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JOHN ROZENTALS can only praise youthful exuberance as Laura and Anthony take on the challenge of Stonehurst

January 15, 2018 Beverage, Headline News No Comments Email Email

For Laura Heslop and her fiancée Anthony Shaw, the looming 2018 vintage at Stonehurst Cedar Creek will provide a challenging baptism of fire.

The young couple officially too over management of the Wollombi winemaking property from Laura’s parents, Daryl and Phillipa, only on January 1 and estimate that their first harvest will start coming in towards the end of this month.

That’s when Stonehurst normally picks the chardonnay for its sparkling base, but this coming vintage they intend picking their table-wine chardonnay at the same time, which would be a good two-to-three weeks earlier than normal.

Wollombi’s harvest is normally about three weeks later than that at Pokolbin, 40 kilometres or so to the north-east, and that area has already started picking chardonnay for table wines.

And for good measure, Laura and Anthony are also in the throes of building a new cellar door so that they can turn the existing one into a wedding venue. Ah, the energy and enthusiasm of youth.

They have, however, taken over some excellent vineyard — about eight hectares of hand-tended chardonnay, semillon, shiraz and chambourcin vines on the rich alluvial soils of a sheltered valley floor.

And they have also inherited a very smart range of wines, including some excellent aged semillon which I have previously reviewed.

Also, a few words of warning about serving wine in the current summer heat.

Normal Australian fridge temperature is probably okay for most sparkling wine, but is generally a couple of degrees too cold to fully appreciate the aroma of dry whites. Refrigerate them sparingly.

And room temperature for dry reds? Certainly not in most cases unless you really enjoy the assault of raw alcohol on the bouquet. I’d suggest cooling the bottles in the fridge to about 15ºC before serving.

Finally, don’t be too pretentious and do throw a couple of ice cubes into your glass if it makes drinking more enjoyable on really hot days.


En Saison 2015 Rosé ($18): This delightful dry rosé hails from the Languedoc Rousillon region of southern France and is great on its own or with a simple, light salad-based dish. The delicate flavours are redolent of red berries, and there’s a bit of a citrus tang to the wine as well. I gather that rosé is a real growth sector of the Australian wine market. And so it should, given that it’s a natural match for our lifestyle through much of the country for much of the year.

Shaw Vineyard Estate 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz ($30): Blending scarce cabernet sauvignon with plentiful shiraz may initially have been an act of necessity in Australia, but the blend has proven well worthy of a place in our range of styles. The full middle palate of shiraz seems to perfectly fill cabernet’s notorious mid-palate hole and the flavours match well, too, providing a heady mix of the herbaceous and spicy. I tend towards lamb as the natural food match.


Stonehurst 2014 Shiraz ($35): A classic Hunter Valley red from a vintage described as the best of the past 50 years. Like the best Hunter shiraz this a medium-bodied dry red rather than a Barossa-style blockbuster. But it does have real substance and is just beginning to show the benefits of bottle maturation. Look for intriguing spicy and dark-berry characters, and match with something like the finest Italian-inspired red-sauced veal dish.

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