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  • Your Hunter Valley Magazine

A View to the Future in Sweetwater Ridge

When it comes to turning a dream into reality, Darren and Tracey Scott know it takes more than just planning and persistence to succeed – it also takes passion. It’s little wonder then that almost 20 years after they decided to pour their passion into a picturesque block of land on the northern edge of Pokolbin, their treechange move to the Hunter Valley can still be summed up by their tag line “Our Passion, Your Reward”.

It was during their first trip to the Hunter Valley in the early 1990's that Darren, a Sydney-based dentist, and his wife Tracey fell in love with the natural beauty of the region and decided this was where they wanted to put down new roots.

In the year 2000, that idea took a figurative and literal step forward when they purchased a picturesque 40-acre property in Pokolbin known as “Ironbark Estate”.

After renaming it RidgeView due to the fact it was located on one of the highest points in Sweetwater Ridge Estate and came with such magnificent views, the couple, their four children (then aged between 5 and 11 years old), and a group of close friends set about the daunting task of transforming the 40-hectare timber property into a vineyard with 22 acres of selected vines, four self-contained cottages as well as a cellar door and restaurant.

The process of preparing the soil, planting, training and pruning vines brought home the reality that this dream was going to take a great deal of hard work. Nevertheless, in 2001 RidgeView Cottages were built and the 22-acre (nine hectare) vineyard was established.

In 2004, the first Shiraz and Chambourcin grapes were harvested from the vines, with the wet vintage challenging those involved to hand-pick and transport all the fruit from the vineyard as it was too wet to use tractors.

With just Darren making up the winemaking team at the time, their first vintage wines were later bottled and labelled, a milestone moment that could not have occurred without the passion of all those involved.

When harvest rolled around in 2005 following a hot, dry summer that ripened the fruit to perfection, RidgeView’s vineyard was nearly at full production, with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Verdelho and Chardonnay joining their original Shiraz and Chambourcin grapes.

New varieties continued to be added to the mix in the following years with the aim of producing premium, 100 per cent Hunter Valley wines that are approachable whilst young, yet develop character with careful cellaring.

That aim was soon earning RidgeView plenty of positive feedback on the wine show circuit, with their 2006 “Generations” Reserve Shiraz being awarded Best Young Shiraz at the 2009 NSW Wine Awards.

RidgeView’s wines have continued to earn industry distinction over the years, with their most recent success seeing them take home the trophy for the Best Sweet White Wine at the 2018 Hunter Valley Boutique Winemakers Show with their 2006 “Tipple’s Gold” Botrytis Semillon. Their honours at the show continued with three gold, five silver and five bronze medals for a range of wines including their 2009 Generations Reserve Semillon and 2017 Generations Reserve Semillon. Last year’s accolades also included picking up multiple medals at the Hunter Valley Wine Show, as well as a bronze medal for their 2017 “Impressions” Chardonnay at the 2018 NSW Wine Awards.

Meanwhile, Darren and Tracey’s ultimate dream for RidgeView was realised in 2010 with the opening of their state-of-the-art cellar door and outstanding 110-seat restaurant.

Ideally positioned to make the most of the views over the vineyards running up the ridge, the cellar door and restaurant were faultlessly designed, with the building making clever use of space, light and materials to maximise the enjoyment offered by its marvellous location.

The perfect addition to any wine tasting tour, RidgeView has also become popular as a dining destination and wedding venue, with the family-orientated restaurant considered one of the best in the Hunter Valley.

Popular amongst both locals and visitors with its emphasis on fresh seasonal local produce, strong Mediterranean influence and carefully-selected food and wine pairing, the restaurant is run by a passionate and driven team led by Executive Chef Donna Hollis.

Born and raised in the Hunter Valley, and inspired by the culinary creations of her father and grandmother, Donna learned a love of cooking at a young age.

After graduating from school in the mid-1990s, she began her apprenticeship at Il Cacciatore Restaurant in Pokolbin before leaving to take up a role at Monte Pio in Maitland.

She returned to the vineyards as Head Chef at Casuarina Estate, working there for more than three years as she discovered her passion for the flambé style of cooking.

As the Executive Chef at RidgeView Restaurant, Donna has been able to demonstrate her creative, passionate and self-driven personality through her food preparation and cooking, while also incorporating her love of fresh local produce on the seasonal menus.

Donna has been instrumental in introducing a refreshingly different style of dining at RidgeView that includes traditional and contemporary Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences throughout the menu, as well as the popular Cypriot Mezze.

Local and fresh is the catchcry in the kitchen, with the breakfast menu utilising eggs from the estate’s free-range chickens, while the organic veggie patch provides herbs, citrus and vegetables for various meals. Fresh condiments, oils and house-made cheeses are also served freshly made, with all food sourced locally if it is not estate grown.

For those who want to savour the RidgeView experience beyond their meal at the restaurant or tasting experience at the cellar door, the estate is also home to four gorgeous guest cottages, which provide a secluded oasis to escape and unwind.

Nestled amongst majestic spotted gums and ironbark trees, and overlooking waterways surrounded by natural bushland and vineyard views, the cottages offer a luxurious range of self-contained accommodation, beautifully completed by RidgeView’s private guest facilities including the award-winning “infinity edge” swimming pool and tennis court.

With all this in one tranquil location on Sweetwater Road in Pokolbin, RidgeView offers a complete wine country experience that is hard to resist.

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