Reading’s Award-Winning Kitchen Design Experts

Banner_Scott and Nico

Years of Experience | Scott and Nico

Our ‘Years of Experience’ series showcases local, independent experts in their craft, including our own talented team.


In this episode, we feature our Joiner and Cabinet maker, Scott Gowans alongside Stanlake Park’s Winemaker and Viticulturist, Nico Centonze. If you’ve enjoyed a glass of Stanlake’s finest wine or seen an Elements Kitchen, Scott and Nico have most likely been working hard behind the scenes to develop something special. We are proud to shine a light on the expertise of these individuals, without whom the finished product couldn’t be delivered to the same quality. See what wisdom, from a career of learning, they have to share in the article below. 

Scott is the joiner and cabinet maker at Elements Kitchens. He has 40 years’ experience and has always enjoyed woodworking. In fact, his oldest possession is a ladybird book on woodworking, which he carried everywhere with him as a child.

Scott was fortunate enough to have a funded play centre on the estate where he grew up, which encouraged children to try different arts and crafts, including woodworking. His early years set him up nicely for an apprenticeship at a furniture and restoration company when he was 16 years old, and he then went on to develop his skills as a joiner and cabinet maker.

What does your role at Elements Kitchens involve?

I’m a joiner and cabinet maker. I make all our bespoke kitchens in our workshop next to the showroom. I also ensure that all kitchens are produced correctly, even those that come from our suppliers. We assemble every kitchen before they go to site to ensure that everything is ready to go and the installers have everything that they need during the install.

What do you enjoy about working at Elements Kitchens?

I’ve always worked in a workshop environment. I enjoy the pressure and the challenges that arise during different projects. In a small company you also need to be resourceful and have good problem solving skills, which keeps the role interesting!

What has helped to improve your skills over the years?

Hands down, when I was younger it was learning from my seniors who would pass on their skills to me. They had practical knowledge and helped me to develop skills that I couldn’t get from books.

I also made an effort to try out different skills involved in woodworking. For example, after my apprenticeship, I found work at a kitchen company as a machinist to help develop this skill, before going on to develop my joinery and then cabinet maker skills.

How do you continue to develop your skills?

Everyday is a school day! It keeps the mind stimulated when you have to regularly problem solve and think of different ways to approach projects. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked on developing a skill. You always need to ask yourself if there is a better way of doing something, and having limitations of time and resources can make you very resourceful and creative.

What challenges are there for woodworkers/ craftspeople?

Technology and automation are wonderful things that help to speed up processes and reduce costs. However, they also mean that craftspeople no longer have the same opportunities to develop their skills and gain experience as they once did. Having the opportunity to be hands-on and to create something from scratch is not only rewarding, but it helps you to understand and develop an intuition when working with a natural material like wood that you can’t get through automation.

Do you have any favourite projects that you’ve worked on?

I really enjoy working on truly bespoke projects, especially those when I can get the buzz from seeing people’s reactions when they see the final pieces. Today, these pieces are few and far between, which is a shame because these are the pieces that I always find myself talking about the most. When an item is made specifically for someone, it ends up being full of character and meaning. These high-quality items are also made to last and even be passed down through generations, unlike a lot of items today that are made quickly and cheaply.

What tips would you give to any would-be craftspeople out there?

I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, try and seek out more experienced people that may be willing to share their experience with you. Secondly, stay curious. I’ve always been interested in how things work, and it’s driven me to seek out new experiences and find answers.

If you’re interested in talking to a member of our team about our Elements Workshop services, please contact us. We’d be delighted to hear from you and help you in any way that we can.

Now, read about Nico Centonze from Stanlake Park!

Nico is a well-qualified and experienced winemaker. He was born and raised on his family’s vineyard in Southern Italy’s Puglia region, before gaining a BSc and an MSc in Winemaking and Viticulture, from the renowned Italian universities of Florence (Tuscany) and Turin (Piedmont). It was in Piedmont that Nico met Natalia, and they’ve been together ever since. After gaining his qualifications, Nico has held winemaking positions in several countries: Argentina (Rioja region), Italy (Puglia), a boutique winery in Romania, and Stanlake Park near Henley. Since 2018, Nico has been winemaker and vineyard manager at Stanlake Park, and Natalia is director- DipWSET.

What does your role as a winemaker involve?

I see myself as an architect of wine. This involves every stage in its creation; not just making the wine, but the cultivation of the vines themselves. Many winemakers just focus on making the wine, rather than growing the grapes. However, I find it much more satisfying and freeing when I have control of the whole process.

You clearly have a lot of experience and qualifications in winemaking. In your opinion, what makes a good winemaker?

I think it takes a lot of experience. You can get a qualification in winemaking, but you can only really develop and get better at something by practicing your craft.

To what extent has your travel influenced your wine-making abilities?

Travel has played a huge role in helping me to develop my skills. It’s been fascinating to see the different approaches to viticulture in different countries, what problems they’ve come across and how they’ve solved them.

In my opinion, if you have two winemakers with 20 years’ experience, but one of them has worked in the same place while the other has worked in different places around the world, I’d always bet that the more well-travelled one will be a superior winemaker. It is a real skill to find the best expression of the grapes in different contexts, and it’s only by practicing your skill under different circumstances that you can develop this.

Designed by Freepix

Why did you choose to come to Stanlake Park and the UK to progress your winemaking career?

The UK offers a lot of potential to experiment in winemaking, and consumers have a more open mindset to trying new things. If you’re a winemaker looking to develop their skills and push the boundaries of winemaking, then it’s a very exciting time to be in the UK.

What challenges do we face in the UK with making wine, and how do you overcome or manage these?

The weather is obviously a big challenge, as some weather conditions like frost and hail are devastating for growing grapes. However, if you are aware of the different viticulture practices that should be adopted to align with the weather conditions then it’s still possible to get very good crops. The important thing to remember is that vines require a lot of attention; the more attention you give them, the more they give back.

How do you continue to develop your skills?

It’s important to stay on top of the latest technologies and scientific developments. When Natalia and I travel, we normally go to a wine region somewhere and talk with them about their experiences, how they overcome certain challenges, and what’s working well. You can never stop learning. In order to perform at a top level, you need to keep tweaking everything that you do.

How does Stanlake Park differ from other vineyards?

I think there are two ways that we differ from other vineyards. Firstly, we are a winery and a vineyard. Some vineyards don’t have an attached winery and so they need to send their grapes away to be processed.

Secondly, Natalia and I have different areas of expertise. My expertise lies in making wine, while Natalia’s expertise is in marketing. Natalia has a very good understanding of our customers, what they want, and what the market is doing. This means that we can act more flexibly than larger companies that are not necessarily so hands-on with customers or the winemaking process.

Why do some wines cost more than others?

English wines can cost more than some that you find in the supermarket. This is because it is more expensive to grow and harvest grapes in the UK due to the weather, labour and equipment costs. For example, in the UK you may pay a labourer £15-£17 per hour to pick the grapes, while a labourer in Southern Italy (who is usually faster because they’ve grown up picking grapes, as I did!) costs roughly 8 Euros per hour.

We can keep our prices down at Stanlake Park because we’re good at finding cost-effective ways to solve problems, and my experience ensures that we can maximise our vine yields. For example, Stanlake Park used to have crops of 5-6 tonnes, but we can now get 30+ tonnes. This goes to show that good crop management can make a huge difference in wine making.

What tips do you have to help people enjoy wine more/ make the most of their experiences.

You enjoy and appreciate something more when you know how it’s made. This is why we enjoy showing people the whole winemaking process on our tours while they enjoy samples of different wines – white, rosé, red and sparkling.

If you want to drink something that gives you a deep-seated satisfaction, then educate yourself on the process involved in making it. This can be fun; check out our vineyard tours!

What’s next for winemaking at Stanlake Park?

This year we’re introducing two new wines: Pinot Low (low alcohol), and Berkshire Breeze (Peach flavour).

As our mission is to make wine more accessible to everyone, it’s important to us that people don’t feel intimidated by wine. Introducing different flavours and levels of alcohol are two ways in which we are looking to do this.

Stanlake Park is 15-minutes’ walk from Twyford station. Accessible on the Elizabeth line.

Check out their large range of events (including vineyard tours and wine tastings), wine bar and shop.

If you have any questions, or would like to make an appointment to see a member of the Elements Kitchens team, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Share this post

Go to Top