Iain Riggs — Riggsy to anyone who’s ever enjoyed his Cricket Pitch sauv blanc-semillon and Graveyard Vineyard shiraz — has been part of the furniture at Hunter Valley winery Brokenwood since 1982, when he was appointed chief winemaker and managing director.
Kicked off in 1970 by a trio of Sydney lawyers – one a bloke called James Halliday, who went on to learn a few more things about wine – they planted cabernet sauvignon and shiraz on land that was meant to be Pokolbin’s cricket pitch, picked the first vintage three years later and threw the grapes into the back of the Bentley driven by another local legend, Len Evans of Rothbury Wines, and Brokenwood made its debut.
Nowadays, Riggs is chairman of the Len Evans Foundation, which offers the acclaimed week-long Len Evans Tutorial.
Brokenwood winery’s ramshackle charm has stayed pretty much the same as when the two-storey cellar door was built in in 1975 by James Halliday and his mates, but 36 vintages later, Riggs, made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his services to winemaking, and the promotion of the Hunter Valley, in June this year, has finally taken things up a notch with a new $8 million Brokenwood cellar door and restaurant complex opened last Friday.
The 1,400 square-metre building, which can comfortably host 250,000 visitors annually, has circular tasting bars known as “pods”, a wine museum, lounge area with fireplace, an outdoor terrace, and two restaurants, as well as private tasting and rooms and dining rooms plus room for 126 cars if you scored the short straw as designated driver.
Riggs has lured a couple more local legends to the venture, chef Andrew Wright and his wife Janet, who’ve been running The Cellar Restaurant at the Hunter Valley Gardens for the past 18 years.
They’re now in a charge of the smart contemporary The Wood restaurant and a casual eatery, Cru Bar + Pantry.
The Wood, which seats 90 people indoors and out, serves up contemporary Australian dishes, many from a wood-fired oven, designed to match with Brokenwood’s flagship wines, the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz and ILR Reserve Semillon while the winelist goes global as well as spanning the winery’s efforts.
Cru Bar + Pantry offers shared plates, cheese and charcuterie, wood-fired pizza, coffee, homemade pies, toasties, sweets, and picnic packs to enjoy on the lawn or take away. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and snacks daily. The best part of the cafe is an Enomatic self-serve dispenser where you can try premium and rare wines not normally available for tasting.
Here’s a look at things at the new Brokenwood cellar door and restaurant complex.
The new $8 million cellar door replaces the one originally built by Brokenwood’s founders in 1975
It’s an elegant space designed to highlight 36 years of winemaking by Iain “Riggsy” Riggs
The tasting room is set up in pods
There are two private tasting rooms
Brokenwood’s winemaking is part of the tasting experience
Riggsy can often be found around the back of the new Brokenwood cellar door having staffies with restaurateurs Andrew and Janet Wright
The Wood restaurant
Seafood is a key focus in The Wood
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