CHANGE is in the air at Hungerford Hill with a new owner possible soon and Adrian Lockhart ending his three-year stint as general manager and senior winemaker at the landmark Broke Road, Pokolbin, winery.
The 22-hectare site, with its vineyard, winery, cellar door, function rooms and leased restaurant, is on sale through Jurd’s Real Estate at a reported asking price of $6 million.
Hungerford Hill brand dates back to 1967 and was bought from Southcorp in 2002 by James Kirby and family, founders of the James N. Kirby refrigeration and engineering group. Having acquired the brand, the Kirbys gave it a home by buying what was then the One Broke Road property from former McDonald’s senior executive Tim Tighe.
The property’s landmark building, designed by Walter Barda to look like a wine barrel with lid raised, has become a magnet for gourmet diners visiting Troy and Megan Rhoades-Brown’s two-hatted Muse Restaurant.
James Kirby told me last week that sale negotiations were continuing with an interested party and the Hungerford Hill operations were under the control of pro tem winemaker Scott Comyns. Scott, 35, who this year launched his Comyns and Co brand with seven 2016 wines, had loads of experience with multi-regional winemaking as chief winemaker at Australian Vintage Ltd’s Tempus Two arm and later at Dr John Davis’s Pepper Tree group. James Kirby said future winemaking appointments at Hungerford Hill would be up to a new owner. He said he had enjoyed his time at the Hungerford Hill helm and was proud of its quality wines.
Adrian Lockhart, one of Australia’s most experienced winemakers, has moved to consult on the establishment of a new winery in New Zealand’s Marlborough area. He earned a fine reputation with his multi-regional Hungerford Hill wines and, before his departure, created an intriguing brand called The Underground Project - only available on-line at theundergroundproject.com.au and on a Facebook store. The name relates to Hungerford Hill’s first cellar door underground at what is now Hunter Valley Gardens and its underground winery at Broke Rd.
The black and white labels have slabs of redacted type and the five inaugural wines come from Tumbarumba, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and the Barossa. They are The Underground Project 2014 McLaren Vale Shiraz ($45), the 2014 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon ($45), the 2014 Barossa Shiraz ($40), the 2015 Tumbarumba Pinot Noir ($35) and the $35 2015 Tumbarumba Chardonnay, reviewed below.