Monday, May 17, 2010

Another Hunter Valley Trip

The co-driver had enrolled in a day seminar in Newcastle which lies at the mouth of the Hunter River, about 160km north of Sydney. It is the second biggest city in New South Wales and the biggest coal exporting port in the world.
About an hour’s drive to the west of the city is the Hunter Valley wine region. So after dropping the co-driver off for her 9am start, I headed for the region’s centre, Cessnock, to begin a Semillon buying tour. There are plenty of wineries to visit in the area ranging from the old family owned through to the large corporate as well as smaller boutique operations. The area also caters to the tourist crowd as it is only a couple of hour’s drive from Sydney. There are plenty of places to stay, eat, buy non wine produce as well as play golf on some pretty swish courses.
My first stop was McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Estate. This pretty vineyard is situated on the slopes of the Brokenback Range and was established in 1921 by legendary winemaker, the late Maurice O’Shea.
Vines however were first planted in this area in 1880.

The Griffith based McWilliam family, already a famous Australian wine company, purchased a half share of Mount Pleasant Estate and encouraged O’Shea to continue with his winemaking style and creations. McWilliam’s acquired the remaining share in 1941. The winery is famous for its Semillon and Shiraz, the signature wines of the Hunter.
Next on my visit list was the Small Winemakers Centre which carries a range of boutique winery stocks. I was specifically after some Thomas Wines 2009 OC Semillon that is picked a little riper than the normal Hunter Valley Semillon and therefore has a fuller mouthfeel but still maintains the traditional citrus/mineral flavours. This wine never disappoints no matter what the vintage.
Then it was onto Tyrrell’s Wines. This property was established in 1858 and a winery built in 1863. It is still in the same family’s hands today.
Murray Tyrrell took over in 1959 and witnessed and catered to the change in Australia’s wine drinking habits during the next 20 years. He was always an advocate of the Hunter and always had a lot to say about how things should and shouldn’t be done in the wine industry. He wore the badge of ‘Mouth of the Hunter’ with some pride. He embraced a lot of new technology and rejected much. The winery is a perfect example of this. For example, rows of stainless steel tanks but open wax sealed cement fermenters, side by side and a barrel room still with its orginal dirt floor. He is credited with introducing both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to the Australian wine industry. I had the privilege of having a few breakfasts and dinners with him during Hunter wine events over the years and he was always fun to be with. He died in 2000 and I found a staff memorial to "The Boss" hidden away in some very old Shiraz vines with his beloved Brokenback Range as a backdrop.

By this time the whole area was filling up with the weekend tourist crowd and tasting room staff were starting to get hassled. Serious wine conversations then take second place to sales. So I decided to head even further west another 35 km to the Broke-Fordwich sub region of the Hunter.
Here I called in on the Krinklewood Vineyard. The 20ha vineyard is comprised of classic Hunter varieties of Semillon, Chardonnay, Verdelho & Shiraz, with younger plantings including Viognier, Mourvedre and Tempranillo. This vineyard is grown under biodynamic principles. Can I taste a difference? Not really.
I was the only visitor so got the full attention of the nice Kiwi cellar lady. I was only there to get some Semillon but was pressed into trying their Verdelho, Chardonnay, white blend (Wild White) as well as a blended Rose’.
Their Semillon is very light in alcohol, 9.8%, and the wine displays ripe citrus flavours, a tight acid line with a refreshing finish. Just what I like. I couldn’t resist their Verdelho either. This wine has lifted aromas of melon fruits and citrus. It has a soft, ripe, fruit driven palate which is perfectly balanced by a long crisp acid finish.
I managed to ‘escape’ before the reds were brought out!

Then it was onto the Margan Estate. I have been a customer of theirs for many years and they have just moved their sales operation and restaurant out to Broke from the lower Hunter. It is a very impressive set up.
The 2009 Semillon is again one of the riper styles. It displays a bouquet of fresh lemon and lime with hints of fresh hay. The palate is long, lively and textured with balanced acidity and a long finish.
The 2009 Verdelho is a blend of three wines made from grapes from the same block harvested at different times of the vintage. It displays a fragrant lifted bouquet of citrus, tropical fruits and some spice. The palate is a combination of citrus and tropical fruits with a touch of spicy green apple. The clean acidity ensures a long crisp finish. Couldn't resist this one either!

By this time the back of the car was filling up with boxes so an economic rational decision was made to head back to Newcastle a bit earlier than planned.
But this turned out not to be such a bad idea.
I ended up at Nobby’s Beach just out of town at the mouth of the river for a relaxed afternoon sitting in the sun with a good book.
At least the bank didn't call me this trip to ask whether I was still in possession of my credit card!

1 comment:

myolivebranch said...

wish we were coming to visit soon so i could taste the bounty with you!