At the base of the picturesque Mount View is Briar Ridge Vineyard. The vineyard and winery has been producing distinctive Hunter Valley wines since 1972 and, like many of the drops it produces, it is only getting better with age.
When the first vines were planted in 1972 by Murray Robson it was known as Squire Vineyard. It was only when John Davis, a doctor with a keen interest in viticulture, came on board that the property took on the now-renowned name, Briar Ridge. The property now makes up a third of John’s vineyards with additional vines located nearby in Orange, and further afield in Wrattonbully on the Limestone Coast.
With John dividing his time between the vineyards, he has enlisted the help of Chief Winemaker, Gwyn Olsen. Gwyn’s name precedes her; after studying oenology at university she moved to Europe, completing her first vintage in France. She completed a further six vintages in New Zealand before heading back to Australia and the Hunter Valley. After being named dux of the Australian Wine Research Institute’s Advanced Wine Assessment Course she went on to take out the Young Australian Winemaker of the Year award.
Gwyn is also joined by Karl Stockhausen. Karl is a living legend, with more than 50 years experience in the Hunter Valley, and half of those with Briar Ridge. It’s no wonder that under the guidance of these two wine gurus Briar Ridge has achieved a James Halliday ve star rating for four consecutive years.
The pair focuses on crafting high quality wines that express the true characteristics of the Hunter Valley. The Briar’s Hill vineyard faces south with well-drained sandy loam soils. While crop yields are relatively low, this produces an excellent concentration of flavour in the fruit.
A visit to Briar Ridge’s Cellar Door will make you feel immediately at home. Just ask the enthusiastic staff to talk you through their flagship wines. For a true Hunter Valley wine, have a sip or two from the single vineyard range. While you can enjoy these beauties now, if you can resist temptation, take a few home with you to cellar – time will reward you with a magnificent wine.
If you can only take home one bottle, it would have to be the Briar Hill Single Vineyard Chardonnay. This drop packs a lot into the glass with intense fruit flavours from bright peach notes to crunchy white nectarine for acidity. Nutty characteristics and a judicious use of oak provide structure and length. It’s the perfect accompaniment for game meat, such as rabbit.
A visit to Briar Ridge wouldn’t be complete without a gourmet tasting platter. Not only are the platters the perfect accompaniment to any of the wines on offer, they also provide the chance to enjoy some of the finest local cheeses and condiments from around the region. For a more substantial meal, the restaurant offers a menu packed full of seasonal produce from around the region. Before you leave make sure you take the chance to relax on the verandah with a hot cup of coffee made using premium, locally roasted beans.
Briar Ridge is the perfect example of what can happen when two wine legends come together. Come and taste the difference.