Before I began drafting this year’s E-Newsletter, I read over the last. Published in February 2020, my headline story was titled, “A Tough Summer.” We were in the midst of a shocking drought and choking under a blanket of bushfire smoke. At the time, I wrote of the apocalyptic scenes of dying wildlife, and our fears of ‘smoke taint’ compromising our harvest. And that it did; save two small parcels of Hunter Semillon and one of Shiraz, we lost the lot – from the Hunter down to the Hilltops, and over to Canberra. I had never imagined a scenario where we might lose almost an entire harvest across multiple regions, spread over 500 kms apart; the subsequent financial challenges for us, and our growers, were immense.
And, of course, this was before the equally unimaginable COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
As my mind travels forward through the year, I once again feel the turbulence of the seas that rose around our little boat, and re-live the uncertainty of the unknown that came with losing sight of the shore. And, despite all that has come to pass between now and then, I find myself moved as I wander through the range of emotions that comes with recalling it all. The fatigue I felt during the relentless drought, the anxiety that came with the trauma and devastation of the bushfires, the fear of what this virus might take from us all, and then sadness for the lives and freedoms that it did take.
But then I find myself moved by feelings of immense pride and happiness. I feel pride for my team as I reflect on what they achieved during such extraordinary times; the resilience they showed, and the challenges we conquered together. And now, I smile for the gratitude I feel for being here, twelve months on, writing this next newsletter. The support you showed us throughout the year was beyond humbling, it was utterly inspirational. Not only did your continued belief allow us to survive the challenges that came with bushfires, cellar door closures, and lockdowns, it also fuelled the most significant evolution of our brand in the last ten years.
We looked to our core values to guide our way through the rough seas of 2020 and reflected on what our organisation is about. Determined to rise above the challenges and make the most of the opportunities that come with this type of disruption, we doubled down on our how and why. This meant connecting with you in new and exciting ways; virtual tastings, sharing our journey in more frequent email updates, and via our live Q&A sessions on Facebook. And when we were able to re-open the cellar doors, you discovered an expanded wine offering, featuring new additions like the Yarra Valley Riesling and aged wines from the cellar. Alongside our other, already well-known limited releases, you were able to enjoy these wines intermingled throughout your wine tasting, to give you the most comprehensive and immersive experience possible. A shift to pre-booked visits also now means you can be sure of a place in our cellar doors, even on busy days.
Further south, visitors to our Cork St. Cellar in Gundaroo now have the opportunity to enjoy a range of stunning plates prepared by our neighbours, GRAZING restaurant, making the Gundog experience even more memorable.
Added to all this is our expanding range of non-wine Gundog products, designed to further build on the brand experience. Our Dry Gin, Hunting Ale, and Pointer’s Blend Coffee are continually refined between releases, and now sit alongside the ridiculously successful Chocolate Spheres! This delightful new range includes dark and milk chocolates filled with our Rutherglen Muscat or Rare Game Shiraz, and the most recent addition – white chocolate truffles with Gundog Dry Gin and lime. Ridiculous really!
In addition to our fundamental desire to enhance the lives of our customers, we found sustainability and it’s three pillars (economic, social, and environmental) to be at our core. If there was a year to highlight the fragility and connectivity of all three aspects of sustainability, then 2020 was surely it! Despite the challenges the year presented us with, we continued to find ways to support our community partner, Path 2 Change, via fundraising and our work experience program (read more below). Their efforts to break the cycle of youth homelessness, with education and employment, is now more critical than ever. The disruption to our usual support channels also inspired an incredible new concept, that we are soon to reveal – so stay tuned!
And then in the environmental space, with your support, our tree purchase tally clocked over 1,500. With our partner, 15 Trees, these trees and shrubs are now being used in native regeneration projects across the country. Natural habitats are being restored, and delivering many other positive environmental outcomes, including improvement to soil health, restoration of wildlife habitat, and drawing down of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Our enthusiastic move toward sustainable viticulture and winemaking also continues, and is reflected in our recent embrace of biological farming practices, the use of organic fertilisers, and plant-based fining products.
And then we reached what was arguably our most significant announcement of the year – becoming Carbon Neutral. Rather than signalling the end of a journey, I mark this as the start. The process of reducing our carbon footprint across all aspects of the business is continual, and always will be. Anywhere we can’t avoid greenhouse gas emissions, we offset these by purchasing certified carbon credits in renewable energy projects. Fundamentally, this is an acknowledgement that there is an environmental cost associated with the operation of our (or any) business, and that cost should be minimised or eliminated where possible, and paid for when it can’t. I firmly believe this philosophy will underpin the new economy that is set to define the remainder of this century, so why not run at the front of the pack?
And this is how I’ve decided to approach the year ahead. I acknowledge the extraordinary level of trauma and devastation that was brought to so many of us over the last twelve months. I won’t forget the anxiety that came with such immense disruption and uncertainty. In this way, I feel 2020 will be with me forever. But now, I smile at what we have conquered together, and step into 2021 with pride, gratitude, and hope.
At the time of writing, we are well and truly in the throes of vintage! While COVID-19 stifled our celebrations as the drought breaking rains fell over our vineyards throughout 2020, at least it meant there was one less thing to worry about coming into another (much needed) harvest. By Spring, our vineyards were the picture of health, with rapidly growing canopies boasting vibrant shades of green that we’d almost forgotten existed. Peering through the thick foliage, bunches of grapes were forming with such regularity that we began the tentative imaginings of an exciting harvest ahead. However, the once welcome rainfall started to become a problem in the Hunter. The cool and drizzly conditions over the Christmas period led to significant disease pressure and the vineyard crews worked at full tilt to keep the mildew and dreaded Botrytis mould at bay.
Fortunately, Mother Nature would smile upon us once again, and the clear skies she sent in early January finally confirmed the potential of what is now looking like a great harvest. The cool nights, and relatively mild daytime temperatures, facilitated steady ripening and great acid retention. The resulting Semillons (now all fermenting in tank) look fabulous! They are boasting excellent purity of flavour and natural balance, requiring very little by way of winemaking intervention. We are now harvesting our Hunter Shiraz which is looking equally as promising.
Pleasingly, the rainfall and cooler conditions have also restored the ‘normal’ gap between inter-regional harvest dates. We should have the Hunter wrapped up by mid-February, before looking to commence the Hilltops and Canberra harvests in mid-March. With fruit still some weeks away from being ripe, there is still plenty of room for disruption in these regions, but we are quietly optimistic for similarly high-quality harvests.
Needless to say, we are VERY excited to bring you a year full of high-quality new releases, featuring our unique mix of contemporary and classical styles.
To stay up to date with vintage happenings, I suggest joining our live Facebook Q&A sessions. The recordings are posted on our page in case you can’t tune in at the time. You can view our January winery walkthrough and Q&A here.
MARKSMAN’S SHIRAZ JUDGED ONE OF THE BEST
We had a feeling the 2019 release of our flagship Canberra Shiraz was pretty special, and now our suspicions have been confirmed! The 2019 Markman’s Shiraz was awarded a very impressive 95 points by one of Australia’s leading wine critics, Huon Hooke. The wine now sits in an incredible 5th position in the Real Review’s classification of NSW Shiraz from the 2019 vintage. The wine is flanked by some VERY special releases, including Brokenwood’s $350 a bottle Graveyard Shiraz, Tyrrell’s $165 8 Acres, and the $135 Mount Pleasant 1921 Vines Old Paddock Shiraz. At $70 a bottle (and much less for wine club members), the Marksman’s Shiraz appears to be a steal!
While not slated for official release until later this year, I am sure a polite phone call or email to the right cellar door staff member (i.e. Dave), might yield a bottle or two for those not patient enough to wait!
Follow this link to the Real Review classification, or you can read more about the Marksman’s Shiraz below.
THE INCREDIBLE WORK OF PATH 2 CHANGE CONTINUES
One of the great strengths of our relationship with Path 2 Change is the open communication channels we share between our organisations. This is why I always look forward to their quarterly updates, filling us in on where our donated funds are being directed and the associated outcomes. I really believe that being able to read, feel, and share the often profound and tangible results keeps myself, and the Gundog crew, engaged and motivated to continue supporting their amazing work.
And yet, none of what we have achieved with Path 2 Change would be possible without your support. This is why I think it is equally meaningful to share some of the recent outcomes with you, by way of quotes from Path 2 Change clients:
• “I was living in a temporary transitional property and needed to get a more secure rental. Path 2 Change helped me look for work, and Gundog paid for my barista course, interview, and work clothes. I now am working and looking for my own place to live”.
• “Path 2 Change has stood by me for the last couple of years. With the support that Gundog give them, they have helped with so much like rent and food when I was going through a rough patch, so I wouldn’t be homeless again. Gundog helped with fixing my bike so I could get a job and get to work. This was so I could see my 2-year-old daughter and have somewhere for her to stay. Thankyou”.
• “Path 2 Change and Gundog helped me to get out of couch surfing and into a job by paying for a course and white Card. Now I can afford to find somewhere to live”.
While our disadvantaged and homeless were largely spared the possible deadly health outcomes that COVID-19 had the potential to deliver, this was not the case in many other countries, where certain demographics appeared to suffer more than others. I believe this serves to highlight the widening gap between rich and poor, even within the wealthiest nations. Addressing this type of inequality is key to building social sustainability. Path 2 Change believes that the best way to break the cycle of youth homelessness and disadvantage is by getting young people into work. This is a philosophy that I absolutely share. If we can lift our young people up, and get as many as possible engaged in society, then outcomes such as education, health and welfare will improve for them and the generations to follow – eventually breaking an otherwise negative and persistent cycle. Perhaps this is best illustrated by another quote.
“It’s hard to see a future when you don’t even have a safe place to sleep”
To read more about our partnership with Path 2 Change, or to make a donation, please follow this link.
Similarly hot and dry seasons in the Hunter Valley and Canberra Districts delivered the third in a run of high quality, low yielding, vintages. Higher temperatures sometimes threaten to strip wines of regional identity, so we harvested fruit early to preserve flavour and acidity. I am really pleased with the natural balance and poise these 2019 vintage releases are showing, along with the bold expression of their unique personalities.
2019 RARE GAME SHIRAZ
Our fourth release of Rare Game Shiraz celebrates the quality of two great Hunter Valley terroirs – the Tinkler’s (ex-Lindeman’s) 1948 block, and Somerset (1970) vineyards. Once again, I pursued my love of what I believe to be the reference style of Shiraz from this region – ‘Hunter Burgundy.’ Subsequently, the bottled wine is just 12.9% in alcohol. Achieving this level of fruit quality, at such modest baumés, is a tribute to the pedigree of the source vineyards and the work of passionate growers.
In the winery, we fermented in open tanks. Running these ferments at higher temperatures is as important to the style as the selection of which French oak the wine matures in. Once again, the only new oak our Rare Game Shiraz sees is tight grained puncheons, exclusively from the St. Martin cooperage – 33% new with maturation over 16 months.
2019 MARKSMAN’S SHIRAZ
2021 CALENDAR OF EVENTS
COVID-19 certainly scuttled our event plans for 2020 but, with conditions looking increasingly stable, we are tentatively planning a handful of Spring lunch events in the Hunter Valley, Sydney, and Canberra. Unfortunately, there is very limited information to relay at this point, but please stay tuned for updates and invitations as we move closer to the dates!
SHARE YOUR #GUNDOGMOMENT FOR A CHANCE TO
WIN A THREE PACK!
Share a photo of your “Gundog Wine Moment” on Facebook or Instagram for a chance to win a three pack of Gundog Estate wine!
Simply mention @gundogestate and/or #gundogmoment in your post and we will contact you via direct message if your picture wins.
Entrants must be 18 years or over to enter. The winning picture is randomly selected at the end of each quarter (March, June, Sept, Dec). An entry is only valid for the duration of the quarter submitted. Entries are limited to one per person per month.