In the world-class winegrowing region of the Hunter Valley, NSW, wineries offer tastings at every turn. But it’s not just the fruits of local vines being sampled – farm-gate ingredients are also on the menu.

Story By Therese Hall

The Hunter Valley has evolved into a gourmet destination, with its famous drops being paired with local produce, such as olives, cheeses and sourdough, in a range of restaurants and eateries that span most budgets and styles. The old-guard wineries, such as Tyrrell’s, McWilliams Mount Pleasant and Lindemans that cater for travelling tasters, have been joined by a burgeoning group of small-scale, family-run wineries offering an artisan ‘wine and dine’ experience.
Whispering Brook in the tranquil Broke region is one such vineyard. With its colonial-style cellar door and winery, and plantings of olive groves and grapes, Whispering Brook offers handmade merlot, shiraz, rosé, blanc de blancs and semillon, as well as kalamata olives bottled on-site and its own extra virgin olive oil.
Sydney-based owners Susan Frazier and Adam Bell are passionate winemakers. They have spent the past decade studying winemaking (both have just completed a Bachelor of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University) and building up their boutique business. “This year is our first vintage on-site,” Susan says. “We built our winery in 2008 and just fitted it out in time for the 2010 vintage.”
During the Hunter’s many food and wine festivals, small wineries such as Whispering Brook run special gourmet events. About 100 diners joined Susan and Adam for their Olive Long Table Lunch on the final weekend of the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Month in June. Diners enjoyed a sumptuous three-course meal with a 12-hour braised rosemary lamb shoulder with sourdough and tarragon stuffing and red wine jus as its centrepiece.
Prior to lunch Susan and Adam led diners on an olive grove and vineyard tour. They explained the soil types on their 10-hectare property, with its terra rossa soils for its prized premium reds and sections of sandy loam soils that are ideal for producing white wines. “We recently grafted a Portuguese wine style, Touriga Nacional, onto 10-year-old Shiraz vines,” Susan says. “As far as we are aware, no one else is doing that in the Hunter. We are really looking forward to our first vintage in 2011.”
Around Broke, it’s not unusual to meet winery owners if you drop in for a tasting at a cellar door or restaurant. According to president of the Broke Fordwich Wine and Tourism Association, Philip Tout, there’s a 70 percent chance you will meet the owner if you knock on a cellar door in Broke. “Susan and Adam are great examples of boutique Hunter winemakers,” he says. “They are passionate, family-owned small operators who create a business out of love.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #72

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sept 2010