Ken and Gwen Sloan – owners of Mistletoe Winery, are renowned for creating some of the region’s most awarded and talked about wines from their 5.5-hectare vineyard on Hermitage Road in Pokolbin. Today this James Halliday 5 star rated winery is a true small family owned winery with 3 generations of the Sloan family involved in the business.
While the main focus is on Hunter Valley Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz, Mistletoe also makes wines from Merlot, Cabernet, White Muscat, Verdelho, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Fiano - produced from grapes grown in an environment where the focus is always on quality over yield.
When asked, Ken will tell you that his interest in wine started from his early years growing up on his grandfather’s farm in Wentworthville, which in the 1950’s was experiencing the first waves of post WWII migration from primarily Mediterranean countries.
“With many of my friends being of Maltese and Italian origin, I was often invited to their homes where I was confronted with food the likes of which I had never seen before and of course it was their custom to allow the kids to taste a little wine – particularly on special occasions and often watered down. I received the same treatment and my first taste of wine was on Christmas Eve in 1954. What a treat it was! I even recall that the wine was Woodley’s Est" says Ken
Ken’s interest and love of wine continued to grow and was further encouraged by the writings of the late Len Evans and Max Lake as well as the celebrated Sydney wine merchant and restaurateur J.K. "Johnnie" Walker who was also the author of a weekly newspaper wine column.
With the goal of one day owning a property in the Hunter Valley, Ken and Gwen eventually purchased the Hermitage Road property in 1989, which was once part of the Hermitage Estate Winery operation. They soon came to realise just how good the soil was for vines and set about planting a vineyard and digging the dams for irrigation.
At first the wines were contract made in the Upper Hunter, but in 2003 they decided to build a winery on the property now named Mistletoe Winery because of the vast amount of mistletoe growing on the ironbark tree which had once covered the property.
With great winemakers that included Nick Paterson and now Scott Stephens, Mistletoe Winery has in a relatively few years become one of the most respected and awarded boutique wineries in Australia.
When it comes to making good wine, Ken believes a number of factors come into consideration and for Ken "being fair and doing the right thing by suppliers" is at the top of the list up there with absolute care and close attention to detail.
Ken is a great believer in "quality without compromise" in just about everything he does – and especially when it comes to making good wine. He also believes that a good wine starts in the vineyard and for him it is critically important to keep "investing" in the vineyard.
"We put back into the vineyard and it shows… In the vineyard and winemaking side of the business, the grapes are grown in an environment that is as natural as possible and where the focus is always on quality over yield", explains Ken
With this absolute attention to detail and uncompromising focus on quality, it comes as no surprise that Mistletoe has been rated as a 5-star winery by James Halliday every year from 2007 to 2019 - putting Mistletoe in the top 8% of wineries in Australia on a quality basis and confirming Mistletoe’s reputation as one of the best and most consistent small wine producers in the Hunter Valley. The 2020 edition of the Australian Wine Companion has Mistletoe receiving ratings of between 94 and 97 points for 7 currently available wines which Halliday has also highlighted for providing value for money.
Mistletoe Winery is a very unique and special place, and once you are there, you will see why visitors to Wine Country return time again – especially at this time of the year when the Mistletoe Rosé and Mozcato are so popular.
Also, while you are there, take the time to browse through the onsite art gallery and sculpture garden.