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McDonalds Road, Pokolbin 2320
Phone: (02) 4998 7559 Fax: 4998 7893

The Graveyard vineyard

A well regarded winery formed in 1970, by a group that included James Halliday, who is no longer associated with the winery. Original just a Hunter operation, this winery now produces a large range with grapes sourced through many of the premium grape-growing regions of Australia. Overall, a very consistent range with a couple of high spots. The famed Graveyard Hermitage had sold out and was not available for tasting. I received a friendly reception at the cellar door. This is another winery that has to be high on the list of places to visit for Hunter tourists. See also: a more recent review (January 2005) of Brokenwood wines.

1999 Semillon (A$16.50)
Fresh citrus nose, lively palate, good depth, nice wine.

1994 ILR Semillon (Aged Reserve) (A$35)
Nicely developed wine with a similar citrus nose, but much fuller and fatter on the palate. Intense but still quite fresh. Very good.

1999 Cricket Pitch Sauvignon blanc/Semillon (A$16)
Lifted nose of boiled sweets. Full bodied with some fresh acidity. A touch of oak. Good, but a little too 'technology driven' for my tastes.

1999 Verdelho (A$17)
Fruit sourced from the Cowra region of NSW. Lovely aromatic peach and melon nose. Soft and intense on palate, with plenty of character. Good, but again slightly technological.

1998 Harlequin (white)
(Chardonnay/Verdelho/Sauvignon blanc)
Odd, slightly toasty nose with some up front fruit character. Fat on palate. Rich and pleasant, but perhaps slightly oxidised?

1998 Chardonnay (A$18.50)
Mainly McLaren Vale fruit, this spends five months in one year old French oak. Toasty nose. Soft, rich, peachy, tropical-fruit, spicy wine. Ripe, full and complex. Very good, and I bought some.

1998 Graveyard Vineyard Chardonnay (A$34.50)
This is a single-vineyard Hunter Chardonnay that spends 12 months in new French oak. There is a huge nose of butterscotch and tropical fruit. Spicy and complex, this superb wine is concentrated and delicious. Excellent.

1998 Harlequin (red) (A$16)
A glugging blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Attractive red fruit nose. Good, intense stuff with good food compatibility.

1998 Cricket Pitch (A$18.50)
Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Shiraz/Merlot
More tannic than the Harlequin, with rich fruit. Spicy, fruity and pleasant. OK

1998 Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine had only been bottled the week before and had horrible volatility, presumably as a reaction to bottling. Good concentration, but impossible to assess.

Now for a line up of three very impressive Shirazes, each displaying very different character. The comparison between the single vineyard Hunter and McLaren Vale wines is fascinating: who said that Australia didn't have 'terroir' (if by this term you mean regional or site-specific differences in taste)?

1998 Shiraz (A$24)
McLaren Vale/King Valley/Cowra
Bringing together fruit from three states, this is a rich, chocolatey Shiraz with reasonable high acidity and good concentration. Perhaps a touch pricey?

1998 Mistress Block Shiraz (A$40)
Single Vineyard Hunter Valley. Tannic with rich fruit. Concentrated, super stuff that really needs cellaring time to show its best. Very different to the Rayner Vineyard Shiraz (below) in character.

1998 Rayner Vineyard Shiraz (A$45)
McLaren Vale. Richly fruited, with spicy oak. Dense with soft tannins, this is already approachable. Displays the trademark McLaren Vale character of soft, chocolatey, dense fruit. Superb.

1999 Jelka Riesling (A$21)
Attractive sweetie with apricot and marmalade flavours, its sweet, fat palate nicely offset by balancing acidity. Good.

J.Y.T. Wine Company

DeBeyers Road, Pokolbin 2320
Phone: (02) 4998 7528 Fax: (02) 4998 7320
E-mail: jytwine@hunterlink.net.au

Set in a pleasant hillside location off DeBeyers Road, JYT is fairly new operation (vineyard planted 1989, first vintage 1997) that so far has concentrated on premium quality white wines. However, there are new plantings of Shiraz and Sangiovese, and they are establishing their own fortified Verdelho solera. I thought the wines were of a good quality, but as they were served straight from the fridge on a cool day it was quite hard to assess them fully. Why don't wineries who keep whites in the fridge adjust the settings so that the wines are not ice cold? The trademark style here is crisp, full flavoured whites which display good varietal character at fair prices. I received a friendly welcome here.

1998 Semillon (A$16)
Fresh, crisp, unoaked style. Good concentration; nice stuff with good food compatibility. Apparently this was a good vintage.

1997 Semillon ($A20)
Still fresh and crisp, but the palate is starting to fill out and round-off a bit. Nice stuff from a slightly lower quality vintage.

1998 Chardonnay (A$16)
Unoaked. Crisp, fresh unwooded Chardonnay. Nice wine with none of the 'boiled sweets' technological edge that many wines in this style possess. Good.

1999 Verdelho (A$16)
Full peach and melon nose, which seems to be a characteristic of this variety in the Hunter. Touch of spice and crisp acidity joins these on the palate. Very good, and an excellent food wine. I bought some.

NV 'Pink' (A$16)
Semillon with a touch of an undisclosed red variety. Very light pink in colour. Lovely fruity wine in a refreshing, easy-drinking rosé style, to be glugged well chilled. Perhaps a touch pricey for this carefree style? 

Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard

DeBeyers Road, Pokolbin 2320
Phone (02) 4998 7411 Fax: 4998 7303

An impressive new venture set in a prime location, Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard was opened in 1999 at the cost of some A$3.5 million. Under the control of Chris Cameron, MD of Pepper Tree Wines, the site was first planted with vines back in 1866, and is named after a chap who was one of the pioneers of the area (yes, Audrey was a bloke), but who was also a teetotaller! There is currently 45 ha under vine, and from the lovely hilltop location of the cellar door, there are young vines as far as the eye can see. The varieties planted include the usual Hunter suspects plus a bit of Merlot and, more interestingly, Zinfandel. Later this year, Pepper Tree are also planting 81 ha of vines in the Coonawarra, so this is developing into a fairly serious commercial operation. At the cellar door itself -- a plush, tasteful building -- I got one of the friendliest receptions I received in the valley. The wines were consistently good without being breathtaking, as you might expect from a large commercial operation, although the Shiraz had some real interest to it. The best thing of all though was that the cellar door staff had a Riedel tasting glass for me to try the wine out of!

1999 Semillon ($A19)
Very pale coloured. Fresh, vegetal nose and some herby character. Typical Hunter style, with low alcohol (10%). Good.

1998 Chardonnay (A$20)
Strong nose of smoky, toasty oak. Rich and fat on palate. Attractive, oaked style; well integrated. Good.

1995 Chardonnay ($A20)
Rich nose of baked bread and honey. Slightly oxidised? About to drop over the edge, so drink up, but I know that some are keen on this style of aged Aus Chardonnay, so they would enjoy this.

1998 Traminer (A$19)
Varietally typical litchee flavours. Big and fruity with a rich palate. Very versatile food wine. Good.

1996 Shiraz ($20)
Rich, softly fruited wine; raspberry and cinnamon flavours and with an earthy edge. Medium concentration. A nice wine that is drinking very well now. Very good.

Verdict: Good place to visit: great views, impressive cellar door, dynamic operation with lots of potential. Wines a little pricey. Do something about those grotesque labels!

Moorebank Vineyard
Palmers Lane, Pokolbin 2320
Phone: (02) 4998 7610 Fax: (02) 4998 7367

This is a small property with just 7 Ha under vine and the wines are contract made. The most striking feature about Moorebank is that the wines are all sold in rather unorthodox 50 cl bottles that are tall and thin. Some people find this a bit stylish; I just find it a bit odd. I got a friendly reception here, and the range of wines is solid without being outstanding. They are a touch pricey, at around $20 each for just 50 cl, though.

1998 Semillon
Crisp, full flavoured, good.

1997 Semillon
More citrus elements. OK.

1997 Chardonnay
Toasty, oaky with soft texture and some bready character.

1998 Chardonnay
Deep, rich barrel fermented style with some youthful intensity. I preferred this.

1998 Gewürztraminer
Lifted, floral nose; slightly herby with some litchee elements. Dry and full on palate. Good. I bought a bottle.

1997 Gewürztraminer
Exotic, lifted nose with a dry palate; I preferred the 1998.

1996 Gewürztraminer Late Harvest
Spicy nose followed by rich, fat palate and a touch of sweetness. Marmalade-like tang from the botrytis. Very good.

1999 Merlot
Leafy, herbaceous nose. Medium concentration and leafy palate. Soft, pleasant wine, but not arresting. OK.

Verdict: solid but slightly unexciting line up. Good quality, if a touch expensive.