27 Dec 2011

Meet the Winemaker (Episode 104): Cliff Royle, Flametree

Debra catches up with Flametree Wines’ General Manager and Chief Winemaker, Cliff Royle, who left the famed Voyager Estate after 12 years to start his own winery. He explains to Debra the differences in making wine for your own company, as well as the new challenges of managing people as well as grapes. Debra discovers the very first vintage for Flametree Wines – the 2010 – and is shocked at the vast portfolio they’ve produced for such a young winery, as well as just how long vintage takes with so many varietals in their vineyards.

To conclude, Cliff gives Debra the lowdown on starting a winery and how anyone up for the challenge should expect not to see very much of either their family or their money for quite some time.

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20 Dec 2011

Meet the Winemaker (Episode 103): Bernard Lacroute, WillaKenzie Estate

Debra catches up with Bernard Lacroute of WillaKenzie Estate, based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They discuss Bernard’s Burgundian roots, his former life working in the high-tech business in the United States, as well as what drew him into winemaking. Debra enquires about the origins of the winery’s very un-French name, WillaKenzie Estate, and Bernard gets dishes the dirt on, errr, dirt. As a former techy, Bernard tells Debra about the super cool technology they have integrated into the winery (like wireless drip irrigation), but reiterates the need to not go too far with technology in the winemaking business.

Finally, they discuss the region’s burgeoning Pinot Gris industry and the style which WillaKenzie Estate favours, concluding with Bernard’s take on whether New Zealand is competition for Oregon.

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13 Dec 2011

Meet the Winemaker (Episode 102): Paul Smith, Wirra Wirra

Debra catches up with Paul Smith, senior winemaker at Wirra Wirra, based in one of Debra’s favorite wine regions – South Australia’s McLaren Vale. Paul explains the Australian aboriginal roots of the winery’s name (Wirra Wirra means “amongst the gums” – ie Eucalyptus trees), and they discuss whether these trees have an influence on the wine produced.

Wirra Wirra is internationally recognised for Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and Paul explains that the main challenge for Shiraz in the region is the growing environment. McLaren Vale is a great, dry growing environment, situated very close to the ocean by the sea, but site selection is very important to get the right balance in the final product. Finally, Paul lets Debra in on the most rewarding part of the job.

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6 Dec 2011

Meet the Winemaker (Episode 101): Nigel Blieschke, Peter Lehmann

Debra talks viticulture with Peter Lehmann viticulturalist Nigel Blieschke, and gets to the heart of exactly what his job consists of on a daily basis. Nigel manages the relationships with around 150 vinegrowers (including 800 different vineyards!) in the Barossa Valley, with the iconic brand taking around one fifth of the fruit produced in the region. Debra is fascinated as to how he remembers all of their names (wives, kids etc) as well as just how much tasting he does come vintage time and what the criteria for fruit selection is (it’s all about baumé baby!). Ever the ex-accountant, Debra is intrigued about the paperwork his job entails and how this information is stored and shared.

They talk about the Barossa’s biggest competition (McLaren vale says Nigel!) and how the Shiraz of the two regions compare. Finally Nigel let’s Debra in on what it’s like to work with Andrew Wigan, Chief Winemaker at Peter Lehmann, a 30-plus year veteran of the Barossa and highly decorated winemaker.

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29 Nov 2011

Meet the Winemaker (Episode 100): David Bicknell, Oakridge Vineyards

Debra meets David Bicknell of Oakridge Wines based in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, Australia who specialise in Pinot Noir. With Oakridge a multi-award winner, David tells Debra that the key to success is to stay relaxed about their winemaking, not to try too hard, and treat it as a craft. He explains the challenge for new world Pinot growers is vinage, and how their Pinot vines are “precocious”.

David discusses how Oakridge’s Over the Shoulder wine – crafted using the Beaujolais model – is a bright food friendly wine and how the current trend for Australian wines is highly “un-Australian”. He tells Debra how the Oz wine industry has come a long way since the “ugly” Chardonnays of 20 years ago and talks about the honor and pressure that high scores from James Halliday bring, and why he’s still not happy with where the winery is currently at.

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22 Nov 2011

Meet the Winemaker (Episode 99): Andrew Hardy, Petaluma Wines

Debra catches up with Andrew Hardy from Petaluma, a South Australian based winery with vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and Coonawarra. Petaluma’s 2008 Riesling won the 2009 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition “Best Riesling” trophy.

Andrew explains that Riesling grows so well in the Clare Valley (a relatively hot climate especially for the cool-climate loving Riesling) because of the valley’s elevation and position on the edge of desert which means the vineyards get cool air at night and also sea breeze every afternoon. They talk soil and how the Clare’s “red lime over slate” is great for minerality, what it’s like working with Brian Croser, and discuss why there can be a petrol/kerosene character in Riesling. Finally Andrew explains the ideal vintage in Clare.

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