By Christine Salins
Karin Adcock had no intention of becoming a vigneron before setting eyes on the Hunter Valley property that has been home to Winmark Wines since 2016.
“When I saw the property, I instantly fell in love with it, so I put a silly bid in and thought I could still sleep at night. An hour later they rang and said, ‘Congratulations, it’s yours’.”
Thus, Adcock found herself the owner of 130 acres in Broke Fordwich, encompassing a vineyard established in 1988 by late Macquarie Bank founder, David Clarke.
Known then as Pooles Rock, it had a reputation for award-winning Chardonnay but the vines had languished, neglected, in the five years prior to Adcock buying the property. The Pooles Rock name wasn’t part of the sale.
“In the beginning, the intention became … let’s just make this a beautiful place for family and friends. Then we started realizing that this property had a very strong pedigree for Chardonnay in particular,” said Adcock.
“So we pulled out 10 acres of Verdelho and planted two different Burgundy clones from France which we now have 10 acres of, and which have proven to be a really good move for us.”
Adcock assembled a strong team, including international winemaker and consultant, John Belsham.
“In the 5 years I’ve been here,” said Belsham, “we’ve had drought, we’ve had bushfires, and we’ve had the wettest year recorded on this property, and we’ve had covid as well, but we’ve been able to consistently produce excellent wine. That is testament to the property but also to the people involved.”
Winmark’s line-up consists of four fine Chardonnays, including the three reviewed here, as well as its flagship, Icon 7 2 (a “contemporary” way of saying that the vines were planted in 1972). All the wines are estate grown. From the 2023 vintage, their first base wine for a methode champenoise Blanc de Blancs will be laid down.
Concentrating purely on one variety is uncommon in Australia but as well as the property being supremely suited to the variety, Adcock admits there was a slightly selfish reason “which was, I can’t get my ahead around 10 different wines, let’s just focus on one thing”.
A woman of impeccable taste, Danish-born Adcock approached the project with the same entrepreneurial zeal that she did in bringing the Pandora jewellery brand to Australia. She commissioned garden designer Paul Bangay to do a perennial and rose garden, curated an extraordinary Sculpture Walk and Art Gallery, opened a cellar door and coffee cart, and added a shop selling the most beautiful array of gifts, jewellery and homewares.
She used her flair to transform four houses on site into luxury accommodation for up to 34 guests. Her achievements were recognized when Winmark Wines was named Cellar Door of the Year at the 2023 Hunter Valley Wine Industry and Legends Awards.
“We would like to make sure than when people come here, they feel really spoiled, that they feel really welcome, that this is a place they can connect with and relax and come back to,” she said.
Winmark 2022 Rusty’s Run Chardonnay, $32: Intended to be enjoyed now, this is a blend of fruit from multiple blocks, with a small amount of oak. “Oak is not a pre-requisite,” said Belsham. “Sometimes we do (use oak), sometimes we don’t. Whether this has oak or not is irrelevant; this is designed to be a beautiful expression of fruit.” It is indeed poised and elegant, with citrus and stonefruit flavours, a hint of spice, and pleasing complexity.
Winmark 2022 Expressions Chardonnay, $37: A little more expressive (hence the name), it comes from a more select part of the property, though not always the same part. The name is also a connection to Adcock’s love of art. (An artist is invited to create a painting for the label each year.) With great texture, this wine is designed to age a little longer than Rusty’s. Lemon and elderflower flavours with a touch of nutmeg spice, this is a beautiful wine that is worth trading up for.
Winmark 2021 Single Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay, $55: Winner of the trophy for Best Young Chardonnay at the NSW Small Winemakers Wine Show. This finely tuned wine is made with premium, hand-harvested fruit from a single site. Wooded gnarly old vines produce deliciously concentrated flavours of nashi pear, white peaches and apricot. A little buttery with a touch of marzipan.