Category Archives: Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley

Dinner at Alto Restaurant

Telstra Tower

Last Friday night, a group of wine fatalists took a trip to the top of Black Mountain, to dine at the Alto restaurant.  The fare here is a touch sophisticated, and we all were to some degree salivating at the menu options available.

Welcoming us as the lift doors opened, we were greeted at a small desk and quickly whisked away to our table.

The restaurant revolves, ensuring an equal share in the rich views of the Canberra countryside as well as the city lights and sights.

After ordering entree and main dishes, some of our party adjourned to the observation deck to take photos of Canberra and the surrounding countryside.  The view from Black Mountain has not diminished in recent years, in fact Canberra has begun the slow journey of growing around the mountain.  The first new estates are being built in the Molonglo region to the south west and development continues in the far north in Gungahlin.

Alto  Alto Wine

When we returned to the table, our entrees arrived.  To compliment a varied mixture of entree selections (cheese & zucchini soufflé,  quail and pear) and to introduce some of our party (visiting from Canada) to a noble white wine we’ve perfected; I chose a Hunter Valley Semillon by Meerea Park called “Terracotta” (2006).  The zest and citrus flavours really accentuated (in my case) the incredibly tasty soufflé.

Alto Entree Options  Alto Main Options

After the entrees were cleared, we retired once again to the observation deck to snap photos of the city as the city lights started twinkling below us.  We were also entertained by a squadron of fighter jets who were practicing aerial stunts over near the Brindabella mountains.

Canberra City  Semillon Clash

Returning to the table, we were met with our main meal selections.  Again, the table chose an interesting mix of meat – Kangaroo, beef and lamb.  For the accompaniment,  and owing to some degree to the tastes and palates amongst our group;  I selected a bottle of McWilliams “1877” Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz (2004) from the Hilltops region of New South Wales.

Canberra City by Night

The wine and meals complemented each other very well, especially with the beef (perfectly cooked) as the juice of the meat activated deeper flavours within the peppery red, unlocking aspects of the Shiraz which fought bravely against the refined and structured cabernet/sauvignon blend.

For dessert, there was a mixture of tart, chocolate pot and cheeses – no wine accompaniment owing to time, and cost!

Meerea Park Terracotta McWilliams 1877

In summary…  Alto is a very wine restaurant with perfect location, impeccable service plus; and offering unparalleled views across the Canberra region.  The wine list is well appointed and provides a number of options from the discerning wine enthusiast to the casual wine spectator and casual diner.  Recommended.

2-Course Meal: $65
3-Course Meal: $75
5-Course Degustation: $105/$155 with wine pairing

2006 Meerea Park “Terracotta” Semillon – Hunter Valley (NSW)
2004 McWilliams “1877” Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon – Hilltops Region (NSW)

1996 Brokenwood HBA Shiraz

Happy New Year!

From all of us at Aussie Wine Guy, we hope that you are welcoming 2013 in style.  We had a bit of a break over the holiday season, enjoying the odd premium label as the days passed by.

Stay tuned for a number of new tasting notes, but we’ll start with this one.. behold a special label from the Hunter Valley’s Brokenwood wines.  This release, a cellar door only wine, was purchased a few years back (possibly in 2007) during one of our many journeys to the region.

Tasting Notes

The 1996 Brokenwood HBA Shiraz is a really fine wine.  Made from a blend of the best from Brokenwood’s Graveyard block (in the Hunter Valley) and from the best of the Rayner block (in McLaren Vale), the wine was bottled in 1997 and then held for over a decade at the vineyard – constituting a museum release.  Incidentally, the ‘HBA’ stands for the first initial of the surname of the three original partners of Brokenwood – James Halliday, John Beeston and Tony Albert .  The blending was inspired by some of the great regional blends of the early heydays in the region, particularly from the 40s, 50s and 60s.

1996 Brokenwood HBA Shiraz Brokenwood HBA Shiraz

Our tasting began on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 2012.  The wine was opened and the cork extracted carefully – the cork broke, but the remainder was extracted without corking the wine.  The wine was decanted into a Riedel decanter (as pictured) and then poured back and double decanted as there was a fair amount of very fine sediment – almost too small to be filtered.  You can see the sediment on the picture of the decanter – it is very, very fine.

The wine was left to breathe for several hours before being presented at the Christmas Eve dinner, where it was faithfully poured into Riedel vinum Shiraz glasses (why not?).  Brokenwood’s website lists the 1996 HBA Shiraz as a ‘good to outstanding aged style’ however, based on our experience the wine is brilliant at this age.  Provided the bottle has been carefully cellared (as this one had been) it should be drinking at its peak.

Brokenwood HBA Shiraz Brokenwood HBA Shiraz

The bouquet was simply outstanding, an array of delicate flavours resembling something of a well cared for Burgundy.  The extended hours breathing in the decanter really brought out the full complexity of the wine, the initial sips revealed something of a velvety texture; finely crafted and lush with an array of tastes from spices (slight cloves, etc.) to a silky oak flavour.  The wine finished with a long, but subtle aftertaste which resonated for quite a while between sips.

To say that this experience set the standard for our holiday break would be an understatement.  What struck me is that the wine has been so masterly crafted – the blend from the tighter, more complex nature of a McLaren Vale Shiraz coupled so perfectly with the softer ‘all-round’ nature of Hunter Valley Shiraz is simply inspiring! The extended bottle maturation obviously has something to do with the success of this wine – this is not something we’ve encountered regularly.

Brokenwood HBA Shiraz

Stay tuned for more – new tasting notes coming soon.

[ Links ]

Brokenwood Vintage Chart    –

Brokenwood’s Tasting Notes –

Further Reading about the HBA –