I guess I am a little fortuitous that I live within an easy drive to the Hunter Valley here in NSW, so these wines tend to be the most prominent in my cellar. There is a fantastic selection of wines and wineries in this area, but every now and then I still manage to find something new and something that really impresses me.
It was during one such trip up to the Hunter that my wife and I decided to take the scenic route up from Sydney, out via Peates ridge, Kulnura and the famed Wollombi pub. It is not too long after leaving the Wollombi pub that you will find one of the best boutique wine experiences the Hunter Valley has to offer.
Stonehurst cellar door at Cedar Creek is a beautiful little sandstone building plonked on a lush green rustic site that wants to transport you back in time. The large timber doors invite you in to a cosy little space that just simply makes you want to drink wine and chat with whoever is behind the bottles. In my case my wife and I spent over an hour here chatting with Daryl and sampling some sensational wines and listening to some great tales of the Hunter Valley.
Stonehurst wines are built on organic principles, no insecticides and all the fruit is hand picked… Fred tells me this aids in not having frogs and rats caught up in the fruit picking process!
Whilst whiling away my afternoon chatting with Daryl, my wife and I did manage to taste a great range of wines that resulted in me departing most happy and a little bit poorer.
We kicked off with the whites, and for me two in particular are well worth a mention. The Trio, a lovely blend of Semillion, Chardonnay and Sav Blanc. Full of flavour well balanced and a sensational drink….. “Chardonnay??” I hear you say?
Yep…and it gets better. The balance in this drop is wonderful but it then leads you to ponder, just how good is the Chardy? Daryl will tell you its good and I will concur. I have had a couple of bottles of this now and rate this highly.
Long time readers will be aware of my almost Don Quixote like crusade against bad Chardy and the wonderful new Chardonnays I have unearthed along the way.
The 2011 Reserve Chardonnay can proudly hold its head up high in this category. Stunning flavours of stone fruits and melon. A wonderful buttery creaminess without being over the top and a beatiful finish that leaves you looking out into the distance musing about how top wine makers could have got it so wrong for so long. There are three wines at Stonehurst that will continue to find a space in my cellar each time I drive past, and the Chardonnay is one of them.
Next up we taste a variety that has also not featured highly in my collection before, the Chambourcin.
There are two on offer here during my first visit, the 2006 and the 2008. I ended up buying both as they were so very alluring and felt well rewarded with my purchase.
The Chambourcin grape is a little of an enigma being of unknown origins but one of its qualities is a great fungal resistance, something that has to be of great value to a winery that uses organic principles for its wines, but more importantly for me it has a taste that almost mimics a Pinot Noir. Lovely soft berry fruits and some wonderful woods. This drop is beautifully smooth on the palate and leaves you wanting more.
The 2008 is my pick of the two, and what I do love about these wines is that there is a recognisable difference between the years. I am told that this because Stonehurst let the grape define the wine instead of taking the grape and then trying to replicate a previous year or flavour. I actually really respect this and no doubt it will mean you have good and not so good years but the end result is you are drinking the wine as it should be instead of what someone thinks it should be.
My last visit here on the weekend just gone allowed me to buy the 2007 Chambourcin. Daryl mentioned during my first visit it was shaping up well but not ready for bottling yet so this time when I was offered one for purchase I couldnt say no.
Like any good wine wanker I drank this wine the following night as I just could not wait to see how it had developed. I could open my little book of superlatives here but they would all be just taking up extra un-needed characters… so lets just settle for “WOW!”
This wine is superb. A little fuller than the 2008 and a fair bit smoother with a wonderful finish that lasts till tomorrow, similar in character but just simply better. When you take into account the price of this wine I believe you will be hard pressed to find anything better, and that is a pretty big statement.
This is the second wine on my list of must haves from this winery… actually the 2007 Chambourcin is on my list of must have wines.
The last wine that has found a permanant place in my home is the 2011 Golden Dessert Semillion. Like other great Ice Wines, this drop is a wonderful balance of citrus and stone fruit and some marmalade but what really makes this wine stand out is the glorious honeycomb finish. Its not overly sweet, just enough to balance out the citrus and make this a sensational dessert wine.
Our initial visit with Daryl led to him recommending the restaurant Twine as a great destination for lunch. Located on the scenic rolling grounds of Wynwood estate this place is worthy of its own post, but if you are in the area and looking for a glorious lunch then pay them a visit.
There are two great take aways from this experience, firstly get off the beaten track a little and explore some of the wineries outside the standard Pokolbin stomping ground of all the weekend tourist buses, or wherever your usual winery trip takes you. Its rewarding in so many ways other than just the wine. The second is once you find somewhere like Stonehurst and you have the place to yourself, take the time to really experience the wine and the winery. The people like Daryl and his family will give you so much more than just a bottle of wine and uncovering these gems is what the Wine Wankers are all about.