This would have to be the most resonant wine/food analogy I’ve heard. A very fitting statement made by the late James Tulloch to his grandson Keith many years ago.
This is a family that has had its roots planted in the Hunter Valley terra firma since emigrating from Scotland the 1800’s. A family that knows a thing or two about wine since shop-owner John Younie Tulloch acquired some Pokolbin acreage that so happened to be home to neglected shiraz vines. Winemaking and viticulture has been in the blood ever since.
For Keith and Amanda Tulloch, 2007 brought a bit of a change to their lives. It was when they got hold of the established land on which they built the cellar door and winery complex we see today; thoughtfully designed by Amanda. The complex also includes their signature restaurant Muse Kitchen; above which is The Manager’s Quarters, a self-contained two-bedroom apartment with lofty views over 45-year old shiraz vines and the Brokenback Ranges.
It’s a family business through and through. Keith’s dad Harry tends the vines when he can, son Alisdair looks after marketing and communications as well as diving in during harvest time, daughter Jessica is the contact for events and members in Melbourne and niece Emma manages the wine club.
Our visitation to the estate so happened to coincide with a rather warm 38°C/100°F spring day. The hot and blustery wind added to the baking conditions; dry temperatures that the grape vines don’t seem to mind in the high clay and low-fertile soil we were standing on.
A welcome respite came once we retreated to the temperature controlled winery building; a cooling place where all the action takes place for this small batch wine producer that churns out about 14,000 cases a year. Everything they do goes through the cellar door, to restaurants or overseas.
The vintage starts at about 6am when hand picking commences at dawn in the cooler summer temperature – quite often on Australia Day – finishing at around 11am when the mercury nears 30°C/86°F. Crushing and processing takes a further 14 hours before the same happens the following day.
Surrounded by stainless steel and French oak barrels, Keith dips into their flagship Kester; a 2013 red that was still about a year from bottling. A drinkable shiraz that still had a way to go to develop its rich berry spiciness.
Tastings takes place in the upstairs Cellar Door Tasting Lounge & Verandah, where for $5 guests can experience the wines and get up close with the Tulloch wares. Members have their own very comfortable space in the private Vinum Cellarium Lounge where they can taste the vino as well as order a few bites from the specially designed menu.
No need for us, however, as we had our own private tasting session in the WJ Pitsch Tasting Room at its long wooden communal table. A tasting session that went through the entire range of wines that are available at Tulloch.
Wine without food wouldn’t be as much fun, so thanks to Troy Rhoades-Broan at the adjacent Muse Kitchen, we enjoyed a very spring-inspired spread of dishes that complemented each of the wines that were poured.
A selection of charcuterie with white anchovies, sugar snaps, radish and pickled cabbage; deliciously aromatic pork, raisin & pistachio terrine and one of the silkiest duck liver pâtés I’ve eaten for ages. Loved that the red wine jelly on top of it had just enough gelatine to make it spreadable.
Warm olives from the Hunter Valley, earthy pea & pecorino croquettes and a fab salad of crunchy beans, radish, sugar snaps and white vino vinaigrette.
Somebody rub my belly while I take another sip of shiraz, please?
If well crafted vino or good, local food isn’t enough to attract visitors to the estate, then perhaps chocolate will. Cocoa Nib currently has a pop-up at the estate in a dedicated space that is about to be transformed into a fully-functioning confectionary cafe. Tables and chairs inside and out in the rose-scented courtyard.
Coffee, tea and a fine collection of chocolatey creations by Aymee Slaviero, a talented lady with an eye for confectionary, and one that has been going at it for fifteen years. From being head pastry chef at Flying Fish in Sydney, then moving to Melbourne to complete her degree; this Swiss chocolate-lover sure knows her craft.
I know we were there to see what chocolate we thought matched best with Keith’s Botrytis Semillon, but realistically, we all appreciated everything in a civilised and diplomatic choc-fuelled manner.
My favourites? Lemon jelly with Earl Grey ganache, the cinnamon Ceylon and the salted caramel.
hnf travelled, ate and drank courtesy of Keith Tulloch Wines.