The Brokenwood winery is located in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales (Australia). The hunter is renowned for growing our best semillon and one of our most unique versions of shiraz.
This winery has been a personal favourite of mine for many years with some of their wines my absolute faves. James Halliday founded this winery with some friends, and while James is no longer an owner the concept of the winery being owned by a group of friends is still intact; albeit there are a few more of them now. The “partners”, as they are called, are still quite engaged in the winery and many of them have spent weekends with their families working in the vineyards. This ownership structure is a welcome departure from a lot of Australian wineries that are being swallowed up by large corporate identities. While this may ensure their survival it does little to foster the romance and integrity of some of our most unique wine labels.
This is the first time that I have managed to snare tickets to the Graveyard launch, held annually to celebrate the release of this iconic Australian shiraz. This was the 30th anniversary of the release of graveyard so had some special significance to the winery.
Conrad and his wife joined us and we set off on the 3 hour drive from Sydney. The luncheon is held at the winery in the barrel room, and is catered by the partners of the winery with a little outside help in the kitchen. The partners (the owners) walking around serving their customers (us) is a lovely gesture and it does give you the feeling that you are important to this winery, and involved intimately (with a few hundred others).
On arrival we were served a few of Brokenwood’s white wines with a pate that was truly spectacular. I am sure it was a chicken liver pate encased in a butter shell, delightful. Standing around outside the barrel room with a glass of vino in hand we were surrounded by lots of, what Conrad and I affectionately call, wine wanker jackets (the subject of this post). I felt a bit left out as I was wearing a jumper, Conrad fitted right in.
Moving into the barrel room the main course included slow roasted prime beef in a red wine sauce and this was served with the hero wine of the day, the 2011 Graveyard. The Graveyard is a single vineyard wine that is only produced when the grapes are of sufficient quality. There was no graveyard in 2010 so there was some pent up expectation for the 2011. It is an interesting consideration that wines from a single vineyard, as opposed to a multi region / grape blends, are exposed to the whims of nature. It is precisely this variation that adds interest to such wines and further adds to the excitement of a new vintage release.
The ’11 Graveyard did not disappoint and will be a very interesting wine in about 10-15 years. Earthy, savory, punchy. There are a lot of reviews you can read to get your fill of obscure adjectives, we give it the thumbs up and thought it a perfect match with the beef.
There were speeches from the winemakers, showgirls performing to show-tunes (interesting) and anecdotes from various stakeholders of the winery. All very well done and quite entertaining. All the attendees got an engraved souvenir glass (see above) that people collect as mementos of their attendance at the lunch; some of whom have been to all 30!
Conrad and I noticed that James Halliday was at the lunch. James is a highly regarded wine writer in Australia and an icon of the industry, as well as the fore mentioned founder of this winery. While some may idolise sports stars / pop stars / movie stars; the wine wankers idols of choice are wine people, and James is a proper wine person. I thought therefore it would be a good idea to ask him for a photo with us, Conrad however was a bit reluctant as it does not fit well with our egalitarian Aussie ethos to partake in such activities. Fortunately we were sitting next to an American who over heard our chatter and piped up “hey you guys, I’ll go over and ask him for you, just get the crazy American to do it”. He did (thanks Travis) and we got our photo, very chuffed. He has very bushy eyebrows, must take some work to maintain.
It was truly a spectacular lunch and after 5 hours of stuffing ourselves it was time to depart. A bit of the shock to the system, exiting the barrel room with more than a few tastings under the belt, into the crisp autumnal air. In the absence of taxis (common Hunter problem) we decided to walk the kilometer or so to the local pub where our odds of finding a cab were vastly improved. Well this did not sit well with my better half who, after a few hundred meters in heels stated “I jush wanna commute … to my deshtination … in a shivilised manner”. Very funny end to our day and it became the punch line of our weekend away, it got a severe workout from that time on (and still does).
We made it to the pub and got a taxi post-haste.