THE Iris Capital group of Sydney hotelier and developer Sam Arnaout aims to return the historic Dalwood-Wyndham wine estate at Branxton to its glory days as a venue for celebrity concerts, family gatherings, wine sales, weddings and social and corporate events.
Sam told me that he saw an exciting future for what is recognised as Australia’s oldest continuous winegrowing site.
Iris Capital was restoring the Hunter River frontage property, with its beautiful winery buildings, vineyard, tasting cellars, picnic grounds, restaurants and function rooms, so it could be reopened to the public.
The vineyard at Dalwood-Wyndham had yielded 200 tonnes of high-quality 2017 vintage semillon, chardonnay and shiraz grapes and the wines produced would be sold under a yet-to-be-determined brand name, at the 1 Broke Rd, Pokolbin, Hungerford Hill cellar door and reopened Branxton cellar door, he said.
The wines will be made by Bryan Currie as senior winemaker and general manager for the Hungerford Hill and Sweetwater brands. Bryan previously had 18 years as Calabria Family Wines chief winemaker and McWilliam’s winemaking manager.
The Branxton property surrounds Dalwood House, the original 1828 National Trust-listed family home of George Wyndham, who – by virtue of his Branxton plantings – is credited with establishing Australia’s first commercial shiraz vineyard.
The giant French Pernod Ricard group acquired the estate in 1990 in its $73 million takeover of Brian McGuigan’s Wyndham Estate company. It shut the estate down in 2014 and it remained in limbo until its sale to Iris Capital last December at a reported price of $3 million.
The deal added to Iris’s burgeoning Hunter wine empire, born in July 2016 with the 48-hectare Sweetwater estate in Sweetwater Rd, Rothbury, and was followed up last November with the prestigious Broke Rd, Hungerford Hill complex.
The purchase from James Kirby gave Iris the wine brand, 300-tonne crush capacity winery, vineyard, function rooms and leased Muse Restaurant.
Also last November Iris Capital bought Newcastle CBD’s 1.66-hectare Hunter St Mall site, extending over two city blocks from the old David Jones building to the corner of Newcomen Street.
Sam Arnaout said Sweetwater brand wines from grapes grown on the 16-hectare Sweetwater vineyard would be an important part of his wine portfolio, along with Hungerford Hill wines from the Hunter and emerging regions such as Hilltops and Tumbarumba.