Krinklewood – Disco Balls, Biodynamics and the History of the Vineyard

Krinklewood, Biodyamic Vineyard, in New South Wales, The Hunter, Australia

This area in the Western part of the Hunter Valley feels isolated and remote. As you pass through the village of Broke and drive down the 2 lane Wollombi Road, the hill of Yellow Rock rises up on your left while fields reach out past Wollombi Brook to the Mount Broke on the right.  Out here is where you will find Krinklewood, a biodynamic vineyard and winery in the Broke-Fordwich sub region of the Hunter Valley.

We arrived and turned down the lane at Krinklewood.  You can’t help but be transported.  Green vineyard rows are capped with mirror balls. The sunlight catches them and bounces the morning light about.  It’s beautiful with a bit of joyful ktich.

Krinklewood in Hunter Valley Australia 2019 Biodynamic Vineyard
Krinklewood Biodynamic Vineyard with its disco balls and Minti

Rod Windrim, the owner of Krinklewood, met us with his dog Minti.  Meeting Rod, there is no doubt that you are in Australia, he sports a bush hat with a colorful hat band, and an easy going demeaner.

Rod Windrim, vigneron at Krinklewood.
Rod Windrim, Vigneron at Krinklewood.

Birds and disco balls

Rod asked if I had seen the disco balls before.  I had not.  They use this here, as a deterrent for birds.  It’s a bit flashier than the tinsel you see in many places.

“With birds there’s all sorts of partial solutions, there’s no total solution.  Other than standing over them with a machine gun.  This came about because I’ve got a neighbor that moved into the area across the road and the sound of electronic speakers and things drove him nuts.  He was a miner so he was working shift work, so it was my attempt to try to get on top of the problem in a gentle soft sort of way.”

Rod Windrim, October 2019

He’s even thought about adding wings to them, to catch the breeze better. They look fantastic and let you know that this place does not take itself too seriously.  Driving up to the cellar door, you won’t expect a hauty, snooty greeting after seeing those.  It sets the mood. It also makes you think immediately of music, and music as we will see, plays a big part in these wines.

The History of Krinklewood

Rod and his family live in Sydney and started coming to the Hunter in 1978.  They planted a vineyard in Polkobin in 1981. 

“We then moved out of Pokolbin to Wollombi because we felt Pokolbin was becoming too suburban.  Actually we thought, next there will be traffic lights and there were tarred roads…so it wasn’t what we were looking for.  So we ended up moving to Broke, because it was sort of like we were in the country.”

Rod Windrim, October 2019

In 1996 they decided to plant the vineyard here. They spent 2 years doing the research with soil pits etc.  In 1998 they planted to conventional methods, but Rod was researching and found a book by Nicolas Joly on biodynamics. He was fascinated and took a night course on biodynamics. He would rush home late after the class and wake his wife up to tell her all the exciting things he had learned.  It was the synergy of this method that really attracted him.

The contractor they were working with was open to this, while still a bit skeptical.  They started using biodynamic preparations in 2002 and were certified biodynamic in 2007.

Krinklewood, Biodyamic Vineyard, in New South Wales, The Hunter, Australia
Krinklewood, Biodyamic Vineyard, in New South Wales, The Hunter, Australia

When I say certified biodynamic, it is for the entire property, which includes an orchard and garden, as well as multiple animals they have on the property.

They had sheep, but spent so much time moving the electric fencing, as they moved the sheep from area to area, that it became too much work.  With biodynamics, you cannot use chemical drenches to kill worms and parasites in your sheep. The alternative is to have pasture open to heat and light and allow the parasites to die before allowing the sheep in that field to graze.  Hence the moving of the fencing constantly.

The inspiration for the Krinklewood label

They still have cattle, but the numbers are dwindling due to the draught.  The cattle are an important symbol here, you see them on the label.  These are Limousin cattle.  When they bought the property they had 60 head of these cattle here.  This breed comes from the Limoge province in France.  The ancient cave paintings here were the inspiration for the Krinklewood logo.

  • Cave Paining in Lascaux Cave in the Dordogne region of France
  • Krinklewood, Biodyamic Vineyard, in New South Wales, The Hunter, Australia

In addition, they have chickens and there are geese.  The idea is biodiversity. It is bucolic and beautiful and it makes you breathe deeper, wrapping you in a sense of calm.

Next we head out for a “wander” as Rod says, to see the property and discuss their biodynamic approach. You’ll want to check back to join us.

Sources & Resources

And here is a link in case you want to look up the books by Nicolas Joly that he refers to! https://www.amazon.com/Biodynamic-Wine-Demystified-Nicolas-Joly/dp/1934259020

And if you, like me, are interested in these cave paintings…

Ancient History Encylopedia Lascaux Cave

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Robin Renken CSW (photo credit RuBen Permel)

Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.

When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.

A Stunning Sunset View at First Ridge Vineyard

Sunset from the First Ridge Cellar Door in Mudgee New South Wales Australia

It was sunset of our only full day in Mudgee New South Wales.  We headed out to meet Col Millot, the Viticulturist at First Ridge Vineyard on the south east side of the Mudgee Valley.  While viewing the sunset from their cellar door, we discussed Mudgee, the First Ridge Vineyard site, their wines and soils, as well as, how weather, climate change and drought was affecting them.

The drive to the cellar door at First Ridge Mudgee NSW Australia
The drive to the cellar door at First Ridge

The tree lined drive onto the property from Burrundulla Road is a welcoming entrance.  It’s a moment of respite as you travel slowly through the dappled light through the vineyard and up to the cellar door. 

Col opened up the cellar door for us. When I say, “opened up”, it’s a bit more than you might think.  This building is the elegant connection of two shipping containers. The two red boxes that we saw driving up, transform as he opens the sliding metal sides exposing the windows that bring in the spectacular view of the vineyard.  The interior is modern, but welcoming and the light at sunset was magical.

First Ridge has been a grower for 20 odd years.  They sold, and still sell, fruit around Australia.  In 2013 they made their first vintage of wine, and since then, keep 60 tons of grapes to produce the wines they sell here in the tasting room.  The beautiful tasting room was built in 2015 and has helped to increase the interest in the wines.

Mudgee – the “nest in the hills”

Mudgee, especially from the vantage point of the First Ridge Cellar Door, does indeed look like a “nest in the hills”, it’s aboriginal name.  That “nest” is the giant basin of an old volcano.

The region was colonized during the gold rush.  As Col says, “where there is mining, there is alcohol”.  In the 1860’s there were 400 hectares of vines growing here. 

At the turn of the century, most of the wine here stopped.  This vibrant area continued with mining and agriculture with cattle-grazing and food production. Wine didn’t make a marked come back until the 1990’s, when large wine companies encouraged people to plant more vines.  Then in 2006, most of these companies decided to head back to South Australia, and people started pulling out vines.  Since then, there has been a 40% decrease in the hectares of vines planted in Mudgee.

That’s not all bad.  Wineries here are back to family owned and mostly boutique. The largest owner is the Oatley family, the rest are smaller, 100 to 200-ton size wineries.

This is a unique area that does a wide range of varieties well.  While still less discovered than the Hunter or Coonawarra, people are discovering the region and seeing the wines are high quality.

The climate here is temperate with hot summers and cool nights that lock in the acid causing the wines here to age well.

First Ridge Vineyard

Soil

First Ridge Vineyard started in the mid 90’s.  It is one of the highest vineyards in Mudgee, with the highest block at 600 meters.  The soil here is rocky and volcanic, and these poor soils are great for the vines. 

First Ridge Mudgee NSW Australia
Two shipping containers at the top of the hill hold a tasting room with a perfect sunset view, where we chatted with Col and a glass of their delicious Prosecco.

Col pointed out the block down the hill in front of the cellar door.  At 22 years old, the trunks of the vines were just 2 inches in diameter.  In more fertile soil down in the flats beyond here, these vines would be up to 6 inches in diameter by now.  Here the vines have smaller bunches and berries and wonderful exposure.

The site has all types of rock and soil.  The area was once an ancient riverbed and Col picks up a piece of siltstone that was found in the vineyard close to the cellar door.  It has layers of fossils, of creatures and coral, vegetable matter and shell. 

“This predates anything that has bone, it’s around 300 million years old.”

Col Millot, October 2019

This mud, from an ancient riverbed system is dense and heavy.

“You start to realize that we are very small in the scheme of things, when you look at something as old as that.”

Col Millot, October 2019

Above the vineyard you find quartz and basalt.

“So, you’ve got sedimentary and metamorphic rock all in one.  It’s incredible.  It’s very ancient land.”

Col Millot, October 2019

Why Italian Varieties?

Col said, he had tasted Italian wines years ago in McLaren Vale and found them very drinkable.  They were much easier than the big Shiraz and Cabs that Australia was known for.

These grapes were already growing in Mudgee, thanks to Carlo Carino, an early winemaker at Montrose Wines.  He brought sangiovese, barbera and nebbiolo and planted them here. Knowing they would do well, First Ridge Vineyard planted sangiovese and barbera back in 1998.  Since then they have added, vermentino, fiano, pinot grigio, prosecco (glera) and Montepulciano.

The Wines

Col and I sipping First Ridge Prosecco, while he told me about the history and the soils of this place.
Col and I sipping First Ridge Prosecco, while he told me about the history and the soils of this place.

White Wines at First Ridge Vineyard

We started off discussing the Prosecco, which we had been sipping on as we spoke.  Clean and bright with notes of lemon, it had a little sweetness on it. 

“I was asking an old chap once, what style would sell the best. Is there a market for it being dry or sweet? He said, you make it too sweet you’ll lose half your customers.  You make it to dry, you’ll lose half your customers.  So, we try to find the middle ground.”

Col Millot, October 2019

This wine has won 3 silver medals in its first vintage.

We move on to the vermentino “It’s a beautiful grape.  It’s a beautiful eating grape, it’s a beautiful grape to look at, it’s a beautiful grape to make wine with.  It’s quite lean, quite minerally and quite salty. There is this saltiness about them.  They are a delightful drinking wine”

They are also growing fiano which Col finds to be a bit more structured than the vermentino. He describes it as the most elegant and complex of their white wines.  The last of their white wines is a bright pinot grigio.  Col says it’s “like sticking your nose in a jar of pears.”

Rosé and Red Wines

They grow sangiovese that they also use for a rosé.  To control vigor, they train these to on bud per spur.  This gives them smaller berries and bunches. With just two bunches from each bud this keeps them to 6 tons per hectare with this vigorous grape.  This kind of training also help minimize disease and intensify the flavor.

The Barbera is their flagship and it comes from the rough rocky block up the hill from the cellar door.  It is low yielding at 4 tons per acre and was just converted from spur to cane pruned.  The wines produce intense flavors of black cherry with beautiful aromas, silky tannins and a savory finish.

Lastly is the Montepulciano.  It is arch cane trained and at 2 years old was looking to its first harvest in 2019.

Climate, water and drought.

Drought and water

We finish on the tougher subject of climate and drought.  Col mentions that it has been hotter during the last 4 seasons that he has been here.

“We talk a lot these days about the warming and heating and there is no doubt there is changes in the climate.  It’s getting hotter.  The last four seasons here in Mudgee have been hot.  But those minimum temperatures are still lower. The big difference this vintage was the minimum temperatures were higher and that’s the first time I’ve seen that here.”

Col Millot, October 2019

The Cudgegong River runs past the property, helping with irrigation. Due to the soil, they must irrigate, but the vines also have deep roots.  This makes the vines are economical with water. They average a megaliter per hectare each year. Nonetheless, water is a concern.

“…we’re in the grip of a pretty serious drought right now.  There’s no doubt that we’re a bit worried about where it’s all going. It’s alright to have a river, but if there is no water running down it, you can’t draw from it.”

Col Millot, October 2019

There are cut backs on water entitlements in the region, to preserve water.  Col finds they must be very careful with how they manage water in the vineyard. Luckily, at this point, he has found that it has not impacted the wines.  They have no need to add sugar, acid or tannins.  The wine is simply fermented, filtered, put into oak if needed and bottled. 

Rain

Water comes into play in another way.  Rain in late summer can be hard for the ripening grapes and it’s common to have high rainfall in February during harvest.  With the drought the last 4 years, this has not been an issue.  Col remembers seasons with much more rain.  In 2001 they had 18 inches of rain in February and in 2008, 8 inches fell overnight.

This site is high enough and well-draining enough that the rain runs down through the vineyards into the headlands.  It doesn’t sit in the vineyard and cause the fruit to swell, diluting the flavor in the fruit.

The Future of First Ridge Vineyard

At the time of our visit, in October of 2019, Col was feeling pretty good about First Ridge.  The cellar door had increased interest in their wines.  The wines were getting better every year.  Tourism in 2019 had increased with more people traveling domestically due to the decline of the Australian dollar. 

“I think people are just a little concerned about traveling and moving around as much overseas than they used to be.” 

Col Millot, October 2019

As a result, people in Australia were exploring the wine country in their own backyard.  Mudgee, which is 3 ½ hours from Sydney, through the Blue Mountains, had become a popular weekend destination.

Since then, they had a tough summer, dealt with the possibility of smoke taint from the fires and then like everyone had to close their cellar door due to Covid-19.  They have stayed active on Facebook and Instagram.  Like so many in the wine industry they are finding ways to stay connected with the people who love their wines. For now, you can order online from their online store until they are able to open again, and you can take in the views from their stunning cellar door.

More on Mudgee and First Ridge Vineyard

You can read more on First Ridge and Mudgee from Crushed Grape Chronicles through the links below.

You can also find great resources at the websites for First Ridge and Mudgee

Nostalgia in a Wine and Food Pairing with Chardonnay

Chicken Adobo and a Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay

Not all things go as planned. We made chicken adobo, a dish from the Philipines, the day before and had planned to pair it with a Chardonnay. Chicken adobo is best enjoyed on the 2nd day, when the flavors have melded together. It’s a pretty simple dish with chicken thighs, onions, garlic and the adobo sauce which is a blend of vinegar and soy. After simmering to cook the chicken, we put this in the fridge to let all the flavors incorporate.

Chicken Adobe bowls

I came across a Chardonnay that we picked up from Temecula. I knew it had been a while and I figured we had better drink it up. There was a bit of a nostalgic feel to this pairing. Growing up in Southern California, Temecula and the San Diego area often feel like home to me. And, our Filipino neighbor taught my mother many recipes when we lived in Hawaii and I was a child. I grew up with Filipino dishes being a regular part of our diet.

We reheated the chicken, cooked up the vermicelli rice noodles and prepped the carrots, mint and cilantro to finish off this Sun Basket dish.

Chicken Adobo with vermicelli rice noodles, mint, cilantro and carrots
Chicken Adobo with vermicelli rice noodles, mint, cilantro and carrots

How old is that Chardonnay?

We took a couple shots with the bottle, after the dish was plated. I was surprised to see it was a 2004, which was a little older than I expected. When I went to open the bottle, the cork broke. I tried again (sadly without a butler’s friend) and found it was stuck. Finally, I managed to drill down through the cork and make a hole. The liquid that came out was deep yellow. This wine was obviously aged and slightly oxidized. Not great, but quite honestly, not horrible. Nonetheless, it was not going to pair with this dish.

Michael headed off to look for another bottle and came back with a #travelinabottle trip to Australia’s Hunter Valley.

Let’s #travelinabottle to the Hunter Valley instead!

Scarborough 2014 Yellow label Chardonnay from the Hunter Valley NSW Australia
Scarborough 2014 Yellow label Chardonnay from the Hunter Valley

The 2014 Yellow Label Chardonnay from Scarborough Wine was perfect for this pairing. Scarborough Wine is located on the west side of the Hunter Valley, against the Brokenback range. They are well known here for their Chardonnays. We visited in October and interviewed Jerome Scarborough. After the interview, we tasted through their Chardonnays and left with this bottle from 2014.

Scarborough Wine Co.

The cellar door at Gillards Rd is the old family home. Jerome’s mother’s dream home. It’s beautiful and warm and is a perfect tasting room. Jerome told us about turning the house into a tasting room, as he looked out the back windows onto the lawn that he played on as a child.

Scarborough Wine Company Hunter Valley Australia
Scarborough Wine Company Hunter Valley Australia

Jerome’s father Ian, bought the vineyard and property in the late 70’s. In the 80’s he ripped out the Shiraz and put in Chardonnay. In 1987, they made their first vintage of Chardonnay in the garage on the Gillards Rd property. While they continue to make other varieties and blends, the Yellow label Chardonnay remains their flagship wine.

Chicken Adobo with an Aussie Chardy!

This 2014 vintage is a richer expression of Chardonnay, but it is not overly oaky or buttery. The wine has citrus and pith, white peach and some subtle tropical notes all rounded with a bit of nuttiness. I found this wine to be balanced. It was lovely with the chicken and made the mint pop! We enjoyed it with the food and later, on it’s own.

Chicken Adobo and Scarborough Chardonnay
Chicken Adobo and Scarborough Chardonnay

Where to next?

Hmmm….maybe Spain or Italy? Join us for our next trip as we #travelinabottle.

Where are you traveling to virtually these days? Are you daydreaming of a vacation. We’d love to hear about your favorite wine regions or the regions you would like to visit! Share with us in the comments below!

More info

For more information on Scarborough Wine and the Hunter Valley, try some of these links!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Robin Renken CSW (photo credit RuBen Permel)

Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.

When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.

Lowe Wine – Drought, Biodynamics and Soil

Bush trained vines at Lowe Wine in Mudgee Australia

The drought in Australia fueled the fires we saw the beginning of this year.   We talked with David Lowe at Lowe Wine about the drought and about bio-dynamics, a subject you know we are very interested in.

The drought in Australia

David says that the drought has been very damaging for people who were not prepared for it.  We later spoke with another winemaker who explained the earlier longer drought that the country had gone through.  After a short reprise they plunged into the current drought which is more severe.

Biodynamics and how it helps with drought

Droughts can be debilitating and this is a country that waffles between severe drought and flooding.  David feels that he has set his vineyard on the right path over the past 20 years setting it up to be more drought resistant.  Removing all the damaging pesticides and letting diverse native grasses grow have helped with ground cover and have limited pests.  They don’t irrigate so the roots have dug deep.

“In fact our Shiraz roots go 5 meters deep were all planted with a shovel and a bucket of water and we’ve relied on rainfall scarce as that’s been, all the time and we’ve never lost a vine.  They’re quite productive in fact they look better than most vineyards that are drip irrigated. “

David Lowe, October 2019

An explanation of biodynamics

David tells us there is no recipe for bio-dynamics, it is about observation, learning when to interfere and when not to interfere.  He gives us a description from his consultant on bio-dynamics, comparing Newtonian science, which is absolute and the philosophy of Goethe, who looked at the precedents and how they occurred and looked for an explanation.  If he didn’t find it, it was because it was something we did not completely understand. 

“So to me bio-dynamics understands and respects the precedents and what’s happened in nature over the last 5 or 7 thousand years as been mapped and tries to apply Newtonian science to it.  I find it a really interesting way to do it.  We’re not just looking at the sky and the cosmos and the land and saying, oh we’re all hippie about it.  But there is a scientific reason it happens and we’re trying to find it.  If we can’t understand it, at least appreciate, this has happened and work with it.”

David Lowe, October 2019

Soils in Australia and Mudgee

We move on to discuss the soils here in Mudgee and within Australia.  This is an ancient and eroded land.   It is the oldest land form in the world, part of the Gondwaraland. Changes in soil here come from erosion.  So the top of the hills are stony and rocky while the bottom fills with silt and loess.  On the slopes, of course you get a variation.  Variation makes winemakers happy.

Working with soils to make the best wines

David has tried to map the soils and work with it.  There is quartz and shale with minerals.  It’s well drained and that important for the grapevines, it encourages them to dig deep which promotes drought resistance and increases the quality.

“We’ve said we don’t care about what crop we get off it any year, we care that it’s the best wine possible.  Because we are in control of our market, because we are in control of our all of our sales, as you see, our only sales are here, we can tell the message.  People can respond to the authenticity of growing and making it and selling it onsite.  That’s worked with us.  Probably as an accident, but we’re not going to stop it now.”

David Lowe, October 2019

More from David Lowe

We have one more conversation to share with you from our visit with David Lowe.  The next one gets pretty geeky on yeasts and barrels!

We’ve written a bit on Lowe Wine

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Robin Renken CSW (photo credit RuBen Permel)

Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.

When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.

An Australian Semillon and Malaysian Noodles

Malaysian stir-fried hawker noodles with shrimp

While following our #stayathome orders, we are grateful that there are meal kit delivery services out there, so that we can prepare a delicious fresh meal. We give thanks to those people picking the produce and gathering ingredients to put these kits together and the people who are out there delivering them to us. We had tried these meal kits earlier this year, thanks to a neighbor who was out of town and asked us to make use of her delivery while she was gone.

I like the idea of having no food waste with the meals. The first that we started with was Malaysian stir fried Hawker Noodles with shrimp. It makes 2 servings and comes with all the ingredients needed with the exception of salt, pepper and oil.

So what to pair with a dish like this? We chose a Semillon from Australia, although many white wines or even a light rosé would work. Perhaps a Torrontes or a Gruner Veltliner or a New Zealand Sav Blanc (which will pull out the vegetable notes). If you choose to use the sambal oelek hot sauce with it, you might want to choose a sweeter wine to tone down the heat, something like a German riesling or maybe a sparkling wine that is demi-sec or a sweeter style of rosé. Most sparkling wine would actually work nicely with this also, Cava, Prosecco, Crémant or Champagne…

Semillon

We happened to have an older Semillon from our trip to Australia. Semillon is a wine grape you may not have heard of. In France it is a white wine of Bordeaux and is used to make the sweet wines of Sauternes in the southern part of the Bordeaux region. As a still wine you sometimes see it in the Entre Deux Mers, the central part of Bordeaux where the wines are not as fancy and pricey as those Left and Right Bank Bordeaux wines that you hear more about. As a still wine is it often blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Outside of France there is not alot of Semillon grown, except for one region in New South Wales Australia, the Hunter Valley, where Semillon has come into it’s own.

We visited Australia back in October and tasted many Semillon’s in the Hunter Valley. This particular Semillon came from a littler further afield. Before heading to the Hunter, we visited another wine region which is south of Sydney, but still in New South Wales. This beautiful region is the Shoalhaven Coast.

Coolangatta Estate

We booked at stay at Coolangatta Estate on the Shoalhaven Coast. This place was awarded a 5 red star rating by the Halliday Wine Companion in 2019. The vineyard surrounds the historic grounds of the convict built village that house the cellar door, their restaurant and the resort. While there we had a chance to speak the owner Greg Bishop about the place and the wines.

Greg’s parents purchased the dilapidated village of buildings and the land around them in 1947 with the dream of one day fixing up the historic buildings and creating a resort. Greg re-established the vineyards in the 1980’s.

Wollstonecraft Semillon 2011

This wine is an award winning wine. Grown and harvested from the Wollstonecraft vineyard on the estate and vinified by Tyrrell’s in the Hunter Valley. Their Semillon’s are award winning here and this is one that is note worthy with multiple gold silver and bronze awards and with a trophy for best Australian Semillon in 2020. The thing is, this wine will just keep getting trophies. Semillons just get better with age. We actually have a bottle of their 2005 which has won 12 trophies.

So what makes this wine special? It is bright, but round, it has great citrus notes without too much acid. You get subtle notes of lanoline (which is typical of a semillon) and then meyer lemon and citrus zest. It is perfect for pairing with this dish with the stir fried noodles. It’s refreshing and it sits at 11% abv, so you don’t have to worry about getting shnockered too quickly. This wine is not on their current range lineup, so you will have to check with the winery to see if they are currently offering it with their museum collection of wines. If they are, you can expect it to run around $60 Aus.

For more info

If you want more information on this region, you can read another piece we wrote on the Shoalhaven Coast that included Coolangatta. I’ll also include some links for information on the area as well as a link to Sunbasket in case you might be interested in that.

We will be back with another #pantrypairing soon!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Lowe Wine – 2015 Nullo Mountain Riesling

Bottles of the Lowe Wine Nullo Mountain Riesling lined up on a foudre in the tasting room Mudgee NSW Australia

While visiting with David Lowe at Lowe Wine in Mudgee NSW Australia, David poured us a glass of his 2015 Riesling from Nullo Mountain.  In addition to the Tinja vineyard where the winery is located and where we were sitting, David gets fruit from Orange as well as from a unique vineyard outside of Rylstone.

Rylstone

Rylstone is a town within the Mudgee Region about 45 minutes Southeast of Mudgee.  This heritage town is the gateway to the Wollemi National Park and the Bylong Valley. 

Nullo Mountain

Map of Mudgee to Nullo Mountain (map via Google Maps)
Map of Mudgee to Nullo Mountain (map via Google Maps)

If you continue past Rylstone and head north east you come to Nullo Mountain, a high mountain plateau.  It is here that you will find Louee’s Nullo Mountain vineyard. The vineyard is 4.45 hectares growing Riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris and Nebbiolo.

Lowe Wine 2015 Riesling Nullo Mountain
Lowe Wine 2015 Riesling Nullo Mountain

“This is from a vineyard in Mudgee that is organic and bio-dynamic. It was a vineyard that I semi-leased I suppose, it’s a Riesling and it grows at 1100 meters (that’s 3600 feet!).  So we are climatically in the Pfalz region of Germany.”

David Lowe, October 2019

Managing Acidity in high altitude vineyards

1100 meters is quite a difference from the approximately 470 meters that the Tinja Vineyard sits at.  David turned to organic and biodynamic winemakers in Pfalz including Bürklin-Wolf to learn about how they handle riesling at this altitude. 

David explains that with high altitude sites, you must deal with acidity differently.

In most of Australia and much of the west coast of the United States you have warm to hot climates which translates into wines with little acid that need to be ameliorated.  (Ameliorate is defined as “to make better, but in wine it is more specific. To ameliorate a wine is to add water to the unfermented must.) It’s different in cooler climates.

“Acidity has flavor and fruit, so you have to manage the acidity and sugar balance.  So we’ve made this wine. We keep it 4 years because as a young wine it’s a bit acidulous, and it’s developed it’s own texture in time with age.  People are responding to the fact that it’s a fresh clean limey wine, but the bottle age is just a bit more complex.  We’ve taken the edge off the acidity.  That’s volcanic soil grown 70 km from here.  So we are climatically in Germany, 70 km from here.”

David Lowe, October 2019
Lowe Wine 2015 Riesling Nullo Mountain back label Mudgee NSW Australia
Lowe Wine 2015 Riesling Nullo Mountain back label

This wine was beautiful and bright and David expects it will mature and develop over the next 20 years.

More to come…

We will continue our conversation with David, diving into the drought, soils bio-dynamics and more.

Links for more details…

If you want more information on Lowe Wine you can check out some other pieces we have written below.  We will also give you the link to their website as well as a link to Visit Mudgee, where they have great information on this entire region, including Rylstone!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Lowe Wine – a brief history with David Lowe

Lowe Wines in Mudgee Australia Cellar Door

Mudgee, it’s a fun name to say. The name of this region in Australia’s New South Wales is derived from the word “moothie” for “nest in the hills” in the Wiradjuri tongue.  We drove from the Hunter Valley over the mountains and into this region to speak with David Lowe of Lowe Wine.  I asked David about his history as well as that of his family in this region.

European Settlers in Mudgee

The region was settled by Europeans in 1824, with people moving west from Sydney.  The agriculture then was mostly sheep and people settled along the river for water.  It was 1825 when Robert Lowe was granted land in the Mudgee Region and 1832 when Robert’s widow Sarah and her 11 children moved to Mudgee, to live on this land. David’s family worked with sheep, cattle and wheat crops. 

Farms started to pop up.  Australian horticulture at this time was like the American Midwest.  They set up large expanses of land devoted to a single crop (you know, mono-culture).  This area, however, was a bit more varied and one crop, or way of growing, didn’t work for the entire region. They found that much of this land was better for smaller farms and raising more diverse types of agriculture.

Similar to California, grapes got started with the gold rush.  Where there are people, there is bound to be wine.  The gold rush in this region of Australia hit around the 1850’s. 

How David Lowe got into wine

David Lowe of Lowe Winery in Mudgee Australia
David Lowe of Lowe Winery in Mudgee Australia NSW

David’s family have always been in agriculture.  There was a winery next door as David was growing up and he worked on the bottling line.  When the laboratory technician had to be gone for a while, they put David in the lab.  He found he loved the chemistry.  So, at 15 when he had to choose the elective that would be his career, he announced to his family that he wanted to be a winemaker.

“I made that decision and I’ve stuck to it.  So, who knows if I’m good at anything else or not.  In fact, my parents, I found out later on, I think used to go to church to pray for my soul. Their view of a winemaker, was someone who had a bottle in a brown paper bag under a bridge.”

David Lowe, October 2019

Eventually he did convert them, and they started their own wine cellar.  David helped his father plant the first vines at Tinja, the family property in Mudgee in 1973.

Len Evans – an early influence in David’s career

After graduating with his degree in Oenology from Roseworthy College, David worked as the Assistant Winemaker for Rothbury wines.  Rothbury in the Hunter valley was run by Len Evans and Murray Tyrrell. 

Len Evans was a writer, vineyard owner and much more.  Those of you who are older might remember “The Galloping Gourmets” a book he co-authored with Graham Kerr, which Kerr later turned into the syndicated cooking show.  More importantly, he became one of the most influential people in wine.  He created the Australian Wine Bureau and was chairman of several wineries over his career including Rothbury Wines, Petaluma, Evans Wine Company and Tower Estate. He transformed blind tasting into a sport and to this day the Len Evans Tutorial aims to educate Australians in the wine industry through an intensive 5-day tutorial of tasting and judging wines with Masterclasses on the greatest wines of the world.

“I was very fortunate to work for a wine company that had … as the chairman of the company arguably one of the 5 great men of wine in the world.   His name was Len Evans….I was exposed to some of the great wines of the world.  He was adamant…on Day 2 when I was working there, that I had to try the best 20 wines in the world.   I think he wanted to have them himself afterwards, but at the time, I went along with it.”

David Lowe, October 2019

Discovering biodynamics

Bush trained vines at Lowe Wine in Mudgee Australia
Bush trained vines at Lowe Wine in Mudgee Australia

Nine of the twenty wines that Len Evans had him taste were either bio dynamic or organic.  This made him want to explore bio dynamics.  What was it that made these wines better?  What was this relationship between bio dynamics and quality?

It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that he was able to attend a conference in Australia on bio dynamics.  This changed the way he wanted to grow.  He headed home to the family farm.  His parents were older and had not been working the vineyard and the property was rundown from being inactive.  He looked at bio dynamics as being a way to fix the property.

“So, we started down the path to learn about bio dynamics. And that’s taken now nearly 20 years to get right.  And I don’t think we have it right or anywhere near it, but we’ve made an improvement.”

David Lowe, October 2019
Zinfandel Vines with leaves just coming out at Lowe Wines Tinja vineyard in Mudgee Australia
Zinfandel Vines with leaves just coming out at Lowe Wines Tinja vineyard in Mudgee Australia

More to come…

We will speak more with David about Bio dynamics later.  His philosophy of Slow Wine making was one of the things that drew me to this place. He cares deeply about the land and continues to try to improve his stewardship of the land each vintage.

You can read more about David and his Zinfandel (yes I said Zinfandel, in Australia) here.

For more on the Mudgee Region check out Visit Mudgee, and take a look at our interview with Cara George.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Exploring New South Wales – Hunter Valley

In the vineyard with Semillon and Oysters

The Hunter Valley is a large region and holds the lions share of wineries when you look at New South Wales. In this region which covers more than 30,000 square kilometres (that’s over 18,000 square miles) you will find more than 150 wineries and cellar doors.

This is the oldest wine growing region in Australia. James Busby, the father of Australian wine, brought cuttings to the region in the 1820’s. Originally known for Riesling and Semillon, the region now produces a wide range of varieties. Semillon, is it’s signature wine. The grapes expression here is like no other region in the world.

When we visited in October of 2019 for the Wine Media Conference, we took a bit of time to explore the region, before, during and after the conference. Here is a bit on the few of the places we had time to visit. This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more that we did not have time to get to, but we will drop a link at the bottom to help you find all the other amazing wineries and more in the region.

Muse at Hungerford Winery

We start out with a restaurant. Not just any restaurant, Muse is a dining experience. With a seasonal menu that makes your mouth water just to read and dishes that are almost too beautiful to eat, this is an experience not to miss when you are in the region.

What you find on every beautiful plate is sourced sustainably and locally, with some of the vegetables coming out of the garden on site that they maintain.

The wine list is filled with local wines and it is well worth tasting some of the aged Hungerford Semillons on the list. Did I mention the food is beautiful? I dare you to get through the slide show of our dinner without drooling.

  • Dinner at Muse in Hunter Valley NSW Australia Amuse bouche
  • 1st course at Muse restaurant in the Hunter Valley Australia NSW
  • Dinner at Muse Cured and charred kangaroo, wattleseed yoghurt, mulberry, purple daikon, native pepper berry salad  Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • 2nd course Muse Petuna ocean trout served raw, smoked bonito mousse, Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dinner at Muse entre Slow cooked lamb breast, black garlic glaze, fresh and salt baked beetroot, garlic shoots Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dinner at Muse 3rd Course Barbequed Murray Gold cod, kohlrabi, XO butter, nasturtium seeds, leaves and flowers Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Palate cleanser between courses at Muse in the Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dinner at Muse dessert Red gala apple, miso custard, verjuice caramel, brioche, macadamia, wattleseed Hunter Valley NSW Australia
  • Dessert at Muse Raspberry, white chocolate, rhubarb, wild fennel, liquorice Hunter Valley NSW Australia

Tamburlaine

Tamburlaine is organic. They had been on my radar, and then I met winemaker Aaron Mercer at the opening gathering for the Wine Media Conference. I had an opportunity to taste his wines, while he told me about the winery and their organic vineyards. They work hard to limit their impact on the environment and are one of Australia’s largest organic producers. They do also have some Vegan Friendly wines!

Photos of Tambulaine Cellar door and Winemaker Aaron Mercer

Scarborough

We spent our first afternoon in the Hunter with Jerome (Jer-Oh-Me) Scarborough of Scarborough Wine Co. They are known here for Chardonnay, which is a little atypical for the region. We tasted in their beautiful tasting room on Gillards Road, which was originally the family home. His father Ian, known by most as “Scarbie” is one of the Hunter Valley “Legends”. Scarbie replanted the Gillards Road Vineyard when they took it over, pulling up the Cab and Shiraz and planting Chardonnay on the red clay soils.

Jerome took time with us for a wonderful interview and we look forward to sharing that with you in the future.

The beautiful Scarborough Gillards Rd Vineyard and Jerome Scarborough

Tyrrell’s

Tyrrell’s is one of the oldest wineries in the region. They have been family owned since 1858. Known for their Semillon & Shiraz, the Vat 1 Semillon is one of Australia’s most awarded white wines.

In 1858 Edward Tyrell took up 320 acres of land in the Hunter that he named “Ashmans” which is the name of his maternal grandmothers ancestral home in Suffolk. They built an iron bark slab hut as a residence. The historic building stands today.

If you are looking for history in the Hunter…this is the place.

Tyrrell’s brings the history of Hunter Valley to life in the bottle.

Keith Tulloch

Keith and his wife Amanda got into the wine business back in 1997. They grew the business purchasing the “Field of Mars” vineyard in 2008 and opening their state of the art winery in 2011. Keith Tulloch is a carbon neutral winery. I had messaged with Keith, but he was out of the country during our visit. Brendan their Winemaker took us out into the vineyard to show and tell us about the varieties they are growing, their sustainable methods, show us their insectary garden and then the winery.

We finished with a tasting upstairs at their beautiful cellar door. Cameron their Cellar Door Manager walked us through a tasting, answering all of our in depth questions.

They also have another of the Muse restaurants onsite. This is the Muse Kitchen. They serve lunch most days, and dinner a few days of the week so check ahead of time.

Krinklewood

If you know me you know that I will search out bio dynamic wineries. They are my people. Krinklewood was no exception. We headed out to Broke/Fordwich to meet Rod Windrim, the Vigneron (and owner). We were greeted by the sparkle of mirror balls lining the driveway at the end of each vineyard row. This keeps the birds away and it looks spectacular!

Rod met us and walked us around the property. He is passionate about bio dynamics and sustainability and was happy to talk with me about his views and practices. He took us past the solar panels into the winery, which itself is a pretty spectacular building and we were treated to some barrel tasting before we headed back to the cellar door and the gardens.

There are formal gardens here as well as some stellar organic produce gardens and a peacock or two that wander the property. We finished with a tasting with Rod before he had to jet off to Sydney for a meeting.

Biodynamics and a bit of disco bling at Rod Windrim’s Krinklewood Vineyard.

Brokenwood

We were lucky enough to make a couple of trips to Brokenwood. It’s centrally located and pretty easy to get to.

We did a morning meeting for an interview with Senior Winemaker Stuart Hordern, who is also a Director on the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association Board. He came in from the vineyard to tell us about the region and then a bit more about Brokenwood itself.

We visited again for the “Legends of the Hunter Valley” event and…once more for dinner on the winery crush pad with a group of wine writers.

This winery was established in 1970 by 3 businessmen from Sydney, one of which was James Halliday, the noted Australian wine writer and critic who is known for Wine Companion, his annual overview on Australian Wine.

Audrey Wilkinson

While at the “Legends of the Hunter Valley” event, I met Daniel Byrom. We had a great conversation while he poured me the Audrey Wilkinson wines. He did tell me also that they have a stunning vineyard with the best sunrise shots in the Hunter Valley.

So we got up early and headed out to see the sunrise their ourselves. He was right, it was stunning, as were their wines.

The stunning Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard

So much more…

There are so many more wineries in this region. Many we caught up with at the conference like First Creek, de iuliis, Briar Ridge, 1813, Wombat Creek, Whispering Brook, Tulloch, Tintilla, Mount Pleasant, Margan, Thomas, Peter Drayton, Oakvale and so many more. (You can look forward to more on these wineries coming up)

It’s a beautiful region, with lots to do, that sits just 2 hours from Sydney. They have a big concert series in addition to fantastic restaurants, festivals, hot air balloon rides, nature retreats, golfing, spas…there is really something for everyone. For more information visit Hunter Valley Wine Country

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

On Australia – fires and wine

Bush trained vines at Lowe Wine in Mudgee Australia

First things first. Many of the wineries and vineyards in Australia have been severely affected by the drought and the bush fires. The best way to help? Get out and drink Australian wine. Some of these vineyards may not have a vintage this year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have wine. Most have their cellar doors open. If you are in Australia, go see them! If you are not…well head to your local wine shop, where ever you are on the globe and ask for Australian wine. Search for smaller producers that could really use your help. Yes, it might be difficult to find. Keep asking, drive up the demand.

It was October and we found ourselves in Australia’s New South Wales for the Wine Media Conference, that was held in the Hunter Valley. At the time, this seasons bush fires had only recently begun. Most of these were happening north of where we were in Queensland and our friends who were touring the Granite Belt wine region brought us stories of the fires there. Small fires were popping up. You could see the worry when you spoke with people. But at this point, the concern was mostly about the drought.

Drought after drought

There was a significant drought from 2003 to 2012. After a few years, that were a bit more normal, drought hit again in 2017, this time the impact was more severe. We spoke with people who had family farms that were suffering as available water levels dropped to a point where they could no longer irrigate. We also spoke with winemakers who were concerned about the future of their vineyards.

The drive from Hunter Valley to Mudgee

We traveled through several regions in New South Wales, but our drive to and from Mudgee illustrated the difficulties of the drought most starkly.

We drove into Mudgee from the Hunter Valley. The Hunter, at this point in the spring, was pretty lush and green. From the Hunter we headed inland through the Goulburn National Forest. This is considered “the bush” in Australia. The “bush” is an area that is undeveloped and filled with indigenous flora and fauna. Think of it as backwoods or hinterland, it’s really just a mostly untouched natural region. These regions cover a large portion of Australia.

The drive to Mudgee from the Hunter Valley
The drive to Mudgee from the Hunter Valley

As we drove the road became smaller. The population is lower in the inland regions. Most of Australia’s population forms a ring around the country on the coast. With smaller population come smaller roads and we went from 4 lane to 2 lane to a road with no center stripe, and even a section of gravel and dirt, as we crossed through the forest to Mudgee.

The impact of the drought on wildlife

We saw our fair share of kangaroos and wombats, sadly none were living. People asked when we returned if it was like dear on the East Coast of the US. No…it was a dead animal every 50 yards for a great portion of the trip. Much of this comes from the drought. We were told by a winemaker that the roos come to the green strip of grass on the sides of the road to feed, because there is so little for them to feed on otherwise. At dusk and dawn, drivers are hard pressed to miss them.

They do care deeply about their wildlife. We saw signs, like the one below, along all the roads with numbers to call if you hit or see injured animals.

WildLife Injuries Hotline in Australia
WildLife Injuries Hotline in Australia

The fires increase

It was not long after our return to the states that the fires spread. In early December a friend was visiting Sydney and took a photo in the Royal Botanical Gardens. Standing in a spot close to where I had been just a month and a half prior, she took a photo of the Lewis Wolfe Levy fountain, a statue of the goddess Diana, with a background of a brown and orange glow of a sky filled with smoke. I had been following the fires as they encroached on Sydney, but this picture brought home the severity of the fires, showing me the stark contrast to the city I had visited.

The 2020 Harvest

Wineries and vineyards now look to what to do this harvest. While, the wineries and vineyards we visited have not been directly impacted by the fires there are those indirect impacts, greater lack of available water, smoke taint, lack of access for visitors and impacts on their employees, many of whom may travel in from areas more affected by the fires.

We have seen wineries, like Tyrrell’s, one of the oldest and largest wineries in the Hunter Valley, publicly state that they will not pull in a harvest this year. Read more from the Guardian here They do not want to compromise the quality of their wine and do not feel comfortable with the amount of smoke taint that their vineyards may have encountered. Depending on the location of the vineyard and the winds, some may be impacted, while others are not.

2020 in the Mudgee Region

I reached out to Cara George with Mudgee Region Tourism to see how the Mudgee Region had been affected this year by the fires and the drought. Cara provided me with a statement from Mudgee Wine

The 2020 grape growing and wine making vintage has been a particularly tough one for growers throughout Australia including the Mudgee Wine Region. 

We have all felt the effect of the prolonged drought, extreme heat and continued bush fires and subsequent smoke. Firstly we want to express our sympathy to those who have lost vineyards, wineries and stock in various wine regions in Australia. We also sympathize with those regions that may be dealing with the effects of smoke in grapes in the upcoming harvest.

Secondly, it is important that we acknowledge that 2020 is not the ideal vintage for everyone in the Mudgee Wine Region. As a region we pride ourselves on making top quality wines that consistently win awards across the country. With our commitment to the very high standard of wines that drinkers have come to expect from Mudgee, and the effects of the drought and smoke across the region we are expecting to see a much smaller than average harvest in 2020. 

Mudgee Wine Association along with many individual members have been and continue to conduct testing with the Australian Wine Research Institute in relation to effects of smoke in the grapes. Given the results of these tests along with some small batch ferments conducted in wineries, it is likely that many brands will choose not to harvest in 2020. Those who do choose to harvest will be doing so with confidence that the quality of the wine will remain at the high standard expected of the Mudgee Wine Region.

Despite the harsh realities of the 2020 vintage, our region is full of beautiful vineyards, cellar doors, accommodation and restaurants that continue to be open for business and ready for visitors. Our various Mudgee wine brands currently have fantastic vintages available from 2016, through to 2019 for tasting and purchase. In fact, there couldn’t be a better time to visit and support these small growers and winemakers in our beautiful region. 

Mudgee Wine Association January 28th, 2020

What is smoke taint

Smoke taint. Okay, I heard a bit about this issue with the fires in Sonoma in 2017. The difference was that those fires happened in October, and harvest was well underway. Many vineyards were not affected at all. In the case of Australia, the fires were beginning in the spring. Late January into March is harvest here in Australia, and the risk smoke taint increases after verasion (when the grapes change color).

The chemicals in smoke that cause smoke taint are volatile phenols and glycosides. These are found in fresh smoke and in lignin from burnt wood. They dissipate in 1 to 2 hours typically, so vineyards that are close to fresh smoke will be affected. At longer distances (and keep in mind smoke can travel long distances), you mostly just see suspended carbon particulates that are less likely to affect the grapes.

bushfire in grassland with trees in australia
bushfire in grassland with trees in Australia

Affects of Smoke Taint

Smoke taint in wine is aromatic and tactile. In small quantities it can present like Brett, with dulled fruit and a strange dryness in the mouth that is similar to oak. In higher concentrations this becomes magnified and decidedly off putting (think burnt garbage).

So…how to determine if your grapes are at the level that they will have off putting smoke taint? Well, the compounds can be detected on grapes by gas chronography, but this is an expensive process. Keep in mind we are trying to detect in parts per million. For most winemakers, the solution is to do a sample pre-harvest and do a sample ferment. Volatile phenols release during fermentation. The levels in fermented grapes are 5 to 10 times higher in fermented grapes compared to fresh grapes. In fermented grapes these volatile phenols can be detected, by smell or taste.

The New South Wales Government is providing grape growers with funding for smoke test kits. Labs that do the detailed work are working overtime and expect to be busy into March. The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Australia is also pretty advanced with technology in vineyards and a piece by Wine Australia gives some details on new spectrometry techniques for diagnosing smoke taint.

A word from David Lowe in Mudgee

We spent time in Mudgee before the conference visiting for an afternoon with David Lowe of Lowe Wines where he is growing bio-dynamically and making some superb Zinfandel. Yes…I said Zinfandel, yes…in Australia. David was kind enough to send us a few words on how they were coping.

The drought has proved challenging and we know we will have about ½ normal yield.

Additional challenges re the dust storms and constant smoke, which we are working through on an ongoing basis.

It’s a national problem and the fires close to houses and vineyards like California means we are sharing experiences that are tough on everybody.

Fred Peterson made contact with me recently it seems the whole world knows about our problems and there is great camaraderie offers of help and sympathy. The wine industry is a close one.

Immediate impacts are tourism and visitation, which are such a part of the experience we are offering.

Our solution is to increase our range of hospitality experiences, increase local visitation and keep the farm watered and viable particularly so we can maintain our ecosystem.

David Lowe, Lowe Wines January 30th, 2020

From Mudgee back to the Hunter via the Golden Highway

On the return trip, we headed to the Golden Highway to the north of the region. Here roads were wider and the landscape went on forever over dry brown hills dotted with trees, that didn’t look so good. The dry brown grass, sometimes gave way to burned patches and often to dark brown expanses where there was not enough water for even the grass to grow. There were cattle farms here with cattle bunched together with little to eat. Mind you, this was spring, when you should see some green somewhere. It was desolate and eerily beautiful, in a post apocalyptic way. Some cattle were lying on their sides…as we weren’t close, I decided to believe that they were still breathing.

Cattle and sheep farmers are struggling. Deny climate change if you will, but these folks are witnessing it first hand.

Now come the rains

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service announced that the fires were contained on February 12th, 2020. We will hope that this continues. But now we are on to the rains. These rains assisted with putting out many of the fires. I’m sure there is gratitude for the rain, but being from California where we have our annual fire season, followed by our annual mudslide season, I am well aware of the devastation that torrential rains cause on areas already devastated by fire. The ground cover is gone and there is little to hold the soil down as creeks become rivers rushing downhill.

The region along the Golden Highway that were so dry? Well hopefully this rain will be helpful. For other regions like the Shoalhaven Coast, this could cause difficulties with roads for visitors to arrive and depending on where they are with harvest, they could have additional complications. We will continue to follow these regions.

The takeaway

Australians are nothing if not resilient. They will rebuild and find a better way to do things. For many this means the loss of a harvest. That is extremely difficult, watching an entire year of work disappear. The cellar doors are still open, they still have wine. Much of the reds from last years harvest are still waiting to be bottled and whites just bottled this spring are ready to be poured. Support the industry and these people. Visit if you are able and if not search out their wines.

For more…

You can read more on our visit to Australia and our #ouraussiewineadventure here on Crushed Grape Chronicles.

You can also find out more about Mudgee, New South Wales and Australian Wine regions in general at these sites.

You can look forward to more in depth pieces on with winemakers we spoke with as well as our visit to the Orange & Hunter Valley Regions of New South Wales.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Mudgee Region with Cara George

Riesling vine at Robert Stein Vineyard Mudgee NSW Australia

While visiting Australia in October of 2019 to attend the Wine Media Conference, we had the opportunity to meet and speak with Cara George the CEO of Mudgee Region Tourism.

We visited Mudgee before the conference and soaked in the feel of this wonderful inland town where they are growing so many different varieties of wine grapes. We tasted Zinfandel with David Lowe of Lowe Wines, Italian varieties sipping Prosecco with Col Millott at First Ridge, did a morning visit to Robert Stein where they make some astoundingly good Riesling and sipped Spanish varieties with Sam at Vinifera. Yes, that’s a wide range of wines! Mudgee has a little something for everyone.

The town itself makes you want to disconnect from everything. It’s a place to stroll, eat great food, find a great shop and of course enjoy some great wines. You will want to keep your phone handy though, for photos. Picturesque spots abound. You’ll be ready to send pictures to everyone you know, but you won’t want to leave.

This is Australia, and this year (2020) they are struggling. Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware of the fires. Well the fires are a result of drought and this has been tough on the vineyards.

The thing is, they are still open for business and you can support them by getting out to visit. What? You are not in Australia you say? Well get yourself to a wine store and buy some Australian wine. Ask for wines from wineries other than Yellow Tail! Increase the demand for these wines. Drink them and talk about them. That’s what we plan to do. Wine is a product that takes months to years to be ready for sale, so you will find these wineries have white wines available that were bottled this spring and reds that may be anywhere from the 2013 to the 2018 harvest, not to mention older bottles of sparkling or sweet wines. There is plenty of wine that they have ready for you to enjoy.

Cara George CEO of Mudgee Region Tourism, told us that they are doing a campaign in February around Valentine’s Day called “Feel the Love in the Mudgee Region”.

#Feelthelove

Visitors are encouraged to live their own love story in Mudgee Region – sharing experiences with their friends and families and on social media using @mudgeeregion #feelthelove

Feel the Love experiences and packages are available from 14 February through to 30 June. To view all the FEEL THE LOVE experiences and packages, and to create your own love story, visit mudgeedeals.com.au
For more information on Mudgee Region visit visitmudgeeregion.com.au

Mudgee Region is loved as a contemporary country destination, infused with art and music, serving quality produce and wine and shaped by a strong sense of community. Visitors are encouraged to connect right across the region, including the townships of Mudgee, Gulgong, Rylstone, Kandos and beyond, to enjoy a vibrant yet intimate setting. Located less than 270km northwest of Sydney, the fuss-free journey is all part of the experience, and what awaits is a stunning mix of charm and sophistication. It’s just a 3.5- hour drive from Sydney, or 45-minute flight from Sydney airport.

mudgee Region Tourism

Get out and explore Australian wines. There is so much more than Yellow Tail Shiraz my friends!

For more information on Mudgee…

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Exploring New South Wales – Mudgee #ouraussiewineadventure

Vinifera Vineyard Sunrise Mudgee NSW Australia

During #ouraussiewineadventure in October we traveled to the Mudgee Region of New South Wales to spend a day exploring the town and the wineries that surround it.

Mudgee, through the fires and the drought, is still open for business!

From the beginning, I want to acknowledge that they are having a tough year, as is all of Australian wine country. Mudgee, like most regions has been impacted by the drought and the bush fires. While the fires are not directly in the vineyards, they must deal with the smoke, the increased lack of water, the slowing of tourism during the fires and on a more personal level, many employees and their families may be directly affected by the fires.

The thing is, they are still open for business and you can support them by getting out to visit. What? You are not in Australia you say? Well get yourself to a wine store and buy some Australian wine. Ask for wines from wineries other than Yellow Tail! Increase the demand for these wines. Drink them and talk about them. That’s what we plan to do. Wine is a product that takes months to years to be ready for sale, so you will find these wineries have white wines available that were bottled this spring and reds that may be anywhere from the 2013 to the 2018 harvest, not to mention older bottles of sparkling or sweet wines. There is plenty of wine that they have ready for you to enjoy.

#Feelthelove

Cara George CEO of Mudgee Region Tourism, told us that they are doing a campaign in February around Valentine’s Day called “Feel the Love in the Mudgee Region”.

We are waiting with open arms to welcome visitors. #feelthelove

Cara George, CEO Mudgee Region Tourism, January 29th, 2020

We will use this post to tell you about this region, to fill you in on it’s beauty, it’s people, it’s wines. But you can expect that we will be following up with details on the struggles that they are facing and how they are dealing with it.

Mudgee

Mudgee is a wine region in New South Wales. It sits inland from the Blue Mountains and on the West side of the Great Dividing Range. The city is the 2nd oldest settlement West of the Blue Mountains, established in 1838.

In the 1870’s two gold rushes swelled the areas population. The downtown area is picturesque with plenty of heritage listed buildings. It is a great place to stroll and enjoy the shops and food, but don’t miss getting out of town to the surrounding vineyards.

Wine in Mudgee

The name Mudgee means “nest in the hills” in the aboriginal tongue. The name comes from the perimeter of hills that create a “nest”. Grapevines were first planted here back in 1858 by German settlers. Most vineyards are found on the gentle slopes, where you get beautiful vistas. This nest does have it’s downfalls as it can have frost prone pockets.

We drove through the Great Dividing Range from the Hunter Valley to get here and the climate here is very different. There is no maritime influence and bud burst is later here due to the cold nights.

Rainfall is lower here. If you are aware of the bush fires and the current severe drought being felt across New South Wales, you realize how much of an issue that is. Irrigation is essential here, and with the drought they are running low on water to irrigate with.

Harvest here will run a full month behind harvest in the Hunter Valley to the east. It’s warm in summer and autumn. They are at 32 degrees south here and prime wine growing regions sit between 30 and 50 degrees, so they are the warmer edge. Luckily, they sit at about 1476 feet, which helps moderate the heat.

You will find a little more than 40 cellar doors in the area and a wide range of wines, from rieslings to zinfandel.

Lowe Wines

  • David Lowe of Lowe Winery in Mudgee Australia
  • Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel Vines bush trained
  • Zinfandel Vines with leaves just coming out at Lowe Wines Tinja vineyard in Mudgee Australia
  • Lowe Wines in Mudgee Australia Cellar Door

Our first stop as we drove into Mudgee, was a visit with David Lowe at Lowe Wines. David is growing bio-dynamically and is a proponent of Slow wine. We had a fascinating conversation with him in his beautiful and busy tasting room. After wondering the property with the map they provide in tasting room to see the orchard, the compost, the gardens etc…we left with a bottle of Zin. Yep…he is well known for his Zinfandel. You can see some of our interview with David:

The Parkview Hotel, Mudgee

We headed back into town to check into our lodging. We were guided on our choice by the suggested accommodations for the Post Wine Media Conference Tour that we were unable to join. (3 tours…we couldn’t do them all, so we came early!)

We found the Parkview Hotel, just off of the main area of town overlooking a quiet park. This historic building, originally built in the 1870’s, had recently reopened after extensive renovations. It retains it’s historic charm while adding modern conveniences. They have a cafe, which sadly was not open when we were there mid week. Our suite was easily accessible on the main floor, a boon as we needed to do some repacking! There is a lovely wrap around veranda on the 2nd floor, which they made us aware of upon check in and encouraged us to enjoy. We did. With a bit of time before our sunset meeting, we sat and enjoyed the quiet of the park, with blossoms dropping from the trees and scattering and drifting across the floor of the veranda. It’s was the perfect peaceful break in the afternoon.

First Ridge Wines

  • First Ridge Wines in Mudgee NSW Australia
  • First Ridge Mudgee NSW Australia
  • The drive to the cellar door at First Ridge Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Sipping First Ridge Prosecco with Col in Mudgee NSW Australia
  • The last rays of sunset from First Ridge in Mudgee NSW Australia

Sunset found us at First Ridge, taking in the amazing views over Prosecco with Col Millott. Here they focus on Italian varieties; fiano, vermentino, pinot grigio, sangiovese and barbera. Col, the viticulturist, met us as their cellar door on the vineyard. It was after hours, being at sunset and he kindly drove back to the property and opened up their modern cellar door, that is made from 2 shipping containers.

They are located South East of the city of Mudgee and from their location you can truly see the “nest” that this valley is. Michael set up cameras to catch the views and Col opened up the walls of the cellar door and poured some Prosecco for us to sip while we chatted.

You will have to watch for our interview with Col that will be coming out later.

The sun set, and as the light began to fade, we gathered up the equipment and let Col get home for the day.

Dinner at the Red Heifer

We had planned a spot for dinner, but Col suggested the Red Heifer at the Lawson Park Hotel. It was a beautiful evening and the walk felt good.

The town of Mudgee is really a bit enchanting. By the time you get here, you have driven through quite a bit of bush and for me at least, it was a relief to see civilization. As we pulled into Church Street the town oozed charm. In the mid day sun, the parking spots along the streets were full and the town hummed with people making their way from shop to shop. Now in the evening it was quieter. The streets were mostly empty and the dark sky was pierced by the light of the clock tower. We strolled, taking it all in, until hunger pushed us to move a bit faster.

We arrived at Lawson’s and found the Red Heifer. The bar and restaurant are separate, so we grabbed a glass of local wine from the bar and, too tired to grill our own, (which is what the place is known for) we went simple with some fish and chips. It was seat yourself, casual and comfortable with the wall painted to show you all the best cuts of beef.

Full and happy, we strolled, a little more slowly now, back to the hotel.

Sunrise at Vinifera

  • Sunrise in Mudgee over the vines at Vinifera
  • Sunrise at Vinifera in Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Spring Vines at Vinifera
  • New green on the vines at Vinifera Mudgee NSW Australia
  • The winery at Vinifera Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Vinifera's award winning Cabernet Sauvignon Mudgee NSW Australia
  • The Giant Corkscrew in front of Vinifera that matches their logo Mudgee NSW Australia

Sunrise was out at Vinifera Vineyards, which is near Lowe Wines and across from the airport. We shivered in the cool morning, arriving early as always to catch the first rays over the vineyard. It was cloudy, so we caught bits as it broke through the clouds. Some of the vines were just hitting bud break here. We ventured back later in the day to do a tasting with Sam, daughter of Tony and Debbie McKendry who planted the vineyard in 1994 and still run it today. She has stepped in as the second generation here at the vineyards. But first…there was breakfast to be had.

Alby + Esthers

The Wine Media Conference would return here with a group after the conference. We could not join them, but we did grab their itinerary as a guide. They would be breakfasting at Alby + Esthers so we figured we would give it a try.

The entrance is a brick archway down an alley between shops. You feel like you are sneaking into a spot others might miss. The space opens to a courtyard between the buildings with small seating areas next to an open door into the cafe proper. There are a few seats inside, but why on earth would we not want to enjoy this enchanting garden. Words, don’t do the place justice. You’ll have to settle for some photos.

In addition to being a great spot for breakfast, they are open as a wine bar in the evening. With the lights strung over this cozy courtyard garden, I image that would be pretty amazing.

Now it was time to try to fit in another tasting or two, before heading back to the Hunter Valley.

Robert Stein – Riesling

We headed north out of the city to Robert Stein. It was still early and we were likely to be the first people in the tasting room. We pulled up out in front of the rustic looking cellar door, and took in the cloud filled sky, then strolled down to visit the vines.

Robert Stein is known for Riesling. I know, when you think of Australian Riesling, you might think of the Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia, but you will find some award winning riesling from this Mudgee winery. The Stein family brought the first cuttings of Rhine Riesling to Australia, that actually survived, back in 1838, planting them south west of Sydney.

In 1976 the Stein family took up wine again, establishing Robert Stein vineyard here in Mudgee. The vineyard grew with the help of their son Andrew and now the 40 year old vines continue to thrive with their grandson Jacob Stein at the helm as chief winemaker.

  • The Robert Stein Cellar Door under a beautiful sky Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Riesling vine at Robert Stein Vineyard Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Stein's Wines cellar door entrance at Robert Stein Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Inside the Cellar door at Robert Stein
  • So many varieties and styles at Robert Stein
  • Robert Stein's award winning dry riesling. Mudgee NSW Australia

Stuart in the tasting room took us through a wide range of their wines, which include styles for every palate in varieties including: cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, chardonnay, semillon, pinot noir, gewurztraminer, riesling, sparkling wines, dessert and fortified wines. Their dry Riesling is the star, with multiple awards and medals.

They also have a motor cycle museum and the Pipeclay Pumphouse Restaurant, which we sadly did not have time to visit. We packed a couple of bottles (sadly the suitcase is only so big), and got ready for another drive.

More information on Mudgee

Our drive then would take us back to the Hunter Valley for the Wine Media Conference, where we had an opportunity to speak with Cara George, the CEO of the Mudgee Region Tourism. We look forward to sharing with you our interview with her, where she gives us an overview of the Mudgee Region. For more information visit:

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

How to measure a year – 2019, specifically..

Calendar

Years….they used to take forever! No longer. Now they often seem to speed by in a blur. The coming of the New Year makes me nostalgic. I sit warm, happy with a full belly and I remember that this is not to be taken for granted. Time for a little reflection and gratitude.

I head to social media to reflect on the year. Remember the days when we had journals or diaries or a box of photos? Well, technology has allowed us to share those memorable moments, both big and small.

Instagram is my go to photo journal. So I’m sifting through to give you an idea of my year…holy crap there are alot of wine photos! LOL!

The Quiet Time

My photo essay of the beginning of my year…snow, studying, a Valentines Day on the ice, new Ramen places, hiking at Mount Charleston, beautiful sunsets, reading by the ocean in Carlsbad, high tea with friends, the super bloom in San Diego, a blind tasting event and of course, Loki. Okay…that gets us through the quiet months.

Double click on any of the photos for a larger picture and perhaps a bit more information.

The Scenic Route

We did our typical drive a million miles summer vacation. This year it was named “The Scenic Route”. It took us from Vegas to Tahoe, to Mount Shasta, to Southern Oregon, through the Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and then back through the Willamette, down to the Applegate Valley and finally to Yosemite before traveling home. We met incredible winemakers, saw beautiful scenery and vineyards and while we shared the overall story of our trip this year, you can look forward to many more in depth pieces on the places we visited this year.

Studying

Then we rested…that should be what I write next. But no. This was crunch time for me. I had been studying all year to take my test to become a Certified Specialist of Wine. After a 13 week course and then months of additional study I hoped I was ready. I was…

#OurAussieWineAdventure

Now was it time to rest? Nope. We were off to the Wine Media Conference in October. Social media got to see much of our trip…there are still interviews and articles to be written in the new year. Here is a glimpse of our travels through New South Wales Australia. We dubbed it #OurAussieWineAdventure.