For a jockey, winning a race is all about the timing. Making sure you don’t miss the jump from the gates, knowing when to hold the horse back, sensing when to make your run. Timing is also a key element of success for a winemaker. Knowing when to harvest your crop, assessing when to take the juice off the skins, understanding how to age the wine for the best outcome.
Former jockey turned winemaker David Fromberg certainly knows a thing or two about timing. As a jockey struggling to keep his weight under the 47kg limit, he knew the time had come to find a new career.
As a winemaker passionate about creating wines that are designed to stay, not sprint, he knows how to pass the time while he waits. But the wait is finally over for David, who earlier this year opened a cellar door for his Running Horse Wines label – almost two decades after he first planted vines on his family’s 56-acre property at Broke.
“I’ve always loved horses really,” he said. “I grew up in Maroubra, but I always rode horses. My father has owned this property (at Broke) since ’88, and I used to have my pet horses up here, I used to always come up here on weekends or any chance I had... I was a bit more country orientated.“I didn’t think I could be a jockey because I was a bit taller than the average and then I jumped on the scales, and I was 47 kilo, so I thought ‘I’ll have a go.’
“My apprenticeship went from ’93 to ’97, and when I finished my apprenticeship, I went overseas for three years. When I came back I had maybe ten rides and rode three winners, but maintaining the weight got the better of me and I decided to build the vineyard.
“We had the land here, and I decided to build a vineyard! That was the naiveté of it,” laughs David.“That was in 2000, and now years later, I’ve finally built a cellar door too. I wasn't going to borrow money to build it, so I had to keep chipping away to get the money. And then in the meantime, I also made all the vintages that I’ve been cellaring.”
Now open to the public, Running Horse Wines is located withinthe picturesque surrounds of the Broke Fordwich region, overlooking the iconic Yellow Rock escarpment. With such a beautiful landscape around him, David knew his cellar door had to be something special to make the most of the views.
Designed by his friend David Kaunitz from Kaunitz Yeung Architecture, the complex has been constructed using six shipping containers that have been stacked purposefully, but with a seemingly haphazard appearance, to elevate the cellar door above the level of the vineyard.
The design makes the most of the tapestry of views surrounding the complex, with the cellar door orientated to showcase the distant mountains.The shipping containers have been artfully repurposed with extensive use of glass to open them up to the landscape, while massive sandstone boulders seem to anchor the weathered steel buildings into the natural environment.
Timber, glass, copper and steel also feature prominently within the interior design of the complex, with a mass display of wine bottles sporting Running Horse Wines’ distinctive spiral label creating an eyecatching feature along one wall.
The true centrepiece of the space, however, is the gleaming glass-topped bar, which incorporates a series of light panels that help to showcase the colour and clarity of the wine being tasted.
Designed to sit within the natural environment while still making a statement, the cellar door is certainly among the most striking in the Hunter wine region and David said he was immediately struck by the concept design put forward by his friend.“It was easy to like it,” he said.
“I changed a few things on the design, but it was all about getting two storeys up so we could overlook the vineyard from the cellar door and capture the view over the vineyard.“There’s also the spectacular views of Yellow Rock. You get up high, and you get the beautiful views looking back over the national park, over the vineyard and the stables. It's really a great place to sit and taste wines.”
What’s most striking about Running Horse Wines,however, is what’s in the bottles. David is one of the few vignerons in the region specifically producing aged wines, with his range including varieties of Semillon,Verdelho, Rose and Shiraz.
The wines are produced using fruit from his vines and made by Pokolbin-based contract winemaker Nick Patterson.“You can go through hundreds of cellar doors and never get to lookat a range of wines so different,” David said.
“You get to do vertical tastings; you get to look at wines that are 12 years-old that are still drinking fantastic but have real bottle-aged characters coming through. Semillons that are 13 years old that still look like they’re six years old, or Verdelhos that are the same, they just age fantastically well.“If you look at the colour of the wine they look much younger than a 12 year-old wine, they're ageing gracefully. That emphasises how high the quality is here because if they were second-grade fruit, they would be looking much more oxidised.”
David said the 2005, 2006 and 2011 Shiraz were particularly good right now, offering a classic, spicy Hunter bouquet that complements the smooth palate of cherries and subtle mint, with silky tannins and hints of chocolate and vanilla from 18 months maturation in new French Oak.
However, the wine hasn’t been the only thing on David’s mind for the past few years. As the name of the wine label suggests, the ex-jockey is still passionate about horses. He has continued to train and race a number of home bred horses over the years including Rhyno Chaser, Mean Beans, Grab The Jewels and Cher Cher Shark, with an impressive set of starting gates in his front paddock highlighting the property’s dual purpose.
He is currently working with an unraced three-year-old and two-year-old, with the timing looking almost right to give them their first start.
“Horses are magnificent animals; they don’t do much wrong.Everything they do is graceful,” David says. “I guess I am fortunate to be able to combine my two loves, horses and wine, and have them co-exist happily in one place.”
Make sure you visit Running Horse Wines while you’re in the HunterValley – you’ll find it at 1133 Milbrodale Road, Broke Fordwich or visitwww.runninghorsewines.com.au ■