Hunter Valley Day Trip: Keith Tulloch Wine, Muse Kitchen and Cocoa Nib

The Hunter Valley is one of our favourite places for a roadtrip because it is such a wonderful area for foodies to explore. On our most recent trip up to the Hunter with a few other lovely bloggers, we visited the picturesque Keith Tulloch Wine estate at Pokolbin and were treated to quite an immersive foodie experience with Keith Tulloch himself, a passionate fourth-generation Hunter Valley winemaker from the famous Tulloch family who founded Keith Tulloch Wines in 1997.

From the moment we stepped off our shuttle bus after a 2.5 hour ride from Sydney, we were impressed by the beautifully designed estate, which was overseen by Keith Tulloch’s wife Amanda when the buildings on the estate were opened in 2011. From the meticulously manicured lawn courtyard, to the contemporary farmhouse building which houses the winery itself and the grand white building where the cellar door and Cocoa Nib chocolatier is located, the vibe is all understated elegance and a modern interpretation of country chic.

We started with a tour of the grounds, taking a walk through the rows of grape vines planted in 1969 and learning about the processes that Keith Tulloch Wine utilise to ensure that the vines are kept in top notch condition so that they can continue to age and hopefully eventually become prized “centurion vines”. Keith Tulloch Wine is a boutique sized winery and they do all the harvesting by hand, which is pretty impressive in this day and age.

Next we’re taken to the luxe looking wooden farmhouse building which houses the state of the art winery itself. It looks so nice from the outside that I’m a bit surprised to see all the industrial equipment inside when we step through! Keith walked us through the typical process of what happens to the grapes after they’re harvested (de-stemmed, crushed, pressed and then put into barrels). We marvel at the technology before learning a bit more about the oak barrels themselves, which are sourced from French forests and each impart their own particular characteristics into the wine as it ages in the barrel. Some of the barrels hold up to 600L of wine!

With all these variable elements which affect the wine (weather, climate, soil, harvesting time, fermentation and oaking), there’s a lot of trial and error and chemistry going on to create the wonderful wines that we end up enjoying. To show us how the wines develop in the barrel, we try a 2013 Kester Shiraz (their flagship wine) which is still a work in progress, straight from the barrel. The Shiraz is medium-bodied and while it is definitely still developing its flavour profile, the wine is showing promise as it has some silkiness to it.

We leave the air-conditioned winery and then head over to the main building, where the cellar door is located upstairs. But first, we take a peek into the members only Vinum Cellarium room which has a classy yet cosy vibe thanks to the plush armchairs around a fireplace and a sense of history about the place with a 1969 black and white photo of the plot of land which the estate sits on, mounted on the wall.

The tasting room is just off from the cellar door and has an inviting long wooden table, featuring views of the courtyard and the majestic Brokenback Mountain range. We take our seats as Keith starts off our wine tasting with a pair of Semillons, which the Hunter Valley is famed for. First up is a 2014 Semillon, an early harvest with has zesty notes of lime and lemon which tastes quite pure and is recommended for fresh seafood without any garnishings. We contrast this fresh Semillon with one from 2007, which has a honeyed taste from the ageing and has more “mouth feel” with a heavier consistency as you drink it down. The older Semillon goes well with garnished seafood.

 2007 Semillon

By the time we start on our next pair of white wines, the food from the one-hatted Muse Kitchen restaurant on site has been served by head chef and owner Troy Rhoades-Brown. It’s a beautiful spread, including creamy Pea and Pecorino Croquettes with an addictive aioli, which went well with the 2014 Hunter Chardonnay’s bright, vibrant flavours of peach and green apple. The other Chardonnay we sampled was the 2013 ‘Gairne Vineyard’ from Tumbarumba, which is one of the highest Australian wine producing regions near Mount Kosciuzsko. The 2013 Tumbarumba Chardonnay tasted more like lemons and was more acidic in my opinion, complementing the refreshing Spring Garden Salad of beans and peas with a white wine vinaigrette which fulfilled our greens quota for the meal.

Pea and Pecorino Croquettes

Spring Garden Salad

The next pair of whites turned out to be my favourites – the smooth, silky 2014 PERDIEM Pinot Gris which was soft and mellow, and the sweet 2014 PERDIEM Semi-Dry Semillon which had hints of lychee and guava and is perfect for cocktail drinkers easing into wines. Both went down very easily. We had the lovely 2014 PERDIEM Rose to help us transition from the whites to the reds; the vibrant raspberry and strawberry flavours really shone through in the Rose to make it very easy drinking. Onto the reds proper, we learn that all of the reds in Keith Tulloch’s range have some shiraz in them – not surprising considering they’re Keith’s great love.

Pork Terrine

The slivers of richly flavoured Pork Terrine tempered with some sweet raisins and pistachios complement the 2013 Shiraz, which contains 5% Viognier, giving the wine a more polished, velvety flavour. The 2013 Forres Blend was one of my favourite reds, blending premium Cabernet Sauvignon from around Australia with Shiraz to create a rich, elegant wine with some herbal notes which make it a good pairing with the wafer thin slivers of spicy Australian Salami.

Salami

Then out came a pair of beautiful reds from the Family collection, both Shiraz naturally – the flagship 2011 Kester Shiraz, named for Keith’s maternal great grandmother’s maiden name, which has some deep plum and ripe cherry flavours and the “feminine” 2013 ‘The Wife’ Shiraz dedicated to Keith’s other half Amanda, with a lovely perfume wafting from it as we pick up the glass to taste it. These wines went wonderfully with the incredible Potted Duck Liver Pate which we just couldn’t get enough of – an indulgent, creamy spread that wasn’t too overpowering and was absolutely divine on the crunchy mini slices of bread.

Potted Duck Liver Pate

For dessert, we popped downstairs to Cocoa Nib which is a bright, airy store full of gorgeous artisan chocolate delights handcrafted by Amy, a former pastry chef with a penchant for Swiss chocolate. We’re dazzled by the selection of chocolates on offer – the more exotic flavours include French Lavender Honey and Kalamansi Lime, while she also does a range infused with Dilmah teas (in collaboration with the famous tea brand), such as the zesty Earl Grey and Lemon Jelly and the delectable French Vanilla Rose Tea and Mandarin! The sweetness doesn’t end with just the chocolates, we wash it all down with the honeyed notes of the 2012 Botrytis Semillon which even has hints of crème brulee in its bouquet of sweet flavours.

Handmade artisan chocolates

2012 Botrytis Semillon

We had a memorable foodie experience at Keith Tulloch Wine, thanks to the friendly Tulloch family who made us feel so welcome at their beautiful estate and generously shared their depth of knowledge about the winemaking process and the interaction between wine and food so that we can better appreciate the complexities of matching them. A perfect way to spend a Saturday by getting away from Sydney for a day and treating yourself to a day of good food, good wine and good company. There’s even a gorgeous 2 bedroom apartment on the estate called the Manager’s Quarters which you can book if you want to spend a night on the estate after all that deliciousness!

Excuse Me Waiter visited and dined as guests of Keith Tulloch Wine

Keith Tulloch Wine
Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320
(02) 4998 7500

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