Briar Ridge is a small, boutique Hunter Valley wine brand we’ve liked a lot over the years, and their Karl Stockhausen signature range a real favourite of ours.
On Sunday, they celebrated the 25th anniversary of the range with around 50 fellow wine lovers, chief winemaker Gwyn Olsen and the legendary Karl Stockhausen himself at the much-lauded Muse Restaurant (pictured above).
We first met Karl years ago when we enjoyed a very long lunch at Bistro Molines with then Briar Ridge winemaker Mark Woods (who was also at the anniversary lunch) and liked both them and their wines. We’ve since bumped into Karl at several events over the years and he’s always generous with his time and his tales of his exploits in the wine industry.
Karl is one of the Hunter Valley’s Living Legends and pretty much a Legend in the Australian wine industry generally.
A German immigrant, he arrived in Australia and got a job where, it’s fair to say, he started at the bottom - weeding the vineyards. One thing led to another and before long he took over as winemaker at Lindeman's Ben Ean winery in the Hunter Valley in 1960. In his time there – he stayed until 1980 – he went on to produce some stellar wines… wines they still talk about today as being some of the Hunter’s all-time greats. After that, he was asked to help out at Briar Ridge and 25 years down the track his signature range is still going strong.
The day kicked off with the region’s flagship white wine – semillon. Muse owner/chef Troy Rhoades-Brown chose raw Hiramasa kingfish, served with pickled and braised daikon, lotus root, lime and radish to pair with the 2005, 2009 and 2016 Karl Stockhausen Signature Series Semillon. The 05 was very developed, but still holding together. The 09 was a beauty, just hitting its prime, and the 16 good, crisp early drinking but with the wonderful future ahead.
Next up was the chardonnay bracket – 2011, 2013 and 2015 – with the 2011 our favourite, served with milled Morpeth sweetcorn with pinewood mushroom, truffled sheeps’ milk pecorino with an egg yolk in the centre.
There’s been a lot of hype about the 2014 shiraz and the shiraz trio included this exalted vintage, along with the 2010 and 2011. The 2014 was big and fruity, and needs a bit of time. The 2010 was drinking well now but pipped at the post by the 2011 vintage – a vintage whose reputation is getting better all the time. Troy's slow-cooked New England suckling lamb with roasted Jerusalem artichoke, rapa leaf and macadamias was a great match and put our usual Sunday lamb roast to shame.
To finish, a glass of the 2014 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer with warm orange cake, tonka bean ice-cream, poppy seed, orange meringue and wild fennel. The wine was delightful, not too sweet and seriously moreish. We could use exactly the same words to describe the dessert. Wow, what a way to finish.
A terrific day… one of our favourite restaurants with the food right on song, one of our favourite Hunter wineries, wine people whose company we enjoy including a Legend. What better way to celebrate than to get home and crack a Briar Ridge flagship - the Dairy Hill shiraz 2011 in front of the open fire, with Rosie, our headstrong Staffordshire bull terrier pup at our feet. Yep, a great day.
The Briar Ridge Stockhausen Signature semillon and chardonnay is priced at $28, the shiraz at $35. Visit Briar Ridge at 593 Mount View Rd, Mount View or briarridge.com.au