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Windance Estate

TYKE WHEATLEY

CHIEF WINEMAKER AND OWNER AT WINDANCE ESTATE

“We make wines we like to drink at home.”

When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker?
Growing up in the Swan Valley of WA as a teenager, I was surrounded by vineyards. You could hear the rumble of harvesters at night; there was a real buzz during vintage. I picked grapes on weekends for some iconic growers whilst still at school and then landed my first job out of school at Houghton’s. I shared a bottle of 1999 Jack Mann with my old man and couldn’t believe how a wine could taste so good – that was the turning point.

Please tell us about your career so far, including your education, work experience etc.
I graduated from oenology and viticulture in 2008. Worked with Bill and Dan Pannell at Picardy wines. Here, I was introduced to meticulous grape-growing and … Burgundy wines. Bill and Dan had me do a vintage in Burgundy, Saint Romain. There was something so raw about the experience. It’s a very special place. On arriving home, I then landed a job at Happs winery in Dunsborough, Margaret River. The winemaker was, and still is, Mark Warren, who was my Wine Science lecturer at uni. I worked there for four years. These were the most instrumental and valuable years of my winemaking career. It felt like I crammed ten years into four. My in-laws owned and operated Windance Estate, a premium boutique vineyard in Yallingup, Margaret River. I began working here in 2012 and have been here ever since. Being awarded (22) trophies at significant wine shows has been a real highlight. Winning Best Shiraz at Sydney Royal, and Queensland Royal wine shows, and Best Bordeaux blend at Royal Adelaide are pretty amazing achievements for a single vineyard producing sixty tonnes.

What do you love most about being a winemaker?
The freedom to experiment and challenge yourself, both in the vineyard and winery. I’m in a fortunate position where I work the vineyard and make the wines. We make wines we like to drink at home, so when you see them do well at wine shows and see them selling well at the cellar door, it’s a rewarding feeling.

What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?
A really well made and thought-out chardonnay. New world or old world … it’s hard to beat. Typically paired with a second bottle amongst good friends and banter.

Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?
I think having a general ‘processing plan’ in place is important for producing consistent wines. Though, we’ve started experimenting with different styles of late. Introducing amphoras into our winemaking has been an interesting addition.

Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?
I’d have to say the latest vintages, 2022 and 2023 – they are exceptional. Coupled with the fact that these are our first wines produced that are Demeter Certified Biodynamic … It’s an extremely rewarding and satisfying feat.

How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?
Climate and soil are everything. We have such a unique microclimate at Windance. Drew and Rosemary (in-laws) planted the vineyard twenty-five years ago on the best soil the property has to offer. Not only that, they also thought deeply as to where each variety should be planted. Our prized shiraz is planted on what some would refer to as a gravel pit. The cabernet on a north-facing slope comprised of chocolate loam on top of a gravelly subsoil. Yallingup is approximately thirty kilometres north of Margaret River. On any given day, we are generally a few degrees warmer, and that makes a big difference – especially when growing rich, flavoursome reds.

Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?
My wife and I enjoy trying the new vintages as often as we can. She has a love for shiraz, which she has involuntarily inherited from her father, so this is what we drink most of at home!

Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?
We’ve done a lot in the eleven years we’ve been at Windance. Built a new cellar door, planted more vineyard, converted the vineyard to organic and now biodynamic, and now producing biodynamic wines. We are in a good spot … I’m happy to coast for five years and spend quality time with my wife and three kids on the vineyard. I’m always looking at different winemaking styles to improve what we do at Windance. I’d say my winemaking framework will stay relatively stable, a few interesting tweaks here and there though to keep things interesting.