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  • Liane Morris

Pasture to Palate | Producers with an Eye to the Future


Parched Crow Wines Cellar Door. Image credit: The Wine Photography Studio.

Parched Crow Wines may be a relatively new player in the Hunter’s extensive wine offerings, but its vines have a history that promises great things. Owners Ross Crump and Lisa Hugo have a vision that extends far beyond a boutique winery, and with a new General Manager, up and coming wine industry professional Grace Eglit on board to help realise the vision, it’s definitely one to watch.

 

Located on the Tarin Grove Estate and situated at the foothills of the majestic Brokenback range, the newly renovated and charming cellar door boasts panoramic views of the impressive Hunter Valley.


Ross Crump is no newbie to the wine industry. He grew up locally at Wollombi on his father’s dairy and cattle farm before starting his working life in the ‘70s with Hermitage Estate and Oakvale Wines.


Here he learnt the complete wine-making process, including the commercial and retail side of the business. An accountant by trade, he’s also worked in local government, but the bulk of his career has been spent as a Marketing Consultant to the coal mining industry, travelling the world, developing the crucial international relationships that the industry depends on.


In 2005 Crump began acquiring property to run Angus beef and now has 3,000 acres of grazing property with over 1200 head of cattle under the banner of Tarin Grove Farms. The properties include the iconic Old McDonalds Flat at Pokolbin (granted to the McDonald family in 1825), Orange Grove at Paterson and East View at Lostock. Along with the purchase of these properties, Crump found himself the custodian of some precious vines with a solid foundation in history – 15 acres from the McDonald's Flat Vineyard planted by Stephen Drayton in the ‘90s, five acres from the former Thalgara Estate planted by the Tullochs in the '60s, and 20 acres that made up part of the Oakey Creek Vineyard planted by W Drayton & Sons in the '50s.


“I’m a sucker for history,” said Crump.


“I really believe in the historical continuance of the land, its role in tourism and the significance of the vines that came with the properties I purchased. This land has a long history of beef and wine growing, and I want to bring that back. It’s important to me to support the industry and protect the vineyards. Simply on-selling the grapes is a profitless venture, and so, in order to make a return, we settled on the vertical integration of making wine.”


The development of the wine brand is a story in itself that Crump loves to tell and that visitors to the cellar door will find enshrined on the wall as they enjoy their tastings.


“In 2017, the vineyards and surrounds were in the grip of the worst drought in 100 years. McDonald’s Flat, part of our farm, was denuded of any pasture as one of the hottest and driest summers on record prevailed. Just like the Exodus when we were on our knees, bereft of rain, a plague of grasshoppers arrived and quickly got about eating any remaining pasture.


“The vineyards were struggling for a drop of natural moisture, fruit was ripening and set for picking. Eureka! A flock of more than 200 crows arrived in mid-January and set about balancing their protein diet by devouring the grasshoppers by day. All was good, but the crow is the mortal enemy of vignerons at harvest time.


“The crows, having quelled their hunger, looked to the north. Alleluia, low and behold, the sweet nectar of nearby ripening grapes beckoned! Pre sunset, they flew less than 400m and descended on the vineyards to quench their insatiable thirst for the sweet taste of super ripe shiraz grapes ready for picking.


“By day, protein laid on with grasshoppers aplenty; by afternoon and dusk, an unending supply of wine in its rawest form. Sweet grapes. Nerolike, they took their fill.


“Comme ci comme ça.”


Despite drought, grasshoppers, crows, fire, and covid, Parched Crow Wines managed to launch their new brand of wine, named after those parched crows, and develop their cellar door. All grapes are estate-owned and grown and feature model Hunter varietals such as Shiraz, Semillon, Chardonnay and Muscat, with the wines produced also including Rose and Moscato.


Two new products soon to be launched include the 2022 Sogni D’oro at $25 a bottle (a mistelle-style aperitif wine best served chilled or on ice with a slice of blood orange or a refreshing spritz with soda water) and the 2022 Shiraz Nouveau at $30 a bottle (bright violets on the nose and boasts a delicate palate of soft cherries with a finely textured and elegant finish). All the wines are single vineyard and have been overseen by the best of the best Hunter Valley Winemakers; Liz Silkman, Xanthe Hartcher and PJ Charteris.


Parched Crow Wines owners, Ross Crump and Lisa Hugo. Image credit: Love Anna.

Whilst a new wine label from these historical vines is exciting enough, the vision that Crump and his partner have for Tarin Grove Estate is far greater. Crump has had a new development approved by Cessnock City Council that will sit on 4 hectares opposite the Ben Ean cellar door and include four buildings. The vision is that these buildings will house a butchery selling Tarin Grove Pokolbin Beef, a wine outlet for some of the smaller boutique wineries, a restaurant and café and a brewery. Unfortunately, Covid held up the development, but Crump is eyeing 2024 as the year he will potentially begin building.


“We’re keen to be a pasture-to-palate producer. Cattle, vineyards (grape sales), wine – we do it all! From my local agricultural beginnings, the land has been my home, and it’s my mission to return the McDonald’s Flat area back to its intended purpose. This land was always designated for beef and vineyards, and I’m quite partisan about it.”


To help him realise this vision, Crump recently appointed a new General Manager, Grace Eglit, whose experience in cellar door operations, wine club management, brand development and marketing, not to mention her energy and drive, Crump sees as being crucial to the future of Parched Crow Wines. Previously Eglit worked as PR and Marketing Manager for boutique award-winning winery Briar Ridge.


“This is a rare and exciting opportunity to use my local tourism and wine industry knowledge to develop Parched Crow Wines to its full potential,” said Eglit.


“I was drawn to the commitment to provide quality, handcrafted wines, all of which come from estate-grown and owned fruit and its background affiliated with livestock farm, Tarin Grove – the pasture to palate feel is something fun I hope to combine with our wine services in the future. The opportunity to work with vigneron and farmer Ross and be involved in the production of the wine was an enticing element I couldn’t resist.


“At the moment, my priority is to raise brand awareness and grow foot traffic by leveraging and growing our social media, local events, and community involvement. We have a few picnic days planned that are yet to be launched, which will be a great opportunity for Hunter/Newcastle residents to check us out. I believe that by increasing our presence in the local community, locals will resonate with who we are and what we produce. We are a lot of fun.


“I would also love to grow our Wine Club, offering special events and tastings and expanding our product offerings to develop a special rapport with our customers. We want to keep our visitors and customers engaged, excited to bring their family and friends by coming back for more!”


Parched Crow Wines Farm Resident, Jacques.

Crump definitely has his hands full. He is also a one-third owner of Two Rivers, one of the biggest producers in the Hunter Valley, based out of Denman, and still occasionally consults to the mining industry. He sees similarities between coal and wine and agrees with Eglit that the local market is underutilised.


“Both the coal and wine industries are subject to the vagaries of the weather, market demands and quality. In the old days, the wine industry was filled with personalities, and consequently, it seemed to have a greater reach. Small armies of guys travelled the state and country selling their labels into hospitality venues.


Digital mediums have affected wine sales in the same way it’s affected the retail sector. Attracting locals from the Hunter, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and other nearby regions is an important market for us. We’re hoping that by offering more than wine in the future – the full pasture-topalate experience will encourage customers to pop up to the valley on a regular basis.”


Whatever the future holds, right now, Parched Crow Wines is set in the charming and picturesque Tarin Grove Estate, boasting all the history the Hunter has to offer; fields of cattle and rows of vineyards all in the heart of Pokolbin. Experience a tasting in the newly renovated cellar door, take in the breathtaking views and discover the story of how The Parched Crow came to be for yourself.


Parched Crow Wines. Photo credit: Love Anna.

WINE TASTING & SALES

OPEN Friday–Sunday 10AM–4PM

CLOSED Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Good Friday

GROUPS Bookings essential, max. 20

PRICE RANGE From $25–$40/bottle

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