Iron Gate Estate was founded by Roger Lilliott in 1996. A retired successful chemical engineer and self-taught winemaker, Roger changed the landscape of viticulture and winemaking in the Hunter Valley with the launch of his winery in 2000, drawing inspiration from the great appellations of Europe to create site-specific wines that capture the Hunter’s true terroir.
Hunter Valley Wines Pty Ltd purchased the land as a paddock in 1996. We planted Semillon, Verdelho and Shiraz vines the same year. Chardonnay vines were planted a year later, and more Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon the year after that.
The first vintage was in the year 2000 while the cellar door and tasting area were under construction. The cellar door opened in September 2001. The roof tiles were imported from Spain, and the floor tiles in the cellar door are also Spanish. The tiles below the bar and on the seat in the courtyard are hand painted by John Cliff of Newcastle University. The gates from which the Estate bears its name are handmade by Paul Simpson in Queensland who is among the leading blacksmiths in the world.
In 2017, Roger handed over the reins of his family business to another family-owned business, Iron Gate Winery Pty Ltd. The family is committed to upholding Roger’s vision for creating innovative, unconventional wines. Roger will remain at Iron Gate as the founder and winemaker of the estate, and you’ll often find him leading tastings at the cellar door.
“Our aim is to not change anything that Roger has created,” says Gavin, General Manager of Iron Gate Estate. “We will respect the legacy he has created for the estate while exploring other avenues like restaurants and exports, without corrupting Roger’s vision for the winery. Iron Gate Estate will continue to be a boutique winery offering unique, exclusive wines that taste great and are easy and fun to drink – just as wine should be, as Roger would often say.
Come and experience the wines and service you’ve always loved from this family-run, boutique winery in the Hunter Valley.
At Iron Gate Estate we strive to
make authentic Hunter Valley wines
that enrich the taste & soul.
As you turn in from Oakey Creek Road and draw to a halt before our main building, an ambience of Tuscany and southern Spain diffuses through the senses. French roof tiles compliement the soft rendered facade of the cellar door.
Step inside our large entranceway and through the hand-wrought iron gates from which the Estate takes it’s name. As you enter, Spanish tiles are underfoot, and you will have the opportunity to take in the hand-tiled facade of our cellar door wine tasting area.
A warm fireplace and antique bench provide a restful interlude inside. Before or after tasting our wines, please step out to our rear courtyard to take in the tranquil sounds of the fountains. If you are with a large group on a fine day there is a good chance you will be tasting our wines outside.
View the gallery
We utilise the finest stainless steel wine production vats and equipment imported from Italy to allow precision crafting of our wines.
Our vessels/tanks are fabricated from Italian high-grade (316) stainless steel. Each vessel has a mirror polish inside to aid efficient cleaning and hygiene.
All our wines are made from grapes hand picked from Iron Gate Estate’s vineyards to minimize damage to the fruit prior to crushing. The grapes are received by the winery in a V shaped hopper and brought by conveyer to the Crusher/Destemmer.
The bunched grapes travel along a drum with holes in the outer shell. Inside the drum are beaters, which rotate and push the grapes off the stems through the holes in the drum wall. The stems continue down the drum, are collected and composted.
The grapes then pass through two rubber rollers, which split the grape open, and the “must” (skin, seeds, and juice) pumped through the cooler.
In white wine production the “must” is pumped into the computer controlled press. The press is a drum with an air bag in the middle and sieves in the side. When the air bag is inflated it presses the grapes against the walls.
The juice passes through the sieves; the skins and the seeds stay inside. The more the bag is inflated, the harder the press, and this can result in higher levels of phenolics being released from the grape skins which cause harshness in the final wine.
At Iron Gate we only apply half the pressure of most wineries, helping to soften our style of wine. This means we produce less juice per tonne of grapes than many wineries, but results in a premium wine with high quality.
Next, the juice is pumped to our white wine fermenters, and the fermentation started by adding yeast. There are hundreds of different yeasts that can be used depending on the style and characteristics of the desired wine. The yeast converts the naturally occurring grape sugars into alcohol.
This process gives off heat, and the juice would naturally heat up if left to itself. The bands on the fermenters, two thirds of the way up, enable us to pass coolant around the system to keep the temperature constant. As the temperature rises aromas and flavours can be lost from the finished wine.
We use a lot of computer control in the winery and one of the main areas is in temperature control. When the fermentation is over we remove the wine, filter and temperature stabilize it until we end up with a finished white wine ready to bottle.
The whole process takes around four months.
In the case of red wine, the process is a little different. We pass the “must” through the cooler, but do not go through the press at this stage. This is because if a red grape is cut open, the juice is colourless like a white grape. The colour and tannin of a red wine comes from the skin, and the way we extract this colour and tannin is to ferment with the skins, seeds, and juice. We put the skins, seeds and juice all in to the red fermenters, start the fementation by adding yeast the skins come up to the surface if they are allowed to stay there they dry out and will not extract their colour.
In the past, the fermenters had open tops and two or three men with long poles would keep pushing the skins down into the liquid to keep the skins moist. This was known as “cap plunging”. These days the most common method is “pumping over” where juice is pumped from the base of the vessel and sprayed back into the top. This keeps the skin moist and allows the extraction to occur.
When we make our softest style of red wine we use an Italian made fermenter with pistons which recreate the traditional “cap plunging” style with modern technology. One side of the skins is pushed down at a time, with computer control ensuring just the right rate of “cap plunging”.
When the fermentation is over and the colour and tannin extracted to the required degree, the skins, seeds and juice are pumped back to the press, the skins and seeds separated out and the red wine pumped into barrels, where it stays in our case for between 12 and 14 months.
You may be interested to know that our bottle shape is called “reverse taper claret” and is wider on the shoulder than on the base. The bottle is about a centimetre higher than most other bottles, but still fits in the fridge safely.
View our range of reds
Corks & Screwtops
All Iron Gate wines are closed with corks. The merits of cork as compared to screwtop or Stelvin closures has been the subject of much press publicity. The reasoning behind screwtops is to avoid the possibility of “cork taint” which occurs on occasion in cork closures due to the difficulty of cleaning a naturally occurring chemical called 2,4,6 trichloroanisole (TCA) from the cork.
The exact level of cork taint in Australian wines is quite hotly debated. Estimates range from one to seven per cent. Recent publicity from the major wine companies estimates cork tainted wines at around 10%. These major wine manufacturers are predominately in favour of screwtop or Stelvin closures. In our experience and, perhaps due in part to our state of the art winemaking process, our “cork taint” figure is substantially lower, perhaps 1 or 2 %.