A wine romance
How to get an insider’s view of the NSW Hunter Valley
STANDING with cow horn in hand, vineyard owner Rod Windrim says most Hunter Valley winegrowers thought he was mad when he switched to biodynamic farming in 2002.
Once he used the ‘‘full cocktail’’ of pesticides to protect his vines; today he douses them with his ‘‘compost tea’’ according to the phases of the moon.
Fresh manure from lactating cows is stuffed into cow horns, buried for about five months and dug up in spring. The bacteriarich dung is mixed with water and fish emulsion and sprayed on the vines: half during the ascending phase of the moon, the remainder during the descending.
At other times Windrim sprays a silica mixture that has also undergone the subterranean cow horn ritual, and prunes and plants by the astro calendar.
Windrim’s Krinklewood Biodynamic Vineyard is j ust one of 140 wineries and cellar doors in the NSW Hunter Valley and a favourite of tour guide Heidi Duckworth.
With so much to see and taste in this renowned wine-growing region, it’s good to be with an expert such as Duckworth, who started her small-group touring company last year. Dressed in corporate black to match her sleek Range Rover, and wearing killer heels, Duckworth is no stranger to the region. She put in 12 years as marketing manager of Hunter Valley Wine Tourism.
In that role, however, she wasn’t able to play favourites: the wineries, dozens of restaurants and 190 accommodation houses in her domain all received equal treatment. However, now she’s free to direct her clients to establishments she believes are the cream of the crop.
Krinklewood isn’t just doing things a little differently ( and Windrim is often behind the counter, sharing his biodynamic stories with visitors), it’s producing great wines. I buy a bottle of gold-medal 2009 chardonnay before we zoom off to sample another outfit in Broke.
At Margan cellar door and restaurant, we sip wines in the rustic but chic rammed-earth winery and restaurant. Its stylishness belies the humble vegetable and herb garden out the back where owners Andrew and Lisa Margan grow the green produce served in the restaurant. Margan’s vines aren’t biodynamically grown but the couple recently picked up a sustainability award for reducing the restaurant’s carbon footprint.
Duckworth is keen to show her group the new Icon Lounge at the Small Winemakers’ Centre at Pokolbin. This classy black, red and white tasting room provides a crash course in the finest drops of the region. Sixteen reds and eight whites, either gold or trophy winners, are on tap.
Tasters are invited to pour a perfect 30ml, 75ml or 100ml glass using an Enomatic dispensing system, a device designed in Tuscany. Icon Lounge owner and winemaker Suzanne Little says these top wines (which include Tyrrell’s, McWilliams and Pepper Tree) are generally not available for tasting in the Hunter; from $2 to $9 for 30ml, this is a bargain for wine buffs.
For sustenance en route, Duckworth often suggests the organic restaurant Cracked Pepper (if her clients also opt for Krinklewood), or the Cafe Enzo. And she can include visits to a chocolatier, a cheese providore, a boutique brewer and an art gallery.
As we make our way to the new Goldfish cocktail bar at Tempus Two winery, there’s a helicopter whirring away on the front lawn.
I joke that it’s for us, and Duckworth just nods. Her mellowedout clients are often keen to get back to their Hunter Valley digs after a long day’s touring, and a chopper just seems to top it off. Caroline Gladstone was a guest of Tourism NSW.
Krinklewood Vineyard uses biodynamic farming techniques