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!

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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.

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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

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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…

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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.

Speed Dating for Wine – the Lighter version – White/Rosé Social

White/Rosé Social at the Wine Media Conference 2019 in Australia's Hunter Valley

At the Wine Media Conference, they have an events called “Wine Socials”. Sounds like something you would expect, right? It’s a wine conference, they will drink wine and be social. But if you caught our Speed dating for wine – Red Wine Social at the Wine Media Conference piece, you know that it’s a different play on the word “Social”. Well, they do the lighter version also, the White/Rosé Social.

So today we revisit those wineries and winemakers that we had a brief 5 minutes each to speak with, and share with you again, our instagram posts from this tasting. It was 50 minutes, 10 wines, 5 minutes each for them to tell us all they could about their winery and the wine…and for us to post about it on social media. It’s alot to fit into 5 minutes.

I did my posts on InstaGram, so …

Here we go….

Tulloch 2018 Verdelho Hunter Valley

  • Tulloch 2018 Verdelho #wmc19 White/Rosé Wine Social
  • Matt pouring the 2018 Tulloch Verdelho #wmc19 White/Rosé Wine Social

Tulloch 2018 verdelho one of 5 verdelhos (including a fortified) that you can find at their cellar door #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Tulloch Wines poured in the Red wine Social and I told you about them then. Here is the synopsis: early winery – 122 years & 4 generations making wine – vineyard owned by other companies for a bit – 2003 bought back from Rosemount – now again family run.

This wine is part of their Tulloch Range, which sits at a very affordable $16 au per bottle. If you look online, they are now on to their 2019 release. This wine is lush and tropical with a zesty finish.

de iuliis fiano two thousand and nineteen special release

  • 2019 Special Release de Iuliis Fiano #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
  • Mike De Iuliis pouring his Fiano

This fiano was bottled just 10 days ago! From Broke Fordwich…pretty nose! @huntervalley #wmc

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

So as I mentioned before…(he poured at the Red Wine Social too), we got to hang with Mike a bit during the Dinner Excursion. He had our bus off roading in a vineyard on our way to tasting Semillon and oysters. James Halliday (the Australian wine guru) has only the nicest things to say about Mike. He’s making amazing wine and does not take himself too seriously (I never saw him wear anything fancier than a t shirt).

The De Iuliis Fiano he brought us was under their special release label and had just been bottled. This variety from northern Italy does well here in the Hunter Valley. Mike let this sit on it’s lees (the dead yeast) for 6 months before bottling, which gives it a creamy texture, but it still retains great acidity, with white peaches and herbs on the nose. This sits at 12.5 abv and runs $35 au.

Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Semillon 2019

Tyrrell's 2019 Hunter Valley Semillon
Tyrrell’s 2019 Hunter Valley Semillon

161 year old vineyard. This glorious sem is just $25. #wmc19 @huntervalley

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Tyrrell’s has been family owned since 1858. It is the old dog in these woods.

They are well known for their Semillon. This one comes from 4 blocks in the HVD vineyard (planted by the Hunter Valley Distillery back in 1903). They hand pick and sort in the vineyard and press with a small percentage of whole cluster. This sees very little time on lees, to keep it crisp and fresh and there is no oak use. This sits at 10% abv and runs $25 au.

Thomas Braemore Semillion 2018 Individual Vineyard Hunter Valley

  • Thomas 2018 Braemore Semillon #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
  • Pouring the Thomas Semillon

this one (oops that should have been “was”) one of my favorite wines from last night. 2019 sem! #wmc18 @huntervalley

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Okay…the name on this probably needs a little explanation. The Winery is “Thomas” with wines made by namesake Andrew Thomas. Braemore is the vineyard. Sadly, he was one of the winemakers we were unable to meet. We did indeed taste his Semillon, both this and one that was 10 years older, on our vineyard dinner excursion. With Semillon there is often a note of “lanoline”. On a personal level, I find this slightly offputting. Some people enjoy it, for me…I tolerate it. But these wines did not have that note. I found them crisp and clean and with a vibrancy that I really enjoyed.

As I mentioned the grapes for this wine come from the Braemore Vineyard. Planted in 1969, this vineyard is known to be one of the best sites in the region for Semillon (some say handsdown the best). This wine is bright with lemon & lime zest. I’m not sure of the abv, but I would imagine it to be around 10%. It was brilliant with the oysters. It runs around $31 au.

Taylor’s St. Andrews Riesling Clare Valley 2017

Taylor's 2017 St. Andrews Riesling, Clare Valley #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
Taylor’s 2017 St. Andrews Riesling, Clare Valley #WMC19 White/Rosé Social

Stunning Clare Valley Riesling from Taylor’s in the Clare Valley. #wmc

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

So Taylor’s is one of the few wines we tasted from outside the Hunter Valley. I had met Anna from Taylor’s on the Dinner Excursion and we hit it off. This winery is located in South Australia in the Clare Valley, where they have been making wine for three generations. The area is known for it’s riesling.

This wine is in the St. Andrews line, named after the historic property that was established by Scottish immigrants back in 1892. This is their flagship line and it is only released in the best vintages.

This wine was delicious with great acidity and notes of lemon & lime. It runs around $37 au.

Tamburlaine Reserve Semillon 2013 Hunter Valley New South Wales

  • 2013 Reserve Semillon Tamburlaine #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
  • Aaron Mercer Winemaker Tamburlaine

2013 sem from Tamburlaine poured by winemaker Aarom Mercer #wmc19

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Okay…first off, his name is Aaron Mercer…speed tasting leaves no time for spellcheck. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with him at the Welcome event at Brokenwood. He is charming and passionate about his wines.

Tamburlaine is an organic winery and proudly so with vineyards in the Hunter Valley and in Orange. The winery was founded in 1966, but was purchased in 1985 by a group of friends who turned to contemporary organics.

Aaron poured for us their 2013 Vintage Reserve Semillon. This wine recieve 96 points from James Halliday. The nose has floral notes, green apple and a hint of pinapple. It has good acidity with citrus notes and a little creaminess from resting 4 months on the lees. This one is not currently available from the winery, but you can find the 2018 which will run you $33 au.

Scarborough “The Obsessive” Chardonnay Gillards Rd Vineyard Hunter Valley

  • Scarborough 2017 "The Obsessive" Chardonnay #WMC White/Rosé Social
  • Terra Rossa Soil from Scarborough's Gillard's Road Vineyard

The Obsessive chardonnay with Jerome Scarborough from Scarborough wines. #wmc19

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

We had the opportunity to do an interview with Jerome Scarborough before the conference and did their Chardonnay tasting at their Gillards Road Vineyard. So this was a revisit for us.

The Obsessive from Scarborough is their cellar door exclusive range that is single vineyard. The fruit for this wine comes exclusively from their Gillards Road Vineyard which holds their tasting room that was previously the family home. The soil here is red/brown terra rossa, and Jerome brought a soil sample for us.

This wine exhibits notes of butter, roasted nuts and spice from the 15 months it spends in new french oak. It’s creamy texture comes from the monthly lees stirring while in that oak. It sits at 12.7% abv and runs $40.00 au.

Peterson House 2007 Sparkling Semillon

Peterson House 2007 Sparkling Semillon #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
Peterson House 2007 Sparkling Semillon #WMC19 White/Rosé Social

10 year sparkling Semillon stunner! #wmc19

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Okay…I am a sucker for bubbles. These were 12 year old Semillon Bubbles! This Peterson House wine was a Museum Release that they broke out for us. Toasty but fresh, you get all those warm brioche notes and fullness in the mouth and then a clean fresh citrus finish. It is available on their site at $60 au.

Peter Drayton Anomaly Vermentino 2019 Hunter Valley

  • Peter Drayton 2019 Anomaly Vermentino #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
  • Peter Drayton and his daughter Natalie

2019 Vermentino from Peter Drayton they grow 16 different varieties @huntervalley #wmc19

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

The Drayton family goes back 5 generations in the Hunter Valley and Peter owns and runs a construction company in addition to his winery.

Peter Drayton and his daughter poured us this 2019 Anomaly Vermentino. I am a Vermentino lover, so I was happy to have this variety in my glass.

The fruit for this wine comes from the Upper Hunter Valley. Made all in stainless this wine has great minerality with notes of citrus and pear. 13% abv and $30 au.

Oakvale 2018 Rosé Hunter Valley

Oakvale 2018 Rosé of Shiraz #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
Oakvale 2018 Rosé of Shiraz #WMC19 White/Rosé Social

A lovely rosé of Shiraz from Oakvale Wines! Beautiful onion skin color! #wmc19 @huntervalley

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

At last! A Rosé! Oakvale Wines believes in minimal intervention. They also make vegan friendly wines. This winery was founded in 1893 and was owned for generations by the Elliot family. In 2010 the Becker family purchased the vineyard and eldest son James became the winemaker.

This rosé of shiraz is a pale onion skin color. Notes of strawberry and cranberry and a crisp finish. 11.5% abv $26.00 au.

I will admit…the White/Rose Wine Social is decidedly easier than the red. Lighter wines that don’t blow your palate make life much easier. And…having the practice in from the previous day was helpful.

There was more, oh so much more, at the 2019 Wine Media Conference and you can look forward to hearing more…we can only write so fast!

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

National Zinfandel Day with an Aussie Zin from Lowe

Lowe Wines in Mudgee Australia Zinfandel

Hmm…is that allowed? National Zinfandel Day is celebrated in the US and is supported by ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers). While the majority of Zinfandel is grown in California, where it arrived around 1850, it can be found around the world. You’ll hear about Primitivo in Italy. Is it the same as Zinfandel? Well, they both are clones of Tribidrag from Croatia that migrated and evolved in their new locations.

Zinfandel from Australia

Lowe Wines – David Lowe

Our Zin for Zinfandel day is from Lowe Wines in Mudgee Australia. We spent an afternoon with David Lowe at the winery when we visited Australia. He is fascinating to speak with about many things, but we tried to keep our conversation to wine.

In Australia, Zinfandel is not one of their top grapes, but you will find it doing well in the Barossa Valley, Riverina, McClaren Vale & Mudgee. So how did David Lowe get into wine and then into Zinfandel? After deciding to be a winemaker at 15, David at one point went to work for a wine company and was exposed to wines from around the world. He even met Robert Mondavi. With his boss he tasted, the 20 top rated wines in the world at that time, 9 of which were biodynamic or organic. That had him hooked. In the 2000’s the biodynamic conference in Australia really gave him the information he needed to take his property that direction. 20 years later, they are still constantly improving on their biodynamic/organic property.

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

David fell for the wines of Sonoma and Dry Creek. The best Zins in California come from Lodi, Paso Robles, Amador County or Sonoma. He met Fred Peterson of Peterson Winery, who became a mentor for him.

David’s Mentor – Fred Peterson

Fred Peterson began as a viticulturalist developing vineyards in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek in 1983. In ’87 he launched his winery. His philosophy is Zero Manipulation. He is an iconoclast and farms with low tech and high attention. His style leans toward old world style and he is well respected in California.

Fred came to Lowe and suggested that they plant Zinfandel. Like California, they found quartz soil here, which is common to gold mining areas. This quartz soil holds minerals and is well drained, good for grapes. When Fred suggested planting Zin, he told them to “treat it badly”.

Head pruned/bush trained vines

Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel Vines bush trained
Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel Vines bush trained

Zin can often have huge bunches that can get to over 3 pounds. They can be massive and have great difficulty with humidity causing mold and disease late in the season. To keep the bunches smaller, they head pruned. This keeps the vines low to the ground in kind of a bonsai style. The bunches and berries stay smaller, with tougher skins and a greater skin to juice ratio. This also allows for better airflow in the vine, keeping the humidity issues down.

Planting density and spacing for tractors

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

In planting density they went 10 by 10 feet (or 3 x 3 meters). Some of this has to do with tractors. Newer regions, plant vineyards to fit the tractors. In the old world, the vineyards came first, so you will see tractors built to fit the vineyards. Here the 10 x 10 spacing with the bush vines allows them to mix up their tractor drives. It’s not just one row that you are constantly driving back and forth between the trellis’. Here they can mix it up, driving 8 different paths between the vines (think like cutting a pie!)

Zinfandel in the Lowe Vineyard

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

The vineyards for the Zin sit near the cellar door at 500 meters (1640 feet). We walked the block that is in front of the winery. It was early spring and we were just a little past bud break, with the knarled vines, just tipped with green.

This region, sitting on the western side of the Great Dividing Range, starts it’s season a little later than the more coastal areas. While in Shoalhaven, Southern Highlands and driving through the Hunter Valley, we saw lots more green on the vines. Here the higher altitude and the location inland, keep the bud-break a little later.

Local artist Rachael Flynn was commissioned to illustrate the tour via a map which is available at the cellar door.
Local artist Rachael Flynn was commissioned to illustrate the tour via a map which is available at the cellar door.

They have a map for a wine walk that takes you around the biodiverse property, through the fruit orchard, past the compost and bird habitat through the vineyard blocks and nut orchard. We strolled taking in the space. Cloud covered but still dry, the skies were overcast while the brown dirt in the fields belied the fact that it was spring. Just in front of the winery there were planter boxes filled with vegetables and greens. The patio had a trellis’ roof covered in vines. There were tables and games in a stand of stone pines down the drive for picnicers.

The Zin House

Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel
Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel

We did not have time to visit the Zin House, the farmhouse restaurant on property run by David’s wife Kim Currie. This is local food, centered around their biodynamic garden, served with Lowe wines as well as other local wines. Alexander, Kim and David’s son, oversees the cellar and wine selection for the restaurant. We met him the following day as he stopped in while we were speaking with Sam at Vinifera Wines. This is a small community and the comradery between businesses is wonderful to see.

Lowe Wine Zinfandel Style

Lowe 2016 Zinfandel Mudgee Australia
Lowe 2016 Zinfandel Mudgee Australia

The style of Zin they make a Lowe is more elegant. It is not the big jammy Zins (you remember Tobin James). These are lighter and more elegant. They are hand-harvested from 5 head trained blocks around winery from biodynamic fruit. They ferment in was lined concrete fermenters. The label says they are “naturally brewed with indigenous yeast from the vineyard”. These age in 4500 L American oak casks for 2 years and are unfiltered and unfined. This wine does sit at 15.2% abv.

2016 Lowe Zinfandel

I remember David speaking of loving the smell of Christmas Cake in Zinfandel. At the time, my translation of that was “fruit cake”. I remember my mother making fruit cake when I was a child. All those bright died colored squares of some kind of fruit. The blue pieces scared me a little. But Christmas Cake….well that conjures pictures of the party at Fezziwig’s! There’s a little more depth just thinking of that cake. It’s not one that I have actually tasted, but I know the smell now, from dipping my nose in that glass. (Confession…we are early decorators for the holidays and I smelled and sipped this wine in a tree lit room…for research, of course).

The nose on this wine is big. It is dried fruits, like raisins and currants all plumped up in brandy and spices. Yep, Christmas Cake. The nose is almost syrupy.

Lowe 2016 Organic Zinfandel from Mudgee Australia by the tree
Lowe 2016 Organic Zinfandel

After a whiff, I looked at the glass on the table, backlit by the tree and could see the ruby color with the light shining through. I think after that nose, I was surprised that the light came through. Then I swished it in my mouth. Here came the elegance. The mouth feel was vibrant and medium weight and those red tones certainly indicated a level of acidity. The tannins were lightly chewy and smoothed out gradually. When I stuck my nose back in I found a bit of mint behind all those plump raisins and some cooked berries with baking spices.

Michael had made some homemade chili early that day, and we curled up on the couch with this wine, the chili, the tree and a little late night TV. I closed my eyes briefly and did a little virtual revisit to Mudgee. Here’s a bit for you.

A virtual stroll at Lowe Wines

We visited Mudgee while we were in Australia for the Wine Media Conference in October on #OurAussieWineAdventure. For more information on the region you can visit the following sites

Visiting Lowe Wines

If you make your way to Mudgee and want to find Lowe Wines head out to Tinja Lane just outside Mudgee,

327 Tinja Lane, Mudgee NSW 2850

where they are open daily from 10-4:30 for tastings that their cellar door. They also have tasting platters available from 11-3.

Happy Zinfandel Day!

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

Speed dating for wine – Red Wine Social at the Wine Media Conference

Live Wine Social Red at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia

Red Wine Social. It’s organized chaos. Go ahead, look at the video first and see what we are up against! 10 wineries, 5 minutes each. For them: 5 minutes to give us the elevator schpiel on their winery and wine and pour for a table of 5 to 10 people. For us: 5 minutes to get photos, details, hashtags, taste and post on social media! Are you friggin’ kidding me! Watch the vid…

Did you have time to read the descriptions? Nope? Well I barely had time to write them!!!! (Yes, my voice was raised a bit on that last sentence). I did my posting on Instagram under #wmc19 (at least I think I got them all in!)

Okay…now time to give those wineries and winemakers there due. Here is the breakdown with more details than 5 minutes will allow.

First Creek

First you get the actual post.

“Greg from First Creek wines poured2017 winemakers shiraz! They deal with 300 tons of fruit a year. Of course they do around 300,000 in contracted fruit for others. @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
First Creek Winemaker's Reserve 2017 Shiraz Hunter Valley Red Wine Social
First Creek Winemaker’s Reserve 2017 Shiraz Hunter Valley

Ok…let’s break this down. “Greg” is Greg Silkman. He oversees all of First Creek’s business. Greg was honored in 2019 with the Hunter Valley Wine Legend award (you will hear more about the Legends). He and a business partner bought Tambulaine winery back in 1986 and turned the place around. He then established First Creek Wines.

First Creek Wines is family owned and operated (go to the about us page on their site and you will notice many members of the team are Silkmans). They do around 300 tons of fruit each year to make their own wines, like the Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz we were tasting. They are also a custom crush facility First Creek Winemaking Services, and it is there that they handle around 300,000 tons of contracted fruit for other wineries.

First Creek 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz Hunter Valley

This wine is aged in French oak for 8-12 months. It sits at 13% abv and has potential to age for 10-15 years. SRP $60 au

de iuliis

I barely got a note out for this wine poured by winemaker Mike De Iuliis from de iuliis wines

“The Touriga adds floral notes “the gewurtraminer of reds” 70 30 blend” @visitnsw @huntervalley

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
Mike De Iuliis of de iuliis wines Red Wine Social
Mike De Iuliis of de iuliis wines

What?! Okay, here’s the translation of that criptic IG post.

So Mike De Iuliis made this Shiraz and was experimenting to create a bit of elegance. This is 80% Shiraz with 20% Touriga National which adds complexity and lifts the aromas of the wine. He said that aromatically he finds Touriga to be the “gerwurztraminer of reds” (gerwürztraminer is a German white wine well known for it’s aromatics).

We were lucky enough to get to know Mike a little better on the Dinner excursion on Friday night as he took our bus all terraining into a vineyard under threat of rain to meet a bunch of winemakers with their semillons and oysters. You’ll get more on that later.

de iuliis 2018 LDR Vineyard Shiraz Touriga Hunter Valley

de iuliis 2018 Shiraz Touriga LDR Vineyard Red Wine Social
de iuliis 2018 Shiraz Touriga LDR Vineyard

LDR? That is the Lovedale Road Vineyard where they have 3.5 acres of Shiraz and 1.5 acres of Touriga National planted. You get cherry, and blackfruit with spice on the nose and plum, blackberry with soft tannins on the palate. This wine drinks well now, and will age for at least another 5 years. The wine sits at 14% abv and SRP is $40 au. (James Halliday gave it 95 pts)

Audrey Wilkinson

My note on this was

“One of the most beautiful views in the country! This shiraz was beautiful! #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Audrey Wilkinson 2017 "The Lake" Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Audrey Wilkinson's 2017 "The Lake" Shiraz Awards Red Wine Social
  • Giving us the details on "The Lake" from Audrey Wilkinson Red Wine Social

Well I had a chance to chat with Daniel Byrom from Audrey Wilkinson the night before and learn all about their amphitheater shaped vineyard and the varied soils. We also got out to get some sunrise shots. They really are well known for their views. Locals tell us that even if they can’t go for a tasting, they always take friends and visitors for the view.

Audrey Wilkinson The Lake 2017 Shiraz

This wine is an award winner “97 points, again….” says their brochure. This wine takes it’s name for the large spring fed dam on the property. 2017 they recorded the hottest year on record (we’ve talked about climate change right?). In the Hunter Valley this was a great vintage. This wine has a nose with florals (violets?) and fruit with a bit of spice. It sits at 14.9% abv (holy crap!) sees a bit of French oak and will set you back $120 au a bottle. This is a definitely a reserve wine for this winery.

Briar Ridge

“Alex one of the winemakers at Briar Ridge #wmc19 @huntervalley”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10

Oops! Didn’t get much out with that one. But I did get a bottle shot and a photo of Alex.

  • 2018 Briar Ridge Dairy Hill Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Alex from Briar Ridge Red Wine Social

We did however have a few minutes afterwards to speak with Alex about Briar Ridge. You will have to wait until later for that.

The winery is located in Mount View in the Southern part of the Hunter Valley and they are the largest vineyard holder in this area. Soils here are red limestone. They keep yields low (1 to 2.5 tons per acre).

Dairy Hill Shiraz Hunter Valley 2018

This wine is single vineyard on a SE facing slope with a warm maritime influence. It was 20% whole cluster with the remainder crushed and destemmed. It ages in 500liter large format barrels for 12-14 months with a couple rack and returns. Then they hold it 3 years before release. We were tasting the 2018. If you go to their website, the current release is 2014 (which recieved 96 points from James Halliday).

1813

“Double oaked Shiraz. The governor from @1813huntervalley @visitnsw @huntervalley #wbc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • The Governor Shiraz from 1813 Red Wine Social
  • Pouring and giving us the details on the 1813 "The Governor" Red Wine Social

Okay, I was typing fast, I harkened back to the previous conference name (wine bloggers conference wbc). But let’s get on with the details on this winery. 1813? What does that mean?

1813 was the year the first coin was created in Australia. It was called the “Holey dollar” because it was a Spanish coin with a hole in the center. The owner of the winery has a finance background.

2017 The Governor Hunter Single Vineyard from 1813

This wine is double oaked (French and American). What does that mean? During fermentation it is rolled into oak, then after malolactic fermentation it is rolled into oak again. It is only released in the best years. This is all estate fruit and they only made 1500 bottles (not cases, bottles). This is their flagship reserve. SRP $68.00 au

Wombat Crossing

“This wine won a trophy for the best shiraz in the Hunter Valley. This is a 2009! @huntervalley @visitnsw #wmc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Wombat Crossing 2009 Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Ian Owner of Wombat Crossing pouring the 2009 Shiraz Red Wine Social

Okay…Wombat Crossing? You know right off that they are an Australian Winery right? Click through to their page…go ahead…now you know that they are also Beatles fans! LOL!

Ian Napier is the vineyard owner. He came from a successful career in Sydney and post career decided to open a winery. Their first vintage was 2005. They are the smallest vineyard and winery in the Hunter Valley and plan to keep it that way.

The winery shows it’s support for the Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue & Hospital. Driving rural inland roads we saw many dead kangaroos and wombats. This rescue helps orphaned joey wombats and gives medical attention to adult wombats who have been injured. The roadsides have signs to call if you hit wildlife. Wombats are declining due to road hazards, loss of habitat and disease. Roz Holme founded the rescue and treats animals that might otherwise have been euthanised.

Wombat Crossing Vineyard Hermit’s Block Individual Vineyard Hunter Valley 2009 Shiraz

Ian brought us a 10 year old Shiraz to taste and see how well the wine ages. The 2009 vintage from Wombat Crossing one the trophy for the best Shiraz in the Hunter Valley. they have just 8 cases left (7 now!) They believe in cellaring and holding back wine. He told us that the current release was their 2014.

Whispering Brook

“A touriga shiraz blend from Whispering Brook. From Susan Frazier @huntervalley @visitnsw #wmc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
Whispering Brook at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia
Whispering Brook at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia

Okay…this is not the photo that was on IG, but there is a link below so you can see that.

Our video as posted on IG

This is another blend of Touriga and Shiraz (like Mike de Iuliis). Great minds thinking alike. We did have a chance to speak with Susan after the event…again…you get that later!

Whispering Brook is located in Broke on the West side of the Hunter Valley. The property is bordered on one end by the Wollombi Brook and it is from this that the winery takes it’s name. They make Sparkling wines in addition to their Shiraz, Chardonnay and Touriga National as well as olive oil.

2017 Whispering Brook Shiraz

This wine received 97 points from James Halliday. There is a bit of a story to this wine. In 2008 they grafted over 1 block of their Shiraz to Touriga National. In 2017, they had just pressed the Touriga, when the Shiraz came in. The Touriga skins looked great, so they tossed them in with the Shiraz. They did a wild yeast ferment, which is not normal for them (well, she did say that there was probably still cultured yeast on the Touriga Skins). This wine ages in 30% new french oak for 16 months.

Tyrrell’s

“Lovely shiraz from Tyrrell’s #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tyrrell's 2017 Hunter Valley Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Pouring wine and sharing the story of Tyrrell's vineyard Red Wine Social
  • Red soils from Tyrrell's Vineyard Red Wine Social

Well that didn’t say much! Guess I was getting tired by then. (this was exhausting, trying to do so much so fast!)

Tyrrell’s is a 5th generation winery that can trace it’s roots back to Walter Tyrrell who arrived in England with William the Conqueror! Last year in 2018 they celebrated the 160th Anniversary of the founding of Tyrrell’s Wines!

We had an opportunity to get out to the winery and taste and will share more on that with you later!

Tyrrell’s 2017 Hunter Valley Shiraz

2017 was a good year in the Hunter Valley. This wine is in their “Hunter Valley Range” an affordable range at $25 au per bottle. Vines here average at about 50 years old and the wine is aged in large format Foudres (2,700 litre). They did bring a jar of soil so we could see the red soils from the vineyard.

Tulloch

“Matt from Tulloch poured the 2017 Pokolbin dry red shiraz! Only available in the tasting room #wmc19 @visitnsw @huntervalley”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tulloch 2017 Pokolbin Dry Red Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • The quick version of the Tulloch Wine history Red Wine Social

Tulloch Wines is one of the early wineries with 122 years and 4 generations of winemaking experience. Tulloch went through a bit of time where the vineyard was owned by other companies, and even a short bit (8 years or so) without a member of the family being part of the operation. In 2003 the family bought the brand back from Rosemount and is now again family run.

2017 Polkolbin Dry Red Shiraz

This wine is part of their Heritage Range. It sits at 13.5% abv SRP $30.00 au.

Tintilla Estate

“The 1st vineyard in the Hunter Valley to plant Sangiovese 25 years ago! Bob and James Lusby poured it for us! #WMC19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tintilla Estates 2017 Saphira Sangiovese Red Wine Social
  • Bob & James Lusby telling us the story of the Saphira Sangiovese

Tintilla. The name is an Old World term for red wine. Bob Lusby sat down next to me while his son James poured. It was their last table, and our last winemaker. So yes, Tintilla was the first vineyard in the Hunter Valley to plant Sangiovese 25 years ago. They pulled in the Davis clones.

While we were talking Bob mentioned the idea that more phenolics in the grapes keep pests away. I was fascinated by this and he suggested that I read some of the work by Dr. Richard Smart, including his book “Sunlight into Wine – A handbook for winegrape canopy management”. Looks like I have more fascinating geeky wine reading to do!

Tintilla Estate Saphira Sangiovese 2017

The Saphira Sangiovese gives you plums and cherries with a bit of earth. It runs $35.00 au.

Harvested in the early morning, the cool grapes were destemmed and passed through the crusher The resultant must was cold soaked, fermentation followed in open vats, the temperature controlled to about 22 degrees C. Hand plunge of the cap ensured good mixing of the skins with the juice. The wine was aged in 20% new & old 300L French oak barrels for 12 months.

https://www.tintilla.com.au/shop/saphira-sangiovese/

More to come!

Oh yeah. We did a white/rosé tasting like this also. You’ll get that later.

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Exploring New South Wales – Shoalhaven Coast & Southern Highlands #ouraussiewineadventure

Cambewarra Mountain lookout

Australia…it’s the other side of the world and a day away. Far from our normal life. A place where they drive on the other side of the road and sit on the other side of the car to drive. Where the signs on the road tell you to watch for kangaroos and wombats. But…the language is the same, well, mostly. The slang can be a bit of a hang up to translate.

In October, we got on a plane for the short (that’s sarcasm) flight to Sydney. Our destination was the Wine Media Conference in the Hunter Valley which is north of Sydney, but we flew in early to visit a bit more. Mind you Australia is a large country, almost as large as the US, so we focused on the region of New South Wales which surrounds Sydney and of course, primarily, we were looking at the wines of this region.

If you’ve followed our trips before, you will know that we are not afraid of a little bit of driving. That held true on this trip, as you can see by the map below. It allowed us to take in quite a bit of New South Wales, but not all of it. This region has quite a bit to explore.

Map of our travels in New South Wales
Our Aussie Wine Adventure

New South Wales

New South Wales is the region surrounding Sydney.  Good ole’ Captain James Cook discovered and named this region.  Okay…we will amend this.  He didn’t “discover” it.  It was there and inhabited by aboriginal peoples.  But none the less, he donned it with the name “New South Wales” and soon the Brits were sending Convict Ships this way. (The American Revolution meant they couldn’t send their convicts there any longer).

The first fleet of six ships included the Scarborough (that name will come up again later).  They landed in what is now Sydney. In this region you find the Gadigal people.  Future settlements moved up and down the coast and inland and provided the infrastructure for much of the region as it is known today.

Map courtesy of Destination NSW and NSW Government New South Wales
Map courtesy of Destination NSW and NSW Government

We visited 5 of the 14 wine regions in New South Wales: Shoalhaven Coast, Southern Highlands, Mudgee, Hunter Valley and Orange. These are the regions closest to Sydney. A little further north on the coast takes you to Hastings River, then even further north and inland you find New England. Inland to the West of Sydney (and mostly to the south) you find the regions of Cowra, Hilltops, Gundagai, Canberra District, Tumbarumba, the tiny Perricoota and the really large Riverina. We would have needed far more than 2 weeks to explore all these regions.

Sydney

(don’t worry we will come back)

Our visit started and ended in Sydney which sits on the coast of New South Wales. It sits only a little closer to the southern border with Victoria, than the Northern border of Queensland along the 2137 miles of coastline.

Royal National Gardens & the Sea Cliff Bridge

The road to Shoalhaven Coast and the Sea Cliff Bridge New South Wales Australia
The road to Shoalhaven Coast and the Sea Cliff Bridge

We drove south from Sydney on what was (unbeknownst to us) a holiday weekend and into the Royal National Gardens. Sadly we had no time to hike and explore (the Figure 8 pools sound amazing, but that was a 2.5-4 hr hike!). Instead we took in the scenery (and met a stick bug, who dropped in our window landing on my shoulder and sadly lumbered away before I could get a photo) as we drove through. The coast is beautiful and we drove across the Sea Cliff Bridge as we made our way south, stopping for lunch and a view in Gerrigong.

Shoalhaven Coast

The Shoalhaven Coast is about 2 hrs south of Sydney. This is a popular weekend getaway for people living in Sydney and the area has embraced tourism. Gerrigong, where we enjoyed lunch was a cute town with small shops and restaurants, the perfect beach town with a view. Our lunch at The Hill, set us up with high expectations for the food we would encounter in New South Wales.

The vineyards here often have a view of the ocean, so the maritime influence is a major factor in the vineyard. The primary concern here is summer rainfall, which can create issues for ripening as well as problems with disease and molds. We also heard that birds can be a huge problem, sneaky birds that get under the netting during harvest and can gobble up and entire crop.

Coolangatta Estate

  • Coolangatta Estate Originally opened in 1822, renovated and reopened in 1972. Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Mt. Coolangatta in the morning mist. New South Wales
  • Lush greenery at Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Our suite in the Servant's Quarters at Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Coolangatta Historic Homestead Shoalhaven Coast, New South Wales Australia
  • The view to the lower vineyard next to the stable building Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • The old brick main building at Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Coolangatta Estate photo 1914 Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia

We arrived at Coolangatta Estate to meet with owner/vigneron Greg Bishop. The Estate is a renovated historic convict built estate where we stayed in the servants quarters.

This historic property of a convict built estate, and was the first European settlement on the South Coast.  The name derives from “Collungatta” which was the Aboriginal word for “fine view”  The Estate sits at the foot of Mt. Coolangatta from which this “fine view” can be enjoyed.  The Estate fell into disrepair in the first part of the 1900’s.

In 1947 Colin Bishop acquired land here for farming.  He and his wife (Greg’s parents) then began to restore the property and turn it into a historic resort. 

  • The lower vineyards at Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales AustraliaNSW Australia
  • Spring Vines at Coolangatta Estate in the Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Rolling vineyard in the shadow of Mt. Coolangatta, Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • White wines at Coolangatta Estate New South Wales Australia
  • The 2018 Winsome Riesling just won the Canberra International Riesling Challenge, Scoring 95 points Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia

Greg planted the vineyard here in the 1980’s and they are producing a wide variety of wines including: Semillon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Verdelho, Savagnin, Chambourcin, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and surprisingly a Tannat.

After our conversation with Greg, it was time for a bit of a nap before enjoying dinner at their restaurant Alexander’s paired with Coolangatta wines.

Two Figs

  • Two Figs Winery on the Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales AustraliaNSW Australia
  • View of the Shoalhaven River from Two Figs Winery Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia

We did stop by Two Figs to take in the views, and tried to do a tasting, while we were in the area. But remember I mentioned it was a holiday weekend? Two Figs does tastings by reservation and we had not pre-booked. The place was packed and hoppin’. The views had to suffice.

Southern Highlands

The next morning we awoke early to head inland to Southern Highlands. Our drive took us through Nowra, where we picked up a quick (and delicious) breakfast at a gas station. (Really the food here…it’s like getting every meal from Whole Foods!). We then drove into the mountains in the Budderoo National Park, through Kangaroo Valley, past Fitzroy Falls and finally into Mittagong.

The region, on a plateau, was a place for the colonial squires to escape Sydney’s summer heat (think Hamptons). The villages are picturesque, the streets wide and tree lined and the region sees all four seasons. It was most definitely spring when we arrived with flowers blooming everywhere.

As to growing vines here? It’s altitude and cool climate make it perfect for crafting beautiful white and sparkling wines. You will also find Merlot, Shiraz and some Pinot Noir grown here also. The region has 12 wineries around 6 towns: Berrima, Bowral, Exeter, Mittagong, Moss Vale and Sutton Forest.

Tertini

  • The Tertini entrance sign, unpretentiously nestled in the trees Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia
  • The Tertini Cellar Door near Mittagong in Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia
  • The elegant Tertini Tasting Room Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia
  • The Patio at Tertini Wines in Australia's Southern Highlands, New South Wales
  • Panorama of the Tertini Winery in Australia's Southern Highlands in New South Wales.

Our destination in Southern Highlands was Tertini Wines near Mittagong, to visit with winemaker Jonathan Holgate. Jonathan spoke with us about the region and his wine making style before taking us out to see the winery and then to visit their Yaraandoo Vineyard. We returned to the cellar door for a tasting, and I look forward to telling you later about his spectacular wines, which include a decidedly unique Arneis.

  • Spring Vines in Tertini's Yaraandoo Vineyard in Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia
  • Tertini's Yaraandoo Vineyard in the Spring  Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia

Jonathan’s Private Cellar Collection Arneis is made from fruit from their Yaraandoo Vineyard which is partially fermented in French Oak. This is unlike any other Arneis you will taste.

We left as the tasting room filled up with booked seated tastings, some of them scheduled specifically with Jonathan.

Artemis

We made one more quick stop for a tasting at Artemis Wines. This winery is set up to host. Views of the vineyard right around the tasting room, with a patio that was set up for wood fired pizza. This is a gathering place, and it was crowded when we arrived. We did a pretty hasty tasting of their wines with a very knowledgeable (and busy) staff member. They also do tastings of ciders and beers.

Camberwarra Mountain Lookout

On the way back to Coolangatta we took in the views from Camberwarra Mountain Lookout. You can see Mt. Coolangatta out toward the coast as well as the Shoalhaven river that runs out to the coast. The lookout has a tea room, so it’s a lovely spot to take in the views and a cup.

Australia Shoalhaven Coast, New South Wales-
Australia Shoalhaven Coast, NSW- The view from Cambewarra

Newcastle

After enjoying another evening soaking up the great atmosphere at Coolangatta Estate, we drove North, swinging wide around Sydney and up the coast to Newcastle.

This port city north of Sydney is Australia’s second-oldest city and 7th largest.  It is known for shipping coal.  Mind you the Aussie’s are environmentally minded and don’t use much coal.  They do however mine it and ship it out for other countries to use. 

As an important side note here, every vineyard owner and winemaker I spoke with in Australia acknowledged the affects that climate change was directly having on their vineyards.  In addition (or as a result), the bush fires have increased in the northern part of New South Wales and in Queensland.  They are in a drought, the second in a dozen years.  The sad cycle of lack of water due to climate change, causes agricultural businesses to struggle, and I can’t help but feel that this leads back to exporting coal to support the economy, that same coal that leads to further pollution and climate change.

This city is on the coast of the Hunter region.  We soaked in a bit of beach, had dinner wharf and enjoyed an artsy stroll through the downtown district back to our hotel.  The arts college is here and walls are covered in murals, music on this October long weekend (a holiday weekend that we didn’t realize we were in the midst of) poured out of doorways with pubs and cocktail bars.  The town was busy and full of people enjoying the holiday weekend.

Places to stay…

Here I will do a shout out to our hotel.  In the states, most Holiday Inn Expresses are mid to low range hotels.  We find them in the smaller sections of wine country and they are always reliable.  Here we were staying in the Holiday Inn Express in Newcastle, a relatively new hotel.  It was pretty spectacular, much more like the Hotel Indigo’s at home, but larger.  The design was beautiful, the staff friendly and helpful and the included breakfast…?  I’m ruined for breakfast ever again.  It was fresh and beautifully laid out.  I felt so elegant eating so healthy.  It was the perfect meal to send us off for our drive into Mudgee, where we will continue Our Aussie Wine Adventure.

For more information on these regions:

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