The tradition of winemaking alongside farming is strong in the Lorentz family of Cherry Tree Hill at Sutton Forest. As is their desire to keep moving forward with their grape varieties and winery facilities.
Winemaking runs through the veins of the Lorentz family with a viticulture heritage that spans four generations and traces back to Kiskunhalas in regional Hungary. Gabriel Lorentz, the patriarch and owner of Cherry Tree Hill Wines, has childhood memories of his grandparents’ poultry farm shipping turkeys to English customers at Christmas, and inspecting grapevines with his grandfather on a horse drawn cart.
Gabriel migrated to Australia in 1957 and bought the Cherry Tree Hill property in 1980, but for two decades their farming focus was Murray Grey cattle. In 2000 Gabriel and son David planted sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay and merlot grapes, and Dave happily continues the family winemaking tradition today.
‘There are so many childhood memories here,’ says Dave. ‘I wouldn’t want to have a vineyard anywhere else.’
These are now 35 acres under vine, which is substantial for the Southern Highlands, but only a fraction of the 1200 acres available on the Sutton Forest property. They still have about 180 head of cattle (Black Angus these days) plus several houses on the estate, including the main family homestead. When the vines were first planted, their cattle stud manager, Ian Evans retrained at Charles Sturt University to become a viticulturist and lives on site, as does cellar door manager Duncan MacDonald.
The vineyards have developed over the years to keep pace with wine drinking trends, and in 2014 pinot noir was introduced. Next to be grafted is the Austrian variety grüner veltliner, a personal favourite of Dave, who says he’s focussed on producing wines that make him happy. The first full vintage is expected in 2021.
All winemaking and bottling for Cherry Tree Hill currently happens locally off site using their estate grown fruit. Their sparkling wine, Méthode Traditionnelle ‘Gabriel’, travels further afield, with the pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier grapes sent to Orange to be produced in the traditional style of the Champagne region in France.
Most visitors wander into Cherry Tree Hill’s charming cellar door wanting a taste of the award winning riesling, the best in NSW according to the sign out the front, and backed up twice at the NSW Wine Awards. 2018 was another stand out year with their latest release riesling delicately balanced and already very drinkable. Their sweeter style 2018 Off Dry Riesling is off to a good start, winning bronze at the Canberra International Riesling challenge, and earning a Huon Hooke rating of 91/100.
In another nod to the importance of family, Cherry Tree Hill’s 2016 Reserve Pinot Noir ‘Hayden’ is named after Gabriel’s youngest grandson (Dave’s son) and is a popular choice at the cellar door, particularly in the cooler months. It’s one of the few varieties hand picked at Cherry Tree Hill, along with small parcels of cabernet and chardonnay. All other grapes are machine harvested. The 2015 Reserve Chardonnay ‘Diana’ is the signature tipple of matriarch Diana, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday. Matured on 100% French oak, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a locally sourced tasting board, available on weekends for $35. If there’s enough winter sun, enjoy a glass at the outdoor tables overlooking the chardonnay vines.
With so much space to play with, it’s perhaps not surprising to hear plans are underway to build winemaking facilities on site, extend the cellar door and incorporate a restaurant. Until then, it’s business as usual producing popular single estate wines that sell out as fast as they’re bottled. Cherry Tree Hill may be a world away from regional Hungary, but the cool climate winemaking of the Southern Highlands is keeping Lorentz family wines well and truly on the map.
Cellar door is open seven days, 10am-5pm.
12324 Hume Highway, Sutton Forest