With its prime hilltop position, the Centennial Vineyards estate makes a grand first impression, surrounded by manicured gardens and perfectly aligned rows of vines. A few drops of rain spot the windscreen as we turn off Centennial Road, but clusters of sunny daffodils lining the driveway seem to brighten the day. At the top of the stairs, turn right onto the charming covered verandah and follow the signs to the Cellar Door.
Like many successful winemakers, Tony Cosgriff earned his stripes working in different wine regions across New Zealand and Australia, as well as in California, before he arrived at Centennial Vineyards in 2001 – and never left. After a whistle-stop tour of Centennial’s sleek purpose-built production facilities and winemaking laboratory, it’s easy to see the attraction.
The location alone is incentive enough to turn up to work every day, with 30 hectares of vines over three vineyards stretching through the valley – although in Tony’s case, winemaking is clearly a labour of love. The glass beakers and pipettes cluttering the benchtop in his lab suggest this former chemistry student thrives on the complexity of making award-winning wines.
Only a short drive from the centre of Bowral, Centennial Vineyards is well known for the breadth of wines on offer – from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, to a range of Italian-influenced yet distinctly Australian wines such as Barbera, Sangiovese and Arneis. But increasingly, it’s the sparkling wines visitors ask to taste, a preference that pleases Cosgriff, who readily admits he loves to create wines with ‘fizz’.
‘There are a lot of variables in sparkling wines and that appeals to me – it’s more complex,’ he explains. ‘There’s a lot of good science in there.’
The genuine cool climate of the Southern Highlands is well suited to a winemaker with a passion for producing sparkling – much like the famous Champagne region of northern France, or successful sparkling regions in Tasmania, and Cosgriff’s homeland of New Zealand.
Centennial Vineyard’s Cellar Door experience offers more than thirty wines for tasting, with a tipple to suit just about any mood, season or palate. The day Escape stopped by it was overcast and cool outside, but a crackling fire warmed the tasting room, decorated with dozens of awards showcasing the consistent quality of their wines. The Blanc de Blancs sparkling, made from 100% Chardonnay, has won numerous trophies as well as Gold or Silver medals every year since 2011. The accolade Cosgriff is most proud of though, is its ranking of Finalist, Top 5 Sparkling in Winestate Magazine Wine of the Year, in 2016.
Cellar Door staff encourage visitors to step out of their comfort zone and try something new, and are on hand to offer suggestions for those who may be overwhelmed by the double-sided tasting menu. One of the sparkling wines, with several varieties to choose from, seems a natural place to start.
‘Our sparkling has a very good reputation,’ Cosgriff says, ‘lovely fruity flavours, nice delicacy, nice acidity – they’re clean and fresh and interesting too.’
Staff suggest a Chardonnay next, or one of the excellent Rieslings – the off-dry 2016 Reserve Riesling 925 is fruity and delicious. Red drinkers can select from a substantial list, including the 2015 Reserve Shiraz, memorable for its aromas of blackberry, spiced plum, black olive, mocha and licorice. The light-bodied 2016 Winery Block Tempranillo, considered a ‘dangerously drinkable’ red, is another favourite worth trying.
For visitors keen to savour the experience, the Centennial Vineyards Restaurant, with its exclusively Centennial wine list, is just a short stroll from the Cellar Door. It’s open for lunch six days (closed Tuesdays), and high tea Monday to Friday.
Cosgriff believes Centennial Vineyards has a wine for everyone’s taste, ‘from unwooded fruity, to wooded chardonnays and dessert wines, and tannic reds through to smooth, velvety, soft succulent styles. We’ve got it all really,’ he says.
After trying a selection of the many and varied fruits of this winemaker’s labour, it’s hard to argue. Cool climate wine lovers sampling Centennial’s range really are spoilt for choice.
Centennial Vineyards Cellar Door | Open 7 days 10am to 5pm | 02 4861 8722