In 2023 we have indeed had a massively intense year that has seen us open domestic markets as well as starting to explore export possibilities.
Our focus has been to open up our on-premise trade (restaurants) more and thus keep a little stock back so we have some continuity to maintain our placements there (sommeliers and wine buyers certainly are not keen to change their lists every 2 months!). We continue to focus on working with independent retail stores rather than looking to the big national chains. We treasure our relationships with the hard working folks of these smaller stores and have rejected approaches by new national distributors who promise to establish in the supermarket chains.
To that end, we have continued to work with our small independent agents and distributor, one unique to each state, as they have worked hard with and for us, cultivating great relationships with businesses who care and want to give their customers something unique.
S Y D N E Y
The end of August saw me travel to my hometown, Sydney, for a series of events and market work to show the very latest Duke’s wines to our loyal following. With such a diverse and rich market, together with Veraison our distributors, we unleashed our vino to a great response from trade and customers alike.
The Castlereagh Hotel in the CBD played host to two great events for Duke’s. Thursday evening saw an intimate mailing list winemaker’s dinner to over 20 long-standing fans of Duke’s who were treated to a multi-course degustation finely matched to our wines. Set in the grand ballroom, it was a vintage evening with classic surroundings where I shared stories with our wines, and the food elevated the experience. We followed this with a Masonic members lunch the next day, matching great food and wine for some old school fans of Duke’s, many of whom had remembered the last Covid lunch featuring Duke beaming in via Zoom, sitting down to a pile of WA seafood delicacies of marron and oysters.
An in-store tasting followed at the Australian Wine Centre in the Sydney CBD, a great supporter of Duke’s, where I was able to share our wines with many Duke’s fans as well as train the staff on all the details of each wine.
The gala event for the trip was a cosmetic surgeon’s conference chaired by an old Adelaide friend, esteemed doctor Angelo Tsirbas, who insisted Duke’s be the featured winery for his international guests and attendees. Duke’s wines were poured at the welcome event at the Bondi Pavillion as well as the gala finale dinner at Alpha in the city, where I guided guests through the very best wines and mixed and mingled, telling stories and answering all questions relating to the wines and our special slice of the world. What a fantastic and diverse crowd to engage with, and all were won over by our offerings, matched to the stunning Greek food. A true pleasure and honour to feature our little-known spot to such discerning palates.
A D E L A I D E
I went across to help judge at the Royal Adelaide wine show as an Associate Judge in late September, and it was greatly educational as well as fun to network and taste with some amazing wine minds.
The judging took place across 5 days and was rigorous, wide-ranging and challenging. On Thursday night, we conducted a masterclass at the Royal Hotel in Torrensville for a small passionate group of Duke’s lovers. In an intimate space, I shared some of Duke’s finest wines, telling stories and talking through the intricacies of both viticulture and winemaking. It is always fantastic to return to Adelaide, where I grew up, and finally share my own wines in the ground zero of wine in Australia.
B R I S B A N E
This has been a long time coming to have Duke’s wines in Queensland. We have a strong loyal following in the Sunshine State, but the wines have been missing from retailers and restaurants, and there has been a steady outcry for them to be available. We had a great visit from a Brisbane wine society who came to taste at our Cellar Door and returned north armed with plenty of bottles and a steely determination to bring Duke’s up there.
A fortuitous meeting with Jeremy van Balen of distribution company Hospitality Australia by a member of this vinous crew brought him into our sphere, which resulted in a grand plan to launch Duke’s into Queensland with five back-to-back events across a week. A former restaurant owner and chef, Jeremy has a great understanding of the intricacies of the market, forging strong relationships with fine establishments and has the patience, tenacity and good service to build the type of organic market we are looking for.
Our Brisbane launch was a spectacular dinner at Tillerman restaurant spurred by the passion of Sommelier Stephen Hazlett and his passion for Duke’s wines. Situated on the Brisbane River, Stephen’s brilliant team delivered one of the finest winemaker dinners I have been involved with (I have done these all over the world), pairing the wines perfectly for 51 lucky punters, including my mother Christine and her partner Gary, who flew down from Cairns for the gala event. A true culinary triumph befitting the launch of our fine wines.
Next, we traveled to Toowoomba to the Plate, a fantastically ambitious establishment of restaurant, bar, butchery and fine food purveyor who delivered, for over 50 locals, a wonderfully daring meal that made our wines sing. A great raucous evening of stories and education, I was blown away by this down-to-earth foodie crowd and the joy they derived from the carefully matched food and wine.
On Friday, we traveled to Noosa to meet a long-term fan of Duke’s, Dale Potts, wine director for the infamous Gustos on the shores of Noosa River. With his boundless passion for Riesling, Dale was one of the first to reach out to us when we took over Duke’s to congratulate and urge us to establish ourselves up north. Dale is a large reason for us coming to Queensland, and it was an honour to not only meet for the first time but to do a winemaker dinner in his amazing private dining room. Thirty-four guests were treated to an amazing food and wine extravaganza, regaled by Dale’s breathless passion for Duke’s and my neatly entwined stories and nuggets of info across a four-hour balmy evening. Meeting such a great collection of characters and sharing my passion was a great highlight of the trip.
Saturday saw us north of Brisbane in Sandgate at a fantastic corner bar called Electea, run by the charismatic owner Kara, where we presented a wine and cheese masterclass. This funky little hippy outpost was the perfect setting for a casual talk and taste journey for the locals, exploring a selection of Duke’s finest matched to some dairy deliciousness from around the world. A fun, offbeat event, demystifying vino and delivering some great pleasure by the sea.
Finally, Sunday saw me at the Old Seven wine bar in Camp Hill, Brisbane, where owner Matt had prepared a great charcuterie and cheese accompaniment to match an extensive tasting of Duke’s wines. Sequestered in the wine cave below his bar, I guided 30 punters through all things Duke’s, weaving educational nuggets with rich stories whilst feeling like we were in a Burgundian cellar. I even got a photo with Fabio, propped quietly in the corner of the room, listening to all I had to say.
Needless to say, we filled the days around these events touring the finest of retailers and restaurants, showing Duke’s wares and introducing the beauty of WA’s great southwest. I can firmly say we have a fast-growing fanbase in Queensland who love their wine and food and were quite taken with all the wines we had to offer.
M E L B O U R N E
Late October saw us again hit the streets in Melbourne and offer three diverse events across all corners of the city. Working with Simon Wills of The Wine Encounter, a one-man dynamo and force of nature, he never fails to impress with his tireless support of Duke’s and his customers in one of the toughest markets in Australia.
Our first event was a wine masterclass matched to select charcuterie and cheeses at Union Wine Store in Ascot Vale. This tiny bespoke store and wine bar has an amazing array of great Aussie wine with passionate eager staff. An intimate masterclass ensued, with 20 fans treated to a great range of Duke’s wines, delving deep into the site, the wines and the stories.
Our gala event was held at Bar Alba in Kew, connected to Centonove, delivering stunning high-end Italian cuisine in a stylish long bar setting. An extensive range of Duke’s best wines were superbly matched to Bar Alba’s delicacies for the locals, accompanied by stories and details of our wines and the rugged south coast from which they came.
Our last event was at District Bottle Store, north of the city in Pascoe Vale, a cosy and casual bottle shop and bar, catered by a great local chef creating a mini degustation. The District team have been longtime supporters pouring our wines by the glass and it was a pleasure to meet some of the locals and share some yarns with some great food.
Melbourne has been a great supporter of Duke’s for many years and we are proud to have our wines sold in a diverse range of establishments all across the city, with many mailing list customers supporting us.
O N T H E R O A D — 2 0 2 3 S U M M A R Y
Perth: May, August, November
- Chardonnay Release Winemaker Dinner, Mayfair Lane (May)
- Chardonnay Release In-store Tasting, Old Bridge Cellars, North Fremantle (May)
- Riesling Release Winemaker Lunch, Dinner, Masterclass, Lamonts Cotttesloe (August)
- Steve’s Nedlands Winemaker In-store Tasting (Aug)
- Dutch Trading Co Duke’s Vineyard Takeover Tasting (Nov)
- New Red Release Winemaker Dinner and Masterclass, Lamonts Cotttesloe (Nov)
- New Release Mailing List Tasting, Nedlands Rugby Club (Nov)
We continued Duke's tradition with a complimentary private tasting event at Nedlands Rugby Club for our mailing list and poured the favourites alongside the new wines, all of which were 'paired' with rather fabulous tasting platters from Angelo Street Market. Thanks to all of you who joined us that day and a special thank you to Cees Swager who won a magnum of '22 Frankland River Riesling by entering our raffle. (Anyone who bought wine on the day was eligible to enter.)
Sydney: August, September
- Castlereagh Boutique Hotel Mailing List Degustation Dinner
- Castlereagh Boutique Hotel Members Winemaker Lunch
- Australian Wine Centre In-store Tasting
- Australian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery Conference; Welcome Drinks (Bondi Pavillion) and Gala Dinner (Alpha restaurant)
- Judging Royal Adelaide Wine Show
- Hotel Royal Torrensville Winemaker Masterclass and Food Pairing
Brisbane: October - Duke’s Vineyard Queensland brand launch
- Winemaker Dinner Tillerman Restaurant Brisbane
- Winemaker Dinner The Plate Restaurant Toowoomba
- Winemaker Dinner Gustos Restaurant Noosa
- Winemaker Masterclass and Cheese Matching Electea, Sandgate
- Winemaker Masterclass The Old Seven, Camp Hill Brisbane
- Winemaker Masterclass, Union Wine Store, Ascot Vale
- Winemaker Dinner Bar Alba, Kew
- Winemaker Dinner District Bottle Store, Pascoe Vale
W H A T ' S A H E A D F O R 2 0 2 4 !
Wine by the Glass at the Cellar Door
We have finally been granted an extended license so you can buy a full glass of wine to enjoy on the patio or in the tasting room when you next visit. Previously, we were only allowed to pour tastes. The plan is to eventually build a deck in front of the cellar door and have tables for guests to enjoy a picnic and take in the view. Down the track, this will allow us to host events and we have some fun ideas in mind. We are planning sundowner events early next year featuring some local food trucks and chefs, plus live music and art installations etc.
Summer Events to Put on Your Calendar
2-3 March 2024: The Porongurup & Mt Barker Wine Festival is to be held on the long weekend in March. Details to come and all will be on our website and socials. Starting small, we have decided a collaboration between the Porongurup and Mt Barker regions is a great way to showcase our wines and other offerings
2-12 May 2024: Taste Great Southern - various events across the region celebrating 20 years of the event. We will have a tasting booth again at the Cellar Door event on Saturday 4 May in Eyre Park, Albany. Other collaboration dinners, tastings and events are in the works. Details to come.
A N O T E O F G R A T I T U D E
As the year draws to a close, we reflect on what has been a turbulent and uncertain period of history. It's been tough going for many, and the wine/hospitality industry, especially, has struggled immensely. It's these times when we truly appreciate our loyal Duke’s fans who continue to make our wines central to your lives, enjoying them with friends and family. Whether it's on the road or in our cellar door, we love to hear the stories and share some yarns over a glass of wine with you all, whether you’ve been drinking Duke’s for decades or are just discovering us. Wine is that rare art form that enhances the human experience and connects us over moments, creating memories that are hard to forget. One of the great unexpected intangibles for us is the deep connection and love Duke’s fans have for the wine, the place, and, of course, for Duke and Hilde. We carry and nurture this legacy and connection, and love the deep emotional response it invokes, and hope you'll continue with us on our journey.
Thanks for your support and encouragement; the sheer delight these wines can evoke makes it so worthwhile! We look forward to seeing you at the cellar door or at an event in 2024!
Ben, Sarah & the Duke’s Vineyard Team