New kids on the block

It takes a great deal of courage and a healthy dose of optimism to open a cellar door during a global pandemic. Here’s to the Hunter winemakers who dared to defy the odds.

Whether you’re a wine or beer lover, a couple, family, or a group of friends, a wine amateur or connoisseur, these new venues offer something for everyone. There is no doubt the continued expansion of cellar door experiences firmly cements the Hunter Valley as a destination worthy of repeat visits.

Wild Ren Wines: Housed within the charming group of stone buildings in Peppers Creek Village Pokolbin, this barn-like space has undergone a glamorous transformation. You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve just stepped into a stylish Sydney bar, as you enter the newly opened Wild Ren Wine Room.

With more than 20 years of experience in wine and tourism, Renee Burton is now the proud CEO of her own wine business. “After working on joint projects and other people’s passions, Wild Ren Wines is 100% me. My message to my two daughters and other girls out there, is about empowerment and taking control of your destiny,” Renee said.

With a range of Hunter classics as well as diverse varieties like Gruner Veltliner, Vermentino, Sangiovese and GSM, the wines are contemporary, well made and delicious. The wine labels are stunning works of art and also feature on a range of stylish merchandise. Renee has added a gin to her range, which is proving wildly popular and is available for tasting.
Make sure to include the moreish, crowd-pleasing Wild Ren Untamed Semillon as part of this all-around delightful tasting experience.

Charteris Wines: As a highly respected winemaker, consultant and in-demand wine show judge, PJ Charteris barely needs introduction. Starting his eponymous label focussed on Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot made in Central Otago, New Zealand, in 2008, PJ may just be the Hunter’s “oldest new kid on the block.”

After successfully selling his small production of premium wines mainly to restaurants, COVID shutdowns led him and partner Chrissi, to re-evaluate their distribution options. Opening just months ago, Charteris Wines co-inhabits the other side of the stone barn with Wild Ren Wines.

With a Scandi vibe, “the intent was to make customers feel like they are stepping into our home,” according to PJ. Expect an intriguing trans-Tasman line-up covering Central Otago wines, Hunter classics of Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz and the Le Chauve range, with varieties sourced from other regions. The wines have a beautiful purity about them, guaranteed to thrill any wine lover.

With different tasting options to choose from, expect to find PJ or Chrissi behind the counter, enthusiastically helping you explore wines from different regions.

Parched Crow Wines: As you drive off Deasys Road up to the Parched Crow Wines cellar door, you can’t help but admire the picturesque views. Local owner Ross Crump and partner Lisa have large agricultural holdings in the Valley, including 40 acres of vines.

Building the cellar door was a COVID project and despite the purpose-built shed being brand new, it’s clad in 100 year old, hand hewn slabs sourced locally. With its rustic charm, the cellar door welcome oozes country warmth, with the wines focused on the traditional Hunter Valley varieties.

Explore three different vintage Semillon and Shiraz to understand how these wines age. For Moscato lovers, the Parched Crow Moscato with notes of orange blossom, exotic Turkish delight, peach and nectarine is an exquisite experience.

With plenty of picnic tables, this cellar door caters for groups and families and is a dog friendly venue too. So bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it.

Hunter Wine Lab: You’re guaranteed a personalised experience from winemaker Nathan and his partner Leonie at Hunter Wine Lab, which is based away from the bustle on Hermitage Road. With lovely vistas, the new wine shed cleverly doubles as both a cellar door and a fully functioning winery.

Jumping on the ‘drink pink’ trend, their first release was a Rosé Prosecco. With lashings of strawberries, cherries and a crisp finish, this wine is ‘summer in a bottle’ and it’s easy to see why it’s their most popular wine.

While they offer some classic Hunter varietals like Shiraz and Chardonnay, their wines are made in a “new-world” style. There’s also a great range of alternate varieties like Vermentino, Sangiovese and Tempranillo which are sourced from other regions, allowing Nathan to be creative and to experiment. Hence the name “Hunter Wine Lab.”

Nathan also has experience in brewing, so you’ll find a Pale Ale, Pilsner and Chocolate Porter beers made from his own recipes on tap for tasting. Take them home in a 750ml bottle or a growler.

Sit outside admiring the views for a relaxed experience, with the educational option of a full tour through the winery with Nathan, to explore the different techniques and methods used to create the wines.

Read more about the new cellar doors in the Winter issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Cathy Gadd, photography courtesy of cellar doors