Looking for a new wine country experience? Enter the edgy and cool wine world of Vamp – the new wine rooms just opened by enigmatic Hunter Valley winemaker, Lisa McGuigan. Located on 2198 Broke Road, or as Lisa affectionately calls it. ‘Rodeo Drive’, this new cellar door is as unique and charismatic as its owner.
The first thing you’ll notice on arrival at Vamp is that it’s mostly black. From the outset, it’s certainly not your typical cellar door and isn’t that just great. It’s a sentiment that carries though to the contemporary interior and one that echoes in every design detail and intriguing corner of this place.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to meet Lisa or bought a bottle of her wine, you’ll know that Vamp is a truly befitting home for her eponymous wine brand.
Despite her family background – Lisa is the daughter of the much-celebrated local winemaker Brian McGuigan – her journey to becoming a fourth-generation winemaker wasn’t a direct path. Lisa forged a long and successful career in the hospitality industry. Her last role seeing her move closer to her routes as the Head Wine Buyer for a prestigious 5-star hotel in Sydney. Returning to the Hunter and the family business in the mid-1990’s, Lisa had the idea to launch a new wine brand and destination cellar door, one which would ultimately become one of Australia’s most recognisable and successful – Tempus Two.
It’s clear from talking with Lisa that the process of ideation to creation; whether it be in winemaking, designing distinctive wine packaging or the 12-months she spent onsite, project managing the development of this new wine room, is what she loves and does best. It’s also apparent that the concept for Vamp was well thought-out and that the design of the space reflects Lisa’s great loves – wine, fashion, music, art and her favourite colour, black.
Walking in, Vamp is a monochrome feast for the eyes and not surprisingly, everything about this place is unapologetically ‘Lisa’, but not in an egotistical kind of way. Rather, it’s a beautifully stylish embodiment of her persona and passions and a reminder of her life’s journey – the people that’ve made a mark and the events she wishes to honour.
“In the front area I’m putting together a whole heap of my favourite quotes and meaningful things to me because this is who I am. You know, I’m here doing this now because of the significant things in my life that have shaped me and helped me get to this point.”
The space itself is quite large and there’s a huge floor to ceiling painted feature wall at the back of the room just behind the soon to be open Oyster Bar – more on that shortly. In the centre of the room sits a large circular tasting bar which is a piece of art in and of itself, above which hangs a modern medieval-looking chandelier.
There’re also four semi-private tasting rooms each partitioned with chainmail hanging screens and a large group tasting room which seats up to 30 guests, running the length of the back half of the building. When the weather cools down a touch, the adjoining terrace which overlooks the lawn and gardens will be ideal.
Whether you’re just tasting for two or travelling with a larger group, you’d be happy to occupy any of these very cool spaces and taste through the Lisa McGuigan wine portfolio.
Unique architecture and design aside, what can you expect on visiting Vamp? Your best bet is to book ahead, and that’s not just because Vamp is going to get a lot of attention. It’s Lisa’s foremost desire to give customers a premium, restaurant-like experience, enabling everyone to enjoy a sit-down tasting and excellent service.
“I want visitors to walk away from Vamp without having to think too much about what just happened but to feel that they’ve had an amazing experience in terms of the service and general ambiance of the place. Like going to a great restaurant. That’s what excites me.”
Yep, things are done differently here, and we like it a lot. From the hum of foreign audio-books which play in the toilets to the interesting artisan collection of knives and other gifts you can purchase along with your wine. I guarantee you there’s nothing quite like Vamp in the Valley…just how Lisa wants it.
As for wine tasting, you can choose ‘Just a Splash’, which is complimentary, or try all seven wines from the Platinum Collection for a small fee of $15, which includes a complimentary glass, brochure and a reserved table in one of the tasting rooms. “Like a restaurant, when people pre-book, we can have a table ready. I’ll be on the front door so when we’re really busy I’ll book people to come back at a time when it’s not so crazy so that everyone gets the opportunity to experience the same standard of service” notes Lisa.
Launched in 2010, the Lisa McGuigan wine portfolio comprises three wine collections. Typical of her non-traditional style, the fruit for a lot of these wines is sourced from all over Australia, and not just the Hunter Valley. From her Platinum Collection, Lisa offers two Pinot Noirs (from McLaren Vale and the Yarra Valley) a Shiraz from Mudgee and a Botrytis Semillon of Griffith, NSW origins. From the Hunter you can taste a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and quite remarkably, a Gruner Veltliner (an Austrian variety) grown on the McGuigan family property here in the Valley.
Did I mention Champagne? That’s right, you can even taste Vadin Plateau Champagne here alongside Dom Perignon and Moët & Chandon (Lisa’s two favourites) when you book a seat at the Vamp Oyster Bar. Opening on February 1 and operating Friday to Sunday (from 11am), the Oyster Bar will feature freshly shucked Oysters matched of course to the some of the finest Champagnes. Vamp are taking bookings now. It’s going to be huge.
What else does the near future hold for Vamp? You’ll soon be able to book a ‘Pinot from Around the World’ Tasting which Lisa plans to roll out later in the month. This bespoke, blind wine tasting (in black glassware) will be hosted by Lisa at midday every Saturday and Sunday for a cost of $50 per person.
Then there’s the Art & Sculpture Park which will feature 30 Blackman sculptures across the Vamp property for guests to peruse at their leisure. Plans for this are well underway with the famed sculptures set to arrive this month.“Blackman has a huge following, so this will really appeal to art lovers.”
One thing is for sure, Lisa has a lot of plans for Vamp and in time they’ll be thoughtfully executed. In her own words, “Evolution is something that I really enjoy. At the same time, I’m really careful not to set-up a whole heap of promises for them not to work out. That’s why I’m starting softly.”
Images: Alexander McIntyre Photography
Architecture: EJE Architecture
Interiors: EJE Interiors