Weekend Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley

We broke tradition and didn’t go skiing for my birthday weekend this year, since it’s summertime Down Under. So we went wine tasting in Hunter Valley instead. 🙂

In the past, when we’ve gone wine tasting, we pack 7-8 wineries to visit in a day. This time however, Jeff asked that we take it easy, since quality wine country is now just a couple hours’ drive away.

Take it easy, we did. We picked up the rental car and left Sydney around 930am. Smooth drive up; not too much traffic. After checking into our accommodations at Vine Valley Inn, we headed up to Keith Tulloch Wine, where they had an adjoining restaurant, Muse Kitchen, which had rave reviews. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch al fresco. In the shade, it was nice and cool, but once the sun hit us, we could feel its intensity. It’s odd – the heat on our skin isn’t the usual sweltering hot kind of heat, where you sweat loads, but rather like a slow oven bake.

Lunch was light and refreshing. We split the dishes – a fig and ricotta salad, baked cod with heirloom tomatoes, and a dessert called coconut cloud gate with passion fruit sauce that dissolved in our mouths.

Keith Tulloch Wine
This was the only winery we went to this weekend where we had to pay $5 for a tasting (which was refunded if we bought wines). It was totally worth it though. We got to take the 11-wine tasting at our leisure on their verandah, overlooking the vineyard. Some of the wines we had:

2014 Semillon $28
Sourced from Hunter Valley estate. Zesty, green apples, grassy. Nice acidity with a rounded finish. 2014 was widely heralded in the Valley as the best season on record – a far cry from this season, where the current harvest is threatened by relentless rain.

2013 Cairn Vineyard Tumbarumba Chardonnay $40
I liked this Chardonnay. White peach, honeyed. Buttery with vanilla notes – the wine spent 3.5 months in oak.

2014 Hunter Valley Chardonnay $30
Jeff liked this one. It was more lemony than the Cairn.

2013 Shiraz $32
Lovely perfume of rose and violets and spice. A little too harsh in the finish though.

2013 Forres Blend $38
We liked this one. It’s a blend of Shiraz (20%), Petit Verdot (12%), and Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon (63%), and Cabernet Franc (5%). You could definitely smell the petit verdot in the nose – strong fragrant violet notes and green leafy stems (so happy that we went to Bill’s nez du vin tasting because I know can easily associate that aroma to that of violets! Who knew?). The Cabernet Sauvignon lent that structure and backbone to the Shiraz; beautiful soft tannins in the mouth. And the Cabernet Franc lifted the finish, with some minty, herbal notes.

2013 ‘The Wife’ Shiraz $55
This was the first edition released, in the style of red favored by the winemaker Keith’s wife. Bright berries, lavender. Personally, I wasn’t too much of a fan – it seemed a little too thin, too bright.

2011 ‘The Kester’ Shiraz $85
I liked this one. The highlight of this range of tasting. Lots going on in the nose – of violets, earth, black cherry, pepper, chocolate. Lots of tannins, nice and long finish.

We headed to Tyrrell’s Wines next, where we were handed a sheet crammed full of wines to choose from. Decided to just concentrate on the Semillon and Shiraz.

Jeff and I split a tasting, but our pourer was understanding and let us taste side by side a flight of Semillions and Shiraz, so we could better distinguish the differences between them. Haha, mentioned to TPR how we were flabbergasted by how different the wines tasted from different vintages and different vineyards, and she was like, erm but that’s so inconsistent! Haha, but to us, that’s just the beauty of it. How earth, weather, and the winemaker’s touch all contribute to the variances in a bottle of wine.

Anyway, some favorites:
Vat 1 Semillion 2010 $80
This is Tyrrell’s signature wine, made from 120 year old vines. The age of the vines, coupled with a few years in the bottles, have softened the acidity of the Semillion considerably. The wine tasted full bodied, and buttery. Delicious.

Vat 8 Shiraz Cabernet 2011 $77
I liked this one – more rounded than the following Vat 9 that we tried, but still a bright finish.

Vat 9 Shiraz 2011 $86
Jeff preferred #9. It was bright, fruit forward in mouth and finish. Cherries.

Stevens Hunter Semillion 2010 $35
A little more sugar than the HVD we tried in tandem

HVD Hunter Semillion 2010 $35
Most acidic of the 3 that we tasted

Belford Hunter Semllion 2009 $35
Loved this. Best of the three we tasted in tandem. Maybe it’s to do with the extra time in the bottle, but we felt it had the most floral nose, and was most mellow, with a honeyed finish.

Brookdale Semillion 2013 $20
Big wine – shows its youth. Green apple notes, huge acidity

Next up, we visited Brokenwood. We had a really friendly pourer, who, upon hearing that we had just arrived in Sydney, offered up a list of handwritten suggestions on what we should do in the Blue Mountains, where she grew up. Again, we had a long list of wines to taste, but we just picked out a few. Some standouts:

2009 Latara Vineyard Semillion (Hunter Valley) $55
Nice earthiness to it. Toasty. Acidity at end.

2013 Indigo Vineyard Shiraz $65
Woah, does this wine have a big ass finish!

2010 Wade Block 2 Vineyard Shiraz $65
Gorgeous perfume in the bouquet

Since it was only 4pm when we left Brokenwood, and wineries closed doors at 5pm, we decided to pop by one last one. Picked Lindeman’s at random, since we drove by it. Our pourer was most gracious – and looked like Prince William! – but none of the wines really stood out for us. But then Lindeman is a huge wine producer, and produces decent, consistent table wines.

On Sunday, we continued the tastings at two wineries. The first, Audrey Wilkinson, was recommended by both the proprietor at Vine Valley Inn and one of our friends. Beautiful wines, and they have one of the most scenic grounds in Hunter Valley. They are situated on top of a rolling hill, with neat rows of vines running down the sides. There’s even a helicopter pad for guests to fly into for a bit of tasting and enjoying a picnic on their sprawling grounds before flying off to the next tasting!

Some favorites, from the long list we again had the luxury to choose from:

2014 Winemakers Selection Semillion $26.50
Green apple in the nose, lemon in the mouth. Grassy

2013 Winemakers Selection Verdelho $26.50
Verdelho is one of the other popular white grapes grown in the Hunter Valley, which was rather surprising to us since we mainly associated it with Portugese wines. Like the Semillion, the wine has a nice long acidity, though in general we find it more fuller bodied. This was nice – stone fruit and grass in the palate.

2011 Audrey Series Hunter Valley Shiraz $22
Gorgeous nose – of cherries and violets. Sweeter than the other two Shirazs we tasted in tandem.

2013 Winemakers Selection Hunter Valley Shiraz $36.50
Spicier than the Audrey Series. with stronger chocolate and violets in the nose. Chewier tannins, but that could be because it’s younger

2011 Lake Shiraz
LOVE this. Bright nose, though mixed with cocoa and earth notes. Silky tannins. Cherries and spice in mouth.

2013 Winemakers Selection Hunter Valley Malbec $65
We tried this, even though we didn’t think Hunter is known for their Malbec. But, I don’t know if it’s in part due to palate fatigue of tasting all these Semillions and Shirazs, but I really, really liked this Malbec. Thought the structure was just beautiful. Smooth tannins, deliciously well balanced. Chocolate, coffee and spice. Delicious!

Following, we visited Gundog Estate, a strong recommendation by one of the couples we met on our hot air balloon ride (that’s another entry) earlier that morning. It’s a small winery, in a shall we say, grungier setting on the valley floor, but top notch wines!

Gundog Estate
2014 Poacher’s Semillon $30
Gundog’s traditional style. Floral, nice acidity, beautiful structure. One of the most balanced Semillon we had this weekend. Went away with a bottle to bring home for dinner

2014 Hunter’s Semillon $25
Gundog’s modern style. We tasted these next three wines one after the other, which again was fun to see the different styles. Round finish, nice acidity.

2014 Wild Semillon $30
Wild fermentation, some skins left on for fermentation. More residual sugar than the Hunter, not as bright.

2014 Off-Dry Semillion $25
A bit of fizz on the tongue. Sweet in the palate; finish falls off rather quickly.

2013 Indomitus Rutilus and 2014 Indomitus Shiraz $90 for the two
They sold these wines as a set. Grapes were sourced from Canberra and made in a very different style than their Hunter Valley labels. The Rutilus is a Semillon with a tinge of Gerwurtztraminer, and tasted super round, full bodied. Some stone fruit and spice in the mouth. The Shiraz was mixed with a bit of Viognier. Jeff liked it a lot. Lots of spice in the nose and sharp, tangy fruit. Smooth tannins and a long spicy finish.

2014 Hunter’s Shiraz $35
Sweet nose, but a bright palate. No earth.

2013 Squire’s Shiraz $30
Fruit produced from Canberra. Spicier, fuller bodied nose than the Hunter. Blueberry and black pepper in the palate. More grounded

2013 Estate Shiraz $40
One of my favorite Shirazs of the weekend (we picked up a bottle). Amazing nose of spice, eucalyptus, black fruit. Smooth tannins

2013 Markman’s Shiraz $60
A finer version of the Estate Shiraz. Lots more chewier tannins than the Estate. Not as spicy. More notes of violets. Fuller texture.

20yr Old Tawny $50
A sherry fino nose. Palate of almond, oranges, cashews. Sweet.

It was just noon when we were done, but having woken up at 4am (and 3am the day before), we were exhausted. Decided to call it a day, and we started the drive back to Sydney. But we’ve left plenty more wineries to come back to explore!


2 thoughts on “Weekend Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley

  1. Gundog Estate was one of my favourite wineries when we visited the Hunter (topped only by Mistletoe). I can still taste their Old Tawny and they had a stunning Rose as well. Good idea to pare it back to only two wineries per day! It is extremely tiring doing 6+ in a day which must impact on your ability to appreciate the wine.

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