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  • Quentin Von Essen

From Good to Great at Mistletoe Wines

Ken and Gwen Sloan – owners of Mistletoe Winery, are renowned for creating some of the region’s most awarded and talked about wines from their 5.5-hectare vineyard on Hermitage Road in Pokolbin. Today this James Halliday 5-star rated winery is a true small family-owned winery with three generations of the Sloan family involved in the business, which now includes their son Rob, daughter Cassandra and granddaughters Natane and Jessica, who also has an interest in winemaking.

While the main focus is on Hunter Valley Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz, Mistletoe also makes wines from Merlot, Cabernet, White Muscat, Verdelho, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Fiano – produced from grapes grown in an environment where the focus is always on quality over yield.

Ken is an intriguing character with a seemingly endless knowledge of wine, local history and is not short of a few hilarious stories... and as you get to know him, you realise just why his wines are so good. He is a man of unquestionable principle and a great believer in "quality without compromise" in just about everything he does – and especially when it comes to making wine.

For as long as he can remember, Ken has had an interest and love of wine which was further encouraged by the writings of the late Len Evans and Max Lake as well as the celebrated Sydney wine merchant and restaurateur J.K. "Johnnie" Walker who had the Angus Steak Cave restaurants and was also the author of a weekly newspaper wine column.

Before long, Ken and Gwen found themselves in the Hunter Valley regularly looking around for a suitable property. They eventually bought the Hermitage Road property in 1989 which was once part of the ill-fated Hermitage Estate Winery operation. The site had become extremely run down and neglected so they quickly set about ripping up the old derelict vineyard and replanting the home plot to Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Muscat. Within six years, Mistletoe Wines were starting to gain recognition not to mention trophies at local and interstate wine shows.

The Sloan family eventually moved to the Hunter Valley in 1997, and it has been home ever since. At first, the wines were contract made in the Upper Hunter, but in 2003 they decided to build a winery on the property now named Mistletoe Winery because of the vast amount of mistletoe growing on the ironbark tree which had once covered the property.

Working with great winemakers such as Scott Stephens, Mistletoe has, in a relatively few years, become one of the most respected and awarded boutique wineries in Australia.

When it comes to making good wine, Ken believes that good wine starts in the vineyard and for him, it is critically important to keep investing in the vineyard.

“We put back into the vineyard, and it shows. In the vineyard and winemaking side of the business, the grapes are grown in an environment that is as natural as possible and where the focus is always on quality over yield,” explains Ken

“We have the firm mandate of ’Quality without Compromise’, and we not only believe in it, but we also act on it. We will walk away from bad years rather than make average wine by cutting corners or fudging it.”

With this absolute attention to detail and uncompromising focus on quality, it comes as no surprise that Mistletoe has been rated a 5-star winery by James Halliday every year from 2007 to 2019 – putting Mistletoe in the top 8% of wineries in Australia on a quality basis and confirming Mistletoe’s reputation as one of the best and most consistent small wine producers in the Hunter Valley.

But it’s not all about the wines. Mistletoe Wines is also one of few wineries that combine the unique flavours of the Hunter Valley wine region with the artistic talents of the locals. The Pokolbin Art Gallery located within the cellar door features paintings, ceramics and specialist woodturning from the region, all of which can be purchased. Outside, the Mistletoe Sculpture Garden sits alongside the picturesque vineyard and includes a selection of quirky and modern sculptures.

Mistletoe also offers twilight tasting sessions on the patio throughout Summer, while in Winter, the tastings are hosted in front of a roaring fire. For many, Mistletoe Winery is a very unique and special place. For more information visit

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