Boutique winery Cael’s Gate aim to hand craft the very best wines. Head out for a tasting at their charming new cellar door in the serene countryside of Broke Fordwich.
A die-hard wine enthusiast, Chris Chew started crafting his own wines in his Sydney garage in 2016, whilst working full-time in a busy corporate career.
“I’ve always been a wine guy for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I started collecting wines under the staircase of our home, before trying my hand at making it myself. In 2018, I had made something that I thought others would enjoy too and I started sending my wines to a few competitions.
“They did quite well which inspired me to go further in the wine industry.” His main focus had been on Semillon and Shiraz from the Hunter Valley, a place that had always been special to Chris and his partner Reyna. They even got married in the Valley 17 years ago.
Hence it was the natural place for them to look for a suitable property to open a cellar door. They had travelled other Australian wine regions extensively, but the Hunter felt like home.
After a long search, in 2021, they found a somewhat run down cabin on 15 acres in Broke.
“We both fell in love with the rustic charm of this solid blue gum timber cabin. The design was unique, and we didn’t want to lose any of its history. We also loved its location in Broke Fordwich,” Chris shared.
“Sitting on an ancient seabed, against the backdrop of the Brokenback Mountain ranges, valleys and meandering rivers, the area has such a rich history. Quaint villages, working farms and giant stones characterise the region.
“We wanted to be a part of this magical place and we felt that we could create something truly special here.”
Two months ago, in September, the couple finally opened their new cellar door and the charming rejuvenation showcases the same level of excellence they strive for in their winemaking.
They lovingly refreshed the cabin’s architecture, using all natural materials, skilfully juxtaposing stone and timber. “We wanted to create a continuum between the giant stones, the landscape and the internal features of the cellar door.
We added stone to the fireplace and the tasting table,” Reyna said. “For the outdoor washrooms we have used the same timber and brought in hand carved stone wash basins from northern NSW.”
“Our ethos is very much about being natural and organic, to leave the land as
pristine as we possibly can, and our cellar door reflects that passion.”
For a modern feel they replaced some of the doors and windows with dark metal, added metal track lighting over the tasting table and a glass wine wall behind it.
Outside, the expansive deck is the perfect place to soak up the tranquillity
and admire the country views over their newly planted Tempranillo vines.
It’s also a good place to ponder and appreciate the meaning of the name Cael’s Gate. Cael is Latin, meaning heaven, weather or sky.
“Chris and I believe in heaven, a higher power, but the name has come to mean
so much more. Weather is a crucial element of terroir and deeply affects the taste and characteristics of wine and our pursuit of handcrafting the very best wines,” Reyna explained.
“We are and always will be a family- owned producer of small batch wines,” Chris added who makes his wines on site in the Hunter.
“It will be a few years before those new Tempranillo vines will yield their first harvest and being focused on quality means we sometimes have to source fruit from growers outside the region.
“In 2020, Hunter grapes were affected by smoke taint from the bushfires and in 2021, the floods forced us to look to other parts of NSW.
“Creating wine from other regions has been a great experience as each one has a unique terroir and provides different expressions in the winery.
“We only process about five to six tons per year and using the best available raw material makes for well balanced, minimal intervention wines.”
Beyond Chris’s impressive Semillon, Shiraz and Cabernet, what makes Cael’s Gate a special place to visit is the couple’s love for entertaining, for chatting with their guests, for sharing their passion for wine, and their love of the land.
“We invite visitors to come on this journey with us,” they said. “A cellar door doesn’t get built in a day and we will continue to add and to improve.” With plans to add a VIP tasting room and nature based accommodation pods with outdoor stone baths, we highly recommend you watch this space!
More stories in the Summer Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.
Photography by Chris Elfes