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Food

Top eats in the Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley Wine Region is fast becoming a mecca for foodies. From casual bites to artisan cheeses and full degustation fine dining, there is a burgeoning restaurant scene that is exciting locals and visitors alike.

Here is our list of the Hunter’s top 20 culinary delights.

Muse

1 Broke Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 6777
Hands down the Hunter’s best fine dining destination conveniently located at the gateway to the vineyards inside the sleek architecture lines of Hungerford Hill winery. Chef Troy Rhoades-Brown uses the best seasonal produce to serve immaculate dishes such as butter-poached scampi tails, slow-cooked lamb and his signature Muse Coconut dessert.

Restaurant Botanica

555 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 6574 7229
Restaurant Botanica at Spicers Vineyards Estate has made a name for itself thanks to its emphasis on sustainability. They make fresh bread daily and use their on-site kitchen garden to create healthy and locally sourced dishes that deliver freshness and flavour.

Margan Restaurant

1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke
(02) 6579 1317
Margan uses produce from its one-acre kitchen garden and orchard in its the Meditteranean-inspired meals and complements it with Andrew Margan’s award-winning wines. A delightful atmosphere with views of the Brokenback Range.  

Bistro Molines

749 Mount View Rd, Mt View
(02) 4990 9553
Located at Tallavera Grove Bistro Molines is coveted by locals as one of the Hunter’s little gems thanks to the consistent cooking of Frenchman Robert Molines, who arrived in the region in 1973. Rustic provincial cooking paired with a stunning wine list.

Circa1876

64 Halls Road, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 4998
One of the new culinary highlights of the Hunter, located in the refurbished site of the historic Robert’s Restaurant at Pepper’s Convent. American-born chef George Francisco uses seasonal produce from the on-site kitchen garden to create a superb menu of modern Australian with French flair.

Muse Kitchen

Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 7899
Muse Kitchen (at Keith Tulloch Wines) is the second Hunter venue from Troy Rhoades-Brown, this one somewhat more laid back but still delicious seasonal produce. Breakfast at the weekends is not to be missed.

Esca

790 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 4666
Located at Bimbadgen Estate, Esca serves modern Australian cuisine such as confit pork belly and Madgery Creek venison. Match with Bimbadgen wines or something off the varied international list.

Verandah Restaurant

Palmers Lane, Rothbury
(02) 4998 7231
Situated at Calais Estate, the Verandah Restaurant serves up delicious tapas or a la carte dishes such as slow-braised pork belly.  Make sure you save some space for the signature dessert of soft chocolate soufflé with Baileys and almond ice cream.

Sabor

319 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale
1300 958 850
Sometimes it’s a sweet hit you require and if you like to skip mains, Sabor is the place for you. Portuguese custard tarts, gourmet ice creams, hand made chocolates and terrific coffee.

Café Enzo

Cnr Broke & Ekerts Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 7233
Located next door to the boutique wines of David Hook in Peppers Creek village, Café Enzo’s charming Tuscan-inspired courtyard is open for traditional breakfast, and lunch dishes such as barramundi on kipfler potatoes & pea purée.  

Mojo’s on Wilderness

84 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale
(02) 4930 7244
By day you can stop by the deli and stock up on gourmet sandwiches, delicious tarts and quiches straight from the oven, in the evening, Ros and Adam Baldwin serve up cultured European cuisine with natural flair.  

Restaurant Cuvee at Peterson House

Cnr Broke Rd & Wine Country Drive, Pokolbin
02 4998 7881
At the very gateway of the Hunter Wine Region is Peterson House where you can taste the best sparkling wines and pair them with the freshest of oysters then stay on for the full a la carte menu using regional produce.

Smelly Cheese Shop

2188 Broke Rd, Pokolbin
02 4998 6960
No trip to the Hunter is complete without a visit to the Smelly Cheese Shop. Now in two convenient locations, there’s no better way to match the wines of the region than to some of the locally made and international cheeses. A cheese lover’s paradise!

Goldfish

Cnr of Broke & McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 7688
Unwind in this bar & kitchen in the heart of the Hunter. Down to earth, laid back dining paired with a broad cocktail list with a range of tequila, whisky, boutique beer and of course, wine.

Oishii

Cnr of Broke & McDonalds Rd’s, Pokolbin 
02 4998 7051
Right next door to Goldfish at Tempus Two Winery you’ll find Oishii which fuses the best of Thai and Japanese cuisine. There’s sushi, sashimi and teppanayaki as well as Thai curries and salads.  

Lindemans 1843 café

McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin
02 4993 3700
Casual and comfortable dining for the whole family with dishes like wood fired pizzas, pulled pork and wild mushroom risotto – all at reasonable prices.  

Tatler Tapas

477 Lovedale Road, Lovedale 
(02) 4930 9139
Head chef Katy Carruthers has designed a delicious range of tapas delights including bacalau & potato croquetas, sardines escabeche, and Moroccan meatballs

Morpeth Sourdough

148 Swan Street, Morpeth
02 4934 4148
On the other side of the Hunter in the picturesque village of Morpeth, this is the site where the iconic Aussie brand Arnott’s started. Morpeth Sourdough serves an amazing range of sourdough breads. A must visit.

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Wine
Marketing Wines to Millennials
In the Jul/Aug issue of  Selector  we ran an interesting feature on labelling wine bottles aimed at the millennial market. Millennials are people born after 1980 and who are so termed because they hit maturity at the turn of the millennium and beyond. Not only is this generation cashed up, brand savvy and wine knowledgeable, they are about to overtake baby boomers (those aged 55+) as the biggest consumers and buyers of wine. Therefore, they are vital to the future of the wine industry.  Marketing to this generation is a world away from traditional marketing.  In the feature, we referenced a California State University study that found millennials prefer wine labels that are brightly coloured, less traditional and more graphically focused. Hence, you may have noticed a swag of wine labels that are more expressive, artistic and almost graffiti-like in nature.  Of course, all that is fine for new and emerging wine brands on the market. But how can established producers whose labels speak of consistency, reliability and trustworthiness also appeal to the millennial market?    Hunter Valley  wine producer  Tyrrell’s Wines  seems to have found an answer.
One of the  Australia’s First Families of Wine , Tyrrell’s are true pioneers of the Australian Wine Industry with 160 years of experience across five generations of winemaking. Their classic white label with a curved font and distinctive gold and black badging has become iconic as the wines they produce. This label allows them to convey a sense of trust and quality assurance to drinkers who recognise it i.e the traditional market of baby boomers. With their recent ‘True Taste of the Hunter’ marketing campaign on their Hunter Valley range, they’ve tapped into the millennial market and what appeals to this hard to capture demographic. What Tyrrell’s has done so cleverly is create an artistic, colourful brand story that is both eye-catching and informative. With Instagram worthy info-graphic details of fruits in each bottle that deliver the characteristics of each wine: lemon, lime and rockmelon for Semillon ; apricot, guava and grapefruit for Chardonnay ; plum, raspberry and mulberry for Shiraz . The bottles are laid out artistically on a black background with minimal but direct text and a firm but understated call to action. A snapshot of the flavours inside each bottle. This fits the brief perfectly for capturing the attention of millennials – those who love splashes of colour and delineating lots of information in a short amount of time as is delivered via an infographic. The label and badging remain the same both reassuring their traditional market and at the same time, creating an opportunity to imprint on a new generation of Tyrrell’s   drinkers. Fifth generation winemaker Chris Tyrrell explains the marketing campaign. “As a 160-year-old wine company, we have built a loyal base of consumers over the years but in order to grow our brand long-term, we need to be relevant to new segments of the market, hence the development of a communications campaign that would drive awareness of our three key varieties; Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz, what we call our quintessential Hunter Valley range. “We specifically chose to shoot the creative with a high-end fashion photographer, and to position the advertising in luxury magazines and online platforms to ensure we communicate with the female market and millennials and drive a more premium positioning of Tyrrell’s within the marketplace”.
Wine
Top 50 Wines of 2016
Words by Mark Hughes on 4 Jan 2017
The Wine Selectors Tasting Panel tastes over 3000 wines from Australian producers per year. Here is the best of the best, the top wines that wowed them in 2016. Not many people know this, but I’ve always loved statistics. When I was younger, it was all sports related – D.K Lillee’s bowling average, Chicka Ferguson’s try scoring tally, that sort of stuff. These days I am using that love of maths to discover interesting info about wine. Throughout the year our  Tasting Panel  puts their collective expert palates to the test to determine what wines we send to our members. The wine tasting process is extremely rigorous. The wines are opened the morning of the tasting to allow them to breathe, placed into a bottle cover so no-one can see the label, and poured in brackets that group varietals or styles. The Panel tastes each and every wine and gives them a score out of 20, as per judging at an official wine show. This happens every Friday (and sometimes Wednesday) at Wine Selectors with our Panel tasting up to 100 wines a week. That equates to literally thousands of wines a year, from nearly every producer in every wine region across Australia. So collecting a year’s worth of scores from the Panel reveals some amazing statistics. And from that we can gather some pretty cool information. For instance, not only does it show which producers are leading the charge, what regions had a good vintage and what varietals are doing well – it also shows the changing face of wine. On Trend
That’s the exciting thing about wine – it is always changing. That’s a pretty simple sentence, but when you look at it from different angles, it really says a lot. Yes, it is changing in the bottle as it ages and develops, changes in weather from season to season determine the outcome of how the wine will taste, and there are changes in winemaking techniques and equipment that will improve the taste and the scope of a wine. Ultimately though, I think the biggest change in wine is driven by consumers. Fashion leads demand and if the demand is big enough, it will drive supply. This scenario is pretty evident when looking at our Top 50 wines of 2016. Even before you look at who made the Top 50, just the wines submitted tell a startling story – Aussie drinkers are demanding greater variety. How do we know? Well, in 2016 our Panel tasted more alternative wines than ever before and we are not just talking about a couple of Grigios . Try these on for size: Bianco d’Alessano, Garganega, Muller Thurgau, Verduzzo – and they’re just the whites, they also sipped Aglianico, Lagrein, Montepulciano, Saperavi and Saint Macaire – and that’s only a third of the list of alternative varietals they looked at. How many have you heard of, let alone tried? The exciting thing is, you probably will get to try some of these soon, because quite a few of them are performing exceptionally well – good enough to make it to our Top 50 wines of 2016. For instance, the Serafino Wines Bellissimo Lagrein (placing inside the Top 10, no less), The Pawn Wine Co En Passant Tempranillo and the Bird in Hand Montepulciano. There’s also Touriga, Fiano, Vermentino, Marsanne and more. Yep, it’s an exciting time to be a drinker of Australian wine. Traditional Stars Of course, our traditional varietals also excelled in 2016. Our two biggies, Shiraz (12) and Chardonnay (9) dominated the tallies, but it must be pointed out that their styles have changed to suit the drinking public. The top scoring wine, the Di Giorgio Family Chardonnay 2015, is lean and minerally, described as having “aromas of flint, struck match and oyster shell with a refined palate of intense fig, melon and nectarine,” while the top scoring Shiraz, the Ryan’s Reserve Vanessa’s Vineyard 2014 is a medium to full-bodied Hunter wine with “a ripe and lively core of red and black fruits with hints of Chinese spice.” Riesling was also a big surprise packet this year. Panellist Trent Mannell reckons Riesling is going to be one of the trending wines of 2017 and if the quality of current vintages is anything to go by, he may be right. The  Ferngrove Off Dry Limited Release Riesling 2016  from Western Australia’s Great Southern region was simply superb, taking out second spot overall and was described by the Panel as “impossible to put down”. In all, there were four Rieslings in the Top 50, all from different regions, which goes to show this varietal’s versatility. Read more about  the rise of Australian Riesling in this article Diversity and Consistency
In a nod to diversity, the Top 10 wines were made up of eight different varietals from eight different regions. That’s a real wow moment right there. Chardonnay , Riesling, Marsanne, Shiraz, Muscat, Semillon , Cabernet Merlot and Lagrein – Coonawarra , Great Southern, Nagambie Lakes, Hunter Valley, Rutherglen , Margaret River , Barossa , Adelaide Hills . What that tells us is that viticulturists are getting better at knowing what works in their region and how to get the best out of their grape. It also says that winemakers are becoming more skilled at taking that perfectly grown grape and making great wine. Out of the Top 50 there were only two producers who featured more than once – Howard Park ( Marchand & Burch Chardonnay  and Howard Park Flint Rock Pinot Noir) and Brown Brothers (Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir and Innocent Bystander Known Pleasures Shiraz). The same two producers both had two wines each in last year’s Top 50, so it speaks volumes of their ability to consistently produce top wines. And speaking of consistency, it must be noted that the Brown Brothers Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2015 replicated the success of the 2014 that featured in  last year’s Top 50 . This is a huge result, as anyone can have a great vintage, but to do it consistently is the mark of a great producer. Vintage and Age The stats show that The Hunter Valley (8), McLaren Vale (7) and Great Southern (7) had great vintages, with 2014 living up to the hype for reds and 2015 for white wines.It was also interesting to note the power of age. Nearly all the wine we buy is consumed soon after we’ve bought it (the same day in my case). However, some producers are lucky enough to be able to hold onto some of their wine to release it at a date when it has aged to perfection – the Tahbilk Marsanne 2010 and Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2011, for example. Of course, you can do the same thing, provided you have the ideal storing conditions and you can keep your hands off it. Or, if that seems too hard, you can just check out this list of amazing wines, tally up the ones you like, do the stats and get amongst them. The Best Australian Wines of 2016 Di Giorgio Family Chardonnay 2015 (Coonawarra) Ferngrove Off Dry Limited Release Riesling 2016 (Great Southern) Tahbilk Marsanne 2010 (Nagambie Lakes) Saddler’s Creek Ryan’s Reserve Vanessa Vineyard Shiraz 2014 (Hunter Valley) Stanton & Killen Classic Rutherglen Muscat NV (Rutherglen) Howard Park Wines Marchand & Burch Australian Collection 'Porongurup' Chardonnay 2015 Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 1 Semillon 2011 (Hunter Valley) Henschke & Co Tappa Pass Shiraz 2013 (Barossa) Hamelin Bay Wines Five Ashes Vineyard Cabernet Merlot 2014 (Margaret River) Serafino Wines Bellissimo Lagrein (Adelaide Hills) 2013 The Pawn Wine Co. En Passant Tempranillo 2013 (Adelaide Hills)  Briar Ridge Stockhausen Black Label Semillon 2016 (Hunter Valley) Tyrrell’s Wines 'Stevens' Single Vineyard Shiraz 2014 (Hunter Valley) Scotchmans Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Geelong) Innocent Bystander Known Pleasures Shiraz McLaren Vale 2014 (McLaren Vale) Byron & Harold The Partners Chardonnay 2015 (Great Southern) Brown Brothers Devil’s Corner Resolution Pinot Noir 2015 (Tasmania) De Iuliis Steven Vineyard Shiraz 2014 (Hunter Valley) Howard Park - 'Flint Rock' Pinot Noir 2015 (Great Southern) Rutherglen Estates Durif 2014 (Rutherglen) Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Vineyard (Organic) 2013 (Frankland River) Seville Estate Chardonnay 2015 (Yarra Valley) Woods Crampton Pedro Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2015 (Barossa) Dandelion Vineyards Sister’s Run Shiraz 2014 (Barossa) Forest Hill Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Mount Barker) try the  2011 vintage here Driftwood Artifacts Chardonnay 2014 (Margaret River) Lisa McGuigan Platinum Selection Chardonnay 2015 (Hunter Valley) Bleasdale Vineyards The Powder Monkey Single Vineyard Shiraz 2013 (Langhorne Creek) Hart & Hunter Single Vineyard Twenty Six Rows Chardonnay 2015 (Hunter Valley) Rockcliffe Quarram Rocks Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016 (Great Southern) Taylors Wines Riesling 2015 (Clare Valley) Bird in Hand Montepulciano 2014 (Adelaide Hills) Alkoomi Black Label Riesling 2009 (Frankland River) Pertaringa Wines Undercover Shiraz 2014 (McLaren Vale) Shaw Vineyard Estate Olleyville Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Canberra) Five Geese Shiraz 2014 (McLaren Vale) Leconfield Wines Richard Hamilton Centurion 122-Year-Old Vine Shiraz 2014 SC Pannell Wines Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2014 (McLaren Vale) Shadowfax Pinot Gris 2015 (Geelong) Dominique Portet Fontaine Rose 2015 (Yarra Valley) McWilliams Wines Mount Pleasant High Altitude Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Orange) Tulloch - 'Cellar Door Release' Vermentino 2016 (Orange) Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards Fiano 2015 (McLaren Vale) Try the  2016 vintage here Montara Winery Chalambar Road Shiraz 2009 (Grampians) Henry’s Drive Vignerons Henry’s Drive H Syrah 2012 (Padthaway) Margan Family Limited Release Chardonnay 2013 (Hunter Valley) Bremerton Walter’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Langhorne Creek) Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2015 (Margaret River) d’Arenberg The Dry Dam Riesling (off dry) 2015 (McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills) Kirrihill Wines Montepulciano 2014 (Mount Lofty)
Wine
Howard Park Wines International Pinot Tasting
Words by Paul Diamond on 27 Jul 2017
Selector  publisher Paul Diamond indulges his love of Pinot at a privileged tasting with the incredibly generous Burch family of WA’s Howard Park Wines. Find out how you can attend the exclusive invitation-only Howard Park Wines International Pinot Tasting and Lunch this October  down below . Humans certainly get interesting when they add wine into their system, but the complex factors that shape what varieties we prefer, how often we like to enjoy them and how much we are prepared to spend would make for a revealing branch of Anthropological Psychology. Some of us collect and covet, some of us stick to what we know, whilst some of us are always looking over the horizon, yearning to explore and experiment. Then there are those who splurge and share. These folk love sharing their passion, knowledge and experience. Generally humorous and highly social, these peeps are OK with nursing a little hangover tomorrow in exchange for enjoying good wine, food and company today. Sharing is Caring
Jeff Burch, head of Burch Family Wines, is one such gent. Every year since 2006, Jeff and his wife Amy, daughter Natalie and sons Richard and David, welcome friends from all over the country to share in a day of wine exploration, great food and conversation. It started with Riesling, mirroring their love for producing cool climate Rieslings from their Great Southern vineyards. Howard Park Riesling is now the fourth most collected of its type in the country. Out of millions of wines produced in this country, it is now considered a varietal benchmark. It takes considerable energy, resources and expense to every year collect some of the best varietal examples in the world, fly people from all over the country to Perth and ship them down to Margaret River then put on a tasting and lunch. Maybe the enlightening perspective gained from benchmarking your wines against the best in the world is the driving motivation behind the whole exercise. Each has their differing opinions on this, but one thing is for sure, putting yourself up against the world’s best year after year is a brave thing to do, especially with something as subjective as wine. In 2010, the family decided to switch its focus from Riesling to Pinot and the annual International Pinot Noir tasting and lunch was born. The move reflects their commitment and desire to explore the possibilities of the variety from the cool climate regions of WA, specifically Great Southern, the Porongurups and Mount Barker. Jeff and his family produce Pinots across their MadFish and Howard Park labels, as well as Marchand & Burch , a collaborative project with Burgundian winemaker Pascal Marchand from Domaine Comte Armand, previously at Domaine De La Vougeraie. Passion for Pinot
Pinot Noir is most definitely the flag bearing variety when it comes to pursuits for the passionate. To most it is the holy grail of wine and winemaking; the stars have to align for it to work, it thrives in cool to harsh conditions and takes insight, understanding and intuition in the winery to produce wines of depth and quality. Whilst its popularity is growing, it is still one of the least  grown and sold varieties in Australia, if not the world. Despite all this, Pinot can produce some of the most expensive, expressive and sought after wines on the planet and if you truly want to explore the psychological effect of wine on humans, share a good bottle with someone who loves Pinot. Jeff Burch would be a perfect subject for this pleasurable experiment and the experience will go a long way to explaining his generosity and energy when it comes to Pinot. The Tasting
Last year, 100 of the Burch family’s friends, wine club members, trade partners and local Pinotphiles congregated at Howard Park’s Margaret River cellar door and got to sample 18 of the world’s best, most interesting and expressive Pinots. Across three brackets hosted separately by Howard Park’s Chief Winemaker Janice McDonald, Optometrist, Burghound and Master of Champagne, Steve Leslie, and Jeff, the wines were tasted blind, scored and everyone nominated what they believed the wines were from a list of six. The wines were then revealed and discussions were held regarding each wine: their homes, history, style and expressions. The tasting format, while challenging, was as refreshing as it was illuminating. Everyone knew what was in each bracket, but not knowing which wine was in which glass removed prejudice, allowing everyone to absorb the many glorious expressions this variety can exhibit. Most Pinot tastings are a race to the top with the French Premier Cru (1er) wines getting all the attention due to their expense and scarcity. But this tasting was a true exercise in perspective, featuring interesting, expressive wines that captured attention. Yes, there were some1er Cru French wines, but there were as many German ‘spatburgunder’ tasted as well as interesting Australian, New Zealand and American wines. One of the big conclusions from this exercise was that whilst the French wines still hold the crown for classic, deep, ethereal and nuanced Pinot Noir characters, the new world – America, Australia and New Zealand – offers an incredibly broad and exciting range of varietal attributes. After the tasting, lunch was served, the world’s biggest cheese table was assembled and as the band started, a game of backyard cricket ‘glass in hand’ style was beginning. The day stands as a wonderful celebration of Pinot Noir, warm hospitality and the Burch family’s generosity. Long may they all live.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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