Kelman Estate is a destination like no other. A boutique vineyard, five-star accommodation provider and unique residential community, Kelman Estate is the perfect place to visit for a day, linger for a weekend or stay for a lifetime.
Established in 1996 by Stewart Ewen and named after William Kelman, one of the founding fathers of Australian wine and one of the earliest vignerons in the Hunter Valley, Kelman Estate consists of around 100 acres nestled in a quiet corner of Pokolbin near Mount View.
At the heart of the estate is the flourishing vineyard, which was initially planted in the rich, fertile soil of the property in 1997 and now covers 23 acres, growing everything from Shiraz, Tempranillo and Semillon grapes to Chardonnay, Muscat and a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend gleaned from Adelaide Hills fruit.
After celebrating its first vintage in 1999, Kelman Estate’s premium range of wines quickly won favourable attention from wine show judges, with the triple medal-winning 2000 Semillon setting the standard for a long line of award-winning wines produced by Jeff Byrne, who is also thechief winemaker for Pokolbin’s Agnew Wines. Kelman’s Semillon is an unoaked, straw-coloured wine, with the aromas and flavours of apple lemon and citrus, while its Chardonnay (which won a bronze medal at the 2016 Small Winemakers Show) features a straw-like to light yellow colour, with the fruit characters of citrus, melon and peach, complemented by hints of vanilla oak.
The estate’s Shiraz, which exhibits the classic Hunter earthy palate, is a medium-bodied wine with spice, pepper, raspberry and plum characters, creating a complex flavour with a soft tannic finish. It, along with several of Kelman’s white varieties, are continuing theestate’s rich tradition of producing award-winning wines according to Kelman Estate’s Head of Wine Production Darryl Ede, having recently been awarded a swag of wine show medals.
“Kelman has been awarded many medals over the years,” he said.“
Recently our Sparkling Chardonnay, Semillon, Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz have successfully picked up medals, and additionally both of our 2016 Semillon and Shiraz wines will be receiving some excellent reviews in an upcoming edition of Wine Companion magazine. “Kelman also tends to ripen a little later in the vintage than other parts of the Hunter, allowing us to monitor for optimal picking times.
“We are extremely proud of the quality of the vineyard and the excellent fruit that it now produces. Each vintage offers up its own unique opportunities for the winemakers at Kelman, with new varieties and different styles always on the horizon. The estate’s pale salmon pink Moscato, which tastes almost like liquid Turkish delight, is also renowned in the Hunter and beyond, with the 2015 vintage named the second best of its type in Australia. This year’s vintage, in particular, has plenty of potential according to Darryl, who said the vineyard is constantly trying to refine its practices in order to enhance the quality of its wines. “
As we continue to refine our practices, we are looking to producefrom the excellent 2018 vintage a single plot Shiraz using hand selected best parcels, a Tempranillo/Shiraz blend and an oak-matured Chardonnay/Semillon blend,” he said.
“Additionally over the past few vintages we have produced a luscious Vin de Vie, which is a lightly fortified (brandy spirit) Muscat, produced in a beautiful bottle. “We also grafted some of our original vines over to Tempranillo in around 2011. The wines produced have been very easy drinking lighter drinks, but in 2017 we produced an extremely serious style. This is black and red fruited (black cherries, blackberries and raspberries) and has excellent soft grippy tannins and exceptional length on the palate.“ Our desire is to be known as a quality boutique Hunter vineyard that produces an excellent range of traditional Hunter varieties, as well as producing a few different styles depending on the vintage."
Additionally the traditional spice that one associates with this variety is evident, with the wine offering excellent cellaring potential.” What’s special about Kelman’s vineyard - and the wines it produces – is the way it has been integrated into the broader community that also calls the estate home. When the vineyard was initially designed in the mid to late nineties, it was not set out in the traditional manner, with row upon row of grapes. Instead, the vines were planted so as to meander between the estate’s privately-owned properties in a way that is no longer possible to replicate anywhere else in Australia.
Changes in the Environmental Protection Act that relate to the required distance between human habitation and agricultural activity were made after the estate was developed, ensuring it will remain a unique concept. Darryl said the carefully designed layout of the estate and the integration of the residential community also had other advantages for the working vineyard. “We capture rainwater from all the individual properties, which is processed through our own Blivet system and is then directed into our lakes,” he said.
“By capturing this water, we have the added ability to irrigate during times of high heat/drought, which is beneficial in the Hunter environment.” Aside from the picturesque aspect it creates for the residents, the integration of the vineyard into the residential community also has the effect of engendering a sense of pride and custodianship in many of those who live there. While residents own their land and their house, the vines and the fruit of the vines are owned by the community. And although residents are invited to simply enjoy living within the tranquil surrounds, many also choose to become more involved in the community and the operation of the vineyard.
The majority of the houses are set on around an acre of land each, while 13 two-bedroom cottages occupy quarter acre blocks. Owners are a mix of permanent residents and weekenders of all ages, from families with children through to retirees. Communal facilities include a library, tennis courts, bocce, croquet, golf hole, barbecues and a beautiful lake for a quiet bit of fishing, with the large wine shed doubling as a community social area for monthly gatherings, winter happy hours, special dinners, celebrations and parties.
The estate is also home to a five-star bed and breakfast, Hunter Valley Cooperage, which offers guests the choice of their north-facing Shiraz, Chardonnay and Semillon rooms, with views over the vines to the lake, the gracious and spacious Champagne Suite overlooking the orchard, or the luxurious Scandinavian style studio apartment known as The Retreat, which is secluded away from the main Cooperage bed and breakfast residence, although remaining connected by the deck.
As you’d expect from any quality winery, the estate boasts a beautiful cellar door set in a converted homestead, which is open seven days a week and offers tastings and sales of all its premium wines. During the colder months, the cellar door also offers its “winter speciality” of mulled wine. Available from the June long weekend through to the end of August, the mulled wine is served by the glass at the cellar door, while a bottle of wine and spice pack are available for sale.
There is also a range of local produce on offer, including extra virgin olive oils, flavoured oils including lemon myrtle, herb, chilli and garlic, Kalamata olives with garlic and chilli, and wonderful vinegars like mango chilli and caramelised balsamic. The cellar door also houses a large collection of historical artefacts and documents of wine pioneers, William Kelman (1800 -1863) and James Busby (1800 – 1871), which are on show in the Barrel Room highlighting the history and influence both men had on the development of the wider Hunter wine region.
To find out more about Kelman or to purchase its wines or produce via the estate’s online store, visit www.kelmanvineyard.com.au. ■