We are on the hunt for old Tulloch Wines


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I’m exhausted and I’ve just worked out why

Where did the month of November go? Straight to my hips I’m guessing!  Yes, this time of year is both heaven and hell for me. Countless dinners and drinks and the nervous wait for vintage 2015.  Here’s a quick wrap up of some of the last months highlights.


Family time before the madness

The silly season is a ridiculously busy time in the wine industry, so I managed to squeeze in a couple of days hanging out with my gorgeous kids in the Hunter combining business and pleasure.  Just the tonic before the silly season hit and they wondered where there mum had disappeared to.

A weekend Away

Next up, a weekend away at stunning Killcare with good mates for some fun in the sun.  I cooked one of my favourite chicken dishes for the crew on the Saturday night, pomegranate chicken with Lebanese caprese salad, roast potatoes and carrots in cumin and honey.  I love a meal that involves ripping meat off a bone with your bare hands.  Unfortunately, I was way too busy eating and drinking to get any food porn shots, but this is the cookbook the recipes came from and it comes highly recommended! Comptoir Libanais Cook Book


Some Serious Tasting

Work, work, work and no play. Well let’s face it, my work is quite like play as you can see from this tasting with the Camperdown Cellars Team who visited the hunter for a fine wine immersion.  My kind of immersion!


And …. some more tasting at Ladies Wine Options

What better way to finish a week than a good old night of options with the ladies.  The theme was Great Southern Riesling hosted by the lovely Sally Margan and what an unexpected treat.  Have to admit I had no prior expectations of this area, but I will definitely be including some of their wines on my ‘to drink list’ in the future.  Big thanks should also go to my Dad, who was kind enough to be my designated driver and pick me up from dinner way later than he would’ve liked to have been up.  Thanks dad!  Line up of wines below, with a particular mention for Castle Rock Estate, which had some very impressive drops. http://www.castlerockestate.com.au/

First Bracket – Castle Rock Estate

Castle Rock Estate is nestled on the eastern slopes of the Porongurup mountain range and is named after a prominent nearby landmark. The vineyard has a cool and elevated northerly aspect, resulting in intensely flavoured wines.

  1. 2014 Porongurup Riesling** $23 – Silver Qantas WA Wine Show 2014. 96 Points Halliday Top 100 2014 **My pick of the night
  2. 2013 Skywalk Riesling $20
  3. 2012 OD Riesling $19

Second Bracket – Judging Bracket

  1. 2014 Galafrey Riesling $20  Mt Barker I had this as a silver but it was  Gold at the Qantas WA Wine Show 2014
  2. 2014 Harewood Estate Riesling Gold $21 – Denmark Top Gold Trophy at Qantas WA Wine Show 2014
  3. 2014 West Cape Howe Mt Barker Riesling no medals $19 – Mt Barker Hallidays Top 100 2014 97 Points

Third Bracket (with cheese)

  1. 2012 West Cape Howe Tempranillo  – Frankland/Perth Hills $19
  2. 2012 Plantaganet Shiraz – Mt Barker $39.99


The 70th Birthday Bash (not mine!)

And on the parties and drinking and eating continued…..  Saturday night was a special night as my sister and I threw a belated combined 70th birthday party for my parents and 30 of their closest friends.  What a night! So much fun, so many great stories and just a bunch of really old mates enjoying great food, great wine and great friendship.  A truly humbling occasion and the highlight, the Imperial of 1986 Hector Limited Release Shiraz, still so very youthful, just like my gorgeous parents.


Educate, Drink, Eat, Taste, Learn, Play, Repeat!

The last week of November is a bit of a blur… but involved lashings of all of the above.  At this point a special shout out should go to the amazing team at the Cellar Restaurant who managed to feed me for something like 6 meals in one week.  http://the-cellar-restaurant.com.au/ Now you know why November went straight to my hips! Wednesday a presentation and meeting with a potential buyer, Wednesday night dinner for my Coraggio Advisory Board (4 courses and 4 brackets  of 4 wines each), Thursday a meeting of my Advisory board at Tulloch, followed by wine appreciation and a winery visit and you guessed it … wine tasting!  Then home, sweet home for our street party on Saturday afternoon with our fun neighbours and their families.  We’re pretty sure we are the friendliest street in Sydney and luckily for me they all enjoy a few glasses of wine too.


Member’s Christmas Party at Sydney Dance Cafe

Fabulous venue, really awesome vibe and what a crowd.  As always, I am genuinely humbled and overwhelmed by how lovely our wine club members are and their unwavering support.  Thank you to you all.


Wine Dinner at Ottimo Italian Kitchen in Hunters Hill

What a great suburban restaurant.  All proud Italians serving up deliciously authentic Italian fare with thoughtful Tulloch wine matches.  The scampi was to die for and the lemon butter Verdelho reduction sauce, ridiculously moreish.  Thank you to the chef and owner for my takeaway container of the left over sauce, I had to stop myself putting it on toast the next morning!  This place is everything I love about suburban dining in Sydney, it’s really honest and they have a wonderfully loyal local following that makes a wine dinner at a place like this instantly  convivial.


Time to Party Tulloch Style

First week of December, which can only mean one thing.  It’s time for the Tulloch Christmas Party.  A big thanks to the team at Emersons for hosting us for an indulgent 6 course degustation http://www.emersonsrestaurant.com.au/  I managed to only make one staff member cry (don’t ask… I’m blaming the emotional effects of Chardonnay), I didn’t forget to thank anyone in my speech, only one staff member got a bit too tipsy and fell over and I managed to convince my Dad to be the designated driver… again, so I was tucked up in bed by midnight.  Pretty good effort if I may say so myself. Big shout out to Mel and The Giant for  really interesting wine choices and exercises (matching current vintage Tulloch products with the same varietals from another region).  The Tulloch Limited Release 2008 Julia Semillon against the Peter Lehmann 2009 Margaret Semillon was a real battle of the matriarchs.  A huge thank you to the amazing team at Tulloch wines, they are all so doggedly dedicated and passionate, I owe them so very much and I am very thankful for each and everyone of them and their individual contributions.


5 days till holidays

Last Tulloch social event for the year …. our local Christmas Drinks at Cellar Door.  This meant it was time to get our Christmas on, and I managed to unnerve everyone when I arrived in the Hunter early Monday morning singing Christmas Carols and asking the location of our decorations so I could ‘festivise’ the cellar door.  You see I’ve always been of the, less is more philosophy when it involves anything glittery or sparkly, but becoming a parent changed all that and as my oldest is now 4 and REALLY into Christmas, I guess it has sort of rubbed off on me.  Super Brad almost had to wrestle the Christmas decorations off me for fear of the cellar door looking like Christmas had thrown up on it.  For once, some one was reminding me that less is more. Thank you to all the locals who joined us for Christmas drinks, we are grateful for your ongoing support and we look forward to continuing to put the Hunters best foot forward with you in 2015.


It’s not goodbye, it’s just see you later…

And now the end of my working year draws near and I will leave for 3 weeks holiday with my beautiful family, from whom I have been far too absent too often this year.  To my husband: I know when I am away and you can see my social media streams showing copious amounts of eating and drinking in various fantastic establishments, that it doesn’t look like I am in fact working.  Thank you for making what I do possible and for being a truly modern man and kid wrangler.  To my team at Tulloch, thank you for all your hard work.

And for me, it’s over and out for another year, I’ll see you all in the New Year for more adventures of the eating, drinking and being merry, kind.  Merry Christmas to you and your families and wishing you all a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

I think I’ll pour myself a glass of chardy and have a lay down! Christina Tulloch xx


PS. Keep an eye out for all the fabulous events and dinners we have planned in 2015 .  First out of the blocks will be a Tulloch Dinner at one of my favourite Hunter eateries, County Dining.  I hope to see you there!


How to navigate a wine list like a pro

Wine lists are no longer just the humble keepers of social lubricants.  Instead they have become award-winning novels full of prose, descriptors and unpronounceable obscurities.  As our palates have matured and our curiosity in everything epicurean has peaked, the sommeliers of the city have upped the ante and we are now faced with some pretty big vinous decisions when dining out.  

In the days of yesteryear, an ill thought out wine selection simply ended in a bad hangover, but our modern wine waiters now assume we have some knowledge and we know how to use it.

Budget, Variety (as in grape variety), Region and Brand are key.  Know a little bit about all four and you’ll soon unlock the secret to sipping satisfaction for every occasion.



Get the Sommelier on side.

Wine lists are a sommeliers labour of love, they don’t need to be yours too.  You’re out to dinner, you want to relax and quite frankly, it shouldn’t feel like hard work. Don’t waste time deciphering a really serious autobiographical account of the sommeliers vinous coming of age, ask for their help.  This is what they do for a living, they can assist with all your wine wanderings and make you look good in the process. That said, be specific with your budget and if you don’t want to risk being disappointed, stick to a varietal you know you have enjoyed in the past.  If you don’t want to appear completely out of your depth or cheap, advise the sommelier of your budget or general preferences before he presents his oenological offerings to the whole table.


Want to go it alone?

You’d rather spend the evening conversing with your guests than dissecting the wine list with the sommelier?  You also don’t want to die of thirst wondering whether the bio dynamic Blaufrankish is worth $180 and if you will make a fool of yourself trying to order it?  There are a lot of idiosyncratic, international, overpriced, unknowns on wine lists these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to order the second cheapest wine on the list and hope for the best (no one ever orders the cheapest because they think it will make them look …. well, cheap!).

If you need a chardy stat, start at the index.  The bigger the list, the more useful the contents page will prove to be and you can skip directly to ordering something to loosen the larynx while musing over that unpronounceable the sommelier is steering you towards.  Most indexes or contents pages will have the wines listed by either region, varietal or both, so you should be able to quickly navigate to an area or style that you feel comfortable with.


Wine by the glass or the bottle?

Wines by the glass are also helpfully usually at the front of the list.  Quite clever, because you’ll probably order a glass of something prior to perusing the list in its full glorious entirety, but you need a glass of something while you do so.  ‘Wine by the Glass’ lists, are usually short and sweet with a few familiar usual suspects.  They should principally be made up of known varietals/brands/regions or a combination thereof.  If you plan on having more than two glasses, it will almost certainly be more cost effective to order a bottle.  If in doubt, stick with a brand you have heard, chances are you’ve heard of them because they’re good at what they do.  And remember, the best wine is the one you like the most, not necessarily the most expensive one.


You want to look like you know what you’re doing.

You need a safe choice that signals you are ordering with an air of confidence and won’t be seduced by high priced hipster wines with fancy labels and no pedigree?  Certain varietals grow well in certain regions, certain countries are known for certain wine styles.  So, if you stick to a few basics here you shouldn’t have any issues selecting a modestly priced wine showing regional and varietal definition (that’s a good thing). You’ll also be letting the Sommelier know you have enough knowledge not to be taken advantage of, but just enough to be taken seriously. Use descriptors like; full bodied or light, sweet or dry, and indicate a price bracket so they can give you options.   Something that matches to your meal is also important, so decide on the food before you call the Sommelier over.  Try, “a medium bodied red to go with meat, between $80-$100.”


The best wine styles from the best regions.

By no means exhaustive, buy you will rarely go wrong with these variety / region combinations. Semillon from the Hunter Valley, Sparkling from Tassie,  Chardonnay from Margaret River or the Yarra Valley, Sav Blanc from the Adelaide Hills, Pinot Gris from Orange and Riesling from the Clare or Eden Valley for some safe, but satisfying white choices. For the reds, Pinot Noir from Victoria or Tasmania, medium bodied Shiraz from the Hunter, full bodied Shiraz and Shiraz blends from the Barossa and McLaren Vale and Cabernet from WA. Across the ditch, Pinot from Central Otago in NZ and Sav Blanc from the North Island (think Marlborough).


Australian or International?

Further afield and international wines can get a bit more complex.  Big lists tend to divide the main varietals by old world (France, Italy, and Spain) and New World (Australia, NZ, America, Chile, and South Africa). The Old World system is very tightly controlled and requires explanation.  The wines are usually a blend and the focus is on the region, which will dictate the style. This is definitely the time to seek counsel from the sommelier or stick with one of the well-known regions within your price bracket.   Champagne, Chablis, Burgundy or Bordeaux from France, Chianti, Montelpuciano or Pinto Grigio from Italy and Rioja from Spain.


Do your research!

Conveniently many restaurants now publish their wine lists on line along with their menus.  If you want to impress, but still don’t feel confident making a sound choice on the spot with an audience, do your research before you arrive.  Better yet, phone a friend.  Friends call me from restaurants all the time or sometimes even email me the list in advance.  If you can’t get hold of me, it’s time to call in the professionals and get advice from the sommelier.  If they’re good at their job and value keeping it (which is usually the case) then they’ll steer you in the direction of a fine wine, every time.


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Through the looking glass


Team Tulloch enjoyed a fantastic dinner last week to celebrate the end of another very busy wine club month.

Highlight of the night was the special bottle JYT (Dad) had brought a long for the team to enjoy.  A 1975 bottle of Dom Perignon, from the days when Tulloch was the distributor here in Australia for this prestigious Champagne brand.

Sitting at the end of the table gazing through countless wine glasses I marvelled at how large our team has grown and how proud and privileged I am to have these people as part of my work family.  So, I thought it was the perfect time I introduced them and gave you a little insight into what they contribute to team Tulloch and how unique their individual talents are.  We also have some pretty fun nicknames!  Here’s two really important people who make everything happen at Tulloch.  I look forward to introducing more of the team to you in future blog posts.


Brad Russ, Sales & Marketing Manager (AKA Super Brad AKA Brus)

So much more than a sales and marketing manager!  He is the go to man about Tulloch.  A rare combination of male ability combined with so many talents usually confined to the fairer sex.  Example, he can skirt a bridal table, put together Ikea furniture, work some mean white board action and shop for soft furnishings all without ruffling his perfectly ironed chinos.  He’ll notice if a rug or vase is even a millimetre out of place, he survives on really weird smoothies and bakes like a demon.  He’s Dad to two beautiful girls and an annoyingly capable husband .  He rarely says No (to me anyway), he loves nothing more than winding me up and does not suffer fools gladly.  He’s a jack of all trades and frustratingly a master at all of them!  I’d be lost without Super Brad and the Tulloch business would be a lesser place with out him.  He enjoys Semillon mainly, although he pretends his wife is the one who drinks it all and he cannot sit still and be satisfied with good enough.  When he gets stressed he pulls his ears and when something needs further thought, it needs ‘marinating’.  He’s the glue who holds it all together and can think and focus on ten things at once.  Sometimes I get tired just watching him.  He’s been lured away from Tulloch in the past, but always comes back and the next person who tries to lure him away should expect a knee-capping from me.



Melissa Hughes (nee Lee), Operations Manager (AKA Mel and just recently AKA Mel Nee Lee)

Along with Brus this is the girl who holds it all together and does a stellar job of it, usually doing ten jobs at once and doing them all to the most incredibly high standard, while making it look easy.  Mel recently got married, so we are adjusting to calling her by her new name, Mrs Hughes (yep, just like on Downton Abbey!).  And while the two Mrs. Hughes don’t draw physical comparisons, they are both very capable, efficient, fair women who know how to run things.  Mel has an accounting and wine making / cellar hand background, so she brings a truly unique skill set to the team.  And like Brad, she has the ability to swap between traditionally male tasks and female tasks seamlessly.  She drives a forklift, moves furniture, balances the book, smells a suspect bottling loss from a mile off, has an enviable palate for wines that display the sometimes converse characters of quality and value and drinks more water than any person I have ever met.  She calls a spade a spade, isn’t backwards in coming forwards and is often referred to as JYT’s favourite cause she loves hearing stories about the old days, being in the vineyard, always knows the cricket score and generally prefers to be behind the scenes than centre stage.   Mel always makes sure there is wine in the warehouse, everyone gets paid, every piece of office equipment is in working order, the grounds are tended to lovingly and always look immaculate and that we aren’t paying too much for electricity and of course, very importantly, that the stationary cupboard is always stocked.  She was a hell of a catch for team Tulloch and is a huge contributor.

Our dinner was held at Roberts Circa 1876.  The food, service and ambience was excellent.  Must try dishes for me were the chicken for main and the pumpkin side dish which was seriously good.  http://robertscirca1876.com/

Are our wine lists too trendy?

Wine ListA very interesting conversation has been playing out over the last couple of weeks about the nature of wine lists in Australia’s fine dining establishments.

Huon Hooke’s article kicked off the debate, followed by a response from the industry group, Sommeliers Australia.

click here to read Huon Hooke article

click here to read the response from Sommeliers Australia open letter

Both have valid points, but the only thing that really matters is what the patrons of  said restaurants think?   Do you think there are enough Aussie wines on Australian wine lists? Do you think those that are Aussie are a good representation of our industries breadth and scope?  Do you find wine lists confusing or do you enjoy the opportunity to be taken on a vinous journey by a wine professional?

Big questions and I’d love to know what people think?

Cellar Door Etiquette

I was recently asked to contribute to the latest edition of the beautifully relaunched Hunter Valley magazine on cellar door etiquette.  As the current holder of the Cellar Door of the Year title, Tulloch seemed like a natural choice for comment, we hope we do a great job, but good manners from both staff and visitors alike makes all the difference.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand when people visit our cellar door they are usually away for a holiday and want to have fun, not be bored to tears while some one talks at them about pH, TA and all sorts of other really dry wine jargon.  And, just because you can taste wine for free doesn’t mean you shouldn’t value the experience or the person conducting the tastings time or expertise.  Often Cellar Door can get a bit manic on weekends and when really ‘happy’ people are getting even happier tempers can fray and manners can be forgotten, so here’s my tips for ensuring you and everyone else sharing the cellar door experience get the most out of it.


Tasting wine at a cellar door can be a daunting task if you’ve never done it before. We asked Christina Tulloch from Tulloch Wines for some insider tips to wine-tasting.  How important are the Five S’s of wine-tasting – Seeing, Swirling, Sniffing, Sipping and Savouring?

“The five S’s are important for  appreciating the individual characters of different wine styles.  However, the most important aspect of wine is personal taste and being open to new experiences.  A good cellar door experience is about a complete experience, the elusive X factor or ambience that naturally reflects what you are tasting in the glass.  It should be fun, interesting, engaging and experiential.  The person who is doing your tasting should be able to gauge what kind of an experience you are after and deliver on that.  The hospitality aspect of a good cellar door experience can’t be underestimated and always plays a part in your overall enjoyment of any wine.  Good service, good fun, ambience etc. forms part of the whole experience.”


What’s the difference between the usual cellar door experience and a tutored tasting?

“A usual cellar door tasting lets the customer decide what they taste and in what order, hopefully with some guidance from the staff member conducting the tasting.  A tutored tasting is presented in a more structured way, where the order of the wines is presented according to an established format, eg. by vintage, by varietal, by style etc. so that the taster can get a feel for a particular sensory quality, varietal characteristic or vintage variation.”


Wine aficionados use words like tannic and flabby to describe some wines, what’s the most outlandish descriptor you’ve heard to describe a wine?

“I once attended a wine course where we were looking at wine faults, particularly brettanomyces and the presenter descried the smell like the amputation ward of a hospital… can’t say I’ve spent much time in an amputation ward, nor that many others have, so how this was meant to be a helpful descriptor was a bit beyond me.”


And your top 5 words to describe Hunter Valley wine?

“Elegant, Diverse, Authentic, Progressive and Delicious”



(Not all of these are mine, but the points in italics are and they are my pet peeves about cellar door!  The others aren’t hard and fast rules but are mostly common sense.)

  1. Don’t taste on an empty stomach but avoid spicy food as it will affect your palate, and therefore the taste of the wine. Always try the wines before you start tasting any other food products available for tasting at cellar doors.
  2. Do book ahead if you have a group of 10 or more so the winery can accommodate you, particularly in school holidays and peak season.
  3. Don’t wear fragrance or aftershave as these unwanted aromatics can overwhelm the subtle aromas in wine.
  4. Do pace yourself and plan to visit three or four wineries only in one day.
  5. Don’t smoke in or near the cellar door as this can affect the smell and taste of wine – and interfere with other people’s tasting experience.
  6. Do ask for a spittoon and spit out wine discreetly into it – don’t throw it into the prize-winning flower garden!
  7. Don’t serve yourself – cellar doors/wineries are not bars, we are licensed venues that must adhere to strict licensing conditions.
  8. Do drink plenty of water to stave off dehydration.
  9. Don’t taste excessively and drive. Always have a designated driver or book an organised tour.
  10. Do take home a souvenir. Most cellar doors conduct tastings for free and it’s considered to be polite to buy at least one bottle before you leave… unless you really didn’t like the wine.
  11. Don’t try and taste everything at every cellar door, the staff are there to help you find the right wine for you, don’t walk in and say “let’s start at the top and work our way through.”
  12. Don’t offer a sip or taste to anyone under-age, even your own children, as it can offend when we say you are not allowed.
  13. Don’t be scared to ask for help, just because you can’t pronounce the name of a wine doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask to try it.  Ask for recommendations based on what you know you like or have tried previously.

Queueing in the Cold

Queuing in the cold at Mr Wong
Queuing in the cold at Mr Wong

The only thing that makes queuing in the cold okay is the promise of an awesome meal and  an equally cool bar nearby in which to wait.

Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Wong IS WORTH THE WAIT.

After leaving the house at 5pm (yes the same time my children were sitting down for dinner, okay that may not have been pure coincidence) I couldn’t  believe I was arriving at an already full restaurant at 5.30pm.  With the line already snaking down the freezing dark back alley and the thought of white poached chicken making me prematurely salivate, I was  more determined than ever.  Luckily we reached the head of the queue in 30 minutes, only to be told it would be 8pm before a table was ready….. at this point, even I was starting to doubt how good the amazing things they do with  poultry could be.

Luckily there was room at the uber cool bar just around the corner, Palmer & Co (also owned by The Merivale Group) where we spent the next 2 hours jostling for a seat, or a table, or anywhere to perch, while we drank very good but ludicrously priced and named cocktails.  Then, just as I was ready to succumb to yet another mortgage busting cocktail and the possibility of arriving at dinner already ‘well on the way’, our beacon of hope arrived in the form of a text message telling us the table was ready.

And, this is truly the clever part. They’ve already managed to make me line up up for half an hour in the cold, spend nearly $200 on drinks and food while I wait and yet just as I start to despair they whisk us into a private lift delivering us into the restaurant like VIP’s.  We were in and out of the restaurant in 40 minutes, yet we’d waited 2.5 hours for the main event and spent more at the bar than at the restaurant.  It all seemed like a lot of fuss for such a short meal, but yes it was worth it.

The food, the cocktails (okay that wasn’t too hard either), the cute french wait staff and  the impeccably cool ambience.  And, that’s the thing about ‘cool’, it’s an intangible sensation defying all your faculties of logic and common sense, but it only makes you want it more …. and it made that long awaited white poached chicken even better than I had remembered.