the Old Windsor Ale and loved it.

He says: "Apparently it's the only thing he is buying from his own royal shop. We're told he gave some to the King of Jordan who took some back to his palace."

When he planted the vineyard two decades ago David had no idea the business would expand so much. He says: "We'll never take for granted the fun and success of the wine. We've had 70-plus awards nationally and internationally for them. But it's very exciting to carry on developing new ideas."

A request from the monks of Lindisfarne for new liqueurs under their own label is just one of the adventures in winemaking that keeps David excited about his craft. He has created a wild strawberry liqueur "it's to die for" as well as sloe gin, damson gin and more.

All the wines, beers and spirits David makes are available at the Cellar Shop at Chiltern Valley Winery, including own-brand produce like the Royal Farm Shop brews, Fortnum & Mason's Ale, chutneys and mustards containing beer, and wine paraphernalia. Tastings are on offer seven days a week.

Just now the vineyard is a sad sight, the 1,200 vines looking quite dead. It's a busy time too, as each vine must be carefully pruned by hand.

But it won't be long before signs of life reappear. Budburst takes place in early May, then the vines grow at a cracking pace until harvest in early October.

The Windsor Royal Farms shop is in Victorian potting sheds and new buildings just outside the Home Park in Old Windsor. It sells produce from the Royal Estates and from farms and specialist producers in the Windsor area and there is a coffee shop.

Chiltern Valley Winery near Hambleden, tel 01491 638330