It was an “outpost” when it started 40 years ago.
“Lovedale wasn’t even called Lovedale back then, it was all Allandale,” chief winemaker Bill Sneddon recalls.
But the fledgling Allandale Winery survived and, in the end, prospered – and later this month celebrates its 40th birthday.
Sneddon, a Cessnock boy all his life, has been there as winemaker, chief winemaker and part owner for 35 of those 40 years.
“I started here in ‘83 and it was certainly different. It wasn’t Lovedale Road, but Allandale Road … there was no Capercaille, Adina, Tatler or Gartelmann. There weren’t a lot of wineries and very few this side of the valley.”
Ironically Sneddon’s long career nearly ended shortly after it started.
“I took over as chief winemaker in 1986 and it just happened to be a brilliant vintage,” he recalled. “Anyway, I made this fabulous shiraz. It was a fluke, I was still wet behind the ears, but it was a lovely wine.
“But the next year was really challenging and I made a cabernet … to this day, easily the worst wine I’ve ever made. There was nothing to like about it.
“In difficult conditions I was really out of my depth. The wine sat on the shelves staring at me as I came into work each day. No-one was buying it. It was torture.
The wine sat on the shelves staring at me as I came into work each day. No-one was buying it. It was torture.
“I honestly think if it wasn’t for the 1986 shiraz from the previous year, I would have found a new occupation.”
Back when Sneddon started Allandale produced 50 tonnes of grapes. These days they crush 300 tonnes which equates to about 22,000 cases.
“We’re still a small winery, but now we’d be one of the biggest little wineries if that makes sense,” Sneddon said.
On top of that they’e branched out, using not just Hunter fruit, but also from Hilltops, Orange, Tumbarumba, Central Victoria and Barossa.
Their wines are eclectic – aside from the standard Hunter offerings of chardonnay, semillon and shiraz, there’s pinot noir, lombardo, tempranillo, sauvignon blanc, verdelho, cabernet, and a sparkling gewurztraminer.
So, what’s next?
“A new cellar door, hopefully by the end of next year,” Sneddon says.
“We’ll move it towards the road to take advantage of the view. It should be really impressive.”