Victorian winemaker John Stokes has spent more than three decades perfecting an extensive collection of traditional and alternative varietal wines from his remote vineyard at Kneebone’s Gap, King Valley, Victoria. Here amongst regenerating natural bushland, at the base of the Victorian Alps, he’s developed a fascinating collection of food-friendly reds that deserve your attention. They’re highly aromatic, spice-driven and texturally wonderful. While these are just a handful of the more comprehensive offering, we take a closer look at four wines with class-leading attributes. 

Wood Park Wines 2019 Sangiovese

Wood Park Wines 2019 Sangiovese

Lightly spiced cherries, hints of dark chocolate and forest floor make its bouquet finely integrated and consistent. Additional notes of violets and musk complete a beautifully perfumed aromatic crown.

Featuring a ruby-red glow, this is the lightest styled wine in this collection of four, yet it has body and fine tannin textural elements that are highly desirable. Rich and luscious cherry and prune flavours are layered, juicy and moreish. Elements of dark chocolate and violets add depth and intrigue- additional layers of herbaceous and spiced notes, including bay leaf and cloves, make this wine fabulous for food matching.

Food Matching

The wine is perfect for pairing with game meats, charcuterie and simpler bites such as pizza and tomato-based pasta dishes. 

Winemaking Notes

Premium slow ripened, cool-climate fruit from Wood Park’s Kneebone’s Gap vineyard has produced a wine with layers of flavour. Textural complexity completes the picture due to wine maturation in French ‘Sirugue’ oak barriques. Incredibly well balanced, with grippy yet fine tannins that are wonderfully integrated with the fruit.

Essentials Score: 4.5 stars

2019 Wild’s Gully Tempranillo is well suited to charcuterie

2019 Wild’s Gully Tempranillo (Vegan Friendly)

Wild’s Gully is Wood Park’s second-tier label. They are affordable, well balanced, pleasing wines to drink. The 2019 Tempranillo is no exception; in fact, it’s one of our favourites due to its ripe and juicy fruit and spice-driven savoury characters.   

Mixed herbaceous and spiced elements form a broad foundation to its well-rounded morello cherry and matured charred-oak aromas.

Immediately juicy and full flavoured – this wine fills the palate with ripe and gorgeously fresh tasting cherries and raspberries; this is partly due to its excellent acid structure that livens up the front palate, while the wine finishes with deeper rounder mid and back palate characters of bramble fruit, white pepper and cloves. The resulting wine has a detailed spicy mouthfeel that’s also weighted with fine grippy tannins. 

Food Matching

It’s versatile enough to enjoy with hard cheeses and savoury pastries and bold enough to pair with BBQ steak or a garlic and rosemary studded roast leg of lamb.

Winemaking Notes

This early ripening varietal is the first to fruit at Wood Park Wines each season. Great care has been taken to produce a high-quality wine – from open vat fermenting to regular ‘pump overs’ of the juice, enhancing the spice-driven characteristics and ultimately ensuring a healthy and vibrant fermentation period. This process also manages to extract optimum flavours from the fruit. The wine is finally matured with gentle touches of French oak. 

Essentials Score: 3.5 stars

Wood Park Wines 2016 The Tuscan (blend)

The 2016 Tuscan is a blend of Cabernet, Shiraz, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, and a hint of Colorino – a Tuscan grape used primarily to add colour and texture in blending. It features a rich and sweetly aromatic nose of blueberries and plums that is divinely decadent and rich.

Presenting with a softly textured full-bodied palate, this is an exceptionally well-crafted wine featuring premium fruit. Exotic flavours of vanilla, violets sit atop dark and rounded layers of plums, blackberries, mulberries and black pepper. Due to its tight finish, there is a greater focus available for further tasting without clouding the palate – a neat trick for such a full-bodied wine.

Food Matching

Best suited to rich braises, stews and game meats, however, for lovers of bold wines, this would make a perfect fireside companion with as little a paring as a handful of green or kalamata olives.

Winemaking Notes

Inspired by the super Tuscan’s of Italy, each grape variety is harvested and fermented separately in open fermenters. The crushed fermenting fruit and juice are regularly hand plunged, which helps to produce a vibrant colour while softly integrating skin tannins. Each of the completed wines is later transferred to seasoned oak barrels for 22 months of maturation before blending and bottling. 

Essentials Score: 4 stars

Wood Park’s Kneebones Gap Vineyard
Winemaker & Founder of Wood Park John Stokes
Wood Park Wines 2016 Reserve Zinfandel (Primitivo)

Wood Park Wines 2016 Reserve Zinfandel (Primitivo)

Zinfandel, also known as Primitivo in Italy, is a black-skinned grape that has, through DNA tracing, been found to be identical to Tribidrag, the oldest Croatian name for this grape variety earlies mentions date from 1799. In California, it is the second most planted variety after Cabernet Sauvignon. The variety has become quite popular in Australia, but not without its challenges, like overcropping, susceptibility to diseases and irregularities like hen and chicken bunches (unripe smaller berry and regular ripe berries in the same bunch). 

‘Regardless, we’ve had some wonderful vintages,’ explains John Stokes. ‘And it’s previously been served on Qantas First Class international flights between Australia and the USA, which we’re particularly proud of.’

The wine presents with a luscious and bold nose of blackberries and prunes; additional textural flavours of charred oak and warming spices become evident as the wine opens up.  

This well balanced mid-palate weight aged wine is immediately pleasing with its ripe, juicy characters and layered spice. A tightly focused plate of sour cherries combined with hints of chocolate and spice combine with harmony and ease. Given its tightly focused palate – one with a punchy acidity – it is possible to pair this very food-oriented wine with a wide range of dishes.

Food Matching

Something fatty like a rich Spanish Jamón ibérico and manchego cheese or an aged cheddar is a suitable robust starter. A mild salami is also a good match. However, extending beyond this with more hearty meals is not required. The wine is juicy and light enough to support simpler meals, pizza, pasta, risotto or gently spiced beef curry with sweet fruit including apples and banana; otherwise, a chutney.

Winemaking Notes

Zinfandel is not widely grown in Australia; however, Wood Park has grown this grape on their estate since 2005. Due to its rich flavours and thick skin, producing an elegant style is challenging. Winemaker John Stolks has managed to soften the fruit by allowing 24 months of wine maturation in American Hogshead oak prior to bottling. It is a fine drop that’s well worth investing in for future cellaring.

Essentials Score: 5 stars


Winemaker John Stolks extracts juice from the winery’s open vat fermenters, with assistant Manny

Wood Park loves the compatibility of its wine with the dishes that come from the kitchen of Ben Borthwick. Wood Park thanks the King River Café, Oxley, Victoria for helping ‘set the scene’ for the food and wine matches.

About Essentials Wine Ratings
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Wood Park Wines Cellar Door
At the Milawa Cheese Factory Complex
17 Milawa-Bobinawarrah Rd, Milawa, Victoria
Tel 03 5727 3778


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