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  • Liane Morris

Who needs Europe?

The Hunter Valley is known, and rightly so, for its world-class wines and stellar restaurants. Many of the vineyards are concentrated around the Pokolbin area, but for truly discerning food and wine aficionados, they know that it pays to go the extra distance out to Mount View and Carillion Wines.


It is here that they can enjoy what is widely recognised as one of the most beautiful views in the Hunter Valley and where they can immerse themselves in a landscape and an experience that evokes the French Provence, with wines at the Carillion cellar door overlooking the vineyards and food at the renowned Bistro Molines, awarded a chef’s hat by the SMH Good Food Guide every year since 2010. There’s no need to travel to France when this very special place is right on our doorstep.

The story behind Carillion Wines goes back to the early 1980s when John Davis, a geologist who ran an oil exploration consultancy, started to get serious about his interest in wines. With his knowledge and understanding of geology, soil, landscape and climate, he set about owning and growing vineyards in optimal locations for particular styles of wines. He bought his first vineyard in 1982 and worked closely with Trevor Drayton to make wine. In 1987 he purchased what is now Briar Ridge in Mount View, which today is run by his daughter, Jaclyn Davis. He then purchased the neighbouring property, Tallavera Grove, in 1993, which had no grapes growing there until he planted it out. John was working in wine full time by this stage, and oil exploration was a distant but fond memory.

The business continued to grow with the purchase of a more established brand in Pepper Tree Wines, plus the establishment of the Stonefields Vineyard in Wrattonbully, South Australia, as well as Carillion in Orange which his son Tim Davis ran. In 2007 Bistro Molines was established at the Tallavera Grove estate cementing the winery’s reputation as a destination of highquality standing. Each vineyard had its own brand, and in 2018 a decision was made to consolidate the branding of Tallavera Grove and Carillion under the name Carillion Wines.

Today Carillion Wines is owned and operated by Tim Davis, who grew up on his dad’s vineyards. Although the family lived in Sydney, every bit of spare time was spent in the vineyards. Tim remembers fondly that in the early days, the family would camp on the property in the Hunter Valley before a home was built there.

“I was obsessed with tractors,” says Tim. “I would hang out with the farm manager, Derek, every day. My own boys are now similarly obsessed – Felix is five and Hugo is three, and I’m reliving my childhood through their eyes. I was always going to work in wine and agriculture, although I spent several years working in finance.”

Tim studied an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Economics at the University of Sydney, majoring in Economics, Agricultural Economics and Finance before completing his honours thesis in wine marketing and demand modelling. After graduating, he worked for National Bank before being tempted back to his old University to commence a PhD. Naturally, his area of study was once again the economics of wine markets, this time with a view to studying Australian wine exports, using an innovative method not used before in the study of wine demand.

After graduating, Tim began work at Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia, in its financial markets division as a senior analyst of foreign exchange and a senior dealer in both the Bank’s domestic and international dealing rooms.

Whilst he enjoyed his work in finance, Tim’s heart was still on the land, and he was still involved with the running of the family business, regularly working on brands Tallavera Grove, Carillion and Stonefields. In 2012 he decided to step out of his corporate life and apply his full attention to winemaking, where he has overseen a major refresh of both the branding and product directions, with a focus on the premium end and smaller batches of high-quality wines produced from rare grape varieties and innovative winemaking methods. He is very excited about what the future holds for his wine brands and the industry as a whole.

Working closely with winemaker Andrew Ling, they have concentrated on small-batch, high-quality wines with three main ranges – Expressions, Origins and Loveable Rogue, with the occasional Museum range and their sparkling, sweet and fortified wines. They enjoy a high reputation with the familiar Shiraz, Semillon, Chardonnay and Riesling varietals that their vineyards are known for including premium Hunter wines, cool-climate wines from Orange, and big reds from Wrattonbully. As a small producer, they can also be innovative, creative and ‘extra fussy’ – they have the luxury larger wineries don’t have to push their limits and insist on the highest quality. The pair love experimenting with single barrel wines.

“The foundation of our wines is the quality of our fruit. So when we come across a barrel that blows our mind, we’ll bottle it separately. It’s decadent in every way – unplanned and exciting. We’ve done a couple already, and I love the sense of adventure it brings to our work and the unique offerings it enables us to bring to our wine club members and customers,” said Tim.

This adventurous spirit is nowhere more pronounced than in the Lovable Rogue range, affectionately called the Italian Jobs. Inspired by Tim’s father and his frequent trips to Italy many years ago where he became interested in the types of grapes grown in particular landscapes and climates and likened them to those of his own vineyards back in Australia, Tim says his father had the foresight to understand how well those varietals would do and the opportunity it represented to create something new.

When Tim took over at Carillion Wines, he committed to the new varieties, developing a cheeky, trendy and bold new range using varietals such as Sagrantino, Aglianico, Vermentino and Fiano that thrive in our warmer climate, enabling them to ripen to their full potential.

“We’ve just had our first crop of two more Italians – Montepulciano and Nero D’avola. We’ll do an ad-hoc series, maybe 30 cases only, similar to the single barrel. We sell most of our wines at our cellar door where they can be hand-sold, with someone there to explain to customers what they’re tasting. It’s a rustic, artisanal, craft wine experience focusing on quality. Introducing our Italian Jobs to the market is fun and exciting, and we think they’ve got a big future.”

The future also includes a return to the Tallavera Grove brand with a small production of 2 to 3 wines either this year or next, depending on the vintage. This original brand was known for its exceptional Shiraz, Chardonnay and Semillon, and the new wines will draw on the solid heritage and reputation that the brand enjoyed.

It’s ironic that in his down-time, Tim enjoys crafting homebrew beer. His best mate runs a brewery in Bulli called Resin Brewing that focuses on small-batch brewing of high-quality beer, similar to the Carillion philosophy of winemaking.

“I confess to drinking more beer than wine,” says Tim sheepishly. “Maybe one day, I’ll bring my own beer to the cellar door – who knows?”

Innovation in the way the business runs has been critical to survival in the last two years during the covid pandemic. Tim is grateful to his small team, who individually contacted all the wine club members to keep them engaged during the downturns. The Carillion customers are loyal and very supportive. Carillion did virtual tastings and a refresh of the cellar door fit-out. The push toward booking tastings is a positive development, although walk-ins are still possible at Carillion. The winery charges $10pp for tastings which is refundable on purchase.

Largely unaffected by the trade situation with China, Tim is happy focusing on local markets over exports, focusing on his own backyard, and he believes consumers feel the same way – excited to discover new experiences, places and products at home.

Carillion Wines is well placed to take advantage of the new desire for people to explore their local regions. All it takes is a slightly further drive out to Mount View, where you can pretend you’ve arrived in France. Boasting the best view in the Hunter Valley that is consistently compared with Tuscany and Provence, there is even a place to stay. Little Orchard Cottage, with accommodation for up to four guests, is run by Sally Molines of Bistro Molines and is situated on the Tallavera Grove estate.

Bistro Molines itself, a superb hatted restaurant run by Robert and Sally Molines, overlooks the gorgeous rolling hills and the Carillion Wines cellar door bursts with the flavours of 3 separate wine regions, not to mention the joys of artisanal, small-batch wines that you can’t get anywhere else.

Who needs Provence or Tuscany when there’s so much to love right here in Mount View.


To discover Carillion Wines, visit their website