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December 2020 Wine of the Month Review - Hill Tops Wines
Recently we spent a long weekend with friends in Grenfell on the western slopes in southern NSW. During our time there we drove up to the Hill Tops wine region and visited a number of wineries.
Nearly thirty years ago, a friend of ours was making wine in this area, and spent quite a few happy weekends there trying and buying her wines as well as eating the fabulous stone fruit for which the area is famous. We were greatly amused when the first vineyard we visited was this same property, now called Freeman’s Vineyard. It was purchased 1999 by Brian Freeman, who had once been head of the wine school at Charles Sturt University. Brian has been buying up properties in the region ever since and experimenting with plantings of (mostly) Italian varietals including corvina, rondinella, nebbiolo, sangiovese. We were very pleased to have him talk to us about his wines and his practices.
Another interesting visit was had at Ballinaclash which is also a major grower of cherries. The matriarch Cath Mullany took us through their current wines which, unlike Freeman’s, are the standard varieties like shiraz, cabernet, chardonnay and viognier.
So, we took the opportunity this week of inviting some friends over to taste a few of the wines. We warned them that there would be a number of Italian varietals and invited them to bring a bottle that would make an interesting comparison. They took up the challenge and mostly brought Italian wines. The bottles, mostly empty, are shown in the picture.
We started, not with the customary French champagne, rather we had a couple of bottles of Ballinaclash 2018 blanc de blanc. I was delighted when the guests gave this wine a nod of approval. Then we moved on to the Freeman wines which we tasted through the meal paired mostly with the guests offerings, starting with the Freeman Pinot Gris 2013 and Vermentino di Gallura and finishing with the Freeman Nebbiolo paired with a Barolo of about the same age. The wines from these Hill Top produces really stood up against the Italian competition and I thought that the wine of the night was the Freeman Rondinella Corvina. I will be going back to get some more!
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