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  • Liane Morris

Savannah Estate | Weaving a Story of Resilience and Heritage with New Cellar Door


cellar door
Image Credits: MJK Creative

Savannah Estate needs no introduction to lovers of good wine. Established by the legendary Peterson family in the early 2000's in Mount View and now run by its namesake, Savannah Peterson, the winery has gained an enviable reputation and is now extending to a second cellar door on the ‘Golden Mile’ of Broke Road, Pokolbin.

 

The Petersons have been growing vines in the Mount View area where the original Savannah Estate cellar door is located since 1964 when Ian and Shirley Peterson purchased an old dairy property and planted the first ten acres of Semillon. Fast-forward to the early 2000's and Colin Peterson (Ian and Shirley’s son) established Savannah Estate with a view to creating a boutique winery where he could experiment with different varietals. Savannah Estate is set in an idyllic location and was lovingly named after his daughter Savannah.


In 2015, Savannah, a promising third-generation winemaker, began working in the winery, experimenting with Tempranillo, Chambourcin, Vermentino, Durif and others, quickly garnering a reputation as a promising winemaker working alongside Gary Reed. At the start of 2020, Savannah returned from her overseas trip to Ireland and this ignited her love for the Hunter Valley all over again.


“2020 was a real game changer for us,” said Savannah.


“It was during lockdown that we started doing virtual tastings, and if anything, we were busier than we’d ever been. When things reopened, people wanted to visit the cellar door, and it was normal for us to have 250 people over the weekends. We’ve never worked harder, and it was a labour of love.”


By 2023, Savannah had moved to the Hunter Valley to work full time on the family business, taking the opportunity to learn from her father and continue the family legacy. She extended her management across the Peterson family portfolio of wineries and restaurants as her father had begun to wind back his involvement to a less frenetic pace. Savannah Estate's success has been a testament to the family's dedication and love for winemaking, justifying the opening of a second venue in what is a prime location on Broke Road in Pokolbin.


One of Savannah’s core values is the relationship she nurtures between her staff and customers, the welcoming connections that foster a sense of family. In January 2021, one of Savannah’s friends, Kurt Nilon, joined her in the business, working initially as Cellar Door Manager for three years before taking on the role of Sales and Marketing across the Peterson Group.


“We’re still best friends,” said Kurt.


“We’ve always said that if working together impacted our relationship, we wouldn’t work together anymore, but it never has. Everyone who works here is like family, and I truly believe that this is the secret behind our success at not just Savannah Estate but across all the Peterson properties. We look after each other, and that extends to the whole team.”


Aaron Cootes, the Cellar Door Manager across both venues, came to his role after working at Baumé as a waiter. Savannah heard he was looking for work in a warehouse and reached out.


“He was just the nicest person you could ever wish to meet,” said Savannah.


“And I knew he’d be the perfect fit for our cellar doors. The tasting experience is our priority, and we pride ourselves on a relaxed atmosphere with good people and excellent quality wine, where our customers leave as friends at the end of the day.


“When we announced that we were opening a new cellar door, we had so many of our regulars concerned that we might close down the Mount View location, but that’s not happening. The Mount View cellar door is close to my heart. It’s where I made my name, and it’s a place that means a lot to many of our loyal customers and wine club members. We’ve made sure to preserve the intimate charm and character that has endeared us to our patrons over the years, and that rustic design style has inspired elements of the new Savannah Estate Broke Road Cellar Door.”


The vision for a second cellar door has been on the cards for several years. The land on which it now sits is adjacent to Hunter Valley's esteemed Lisa McGuigan’s VAMP, Pokolbin Distillery, and Blaxland’s Inn, where there’s been a concrete slab sitting waiting for the right moment to be transformed.


“Dad and I had been discussing and finalising the new Cellar Door for 6 long years,” said Savannah.


“So, it’s been in the planning stages for a while, waiting for builders and supplies to become available. Sometimes we’d take some wine down to the slab, sit, and envision the future cellar door.”


Built by Peter Southwell, who also built the Chapel at Peterson House, the new cellar door reflects Savannah's commitment to sustainability and reverence for history, which she inherited from her father, Colin.


“The vision for the new Cellar Door was always a warm, comfortable and welcoming space,” said Savannah.


savannah
Image Credits: MJK Creative

“We love the rustic warmth of all of our Peterson properties, so we’ve been sure to replicate that here by using big, exposed hardwood beams, polished concrete floors and historical bricks that Dad had saved. He’s always saving history!"

“The bricks are handmade convict bricks from the Kaluda Estate in Lochinvar that Dad had saved waiting for the right project! Now they will have a new life as part of our architectural narrative, weaving a story of resilience and heritage.”


“And we’ve made sure we’ve bought some of the old Savannah Estate cellar door with us too,” Kurt added.


“We built the bar ourselves from an old Ironbark tree out the back of the Mount View property. It was dying, and rather than see it wasted, we cut it ourselves, sanded it, and polished it, and it looks amazing. It’s got a whole new life. We’ve made sure that wherever possible, we use recycled materials; even our furniture was donated by locals. It gives the space a lot of character, a warmth, and eclectic charm.”


Cellar Door Manager Aaron Cootes will be sharing his art background with a unique installation for the cellar door.


“Aaron was the friend and General Manager of the local artist Greg Wilson OAM, who sadly passed away four years ago,” said Savannah.


“He’s worked on putting together an installation of his award-winning art, which we’re excited to hang in the next month. It speaks to our values of family, history, and connection.


cellar door
Image Credits: MJK Creative


”Visitors to the new cellar door can expect to choose from a delectable wine selection. New vintages to look out for include the 2023 Marsanne, the 2023 Viognier, and a White Blend of 2023 Arnies, Vermentino, and Viognier. There’s also Sparkling Rosé, Shiraz, Tempranillo and Chambourcin. Savannah is still involved in the winemaking process but not as directly as she was previously, choosing to concentrate on management however still working closely with Chief winemaker Gary Reed.


With over 30 varietals to choose from grown in the Hunter, Mudgee and Armidale, the next vintage is looking promising. Savannah Estate proudly chooses to make approachable wines that can be enjoyed with good music, delicious food, and great company. There will be a selection of wines that will be exclusive to the Savannah Estate Broke Road Cellar Door and plans for later openings so that visitors can enjoy a long, relaxed afternoon on the verandah. There are also plans for collaborations with the neighbours, especially Pokolbin Distillery.


The first event at the new Savannah Estate Cellar Door will be held on Saturday, 25 May. It is the first Savannah Estate Broke Road 'Restaurant take-over' from local Brazillian BBQ company Pampa Flame. Canapes and sparkling wine will be served upon arrival, followed by a sit-down three course dinner with Savannah Estate wines available from the bar. At just

$100 per person, it offers great value and an opportunity to celebrate the new venture with the Savannah Estate team. Head to the Savannah Estate socials @savannahestate to book.


wine glasses
Image Credits: MJK Creative


Savannah sees the opening of the new cellar door as a leap of faith.


“According to my dad, who’s been in the business for over fifty years, it’s a difficult time for everyone right now. Both spending and visitation are low, so it’s a risk, but it’s one that we’re prepared to take. It’s a labour of love and a shared commitment, and it's something I’m proud of. I’ve got a great team around me; they’re my family, and we’ll do it together.”


With such a long record and heritage of success, the new Savannah Estate Broke Road Cellar Door promises to be well worth the visit. Experience for yourself the warm welcome and hospitality this winery is known for. Relax on the verandah with handcrafted wines and enjoy the company of the expert staff as they guide you on your tasting journey. Your new friends are waiting for your visit.



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