CHIEF WINEMAKER AT STELLA BELLA
“Wines that smell and taste of southern Margaret River and are of international quality.”
When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
After about ten years as a viticulturist. I knew I needed to learn about the vineyard first.
Please tell us about your career so far, including your education, work experience etc.
I started with Bachelor of Agricultural Science in Viticulture from the University of Adelaide. After a few years as a viticultural technical officer at Hardy’s Tintara in McLaren Vale, I started and completed a Post-Graduate Degree in Oenology. After four years as a viticultural technical officer, I moved to Western Australia to manage the oldest cool climate vineyard in Western Australia at Forest Hill. During this time, Forest Hill sold some fruit to Stella Bella, in which began my relationship with Stuart Pym and Janice McDonald from Stella Bella. I spent four years with Forest Hill and moved to Margaret River in November 2007 to do a vintage in the cellar with Stella Bella. Sixteen years later, I’m still at Stella Bella and have the responsibilities of chief winemaker and general manager.
What do you love most about being a winemaker?
Making delicious wine.
What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
That’s a difficult question, but with a gun to my head, it would be chardonnay. Pork is my favourite protein/ food to pair with chardonnay.
Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
Yes, discuss the flavours, aromas and style you want to create prior to making the wine. Share this information with all key stakeholders, then work hard in the vineyard to achieve these flavours before the wine is made. Making the wine is the easy part.
Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
For me, 2017 was a favourite after creating some new styles for Stella Bella. Also, 2022 was epic!
How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
It affects everything about the wine we make. This could be an essay question there is so much that I could discuss on this topic – ha! In short, the cooler nature of southern Margaret River allows us to have higher natural acidity and slower ripening. If we plant the most suitable clones and correct varieties on appropriate soils, we can make identifiably southern Margaret River wines. Wines that smell and taste of southern Margaret River and are of international quality.
Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
Chardonnay, cabernet, shiraz … all of them!
Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?
Doing what I’m doing now. Possibly with my own label and at Stella Bella.