Q&A with Stonegaze Vineyard – Margaret River

Stonegaze Vineyard - 2016 Isabella Wine - Margaret River

Today we have some very special guests joining us on the blog – a big welcome to Wayne & Jill McGriskin, owners of Margaret River’s Stonegaze Vineyard (previously Stonegate Vineyard).

You may have spotted recently my tasting note for the Stonegaze Vineyard 2016 Isabella Cabernet Blend. It went down very well in our house and I have been looking forward to sharing this Q&A with you guys to help you get to know Stonegaze better.

So let’s get stuck in…

Owning a vineyard and launching a wine brand is hard work, what lead you down this path

We came across what is now our vineyard site back in 2001 and immediately fell in love with its location high up on the hills behind Yallingup, overlooking Geographe Bay. We purchased the small two-hectare vacant property with the aim of one day getting out of the suburban rat race and living in the south west of Western Australia. The property is part of what was originally a dairy farm.

We were originally unsure what to do with the site, so we arranged for a soil survey to be undertaken in November 2008. The results indicated the soil was highly suitable for viticulture and a classic example of the well-drained gravelly soil found in the Margaret River region. Extensive granite gneiss rocks are also present on site which adds to the mineral complexity available to the vines. We have always dreamt of one day having our own wine label so this was news to our ears.

We established the vineyard in 2009, built our house and relocated to the site in 2011 and have loved every day since. It’s been hard work and we’re still learning so much about being in the wine industry, but we’re very grateful to be living our life in a gorgeous part of the world.

Is there a particular reason why you chose WA’s Margaret River wine region?

We were attracted to the region because of its untouched beauty, breathtaking beaches and peacefulness. We were looking for a place where our children and grandchildren could visit, enjoy the surrounding beauty and just run free.

Grandchildren in the vineyard at Stonegaze, Margaret River

The Margaret River region is such a wonderful and unspoilt part of Australia with a great vibe. Let’s not forget that living in one of Australia’s greatest wine regions certainly has it’s perks – so much fantastic wine right on our doorstep!

What is the philosophy behind the Stonegaze brand?

We believe that amazing wine comes from amazing fruit. To that end, we use natural and minimalist practices both in terms of how we treat the land and the wine we make. It is important to us that we grow our grapes organically, though we aren’t a certified organic vineyard just yet. We believe that organic viticulture practises benefit not only the quality of the wine but also the long-term health of the vineyard and land we care for.

'We believe that organic viticulture practises benefit not only the quality of the wine but also the long-term health of the vineyard and land we care for.' - Stonegaze Vineyard, Margaret River Click To Tweet

We really emphasise the quality of our wine over quantity. All of our wines produced so far have been in small batches with a good vintage producing around 150 dozen bottles. Because we are small batch producers this allows our hand-crafted approach to our wines to shine through. We hand pick and hand sort all our grapes before handing them over to our very talented wine maker Jo Perry (Dormilona). Jo’s approach to winemaking fits right in with the heart of our philosophy – start with the best fruit possible and let the wine speak for itself.

You currently produce only one wine, a Bordeaux Blend, is there a particular reason you decided to make only one wine and this specific red wine blend?

Our Quedjinup vineyard is only 2 hectares in size. We wanted to be sure that whatever vines we planted were going to thrive on the site. To that end we took the advice of our viticulturalist and planted the five noble grapes of Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.

We have a preference for Left Bank Bordeaux blends so around 70% of the vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. We chose the Bordeaux blend because over the years we had tasted and fell in love with similar well known and highly rated Bordeaux blends grown within the Margaret River region.

Please tell us a bit more about Isabella and how we should spend our time with her: (e.g. how should we serve it up – decant, temperature, etc, should we cellar?)

We planted our vines in 2009 and our first vintage was in 2016. We had plenty of time to think about a name and decided to call our first wine “Isabella”, after the eldest of our two grandchildren. Just like our beloved granddaughter Isabella, the 2016 vintage should be given time and treated with elegance, love and respect before letting loose.

Isabella is still a fairly young wine and tastes best when decanted. We usually decant an hour before serving to allow the wine to open up and all the beautiful aromas and flavours to develop.

Stonegaze Vineyard 2016 Isabella Cabernet Blend - Margaret River - Decanter and Wine Glass

Here in Australia we often get told to serve red wine at room temperature, but of course that can be anywhere up to and over 30°C! So, we recommend a serving temperature of around 18°C.

What sort of food do you recommend matching Isabella with and do you have any favourite recipes you can share with us?

Like most Cabernet Sauvignon driven wines, “Isabella” is best paired with rich red meats, game, and pasta dishes with tomato-based sauces like lasagne or beef ragu.

In our family we like to share a bottle (or two!) of Isabella over a hearty meal of Osso Bucco. This is our go-to red wine osso bucco recipe.

Your contract winemaker for Isabella, Josephine Perry was named Riedel Young Gun of Wine in 2016. What sets Jo apart from the average winemaker?

We have so much respect for Jo as a human and as a winemaker. We love everything about Jo and the wines she makes! She has been an excellent support for us as we find our feet in the wine industry and we can’t sing her praises high enough.

We chose Jo as our winemaker because her philosophy on wine making is in sync with what we were hoping to achieve with our fruit. Jo’s approach is very “hands on” and like us relies on the fruit to do the talking with a minimalistic approach to winemaking.

With Jo at the helm our end products are wines with no additives, fining, very little intervention and only a tiny amount of sulphur at bottling. Jo believes that this approach helps to express the vineyards character, the vintage and in return make tasty wines that are alternative in fashion and style. We wholeheartedly agree with her approach and our wines have the signature touch of a Jo Perry wine.

Please tell us about your plans for Stonegaze Vineyard in the future.

Our plan is to continue to develop our brand and maintain our natural and minimalist vineyard practices. We want to keep growing exceptional fruit and turning that into delicious wines that can be enjoyed now or laid down for a few years to enjoy later.

We are also hoping to expand our range to include an organically grown Chardonnay and an estate grown rosé in the near future.

The most exciting news for us is that we will soon be releasing our first small batch of single varietal Malbec. In 2017 we had an exceptional harvest and were able to make about 30 dozen bottles of wine from the organically grown Malbec fruit off our estate. The wine has had time to age gracefully in the bottle and is now ready to be enjoyed. It’s a beautiful expression of the fruit and we can’t wait to share it with everyone.

Other than buying through your website, where can we find your wines?

We have been fortunate enough to be supported by local independent venues and retailers here in Western Australia. Our friends at Settlers Tavern, Blue Manna Bistro, Quarterdeck Dining, and Petition were some of our earliest supporters. You can also find us at Dunsborough Cellars, Perth City Liquor Barons, Scarborough Cellars, Mane Liquor, Dutch Trading Co, DeVine Cellars, and Besk.

What’s your number one tip for tasting wine?

Forget what you may have heard or read about a wine, just rely on YOUR taste and senses to judge whether YOU like it or otherwise.

'Forget what you may have heard or read about a wine, just rely on YOUR taste and senses to judge whether YOU like it or otherwise.' - Stonegaze Vineyard, Margaret RiverClick To Tweet

A big thank you to Stonegaze Vineyard for taking the time to join us for this Q&A. Make sure to follow Stonegaze on Facebook and Instagram.

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