The winery that every wine-lover needs to visit
As you drive up Mount Pleasant’s rose lined entrance, the famed Old Hill Vineyard rising up from the foot of the winery on your left, you get the sense that this place is pretty special. It is, and not just for the reasons you might think. Sure, it’s one of the Hunter’s oldest wineries, and has vineyard plantings dating back to the 1880s. You might’ve even heard that the wines produced from these and some of the estates other prized vineyards have recently won a spate of awards on the wine show circuit or that Mount Pleasant are proudly (and quite rarely for their size) a 100% Hunter Valley winery. That’s only part of the story I’m told. Mount Pleasant is special for another very important reason. And that reason is Maurice O’Shea.
On the back of their most recent win – receiving top gong at the NSW Wine Awards for the second year running, we spent some time at the iconic estate, with Chief Winemaker, Adrian Sparks to talk wine, their latest collaboration and perhaps most importantly, their history.
Walking up the steps to the cellar door homestead, the first thing you’re likely to notice is the abundant peacefulness. Close your eyes for just a moment and you’ll hear the Bellbirds singing. No kidding.
The second thing you’ll notice as you enter the courtyard is an old wooden basket press and an aged bottle of dry red encased in a statue by its side. This Adrian tells me is a testament to Maurice O’Shea, who not only established the Mount Pleasant winery but who changed the face of the Australian wine industry.
In an age when fortified wines were the drink of choice, it was a young O’Shea that set about growing grapes and crafting wines in the French style at Mount Pleasant, expressing the estate’s unique terroir in vibrant, flavoursome blends and single-vineyard styles.
Adrian explains, “What O’Shea did right here was a complete game-changer for Australian wine. He did this too without the help of a tractor, electricity and a lot of the modern tech we use in winemaking today. He was just extraordinarily talented. I’ve been lucky enough to taste a few wines he made from back in the day and they’re remarkable."
While Adrian will be the first to wax poetic on the beauty of vintage variation and site selection, and O’Shea’s foresight in this regard, his own record is quite impressive. Since becoming Chief Winemaker, Adrian has won back-to-back ‘Best in Show’ trophies at the 2018 and 2019 NSW Wine Awards (for different wines), Best Red Wine of Show at the 2018 and 2019 Hunter Valley Wine Shows (again with different wines) as well as the highly coveted, Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year award for 2019. See below for more info.
The results speak for themselves. While Mount Pleasant’s Shiraz and Semillon collections are quite exemplary, the winery has continued to experiment, planting a range of alternative varieties in recent years with which to delight our senses. These new alternates include a Fiano, a CF Shiraz Montils (meaning Co-Ferment) and Tempranillo Touriga blends. While not new, the 2018 Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir blend is also a standout, winning the Silver Bullet Trophy (the International Judges favourite wine) at this year’s Hunter Valley Wine Show.
You can taste these wines, and even top shelf Shiraz drops - Maurice O'Shea, OP&OH and Rosehill, at the cellar door. For a small tasting fee, which is redeemable with any purchase, the friendly cellar door team will take you on a wine journey. Choose from their popular Estate and Heritage tastings or their exclusive O'Shea tasting which lets you sample Mount Pleasant's whole wine collection.
We love that Mount Pleasant is one of the few wineries, certainly one of the bigger Hunter producers, that are proud to fly the Hunter Valley flag – making wine only from fruit grown on the estate and from their other two Hunter vineyards, Lovedale and Rosehill. Being 100% Hunter Valley is certainly something Adrian has always been passionate about.
“We’re so fortunate to own some of the best vineyards in the Hunter and arguably Australia, why would we want to make wine from anywhere else. We’re definitely proud of our history here in the valley and we want our wines to keep telling that story.”
Award-winning wines and winemaking history aside, there’s now another reason to visit Mount Pleasant. The next chapter sees a very welcome and delicious collaboration with Manly’s The Artisan Cheese Room. Opening a Cheese Bar at the estate earlier this month, The Artisan’s international and awarding selection of cheeses, coffee and delightful café menu are right at home at Mount Pleasant.
When it all comes down to it though, you don’t need to be a wine connoisseur or collector to enjoy a visit to Mount Pleasant. Of course, if you want to delve into history further and see firsthand some of Mount Pleasant’s (and the Valley’s) oldest vineyards or tour around the winery, then you’re most welcome. The cellar door runs free tours on Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am. Bookings are essential.
Equally though, if you’d just like to sit at the bar or and taste some wines or grab your favourite drop and chill on the terrace with a cheese plate, admiring the serenity and listening to birdsong, there’s really no better place.
The wine awards…
2019 NSW Wine Awards
NSW Wine of the Year Trophy – 2018 Mount Pleasant Mountain D Shiraz
Best Red Wine of Show Trophy – 2018 Mount Pleasant Mountain D Shiraz
Best Shiraz of Show Trophy – 2018 Mount Pleasant Mountain D Shiraz
2019 Hunter Valley Wine Show
Best Red Wine of Show Trophy – 2018 Rosehill Shiraz (+ 4 other trophies for this wine)
Best 2-Year-Old Shiraz – 2017 Maurice O’Shea Shiraz
International Judge’s Favourite Wine of Show – 2018 Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir
2019 Hunter Valley Legends Awards
Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year: Adrian Sparks
2018 NSW Wine Awards
NSW Wine of the Year Trophy – 2017 Mount Pleasant Old Paddock & Old Hill Shiraz
Best Red Wine of Show Trophy – 2017 Mount Pleasant Old Paddock & Old Hill Shiraz
Best Shiraz of Show Trophy – 2017 Mount Pleasant Old Paddock & Old Hill Shiraz
2018 Hunter Valley Wine Show
Best Red Wine of Show Trophy – 2017 Old Hill ‘1880 Vines’ Shiraz (+ 4 other trophies for this wine)