Tucked in behind the hub of Central Park, away from the traffic of Broadway, sits number 48 Kensington Street, a sandstone building that's been taken over by the natural world. Vines creep through the windows, run along the walls, and sneak under the doors. It's the home of Stoneleigh Hotel, a house by Stoneleigh wine that's been filled with overgrown plants, moss-covered furniture and of course, wine. From November 11 until December 3, there will be hosting workshops, classes, live music and entertainment among many, many wine tastings inside the hotel.
It's all because of Stoneleigh wine and its relationship to nature. The vineyard is situated in New Zealand's iconic Marlborough region and sits atop an ancient riverbed that weaves its way through the vines. The stones that form the riverbed, called 'sun stones' by the winemakers, soak up all the sunlight during the day and release this heat come nightfall, ripening the grapes by moonlight. This is the philosophy behind their wines — they let Mother Nature do the work, just as they have within the Stoneleigh Hotel (kind of, it's a man-made overgrown hotel). The hotel immerses us in the natural processes that bring their wine to life, and brings a little bit of nature to our inner-city bubble.
Take a look inside.
THE GREAT WINING HALL
Upon arriving at the Stoneleigh Hotel, guests will be greeted by the concierge and shown through to the Great Wining Hall. The room has been overrun by creeping vines, spreading roots and a canopy of leaves. Vines hang from the glass ceiling and high window sills, and a moss-covered armchair sits against the wall. Over the next few weeks workshops (like our own fermentation workshop with Cornersmith, stay tuned for details), events and live music will all happen here. Visitors will take their place at a banquet table covered in plants and be treated to a tasting session of the Stoneleigh range. The vast selection of wines extends to far beyond the Sauv Blanc that made the region famous, and there is no better place to sip on these wines than surrounded by this man-made version of the natural world that crafted them.
THE WILD VALLEY BALLROOM
Last year, Stoneleigh released their first vintage of the Wild Valley range, comprised of wines fermented entirely by the forces of nature. Natural fermentation (or wild fermentation) uses the micro-flora already present in the environment to ferment the grapes, rather than introducing foreign yeasts into the product. The result is a richer, more texturally intricate wine that's intense yet elegant on the palate. Now in its second vintage, Stoneleigh brings the Wild Valley range to life in the ballroom, where guests are treated to a taster of the unique vinos, as well as a thorough rundown on the process that shaped them. Just like the wines themselves, the ballroom is an emblem of the slow march of time and nature, unimpeded by the hand of man. This room has a wall of bubbling chemicals and moss-covered furniture.
THE SAUV BLANC POWDER ROOM
This part of the experience pays homage to one of the two main grape varietals that made the Marlborough region famous, the humble Sauvignon Blanc. No celebration of New Zealand wines would be complete without mention of the grape, and Stoneleigh won't break the mould. Step into a world that reflects the time that's passed in the hotel, surrounded by the forgotten belongings of guests that have long since passed. Amongst the thriving forest within the Powder Room are the personal effects of past visitors, man-made objects left to disappear inside the grips of time. Dresses and jewellery hang from the walls alongside a delicately cream-coloured dresser — light and airy like the wine that inspired it.
THE PINOT NOIR STUDY
The other grapes perfected by our brothers and sisters across the ditch is the elegant, delicate Pinot Noir. Notoriously the hardest grape to grow and prepare properly, Pinot lends an air of quiet distinction, and the study in the hotel reflects this. Inside the study, guests are treated to another tasting session, and are invited to aquaint themselves with the excess of possessions that have melted into the foliage that surround the room. Get amongst the jewellery, the clothing and the vintage slippers.
Find the Stoneleigh Hotel is at 48 Kensington Street, Chippendale from November 11 until December 11.