If winning awards is anything to go by, the team at Tertini Wines set the bar high from the first release. Their 2006 Riesling picked up a gold medal, and ten years later, the same wine earned an enviable 97 points on wine guru James Halliday’s 100-point quality scale – this time as an aged Riesling.
Since those first vines were planted back in 2000, the Mittagong-based vineyard has produced a long list of award-winning wines, notably Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, in addition to their popular Riesling.
The drive along Kells Creek Road sets the scene for a memorable cellar door experience, through the picture-perfect landscape the Southern Highlands is famous for. The subtle sign-posting under a towering eucalypt reflects Tertini’s humble approach to self-promotion. Whilst they’re proud of their five-star Halliday rating, (awarded to winemakers with two or more 95+ ranked wines), they prefer to focus on producing premium wines, supporting the local community and taking care of their cellar door customers.
Winemaker Jonathan Holgate is the reluctant star behind Tertini’s success, a fairy tale that almost wasn’t. Holgate initially studied Engineering at university before a stint of work experience in the Hunter Valley convinced him to switch courses to Wine Science. Holgate is passionate about the benefits of producing wine in a region he considers to be one of Australia’s true cool climate areas.
‘With a stretched-out growing season, it helps produce fruit with better character and higher natural acidity, an added benefit for one of the factors for ageing wine,’ Holgate explains.
Tertini’s commitment to producing premium wine means careful control of the crop load. Vines are hand-pruned and fruit is hand-picked under the keen eye of in-house viticulturist Mark Skenfield. It’s all about being kind to the vines – too much fruit creates stress that can affect the quality.
Beyond the advantages of a cool climate, Tertini Wines, like other vineyards located in the region, benefits from a steady flow of tourists from Sydney, something Holgate believes other wine regions ‘would die for’.
The cellar door set up is a relaxed affair and takes place around a handful of barrel tables, both indoors and out. On a sunny winter’s day, choose the outdoor option under the pergola. According to wine-tasting staff, word about Tertini Wines is out, and most visitors arrive with at least some knowledge of what to expect. A selection of red and white varieties is offered for sampling, along with small plates of cheese and biscuits. The emphasis seems to be on enjoyment rather than hard selling, although free shipping to New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland for case orders is a tempting incentive.
It may be like asking parents to nominate a favourite child, but Holgate doesn’t hesitate when I ask which wine he most enjoys.
‘It’s always fun working with the Pinot Noir,’ he says, ‘that variety is generally considered the Holy Grail of wine with most winemakers.’
Perhaps having fun is Holgate’s secret sauce, as the Pinot Noir has consistently excelled, winning medals in Australia and internationally, for the 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir, the 2014 and 2015 Pinot Noir, and the 2015 Private Cellar Collection Pinot Noir.
The day I visited, the 2017 Pinot Noir was being poured into barrels where it will spend around a year before bottling, ready for a 2019 release. On a regular work day, Holgate is involved in the winemaking process from start to finish, so he’s a little twitchy in his seat as the pouring takes place. We wrap up the interview and he quickly disappears through the cellar door, no doubt to check the barrels of possibly his next award winner.
Getting there: Lot 5 Kells Creek Road, Mittagong (off Wombeyan Caves Road)
Tertini Wines Cellar Door | Open 7 days 10am-5pm | 02 4878 5213