Summer Newsletter 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017



We absolutely pushed ourselves this year to deliver some of our most exciting wines, experiences, and developments to date. With the year now drawing to a close, I finally feel as though we can come up for some air!

2017 will go down as the most significant in the history of our brand. It started with a brutally hot, but high-quality, vintage in the Hunter, which then led into harvests of similar calibre in the Yarra Valley, Hilltops, and Canberra regions. All the while, we were putting the finishing touches on our new cellar door development in Gundaroo; the Gundog Cork St. Cellar. When the doors opened in April, we became the first boutique winery in Australia to operate two cellar door facilities some 400km’s apart!* The development is a significant milestone for the brand, and illustrates our commitment to both the Hunter and Canberra regions. Read more about the Cork St. Cellar below.

By July, the wine show circuit was in full swing. Highlights included our very first Canberra District Riesling claiming a GOLD medal at the Winewise Small Vigneron Awards, where our 2017 ‘The Chase’ Semillon found even more success and went on to win a TROPHY for the best young Semillon of show.

Wine show success flowed into a broader critical acclaim for our wines throughout the remainder of the year. Our 2017 ‘The Chase’ Semillon, along with both 2016 Burton McMahon Chardonnay's, grabbed Huon Hooke’s attention and posted cracking 93-point reviews in his weekly Real Review Newsletter. However, he was even more impressed with our 2016 Estate Shiraz, which was awarded a Gundog record-high 95-point rating and, at the time of writing, is currently his #1 rated 2016 Shiraz in the country! (

The 2018 edition of James Halliday’s Wine Companion delivered some very humbling results. Aside from retaining our much coveted FIVE RED STAR winery rating (placing us in the top 8.3% of wineries), an extraordinary 11 current release Gundog wines were rated 95 points or above! Gundog produced 3 of the top 26 rated Semillons, and our Marksman’s Shiraz was one of only 3 from the Canberra District to make the “best of list” for the variety on a stellar 97 points.

The year of unprecedented critical acclaim would finish on another high, with a brilliant review of our ground-breaking 2017 INDOMITUS ROSA featured in Max Allen’s Top 20 Drinks for 2017, published in the Financial Review Magazine in early December. You can read more about this wine below.

Continually looking at new ways of engaging with our customers and friends, this year saw the introduction of three new event locations, and a new event format. In July, we headed up to Brisbane and dined at Malt, where our QLD members got the very first look at the 2014 SINGLE VINEYARD SERIES. In August, the winery provided a wonderful backdrop to a four-course lunch, prepared by the brilliant Andy Wright from the Cellar Restaurant, and again featured the SINGLE VINEYARD SERIES. When the weather warmed up, we went POOLSIDE in Sydney at the Andrew Boy Charlton pool. Here, we offered a more casual way for members to explore the wines by spreading the range across multiple tasting stations, alongside canapes which were served throughout the evening. The format was such a success, we applied it to our very first event at the Cork St. Cellar, where guests enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of food, wine, and music! We’ve put together a few photos from this year’s events toward the end of the newsletter.


On behalf of the Gundog Estate Team, I would like to wish you all a very safe and merry Christmas. We wish you all the best for the New Year, and can’t thank you enough for your support in 2017. Hopefully we will see you for a glass of wine in 2018!

Matt Burton

*This claim is made to the best of our knowledge!


It’s hard to believe another vintage is just around the corner!

Despite the very dry start to Spring, the vineyards are looking brilliant in both the Hunter Valley and Canberra. Recent rains have allowed the vines to establish healthy canopies, and yields look promising in both areas. Disease pressure remains low, particularly in the Hunter. Again, our focus will be on Semillon and Shiraz, but we are also planning to produce another Riesling and, of course, our ever-popular Rosé. Fingers crossed the favourable conditions prevail for the next three months!

Incidentally, we are just starting to bottle the first of our 2017 reds, and have been incredibly impressed with the diversity of style on offer. On the back of the very warm and dry 2017 Summer, the Hunter has delivered the most concentrated wines that I have yet seen from the region, serving as a nice counterpoint to the more elegant style of Shiraz that we’ve produced from Canberra and Hilltops this year. These regions experienced a cooler end to Summer and, relative to recent years, a more normal harvest date. Stay tuned for release dates in the New Year!


The Gundog Cork St. Cellar in Gundaroo is now open!

Since we threw open the doors in April, we have enjoyed incredible support from local wine club members and Gundaroo residents - thank you!

In November, we hosted our first Cork St. tasting event. With canapes and spit-roast pork rolls, prepared by the talented Kurt Neumann and team from GRAZING restaurant, the event featured some very exciting new releases, including the 2016 Marksman’s Shiraz, and the hotly anticipated 2014 Single Vineyard Series Semillons and Shiraz’. We plan on hosting monthly events at the cellar door from February, so stay tuned for your invitation!

For those who are yet to visit, the Cork St. Cellar is situated in the historic stone stables behind GRAZING restaurant (which we highly recommend for lunch or dinner), in Gundaroo. Visitors to the cellar door have the opportunity to taste through our award-winning range of wines, including a Cork St. exclusive- the 2017 Canberra District Riesling. We offer delicious cheese and charcuterie plates to complement your tasting, along with Toby’s Estate Coffee, and are open Thursday to Sunday.


Our Cork St. team; Sara, Deb, Kalyx and Josie, look forward to welcoming you soon! For group bookings, please email or phone 02 6236 8276.


The 2014 Hunter vintage has gone down as one of the greats.

It was quite unlike any other I have experienced, and served as a great source of creative inspiration in the winery. Amongst the new blends and alternative styles we developed, I also made the decision to individually process, ferment, and mature six parcels of fruit that would form a new range of Single Vineyard wines.
The concept was simple; select the highest quality parcels of Semillon and Shiraz coming into the winery, and give each identical (as much as practically possible) winemaking treatments. The resulting wines would then serve as individual expressions of the vineyard, variety, and this extraordinary season. Differences between the personalities of the wines would be a function of these factors, and not as a result of my hand as a winemaker.
The wine show success of the entire range has been outstanding, despite the limited number entered. On their first outing, the Somerset Semillon claimed an equal Top Gold Medal at the Royal Queensland Wine Show, with the Sunshine Vineyard also winning a Gold Medal on 95 points. Along with the Vernon Semillon, they then went on to win a total of one Trophy, five Gold, and eight silver medals over 2014 and 2015. At the 2015 Hunter Valley Wine Show, the Old Road and 48 Block Shiraz would each claim Gold Medals.

Critical acclaim from media has been even more impressive. The wines have drawn incredible praise, and some of our highest ever scores, from James Halliday, Andrew Graham, Grant Dodd, Max Allen, and David Brooks to name a few.

The wines were released on December 1, just prior to their fourth birthday. Given the limited production (100 dozen of each), and the philosophy behind the range, they are only available to purchase in mixed three bottle packs (i.e. white or red) from the Hunter Cellar Door, or online. If you are planning a visit to the Hunter, be sure to make the time to come in and try this landmark new range!



It’s fair to say we are just a little bit excited about our very first Canberra District Riesling! Producing a Riesling has been something we’ve talked about for years and, with our Cork St. Cellar recently opened in Gundaroo, the time was right. We were lucky enough to get our hands on just a few tons of fruit from the talented guys over at the Four Winds Vineyard, which we hand-picked, and promptly delivered to our winery in the Hunter, via a refrigerated truck. In the winery, I took a similar approach to our Semillon, with only the first 500 litres per ton of free-run juice used, which was twice fined and racked, prior to fermentation with a neutral yeast (DV10). Stylistically, I sought absolute purity of fruit expression, and with a line of natural acidity to die for, we ended up having to do very little to the wine post-ferment. In fact, I’m not sure I could ask for better numbers; a pH of 2.94 and TA of 7.3 g/L, in careful balance with an alcohol of 11.7% and a residual sugar of 4.1 g/L. Amazing stuff, and a true credit to John Collingwood and the guys at Four Winds.



Our most “classical styled” Semillon, is all about precision and purity. This year’s release is produced from fruit grown at the Somerset Vineyard in Pokolbin, predominately from a 1969 planting, set over an old creek bed that runs through the property. Having worked with this vineyard, and block, for several years now, I have developed an appreciation for how well it produces Semillon of considerable power and intensity, whilst maintaining finesse, line, and precision. Our production techniques for this style of Semillon generally only see minor revisions year-to-year; we only use the very lightest of extracted juice (around 450-500 litres per ton), twice-fine and settle, and then ferment cool with a neutral yeast. Following fermentation, the wine is racked from heavy lees, and then allowed to mature slightly cloudy in tank for four months to flesh out and bring a sense of cohesiveness to the palate. Very little fining is required before bottling, as what little phenolic content that remains in the wine is complementary to the shape and structure (at least I think so!).

(Best one or two-year-old Semillon)



The evolution of this innovative wine continues with the 2017 release. A warm season delivered two parcels of Semillon with particularly strong flavour and phenolic attributes, making them the ideal foundations on which to build the Wild Semillon. The first parcel arrived from the dry grown Vernon vineyard in Mount View at 11.5 Baume. The balance would come from the central Pokolbin Mount Bright Vineyard, owned by the Tinkler family, at 11.3 Baume. We then divided the volumes; a wild fermentation on skins (14%), another two parcels pressed and then wild fermented cloudy at ambient temperatures, and the balance pressed, settled and fermented as clean juice, with some ferments arrested early. The Wild Semillon blend is probably best described as an assemblage; where we bring together seemingly disparate elements to craft an enticing, even exotic, style of Hunter Valley Semillon which offers the drinker an array of aromas, flavours, and textures that aren’t usually associated with the variety. The challenge is getting the pieces to fit in such a way as to deliver a seamless drinking experience, with the key elements of phenolics, acidity, alcohol, and sweetness working in harmony. I always think this style of Semillon works best in warm / hot seasons like 2017, where the fruit has enough depth of flavour and frame to carry the skins and cloudy ferment elements.


2017 ROSE

For the first time, we included Shiraz (25%) in our Rosé which, until 2017, was produced exclusively from Cabernet Sauvignon. Now working with fruit from growers in Gundaroo, Yass, and Murrumbateman, the blend has expanded in volume, but also quality (at least to my taste!). Skin contact was around 24 hours on most parcels, and pressed juice was fined and settled, prior to fermentation with aromatic yeast (QA23 and X16). With loads of fleshy fruit flavour, and moderate acidity (pH 3.31, TA 5.5 g/L), we’ve produced our driest release yet, at just 2.8 g/L residual sugar. With colour largely a function of grape variety and season, the palate is where I focus our efforts, seeking to deliver a bright and flavoursome wine, with a fine balance of tannin, acidity and sweetness. Ultimately, our Rosé is a wine for lunch with friends on sunny days, so the drinkability factor must be high!


2016 HILLTOPS Nº 2

2015 marked our first year of exploration into Shiraz from the Hilltops region. Sourcing some great fruit from Brian Freeman, we released two Shiraz’, (creatively) labelled as No.1 and No.2 variants. This exercise was largely around experimentation in maturation periods, and oak regime. Particularly encouraged by the results of our No.2 release, we settled on a similar maturation plan for the 2016 wines, and reached deeper into the Hilltops region by engaging Jason Brown, from Moppity Vineyards, in addition to Brian Freeman. The differences in personality between our No.1 and No.2 releases would now be based on their single vineyard origins. 
The fruit from the Moppity vineyard was an explosion ofcolour and intensity from day one. The wine boasted incredibly vibrant aromatics throughout production and, like our Canberra Shiraz, we were eager to avoid producing an overtly fruity style. Maturation over 14 months, with 25% new French oak, served to temper the outright generosity of the wine; balancing the richness of fruit on offer, and building some impressive structure and drive.



The product of a high quality, yet decidedly warm and early vintage, the Shiraz from the Dahlberg vineyard in Murrumbateman was never going to be wanting for depth of flavour or generosity. Fortunately, with three clones of Shiraz grown on the property, we were able to spread our harvest dates, and take some blocks a little early, to offset the anticipated density of style we expected at full maturity.
Stylistically, we are continually looking at ways to further drive complexity in our Marksman’s Shiraz. In a generous year like 2016, I am particularly eager to ensure that we deliver a wine which doesn’t present as overtly fruity, or simplistic. As such, for the first time, the Marksman’s Shiraz was produced without the inclusion of Viognier, and almost 30% of the blend was wild yeast fermented. Maturation was around 15 months, with 30% new oak, by way of tight-grained Vallaurine and Mercurey puncheons.
There is no denying the intensity of the 2016 Shiraz from Canberra, nor the considerable framework of tannin. Our efforts to drive complexity, and avoid overripe or simplistic fruitiness, have hopefully delivered a balanced expression that carries the potential to age for an extended period.

(“Indomitus,” - untameable, wild, unconquerable, “Albus,” - white, “Rosa” - rose, “Rutilus,” - red. Latin translation)

The enduring goal with this range is to create wines that will challenge some of the winemaking and sensory norms usually associated with the varietals used and evoke a sense of discovery in the drinker. We take an experimental approach to many aspects of the winemaking, looking to improve and evolve our processes, with the view to applying successful techniques / approaches to other wines in the broader Gundog Estate range.

The emotive label imagery used is based on photographs taken of the 12th century Ta Prohm temple, located within Cambodia’s sprawling Angkor Wat, taken by my photographer brother, Aaron. Untouched in centuries, the Ta Prohm ruins demonstrate the rule of nature over man-made monuments once protective hands are withdrawn. We hope the label art helps to evoke this sense of mystery and discovery in the wines, and helps to draw symbolic comparison with the winemaking techniques employed.



The 2017 vintage sees our third release of Indomitus Albus. This year, we produced the wine from a generous parcel of Semillon from Dave and Sue Vernon’s dry grown vineyard in Mount View. The hot summer delivered big flavours in this vineyard, so we were keen to make the most of this opportunity in the winery. The production process was straightforward; we fermented cloudy Semillon juice on 30% skins with wild yeast, and let it rest for another five months on lees and skins. The key goal here being to deliver a completely unique spin on a classic varietal, one which is so often vinified in a traditional manner. Seeking to maximise aroma, flavour, and texture, we handled the wine with minimal additions, and bottled without fining.


This year, we have produced our very first Indomitus Rosa. It’s a rosé-style wine, based on 2017 Murrumbateman Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling. We pressed each parcel after a moderate time on skins, and barrel fermented (to dryness) cloudy juice, using wild yeast. I’ve got to say, I think this is quite possibly the “sexiest” wine I’ve ever made! Throughout the fermentations and beyond, the barrels offered amazing aromatics, and in the few months leading up to bottling, an enchanting slinkiness developed in both texture and flavour. At times, I actually struggled to believe that such an unlikely combination of varieties could yield a wine so endearing! There is so much juiciness on the palate which serves as a lovely natural counterpoint to the savouriness and texture afforded by the period on skins and fermentation / maturation on solids. The wine was bottled after four months on lees, without fining.



For this edition of our E-Newsletter, I am delighted to welcome back our very special guest contributor, Scarlett Burton!

Now 8, Scarlett is the eldest of our two Gundog Estate pups (sister to Maddison), and was eager to write a piece about our recent event in Gundaroo. Enjoy!

To start off my story I will be a bit naughty and tell you about what I did before the real story starts. Before I got to Gundaroo Maddison & I stayed at Sharon and Papa Geoffrey’s farm while mum, dad and papa Geoffrey started to set the celebration up at Gundaroo. Maddison and I played a bit while Sharon got ready. When I said that we were playing I actually meant taking the dogs for a walk around their property. When we were all ready we drove off to a little Gundaroo art festival. When we arrived we started to have a little look around. Surprisingly we found a lovely little sweet stall so we bought some cookies and took them to the others at Gundaroo.

At the celebration the seating was good because everybody got a seat. Some were at the bar, some were at the tables, but the best seats of all were out on the terrace.  The seating outside was really good because everybody got a great view of the gardens and front row seats to the band.
The food looked great, the waiters wandered around delivering delicious canapes. We watched a nice fat pig cook for hours on the spit which was served alongside coleslaw and condiments.  At dessert time there was only a couple options but all of it was yummy. Overall, the food looked delicious and the service was great!
Now the tasty food:
Canapes: arancini balls, mini pumpkin tarts, spicy calamari
Main: Bread buns with pig, coleslaw, pickles and other yummies
Dessert: Pavlova and Poached pear and burnt honey clafoutis
The food was really delicious!
Finally, I can talk about the music. The music was so fantastic. I liked it lots so Maddison and I did a little dance to one of the songs. The music was going for 3 hours and there was two men in the band who played blues and jazz. And I also think everyone liked it, especially Karl and Stanley.

THANKS for ReAdInG!!!!!
#All Scarlett’s work!



“A full cup of wine at the right time
is worth more than all the kingdoms of this earth!”

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

It’s raining right now and has been for most of the morning, already 24mm in the gauge.  This signifies a welcome end to what has been a winter drought in the Canberra wine region and will lift the lagging annual rainfall aggregate.  Our long-term average is around 620mm and until today it was only at 341mm.

Grape growers, infact most farmers, like winter rains that soak deeply into the sub-soil (grape vine roots can reach down to 1.5 metres in our terrain) and provide the best moisture environment for the critical bud-burst event that really signifies the start of the growing season. Bud-burst happened here at Gundaroo three weeks ago, a good month behind the warmer Hunter Valley region.

A recent study conducted in the Barossa Valley looked at the effects on grape quality and yield following a drier than usual winter, which has also been concerning growers in other regions of the world as the effects of global climate change begin to take effect. Of great interest to growers is how to compensate for this drier winter environment when the study found that attempts to increase irrigation over bud-burst and spring causes an over-exuberant foliar growth and a lowering of grape phenolic concentration, poorer colour intensity with less red tones.  A recommendation of the study is to regularly drip irrigate the vineyard during the dormant dry winter months to help maintain a full soil moisture profile, which seems eminently sensible, but difficult to practice as the predictability of, even short-term, rain events becomes increasingly unreliable. This year we have tried to strike a balance, with slightly more generous irrigation since bud-burst, and some lateral thinking.

My own ongoing research into new grape growing technologies led me to an article by Carlo Cignozzi of the Paradiso di Frassina winery in Tuscany who claims that he plays the music of Mozart, Handel and Vivaldi over loudspeakers to serenade the Sangiovese grapes in his vineyard. He says his grapes become more robust and flavourful when exposed to classical music around the clock. Stephano Mancuso, Professor of Agriculture at Florence University notes that although the results aren’t yet conclusive it appears that the music has “positive effects on vine growth”. I’m happy to give it a go at Gundaroo but I do worry about the neighbours’ reactions!

Fine music in the vines is also now a reality with the retirement of our thirty-year-old huge and heavy John Deere tractor, and its replacement with a new gleaming green and yellow lighter model, which will help us to tread more lightly in the vineyard and avoid unnecessary soil compaction.  The air-conditioned cab, with FM radio and CD player, and padded and sprung driver’s seat, points to many pleasurable hours ahead. This is destined to be my new man-shed/music room.

One of the neighbours of GUNDOG HUNTER CELLAR AND GOURMET PANTRY in Pokolbin is the hotel Kirkton Park.  Kirkton was originally a sprawling vineyard planted by James Busby in the 1820s. We all should be eternally grateful to Busby, for it was he who transported to Australia 362 grape vine varieties from France and Spain, which would become the foundation of the New South Wales wine industry. Busby’s most quoted saying is this solace of many a modern vigneron:
“The man who could sit under the shade of his own vine, with his wife and children about him, and the ripe clusters hanging within their reach, in a climate such as this, and not feel the highest enjoyment, is incapable of happiness and does not know what the word means.”

Add music in the vines and issues generated by increasing extremes of climate and irrigation challenges are not eclipsed but provide a constant reminder of the pleasures of cultivation.

Geoff Burton




Winery Lunch                                                                       Poolside                                                         Pony

GRAZING restaurant chef Kurt Neumann preparing the centrepiece for our November Member’s tasting event.



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