IN coming weeks two of the Hunter’s most engaging boutique wine ventures – Gartelmann and Catherine Vale – will celebrate their 20th anniversaries.
The charming Catherine Vale vineyard was created by school teachers Bill and Wendy Lawson on a citrus orchard and cropping property in Milbrodale Rd, Bulga.
While still living in Sydney, Bill and Wendy began planting a vineyard, trekking at weekends and holidays to tend the vines and to keep the resident kangaroos from eating the young shoots.
At the end of 1994 Bill, a popular sports master and Mr Chips figure at Knox College, and Wendy, a swimming teacher for special education students, took early retirement and moved to Bulga, initially into a couple of caravans.
They produced their first vintage in 1997 and over the years proved themselves producers of interesting, diverse boutique wines and active participants in the Broke-Fordwich community. Sadly, as the 2016 vintage began, Bill died at 78 from esophageal cancer, leaving Wendy to carry on the business with the help of family, friends and neighbours.
The Catherine Vale 20th vintage anniversary will be marked by a free lunch and tasting from noon on Sunday, March 26. People planning to attend are asked to RSVP on 02 6579 1334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gartelmann operation in Lovedale Rd, Lovedale, owes its existence to Jorg Gartelmann suffering a heart attack, undergoing by-pass surgery and waking up one morning in 1996 deciding he wanted to own a vineyard rather than run a Sydney computer business.
He was backed by wife Jan, an lady imbued with a spirit of adventure that had taken her to live in Italy from 1974 to 1988 and to work in Milan for the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Jorg and Jan quit Sydney later in 1996 after buying part of the George Hunter Estate established by Sydney’s Summit Restaurant owner Oliver Shaul. Although Jorg’s and Jan’s previous wine experience was limited to quaffing off many a good bottle, they soon became in tune with the Hunter wine business.
The Gartelmanns’ first vintage was produced in 1997 and today the wines are made under contract by ace First Creek chief winemaker Liz Jackson from bought-in Hunter, Mudgee and Orange grapes scouted out by Jorg’s experienced eyes, nose and taste buds.
Jorg and Jan will celebrate their 20th vintage with a dinner on Saturday, April 22, to which they have invited family, friends and wine industry folk who have supported them over the years.