I love a thriving family business. Watching people glow as they talk with passion about what they have created. I am sitting next to Keith Tulloch for our wine tasting lunch and I am loving his stories. It is then that I look up at Alisdair as he finishes what his father is saying with so much enthusiasm and passion I know this is a fantastic team. I should also mention the other half of Keith Tulloch Wine, Amanda, Keith’s wife. But we will get back to Amada and lunch a little later.
Keith Tulloch Wine is located in Pokolbin, the Hunter Valley, with a great view of the Brokenback Range. It is probably one of the hottest days of the year and windiest when we visit. This means that our scheduled relaxing wander around the vineyard is shortened to a visit to the vines directly opposite the Cellar Door.
As the winds whip around us Alisdair and Keith give us a rundown about the Field of Mars. No, we aren’t about to head off on intergalactic travel, the Field of Mars is the vineyard which the Cellar Door, Winery, Cocoa Nib and Muse Kitchen all sit on.
Amanda and Keith founded Keith Tulloch Wine in 1997. They then acquired the Field of Mars in 2007. It was a new era for the winery. The land had seen better days and was in need of rejuvenation, but it did have excellent vines.
Harry, Keith’s father jumped on board and assisted with the vineyard rejuvenation project. The vines were 50 years old and it was paramount they ensure the vines continued to deliver the highest quality of Semillon, chardonnay and Shiraz grapes for years to come.
After the brief frolic amongst the vines we head to the Winery. The first thing you notice is how cool it is inside, which is a nice relief to the blistering high 30s outside. The Winery is temperature controlled year round to ensure the best environment for the fermenting and stored wines. The Winery is the estates hub, fruit is received, tank fermentation, laboratory work and storage in both stainless and barrel all take place here.
Grape picking season runs generally from Australia day through to Anzac day. How patriotic is that! Each day is generally the same, grapes are hand picked between six and eleven in the morning. They are then placed in huge bins, which hold just under a ton of grapes each.
Once the grape laden bins get to the winery they are processed. Stalks and fruit are separated. Grapes are then crushed and drawn up into the press to be pressed. The press is actually a giant airbag, which gently separates juice from fruit. The juice then goes into tank or barrel where fermentation takes place.
The only thing that doesn’t take place in the winery is the bottling. They have made the sensible choice of outsourcing this task. Keith explains it is a big investment to make for something that only takes up one fiftieth of the year.
After an educational briefing on wine making we head up to the one of the private tasting rooms of the Cellar Door. This is where Amanda comes in, not that this is her only offering to Keith Tulloch Wine, but she is responsible for the design of the entire estate. From looking at the photos I think you would be hard pressed to disagree she did an outstanding job.
And this, my friends, leads me back to whence I started. Lunch.
Lunch is specifically designed by Muse Kitchen to match the wines that we will taste over the next hour or so. In case ‘Muse’ rings a bell, yes Muse Kitchen is the baby sister to the award winning Muse Restaurant also located in the Hunter.
Having Muse Kitchen on the grounds is a perfect addition to the winery. As Keith says, “wine is the jewelry of food”.
A variety of wines were tried, and without embarrassing myself by pretending to be an expert, I will just say they were all thoroughly enjoyable. Though I do want to give special to ‘The Family’ Collection as I love the stories behind the wine as much as the wines themselves.
‘The Keister’ Shiraz is Keith Tulloch Wine’s flagship drop. Keith crafts it to reflect his own taste, a waltz between old world French techniques and fruit characters, which are without a doubt Australian.
‘The Wife’ Shiraz has been designed for Amanda. It is lighter and I dare say more feminine than the bold Keister. Keith jokes that next there will be ‘The Kitchen’ to soon be followed by ‘The Lawyer’. I dare say, then maybe ‘The Divorce’.
The most notable wine in collection is ‘The Doctor’ Shiraz. It is a limited edition and rare wine, only released from truly classic Hunter Vintages. 100% Shiraz created in honor of Keith’s father Doctor Harold (Harry) Tulloch.
After some glorious wines and lunch we head down to Cocoa Nib, a recent addition to the estate of an artesian chocolate shop. We try a selection of hand crafted chocolates, all of exceptional quality and way too easy to eat, and are a lovely match to the Botrytis Semillon Keith has poured to try. I should add I ended up purchasing a rather large bag of chocolate to bring home, yup, it was good.
You can also stay at the estate. Located above Muse Kitchen is The Managers Quarters accommodation. A two bedroom apartment that overlooks the courtyard and vineyards. Sleeps a maximum of four adults and is the perfect base to discover the Hunter Valley. Of course it is also the ideal location to enjoy dinner at Muse Kitchen with your Keith Tulloch Wines without the need to drive.
As the winery is small batch focused you won’t find Keith Tulloch Wines in bottle stores or wine shows. Their wines are only available from the Cellar Door or on line. Therefore, if you are in the Hunter it is well worth stopping in to sample some of the wines, grab a bite to each and indulge in some chocolate.
Keith Tulloch Wine
Cnr Hermitage & Deaseys Road, Pokolbin
Tel +61 2 4998 7500