Wine & Cheese Tasting and a Gourmet Pantry
As you drive down McDonalds Rd in the Hunter Valley you can’t help but notice the Gundog Estate cellar door. Surrounded by vineyards and the Brokenback Range the pale blue cottage looks incredibly inviting, so of course we had to stop.
Opening its doors in 2011, Gundog Estate was four years in the making with winemaker Matt Burton and his family initially kicking the cellar door off with a couple of wines from their Canberra vineyard. It wasn’t long, however, before Gundog Estate soon established its own identity releasing a Hunter Valley Rose and Shiraz. Visiting today what you discover is almost 30 different wine varieties that cover off everything from Riesling to Rose, Semillon to Shiraz and everything in between.
Chatting with Matt he explained,
‘Our family have a cellar door in Canberra which is also called Gundog (named after their beloved Karl Marx the Gundog), but we’re originally from Sydney and we weren’t originally from wine. Mum’s an academic and dad was in the film industry, so wine became the breakaway thing for them, but for me, I went straight into wine out of school, which was a lucky decision at a young age.’
Whilst Gundog has evolved exponentially since opening there has been no wavering on their boutique approach to business, which has resulted in not only a long list of innovative wines, many awards and accolades along the way and a pretty sweet arrangement with one of Australia’s most well recognised brands, Matt explains,
‘We’ve worked with Qantas for a couple of years now, supplying about 5 different wines for Business Class, both international and domestic flights, which is really cool. To have a brand of our scale working with a company that I consider to be one of Australia’s greatest is fantastic.’
If Business Class isn’t your usual mode of transport, a visit to the cellar door is the next best option with Matt and the team crafting a unique cellar door experience for their guests.
‘We only do seated tastings at Gundog, and that’s not in a formal or pretentious way it actually helps to break down the whole bar barrier. We often hear from our visitors how relaxed and comfortable they feel when they’re here which is what we want.
‘We also use Riedel glassware exclusively, but again not in a pretentious way it’s just a nice thing plus the wines look great in them. Our staff are brilliant and the whole culture of making really exceptional wines and presenting them in a non-pretentious way is hopefully what we nail.’
WINE & CHEESE TASTINGS
‘With the wine tastings we only charge $5 per person, or we have the Limited Release tasting menu which is $10 per person, with that money being refunded if you purchase a bottle. By charging we’ve found it avoids that awkward point at the end, it becomes a really neat transaction. We’re also starting to see a lot more international visitors coming to the Hunter Valley so it’s really important that we can offer them an option as well.’
When Gundog opened their doors they also launched the Gundog Gourmet Pantry, which continues to be a very unique and delicious addition to the cellar door.
‘I feel like back in 2011 Gundog would have had the first pantry, there was the Smelly Cheese Shop and Mojo’s in Lovedale, but certainly as a gourmet pantry that was integrated into a cellar door. What we’ve continued to try and do is keep all the products as local as possible, the meat is sourced from Lovedale Smokehouse, the cheeses are from Hunter Belle, and combined with the wine tasting it becomes this really rounded out experience.’
For those not so much into the wine, the Cheese Menu is for you. The Gundog mini deli offers visitors the chance to sit, relax and sample a wide selection of local cheeses and meats all from $20 a board.
PATH TO CHANGE
Gundog has become much more than a cellar door and vineyard, what Matt and his family have been focused on is participating in a community that provides for all and have partnered with Path to Change to achieve this vision.
‘We’ve always worked with charities but we started working with Path to Change as we wanted to hone in on something that I certainly feel is a really growing need in this country and that is around social welfare, particularly for young people.
‘Path to Change provide services for disadvantaged & homeless youth, with the thought being that the way to break the cycle is to get young people into work, and I really believe that if you can give them skills and build up their self-confidence it gives them an opportunity to prove themselves.
‘What I also really like about Path to Change is that we can directly see where the funds are going and how what we perceive as being a small amount of money can actually make a big difference.