A perfect mix of homely and grand, and with wines that are both approachable yet complex, John Wallace Wines and its beautiful cellar door are set to become a centre-pin of any Hunter Valley wine experience.
Every time we go to the Hunter, we always seem to spot new wineries we’ve either never heard of or have heard of but never been to. There are just so many. In a good way.
Even so, we usually end up going back to old favourites and then dipping a toe into the unknown with one or two that are new to us.
We also love working from a tip-off.
But this winery, which has only been around for a little while, is in a completely different basket.
John Wallace Wines, Rothbury
We first met Richard Done at a beautiful lunch at Esca, Bimbadgen Estate’s superb restaurant, in 2021.
At that point, Rich was (and still is) the head winemaker for Bimbadgen and had just started his own label John Wallace Wines.
Fast forward to 2023 and we finally make our way to his cellar door, and to say we’re impressed is an understatement.
John Wallace Wines’ Cellar Door
We arrive just as Rich is pouring out a tasting for a group of seven or so, talking them through what’s in their glasses.
It gives us time to have a look round this beautiful cellar door without him knowing how nosy we are.
Inside the stout grey walls of this two-storey cottage and its green corrugated veranda roof is a bright, airy space you feel you could spend all day in.
The little tasting counter, where we plant ourselves, speaks exactly of Rich’s wine-making style. It’s clean, bright and modest; though at the same time, you know painstaking thought and planning has gone into every element.
Above the shelves to our left is a staircase whose banisters add a homeliness that tells you exactly what Richard and his lovely partner Beth want this cellar door to be: an extension of their own home.
Up the stairs, beneath the exposed beams and thatch of the pitched roof, is a long table perfect for a large group tasting.
In one corner is a lounge, acting as another breakout space but in reality making the room feel even more like a living room. And in another corner, a little pile of toys that his two gorgeous daughters have donated (and still play with when they’re around).
It’s exactly the family vibe that Rich and Beth wanted when they first thought about their cellar door and how guests should experience their wines.
Wine-Tasting At John Wallace
Back downstairs, Rich takes us through his wines and again we’re reminded of how important family is to him. Not only is the John Wallace Wines logo a layered silhouette of him, Beth and the kids, but all the wines have family ties too.
Indeed, the name of the winery, John Wallace, is made up of his two grandfathers’ forenames.
We work our way through Rich’s range—from the laid-back sparkling rosé to the robust yet well-structured shiraz, chatting about the wine, but also everything else too.
And although we’re friends, I know that Rich is like this with everyone he meets. His inquisitive, friendly nature is so incredibly disarming, it’s easy to forget that he’s one of the Hunter Valley’s great winemakers.
Exploring The Rest of The Cellar Door
We finish our tasting and head outside. Since we’ve been here, Beth, the girls and even lovely Tilly golden lab have arrived, filing the space with laughter and even more brightness. It’s almost irritatingly wholesome!
The cellar door is on beautiful acreage with vines cutting straight lines the other side of the lawn and a stunning willow draping over a broad deck around the back. This is where Rich and Beth are planning to have their wedding soon.
Yes, there are lots of cellar doors in the Hunter Valley. But there aren’t many like this one.
John Wallace Wines
168 Palmers Lane
Opening hours are Thursday-Monday 10am-5pm. This venue is child- and pet-friendly.