Penley Estate Portrait of a winemaker

Anna Caidan meets up with Kate Goodman winemaker at Penley Estate: discover the history, bottle labels, secrets and passion
Wine Story

Could you tell me about the history of Penley Estate?

‘Penley Estate is owned by the Tolley family and it was established in the late 1980’s. Taking a step back even further, the Tolley family had a very rich history in the Australian beverage industry, coming from the Tolley family, who were distillers and the Penfold family who are very famous Australian winemakers. The name is actually an amalgamation of Penfolds and Tolley, so that’s where the winery name comes from. Winemaking has pretty much been in the blood for a number of generations. It has always been owned by the Tolley family, established by Ang and Bec Tolley and their brother Kym. Kym retired a few years ago and the sisters had taken it on board themselves and taken it to new heights. We’re based in Coonawarra, which is in South Australia. It’s a cool climate grape growing region and we have about 100 hectares of vines, and it’s a really dynamic and exciting business to be involved in at the moment!’

What is your favourite step in the wine making process?

‘My favourite step in the wine making process would have to be the harvest, but if you narrow it down even further, it’s that point where you decide to pick your grapes, because it is, I think, singularly one of the most important decisions that you make through the entire process. Making sure that you have the ripe flavours, but not too ripe, the tannins are there. Its quite a thrill, and the first picking decision you make for the season is always the most nerve-racking, but once you get going it becomes easier, but that very first decision is the ‘butterflies in your stomach’, ‘Have I got it right?’ ‘Is this what I did last year?’, so I would say that is my favourite part.’

What is the secret to making Penley wines?

‘Our vineyard. That is the most important key in the entire process we have. We have a beautiful piece of land, and we want that land to be expressed in our wines. High quality grapes are also absolutely key to what we’re doing.’

What is your best memory since working at Penley? And your most challenging?

‘We’ve shifted the style and the philosophy, and the direction of the company significantly since I came onboard, and it’s been quite a thrill to see people sit up and take note of what we’re doing. It just helps reassure us all that we’re definitely on the right track, when you have those third parties pick up your wines and just start talking about them. They had been on the back shelf for a little while, now we’re on the front shelf and that’s really exciting. Getting our 2016 Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon in the Wine Spectators top 100 wines was a pretty cool achievement.’

‘The very first harvest when I didn’t really have any experience with the vineyard, it was hard when you don’t know the history, you don’t know the region, so there was so much to learn in basically zero amount of time. Nothing bad has happened yet, touch wood! It’s such an exciting place to be working, it has really open minded, adventurous owners, so you can push boundaries and try lots of new things, so there hasn’t been anything really challenging.’

What is the story behind the labels?

‘The name Phoenix actually comes from one of the Tolley’s first distilleries, and Phoenix has always been a key label in the Penley portfolio, which sits in our Mythology range. And then we have our Heritage range, which have a series of artwork designed by Helena Perez Garcia, a London-based artist. Each label is named after a person of significance within the Tolley Family, and they’re just a really beautiful series of images. Above that we have our Estate range, and above that our Icon wines. For all the labels on the wines, there is a theme of a gold disc, which comes from the original Penley labels which had a sun logo on them, so we’ve taken that circle and carried it through as a brand story.’

When is the best time to drink your wines?

‘Any time is the best time! Whenever you feel like it! A glass of Chardonnay after a day at the office, or a glass of Cabernet with a meal, any time is a good time to drink Penley wines.’

What type of food pairs best with your wines?

‘We always say that red wine pairs well with protein, but our sparkling red Pinot, which is a unique product, is beautiful with some cured meats, antipasti, or Asian food, it carries well with a little bit of spice. But when it comes to wines like our Cabernet, you can’t beat a piece of steak, or red meat. The tannins in Cabernet really work with the meat.’

How would you describe the Australian way of life?

‘Modern Australia is very much a country built on immigration, so Australians are very open minded. We experience lots of different cuisines, we spent a lot of time outdoors, I think we’re relaxed people who are open to trying just about anything. We all travel a lot, as you know Australia is relatively isolated, so most people get out and do the long-haul flights and check out other nations. So, our way of life is relaxed and adventurous.'

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