It could be said that Angus Vinden's progress to 2019 Hunter Valley Wine Awards Rising Star of the Year began when he was five years old.
That's because from that age a lot of his youthful time was spent working with his Dad in Vinden Estate vineyard and winery in Gillards Road, Pokolbin.
"My after-school activities consisted of putting vine bags on young vines, digging out tonnes of grapes from fermenters and any form of manual labour my father didn't want to endure himself," the now-29-year-old recalls.
The Vinden operation was founded in 1995 by Angus's father, Chatswood lawyer Guy and mother Sandra, who built a good following for their wines. Of particular interest has been wines from the red-fleshed, rare-to-Australia alicante bouschet grape, common in France and Spain and a crossbreed of the grenache and petit bouschet varieties developed between 1865 and 1885 by French nurseryman Henri Bouschet.
Angus took over the wine operation from his retiring parents in 2015 and has continued the traditional Hunter semillon, chardonnay, verdelho and shiraz wines and added the more experimental Headcase label wines, all available at the cellar door and vindenestate.com.au.
He's trimmed the Vinden vine area to 4.5 hectares and added gamay to the mix.
In addition to Vinden estate grapes, Angus buys fruit from other growers, mainly the Howard family Somerset vineyard in Pokolbin, where he was mentored in viticulture by Glen Howard.
Born in Sydney and moving with his parents to the Hunter, Angus was schooled at Hunter Valley Grammar and Sydney's Knox Grammar, while all the time enjoying the outdoor work in the vineyard and winery.
At his father's insistence that "there was no money in wine", Angus took on a Newcastle University architecture degree, winning a NSW Design Medal that gave him the prize money to travel to France and the wine regions of Beaujolais and Burgundy. There the dye was cast for a wine career and an end to seven years of uni architecture study and work in a Newcastle architecture firm.
Bolstered by a Kurri TAFE viticulture/winemaking degree and working with Glen Howard and in Vinden vine management, winemaking and cellar door, Angus became Vinden owner.
Although the company was "severely in the red" Angus believes he has refined Vinden over the past four years and found winemaking just as creative as architecture. And becoming 2019 Hunter Rising Star of the Year Award last month, indicates that's very much so for Angus.
Hunter boutique producers with an innovative spark like Angus Vinden's are in focus here. Thecertified organic Ascella 2013 Verdelho is pale straw and has jasmine aromas and passionfruit front-palate flavour. The middle palate shows kiwifruit, melon and cumquat and the finish mineral-edged acid. At ascellawine.com and some wine shops.
DRINK WITH: quiche.
AGEING: three years.
RATING: 4 stars
ZINGY SHIRAZ-PINOT NOIR
This Usher Tinkler 2018 Nose to Tail Red is Usher's zingy, 13.5%-alcohol shiraz-pinot noir blend. It's bright garnet, potpourri-scented and ripe raspberry-flavoured on the front-palate. The middle shows Satsuma plum, spice, mint and mocha oak and the finish savoury tannins. At ushertinklerwines.com and Pokolbin cellar door.
DRINK WITH: pork and veal casserole.
AGEING: six years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
WHAT DOCTORS ORDERED
The Mount Eyre 2018 Three Ponds Chardonnay is from partners in medicine, marriage, parenting and wine Aniello Iannuzzi and Eve Tsironis. It's brassy hued and has bright peach scents and front-palate flavour. pear, lemon curd, oatmeal and creamy oak show on the middle palate and gunmetal acid at the finish. It's on mounteyre.com.
DRINK WITH: pan-fried whiting.
AGEING: four years.
RATING: 4.5 stars