Wine | Huntington degustation a delight | John Lewis

PERFECT BLEND: Tim Stevens, from Huntington Estate wines, speaks with Professor Fred Walla and Dr Heather Walla at a winemaker's lunch at Restaurant Mason in Newcastle. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers
PERFECT BLEND: Tim Stevens, from Huntington Estate wines, speaks with Professor Fred Walla and Dr Heather Walla at a winemaker's lunch at Restaurant Mason in Newcastle. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers

IN my 41 years of writing wine columns, I’ve had countless degustation lunches and dinners aimed at matching food and wine – but sadly some seemed like chefs were waging a war of one-upmanship on winemakers.

I recall a Sydney event in which one tasting bracket was served with a martini glass containing deer fur, venison, pork, morels and chestnuts and another that offered Sichuan-cured duck with hot chocolate sauce.

It’s pleasing, therefore, to report on a degustation lunch in little ol’ Newcastle where there was exceptional harmony. And for that the 35 folk attending Hunter Street’s Restaurant Mason can thank Mudgee’s Huntington Estate owner-chief winemaker Tim Stevens and Mason chef-proprietor Chris Thornton.

The first course of scallops, asparagus, finger lime and chive and butter sauce was an ideal match for the Huntington 2017 Semillon and 2016 Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay. The second course 2016 Grenache and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon were in tune with the quail, roasted mulberries and bitter chocolate second course and the Huntington 2013 Special Reserve Shiraz and 2013 Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon were perfect foils for the Pukara Estate lamb, confit potato, black garlic and greens of the third course. The 2015 Late Harvest Semillon teamed nicely with the Brillat Savarin cheesecake with apricot, orange and cardamom ice cream. My wine of the day was the $39 2013 Special Reserve Shiraz.

The Newcastle September 30 lunch was one a series in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Wollongong and Katoomba staged by Tim and his wife Nicky for the mail order clients that are so essential to their cellar door, online and mail order-dependent operation.

Huntington was established in 1969 on a run-down orchard by Sydney lawyer-turned-winemaker Bob Roberts and wife Wendy, who made it a Mudgee icon for its wines and annual Huntington Music Festival. The chamber music event, now in its 28th year, has been embraced by Tim and Nicky, a former UK Unilever executive who is Huntington general manager and festival organiser.

Tim was raised a Queensland cattle property, but chose a career as a rural journalist and later as a Canberra parliamentary press gallery reporter. Driven by a love of Mudgee reds and especially of Huntington Estate, Tim did a Charles Sturt University wine course, quit journalism and in 1996 bought Abercorn vineyard and winery in Mudgee, next-door to Huntington. In 2005, when Bob Roberts wanted to retire, Tim and Nicky added the prized brand to their portfolio.

WINE REVIEWS

TOPLINE MUDGEE SHIRAZ

THIS lovely Huntington Estate 2013 Special Reserve Shiraz has 14.7% alcohol, inky purple hues and enticing berry pastille scents. Intense, ripe plum flavour rolls onto the front of the palate, blackcurrant, Turkish delight chocolate, cloves and mocha oak chime in on the middle palate and smooth dusty tannins home in at the finish. PRICE: $39. DRINK WITH: lamb crown roast. AGEING: 15 years.

RATING: 5 stars

SOFTER-STYLE SEMILLON

THE Huntington Estate 2017 Semillon is green-tinted straw and has orange blossom scents and ruby grapefruit front-palate flavour. Nashi pear and lemon butter and toast characters show on the middle palate and the finish has flinty acid. Huntington wines are at huntingtonestate.com.au, 1800 995 931 and the Ulan Rd, Mudgee, winery. PRICE: $25. DRINK WITH: seafood risotto. AGEING: seven years.

RATING: 4 stars

CABSAV OF GREAT VALUE

HERE’S great value drinking in this Huntington Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon with its 14.3% alcohol, deep purple hues and cherry and potpourri aromas. The front of the palate introduces vibrant blackberry flavour, the middle palate brings forth rhubarb, spearmint, spice and savoury oak and ferric tannins come through at the finish. PRICE: $26. DRINK WITH: duck a l’orange. AGEING: 12 years.

RATING: 4.5 stars