St Hugo is home to an undisputed rich heritage and range of fine wine, producing some of Australia’s most distinguished red, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. Last year marked a milestone for the winery, with its luxurious new cellar door taking up residence in Barossa Valley. We were lucky enough to be invited as VIP patrons for a day and were subsequently given a lil’ royal treatment. It’s safe to say we’ve been dying to return ever since.
Despite it being a miserably freezing and windy winter’s day, St Hugo remained warm and inviting. Our personal chauffeur and St Hugo’s staff were just as welcoming as the setting itself, ensuring we were entertained at all times. Starting the day with a tour of the area, we were guided through the freshly harvested bush vines and the heritage buildings on site, being told the history of St Hugo along the way.
We found out that the name ‘St Hugo’ actually pays homage to the tragic death of Hugo Gramp – son of prominent Australian wine pioneer of the Barossa wine region Johann Gramp – who had taken inheritance of his father’s vineyards in the early 1900’s. In 1938, Hugo was flying from Adelaide to Melbourne alongside other notable names in the wine industry, Thomas Hardy and Sidney Hill Smith, when their plane encountered heavy cloud and plummeted into Mount Dandenong, tragically killing everyone on-board.
The rich history has undoubtedly been embedded into the winery’s legacy. We always find ourselves invested in the stories behind each SA winery as it tends to add a bit more substance to our experience; St Hugo’s story definitely had us glued to our seats.
Making our way into the aesthetic cellar door and downstairs to our private wine tasting room for the day, we were in awe of the way in which St Hugo had seamlessly combined heritage architecture with modern architecture. Sleek, sophisticated ceiling-to-floor windows and marble interior contrasted cobblestone walls and brick arches; it was truly a work of art. The wines saw no different.
Trying the old and the new, we made our way through a selection of eight Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz wines, tasting from the Private Collection, the 2013 and 2009 vintages and more. Our host was informative in an approachable manner, void of any technical wine jargon that we might get stumped on. She talked us through the smells and tastes she was experiencing personally with each wine, enticing us to do the same. Funnily, an aroma of turmeric was the nose-of-the-day for us, which is one we don’t actually experience often in wine. Maybe it’s got something to do with all the turmeric we’ve been adding to our pasta lately.
Moving on to our four course degustation lunch, we were led into an exquisite restaurant set with regal wooden furnishing and sparkling, polished glassware. We walked along the floor-lit stone panels, reminiscent of a spa setting or Japanese garden, and sat ourselves closest to the large arched window overlooking the vineyards. Everything about the renovated 1850’s ironstone building had us feeling relaxed and content; it was a dining room fit for a king.
Our first course paired a bone dry riesling with a zesty smoked kingfish dish, opening the lunch light on the palate. The fish was delightfully refreshing, combining oyster cream, kohlrabi salsa and crispy wakame crackers to contrast the soft. We loved the de-constructed presentation, also.
We then moved on to the 2014 St Hugo Signature GSM alongside a dish of golden ricotta gnocci with eggplant, fennel and whey butter sauce. This was a rich contrast to the light flavours of the first dish; the creamy butter sauce was most definitely our favourite part.
With our tastebuds suddenly craving some more of that bold richness in flavour, we were served a most appropriate third course: a tender roasted spatchcock with blackbeans, white polenta, roots and egg. The Head Chef came out to greet us as he laid out our plates, explaining this dish to be the ‘luxury’ item of the menu. We took sips of the 2008 St Hugo Signature Cabernet Sauvignon in between inhaling the most delectable culinary creation.
Despite modest servings, we found ourselves getting extremely full towards the end of our long lunch (most definitely not in a bad way). However, it’s as they say: there’s always room for dessert! A complex dish made of components such as apple, spiced muntries, coconut, cocoa and flaky pastry was the dessert of choice, cleansing our palate and tying our dining experience up perfectly. Having earlier explained our love for tawny port, we were also served the 2016 St Hugo Fortified Shiraz alongside dessert. An extremely unique and interesting pour, this Shiraz was bottled in what you would call the first stage port-production, cutting it off before using oak. This meant those renowned port flavour notes were showing through, but only ever so discretely, making for a more lightly sweet sip. We loved it!
It can be argued though, that the highlight of our lunch was the soft, doughy bread, served warm on a wooden board, and topped up each time we had finished it. Afterall, we did consume three large pieces each, and three slices of the sea-salt butter, also. Sorry, waistline!
It’s worth noting that, since its recent opening, St Hugo has been named as Barossa Valley’s Cellar Door with the Best Food in the Gourmet Traveller 2016 Restaurant Awards and is currently shortlisted in the 2017 Australian Interior Design Awards. After our experience, we totally understand why…. the new St Hugo home is a must-see for all South Australians, interior design fanatics and wine lovers alike. Visit www.sthugo.com to find out more or book a table at the restaurant!