Craig’s first taste of the industry was in 1976 where he worked during his HSC year during vintage at Saxonvale vineyards. He then went on to work many more vintages at local vineyards, including an assistant winemaking role at Wyndham Estate and winemaker for Elliots Wines at Hermitage winery where his path first crossed with Steve. Craig then went on to work for a year in France, in Champagne and Bordeaux, before being reunited with Steve at Saxonvale winery, which had recently been purchased by the Wyndham group. It was during this time at Saxonvale that Craig & Steve also worked alongside Alasdair Sutherland, who became a great mate and to whom the Thomas Allen Alasdair Shiraz is named after.
An avid surfer and rugby player, Steve studied food science at Hawkesbury Agricultural College and after graduating pursued a career in Food technology. Steve joined the team at Hermitage winery in 1983 as their laboratory manager and winemaker when he first met Craig. It was the beginning of a friendship and business partnership that is still going strong over 30 years later. It was in the late 1980’s when Steve & Craig could see an opportunity to efficiently distribute specialty winemaking products to Hunter wineries that their new company Vinkem was born. Steve & Craig’s business partnerships over the years continued with great success with Saddlers Creek wines, Allanmere wines and the creation of Monarch winemaking services with two other local winemakers.
In 2009 after 22 years of success, they sold Vinkem to French supply business Laffort Oenology. Their long-held dream of finding a small, old growth vineyard was then realised with the purchase of the Moon Mountain vineyard, and Thomas Allen wines had a place to call home. It’s not unusual to find yourself greeted by one or even both of them when you visit Cellar Door sharing their passion of winemaking with customers one on one, something very unique and rarely seen in the industry. This experience speaks volumes about their love of their vocation and the experience awaiting you when you visit.
Since it’s inception, Craig and Steve have not been alone on their journey at Thomas Allen Wines. Long time colleague and friend, John Earl, has been there at the helm with the guys, running the Cellar Door and successfully harvesting and growing their exclusive ‘Club 1733.’ With over 35 years experience in the industry himself, John began his career at Wyndham Estate alongside Steve and Craig in the late 70’s and upon hearing about their new venture, had to be a part of the team. A passionate professional, John believes that together they are creating something special at Thomas Allen Wines. In his own words… “it’s all about creating a great experience, something memorable, not just for the customers, but also the team.”
It became evident that the Thomas Allen philosophy was resonating with so many and membership of Club 1733 was growing rapidly. Enter Heidi. Heidi joined the team in March of 2015 (after some sweet-talking by John Earl) to be the dedicated Club 1733 Co-ordinator. Heidi brings over twenty years wine industry experience to the team and was immediately on-board with the Club 1733 approach. “My job is easy,” says Heidi, “With Craig and Steve producing exceptional wines coupled with the unique and personal tasting experiences in the Cellar Door, it means the wine club sells itself. I get to communicate with all of our lovely members on a regular basis, ensuring they are stocked up with their Thomas Allen favourites.”
Mitch is the newest member of the Thomas Allen team! Mitch is a proud “Hunter Boy” and hails from the nearby town of Kurri Kurri. Hunter Shiraz runs through his veins and it’s no coincidence he found himself at Thomas Allen. Mitch was introduced to Thomas Allen via John, Craig and a wine called “Alasdair” during a chance cellar door visit in late 2014. At the time Mitch was searching for Shiraz on behalf of a dear friend who wanted a cracking wine to take to France. Needless to say from that day on, the Thomas Allen experience (and Alasdair) were ingrained in Mitch’s memory. Sharing the Thomas Allen experience and learning from mentor John “The Boss” Earl is what drives Mitch. He loves to welcome visitors and in particular our valued members on each visit to the cellar door.
The beautiful Moon Mountain Vineyard on Broke Road, Pokolbin, with its panoramic views and rich winemaking heritage, is an iconic location on the Hunter Valley map and home to Thomas Allen Wines since 2009.
Producing early ripening, high quality, flavour intense fruit in very limited quantities, Moon Mountain Vineyard, planted back in 1969, is used in the Mango Tree Chardonnay, The Doctor Cabernet Sauvignon, Old School Shiraz Cabernet and Alasdair Shiraz.
One of few producers that source their Hunter Valley Shiraz from partially ‘dry-farmed’ (non-irrigated) vineyards, all the vines on the Moon Mountain Vineyard are over 40 years old, and consist of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and the vineyard’s crop levels range from 500kg/acre to 2T/acre depending on seasonal conditions.
Natural fertilisers are used to improve the organic matter and health of the soil and the vines do not get excess vigour (leaf growth) which helps expose the fruit to the sun to ripen it and expose it to the breeze to keep it dry and reduce disease potential.
Great quality wines are made in the vineyard, so vineyard health and quality is paramount. Thomas Allen Wines do not compromise in the vineyard, with the winemaking or the oak used, choosing traditional cork closures for their wines as they believe it is the best closure for premium quality wines. This has been proven over the centuries by the best Chateau’s in France who continue to use cork as their preferred closure today.
Owners Steve and Craig feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to purchase the Moon Mountain Vineyard in 2009. With old vines and the perfect aspect, it allows them to produce classic Hunter styles from this unique, iconic vineyard, and at the same time share their passion for all things wine with visitors to the Thomas Allen Wines Cellar Door.
Sure, they will tell you about the aromas and flavours in a wine when you visit, but more importantly they will tell you the real stories about the wines, the characters that have helped them along the way and the mistakes they may have made.
Most importantly, Craig and Steve are passionately committed to excellence in their vineyard and winemaking practices, so their philosophy on wine is pretty simple stuff, creating “wines without compromise!”