Rural no more – wineries on the move to the city
We all love a trip to the great winery areas, but now the wineries are starting to move to the city. It’s never been easier to pop down the road to the winery in Sydney! We decide to put on our explorer hats and check out these relatively recent arrivals.
Handpicked Wines, Chippendale
I suggest you wander down cobblestoned Kensington St, past all those lovely purveyors of food, to the cellar door of Handpicked Wines. Enter a beautiful space of old brick and new glass, soaring ceilings and designer gloss. It is broken up into a tasting bar, wine lounge, experience room and shop – something for everyone.
We get a warm welcome from Lissa, who is taking us through the wine tasting at the “sensory bar”. Handpicked have their own vineyards and also buy in grapes from other regions to make the breadth of wines that they want. They use the word ‘curate’ a lot. It’s clearly working for them as they are a James Halliday 5 star winery!
But enough about that, we’re getting thirsty in here. Lissa is taking us “off menu”. First up are two 2013 rieslings, one from Clare valley and one from Eden Valley. Very different to each other, the Eden Valley one is far more flinty, but both are lovely. OK, let’s try some chardonnays. There’s a 2015 Collection Chardonnay from Mornington Peninsular, and a Single Vineyard 2015 from Mornington Peninsula (my favourite). Then add a 2011 Margaret River Chardonnay as a real contrast, older and clearly from a hotter climate. So we indulge in some more Chardy – both 2013 from the Yarra Valley, one Collection and one Single Vineyard Highbrow Hill, fantastic!
Not finished yet
We veer into other territory, with a Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, a Yarra Vally Marsanne and a Yarra Valley rose – the Marsanne and the Rose definitely peaked my interest. Right, it must be time for some reds. Pinot Noir to be exact, and Handpicked have a great range of Pinot Noir. The variety between the 2015 Mornington Peninsular Collection, the 2015 Mornington Peninsular Single Vineyard, the 2013 Mornington Peninsular Collection, the 2012 Central Otago Collection, and the 2013 Tasmania Collection is quite amazing, all expressing their differences in age and terroir.
To make sense of it all, on yet another day of heatwave, we retire to the Bar Lounge and the comfy lounges. Ordering a glass of our favourite pinot noirs from the tasting, we tuck into a selection of charcuterie plus a Tallegio cheese, all supplied by the formidable Formaggi Ocello. We stick our noses into the experience room, which has the trappings of a working winery but doesn’t look like it’s actually been used yet, maybe that will come later. All in all, a great cellar door in the city with its vineyards spread far and wide. Now it’s time to check out the second one.
Urban Winery, St Peters
Founded through crowdfunding, located in a creative precinct in the inner west, this place sounds thoroughly hipster before we even try it. We ditch the plan to catch the train, due to the combined heatwave and gale force wind, and grab an airconditioned uber. Although the offical address is 75 Mary St, St Peters, it’s easier to find it from the other side, at 70 Edith St, St Peters. Come in at the Precinct 75 sign at 70 Edith St, and in 20 metres turn right at the T intersection. The winery is 20m ahead on the left, and is the home to Alex Retief Wines. If you’re interested, there are glimpses of all sorts of interesting creative ventures going on in other buildings in the precinct as well.
And so we walk into a working winery, with a cosy area off to the side with a bar, couches and tables. It’s industrial and proud off it, yet still gives out a comfy, local vibe. Think big soaring tin shed full of wine barrels! There’s a scattering of customers here tonight, happy ensconced in the armchairs, including a baby and a very cute sausage dog.
Our tasting host tonight has already worked a full shift in the winery today, but still retains great enthusiasm to show off these wines and answer all our questions. We launch into the A. Retief Tumbarumba sauvignon blanc 2014, an interesting barrel fermented version. Then it’s the big round fruity taste of the Tumbarumba 2014 chardonnay, which goes down very pleasurably. Ditto with the 2013 Gundagai bio-dynamic rosé, one to enjoy all summer long.
Moving to the reds, we dive into the “Alias” Hilltops Mataro 2013. A.Retief describes it as “almost like a more powerful Pinot…” and while I enjoy it, I can’t see any resemblance to a good pinot noir in it. The 2013 bio-dynamic Gundegai Shiraz has an unusual but pleasant eucalyptus note in its flavour, but the tannins were a bit too soft for me. Whereas the 2015 Gundegai Tempranillo is a beautiful mix of deep fruit and fine tannins. It’s the one I want to settle into one of the armchairs with a whole bottle of. As we taste, we’ve been enjoying a delicious charcuterie platter as well, so feeling very well wined and dined.
And so much more
There’s a lot more happening at Urban Winery as well, including blended masterclasses, tours, tutored tastings, yoga nights, long lunches and private events. And it’s not just A.Retief wines that get made here, other young winemakers can also use the facility to make their wine too. What I really hope to be coming back for in the future are the monthly producer events, matching wonderful produce with A.Retief wines, and the Chef & Winemaker long table lunches on Sundays. Delicious.