Its not often that I like to review a wine that isn’t available at your local bottleshop. But every now and again I come across a wine label that is available direct from the winery, that is worth getting a few mates together to buy a carton or mixed dozen with.
Huntington Estate in NSW Mudgee district is just that sort of winery.
Huntington Estate was established in 1969 by Bob and Wendy Roberts, who had decided that Mudgee would be a better place to re-create the classic French reds he enjoyed; Bordeaux, Syrah (shiraz) from the northern Rhone Valley or Burgundy reds. Bob established Huntington on the site of an old run down orchard, pulling out the neglected trees and replanting with grape vines. Over the next four decades, with advice from his friend, a legend of Australian wine, Len Evans, he managed to create some of Australia’s best wines at affordable prices.
In 2006 Bob decided to retire, and sold his property to his fellow winemaking neighbour Tim and Nicky Stevens. The couple had caught the winemaking bug and moved from Queensland, where Tim was a journalist, and in 1996 had bought the Abercorn, the adjacent property to Huntington.
The pair have continued to run the business, creating some outstanding releases, working on five guiding principles; the wines are Estate grown, made and bottled; the wines are built to age well; reds are released at four to five years of age; the wine is only sold direct, not through bottleshops, and; substance over style. Principles that have made them, possibly Australia’s best small winery.
The Mudgee district sits about 250km inland from Sydney, on the western side of the Great Dividing Range, with the Hunter Valley sitting on the eastern side of the Range. The wine making in the area dates back to 1858 in Mudgee and the region has played a significant role in Australian wine history over the years, in fact Mudgee was the area that a particularly excellent clone of Chardonnay sat growing, unrecognised for over 50 years.
Huntington Estate is mostly known for its reds, deep coloured and fruit concentrated. Their Cabernet and Shiraz have ripe berry flavours, spicy, floral and complex notes with firm tannins that settle with time in the bottle. In the whites, their Chardonnay shows tropical and stone fruit flavours, but it’s their Semillon that’s a standout for me. Huntington Semillon is quite different to that of world famous Semillons from the neighbouring Hunter Valley, its perhaps more of a cross between those Hunter Semillons, and a Yarra Valley or Adelaide Hills Semillon. It shows more of the fruit flavours you would expect to find in a great sem, while still keeping a lot of its natural acidity, making zippy refreshing wine, that can be long lived. Semillons that, this year have outscored those world famous Hunter Semillons, like Tyrrells and Mount Pleasant.
Huntington Estate wines are definitely worth grabbing a few of to put away, or grabbing a few mates to go halves with. The reds already carry a bit of bottle age and are already perfect for pouring at a dinner party. Just a quick note, we chilled the reds before tasting on an extremely hot Cairns summer arvo.
Huntington Estate Basket Dried Shiraz 2013 – something a bit different here with the winemaking style, the fruit was picked a little earlier while it was still showing complex, spicy and floral notes. Whole bunches were hand-picked, then dried for two weeks in baskets prior to fermentation on skins for seven days. The concentrated fruit sugars have resulted in a big, bold Shiraz. Pepper, spices and notes of hay on the nose, on the tongue it’s a big, bold wine. Black and red fruits, with some bitter chocolate nuances, good oak handling has given it some great cedar notes, and a long finish that carries notes of dried hay. Begging for food, will age beautifully for the next two decades too. RRP $65
Huntington Estate Special Reserve Shiraz 2012 – 2012 was a horrible vintage, cold and wet, but the team have managed to create something quite special here. A few green notes around the edge to start, which faded away with sometime in the glass. Fruit driven aromas of fleshy black and blue berries and white pepper. Those notes show through on the palate too, with aged earthy and leathery notes, vibrant long finish. As this aired for the extra time, this become the crowd pick on the day, drinking well now but will carry another decade or so. RRP $36
Huntington Estate “Special Reserve” Semillon 2015 – grown on gnarly old 47 year old, low yielding vines from Huntington’s Block 6 vineyard. Great drive and energy to this, and its seamless across the palate, all the way across the tongue from front to back and a long finish. Typical Semillon flavours, lime/lemon/honeysuckle with some light smoky slatey notes in there. Pretty impressive wine which is probably more of a drink now than carrying much age, as I’d say this will only carry for the next five years or so, but it will develop some of those toasty notes in that time. RRP $28
Huntington Estate Semillon 2016 – possibly the best release in the current white label range, the 2016 vintage for the Mudgee area will be quite good if this is an example to go from. Super fresh pear and peach, green melon and lemongrass, with the later probably settling down with time in the bottle. It’s minerally with pithy citrus. Normally with a young sem I’d expect front and then back tongue, but this was flavour all the way front to back, and it grew on me as it warmed, becoming a little thick on the tongue when it warmed too much. RRP $22