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Penley Estate: Kate Goodman

Kate Goodman - Chief Winemaker at Penley Estate

Hello, my fellow wine lovers. What is everyone drinking today? Welcome to Our blog series: 'behind the vineyard'! In case you're too busy to read this, we are also on SPOTIFY and YouTube!

This Series is for all you wine lovers out there. You know, just figuring out the world of wine, what wines you like or dislike? What other grape varietals are out there, or just curious to learn about all things wine. Yeah, we know it's a lot. Well, got your glass of wine in hand? Then let's get started!

Wine Rants Special: Full Interview + Bonus Questions!

Kick starting our first podcast episode, we already have an amazing guest today. We are so honored and privileged to be introducing Kate Goodman with us today. So Kate is of course the revolutionary mind behind the wines of Penley Estate from 2016 until now. A little bit about Kate: 

1992-93: Cellarhand, Wirra Wirra Wines, McLaren Vale South Australia •
1993-94: Cellarhand, Tim Knappstein, Clare Valley South Australia •
1994-2000: Winemaker, Seppelt, Great Western Victoria •
2001-2014: Chief Winemaker, Punt Road Wines, Coldstream Victoria •
2014-present day: Owner/Winemaker Goodman Wines, Healesville Victoria •
How did that come about?
2016-present day: Chief Winemaker, Penley Estate, Coonawarra South Australia

The first release of Penley Estate wines produced by Kate Goodman and the winemaking team were extremely well received. 2015 Penley Estate Helios Cabernet Sauvignon received 98 points, James Halliday 2016 Penley Estate Helios Cabernet Sauvignon received 97 points.
2017: A breast cancer survivor;
2018: Awarded the Australian Women in Wine Awards, Winemaker of the Year for ‘The head winemaker of Penley Estate in Coonawarra, South Australia and the Owner/Winemaker of Goodman Wines in the Yarra Valley. Kate has established a career across two states making the styles of wine she loves, while also fulfilling her obligations as a mother, partner and survivor of breast cancer. She is acknowledged for her deftness and agility to create a new generation of Penley Estate wines while simultaneously establishing her own wine company in a few short years. 

So Kate, your wine journey began in 1992 with Wirra Wirra in Mclaren vale. How did you get started there?
Kate: I try not to dwell on the numbers too much because it just makes me feel like I've been doing this for a really long time. I studied biomedical science when I first left high school and rapidly realized that a white coat inside following quite strict procedures was really not going to suit my personality at all. Cause I really liked being outside. So I went and got a job in a winery and were, where was my first one? And then I've never left, never left the wine industry.

It must be exciting, i must think.

uh, it's an amazing opportunity to create something new every year that is so influenced by the natural forces. I'm really privileged to be able to do this job.

Wow. I can see have a lot of passion for wine making. So, you went on to do stints in a Clare valley and Great Western Victoria as well. And in 2014 you finally launched your own Goodman wines. So what spurred that?

Well, uh, you know, I, I'd always had this little desire to really have my own personality really captured in some wine. And I guess through my career, as you sort of move through through jobs, you become potentially a little bit less connected to what it is that you're actually doing in terms of the actual, like physical. So to have my own wine brand back then and make wine very much on a small scale, allowed me to work with vineyards. I loved and really make exactly the kind of wine that I wanted to.

I think that's the constraint, isn't it? I mean, sometimes when you work with someone else, you don't really have full control of what do you want to do?

That's right. And I think it really reignites a passion, I guess, for making one. 

Awesome. So you went on to Penn state in 2016 and your first wine, you receive an award was for Helio's Cabernet Sauvignon? 

Yes. That's that is right. Um, I've known, um, Ang Tolley the owner for many decades. I met her when I worked in McLaren Vale and uh, when her brother retired, she asked me to, to join her team to, I guess, breathe fresh air and vision into Penley estate.

In 2018 you were awarded the Australian women in wine awards, a winemaker of the year for a winemaker of Penley estate in Coonawarra, of course, all this while, you know, being a mom of a partner and of course a survivor of breast cancer from 2017, how do you juggle all of that?

 I think a few life lessons has helped me to juggle the busy-ness of life. You know, don't sweat the small stuff, don't be afraid to ask for help. Um, I rely heavily on a very supportive partner and, you know, he helps with everything. So, you know, asking for help, not sweating the small stuff and working out what's important or working out what's important so that you can get good stuff done.  It took me a long time to learn that lesson.

Jumping right back into, Penley estate. So maybe you can share a little bit more about the vineyard. So, I mean, it has a history since 1980s with the Tolley siblings

So Penley estate is owned by the Tolley siblings. their families they've come from the Penfolds family and the Tolley family. So they've been involved in the wine business or the beverage businesses for, for generations. And in the 1980s, they decided that, um, that it would be good to have a vineyard of their own that they had established. So they found some land in Coonawarra, in a region that they really believed in, um, to produce amazing Cabernet and planted the first vines on what is now known as Penley estate. So we have 90 hectares currently planted across the property and, um, it's just a magical site for producing red wine.

 I assume the busiest period in Penley estate are during harvest months. Could you walk us a little bit through that.

So of course harvest is, uh, it is the most critical, I think, um, the most critical time of the year and it could war being a very cool climate grape-growing region. Our harvest starts in generally in early to mid-March and then goes through until the end of April. So we're actually not long finished harvest. And for me, the most critical decision to be made through the winemaking year is what day are we going to pick each parcel of grapes? So, a typical day during harvest, we'll probably start early with a team meeting between myself and the other one maker that I have on site. Just a bit of a, you know, where are we up to what's happened from yesterday?

What do we need to do then, We'll probably a coffee before we get stuck into the day to be quite honest. Then I like to look at vineyards in the morning before it gets too warm and like when you're quite fresh. So we'll quite often spent hours walking up and down the rows of the vineyards. And for those that like to sort of count their steps, it's an excellent way of keeping on top of your steps.

In the afternoon, tasting of ferments morning and night, you know, lots of tasting and lots of time spent in the vineyard is pretty much how the day pans out.

Can you describe, you know, visually the vineyard for us, imagine how the vineyard looks like at Penley estate?

Okay. So Coonawarra is very flat to visually look at the region. And, what happens below the surface is, is I think one of the secrets of the Coonawarra region in the soil profiles and the access to underwater, um, water resources are what makes it a really special place. So, you know, we have, I think it's 15 different blocks across the vineyard, across a range of grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon being the major grape variety, uh, with 65% of our vineyard climate to Cabernet, then we have some Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. So it's, it is quite flat and the vines are quite old. So they've got these gnarly chunky trunks. We have beautiful, healthy canopies, really naturally low cropping grapes. Yeah, it's quite a picture of the vineyard. And one of the other most beautiful things about, um, Coonawarra is, you know, it is regional, we're four hours south of Adelaide and at night it is completely dark. And the, you know, the Southern skies are amazing, which means we also have the most incredible sunrises and sunsets and these beautiful, big open skies. It is, you know, it really is just a picture.

We fell in love with Penley Estate's label design and I'm sure it has captivated many others. Could you share more about the process behind the idea of visuals for your labels?
Creativity and experimentation drives many of the decisions made at Penley Estate . We wanted our wines to look beautiful before you even opened them whilst the ‘sun’ motif links all the wines together, so a gold disc is a common design element. Our Heritage range has unique artwork design by London based illustrator Helen Perez Garcia , they are modern and brightly coloured . To be honest, the internet is a wonderful place to discover new artists that we can collaborate with and you will see many of these on our one-off project wines.

Atlas Shiraz is one of our favorites from Penley Estate. What was the idea behind Atlas?
Our Atlas Shiraz is a modern expression of Coonawarra Shiraz. A wine that is medium to full bodied and flavoursome. We wanted to create a wine that is delicious, generous and represents our vineyard. A varietal Shiraz to satisfy most palates. 

So, what are you looking for when you're harvesting during the harvest period, what are you looking for in a taste, the taste of the grapes that, you know, it's ready. So that makes you go, aha. Well, this is it.

So this is something I talk about, I guess semi-frequently with people. And it's a very difficult thing me to articulate because it's become so, so intuitive and reef, like it's a real reflex, but we're looking for things like flavor. its absolutely critical. The grapes have to have flavor. And if I talk about Cabernet, which is our most important grape variety, the tannin also needs to be, right. So it changes from sort of being quite dry and tough to a more textural sort of feel the seeds, change color, and get a bit harder and crunchy. So when all those things are imbalanced, that's when you know when to pick or not.  When you walk in a vineyard and you taste lots of grapes and you taste from inside the canopy from the outside, from exposed berries, you try and sort of get a feel for what's happening in the entire canopy of the vineyard. And it really comes down to flavor. And the earlier we can get that flavor, by that, I mean the lower, the sugar level then even better.

How do you decide the process of how the grapes should be fermented in terms of the timeframe?

So, well, of course, red wine grapes are fermented on the skin, so they have to go into some sort of, some form of fermentation vessel.

And, when we're in the vineyard, we're already starting to think about where the individual parcel of grapes may end up. What wine is this potentially going to end up in? Is it looking like being one of out quite accessible Phoenix parcels, or is it going to be something that more textural, like our tone, the Cabernet, or does it have the density and structure and power to sort of start heading into our highest state and estate wines and I guess a higher state and a state wines, those parcels would be fermented naturally. They tend to be in much smaller tanks where we can really influence things. Uh, we taste every day, morning, and night to determine what we're going to do at the next step. So it's not this, uh, it's not a recipe it's really done by what does, what does that juice or wine or must taste like right now? And what do we need to, to it in the next 12 hours to make it even better?

Oh, wow. So it's a lot of, you know, like foresight and experience. Definitely.

Yeah. I mean, I guess there's a standard sort of, you know, in the back of your mind, you've got a standard procedure of what needs to be done and then there's the opportunity to go slightly to the left or the right, depending on the flavor or the tenant or the color or where you might want the wine to wind up. You know, for example, with our tone, the Cabernet, I like to leave that one on skins for a really long, you know, sort of three to four weeks because it actually changes the tenants and makes the tenants a little bit more creamy and textural. So that's sort of a decision that you make during ferments, like is this likely to end up and can we leave the one on skins for a little bit longer?

So what are your first thoughts on reinventing wines in Coonawarra? Being from south Australia and Clare valley and McLaren Vale. How's it different in terms of, you know, your grape types or your climate because in Coonawarra it's a Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz isn't it?

Yeah. Correct. Very Cabernet is, is very much defined as being a red wine region. And that's not to say there aren't some white wines that come out of the region, but it's very well known for its Cabernet and, and Shiraz. And I guess,  if I think about what Coonawarra Cabernet can be, you know, those wines are really renowned for their, power and tannin structure and ability to age. But when I came on board with Penley,  you know, I started really contemplating, Cabernet, Sauvignon much deeper, and it is a great variety that I actually really love because I think it's very versatile.

So we've spent a long time working on different styles of Cabernet to show that it can not only be these, um, complex, powerful age worthy, serious red wines, but they can also be early drinking, delicious, approachable styles of Cabernet as well.

Yeah. I mean, it's, it's definitely different with, you know, when you drink the Tolmer and the timbrel, you know, it's not, as you said, it's not something that, oh, well, I think I should drink it 10, 20 years down the road as more of something that you can enjoy with your, you know, steak like right now.

Correct. Yeah. Even our Phoenix, Phoenix Cabernet, which is, um, which is a Cabernet, that is made to be drunk on release, but it will also age five to 10 years. It is highly approachable. It's highly affordable. It is like that perfect all around accessible Cabernet for everybody.

So let's jump back into, you know, contemporary winemaking actually. So you are one of Australia's best contemporary winemaker. So can you explain to our listeners who may not know what that actually means? 

The definition of that, I don't, I mean, it could mean many things to many people, but to me, I guess it's more of an attitude, you know, it's that approach that we have to making our wine it's an open mind. It is anything can go it's, it's moving beyond just that a one trick pony style of Cabernet Sauvignon, and being aware that fresh juicy a brightest styles are really being embraced by wine consumers and not being afraid to make Cabernet in, in those files. So I think to me, that's, that's contemporary, it's allowing our vineyards to shine. It's being aware of everything that Cabernet can do and not being afraid to actually give it a go.

Well, I read an article where you raised the interest of Cabernet Franc to Any Tolley and was met with a surprise. Do you remember that?

I don't remember the article. Um, but I do remember suggesting that we make a Cabernet Franc, which is now one of our core products and, uh, Penley has a range of what we call project wines. And these are small parcels of, I guess, projects or experiments that we try each year. And, and we did a Cabernet Franc for two years, it's sold out almost instantly. It was super popular. So we've decided, so it's since progressed. And now we make Frances every year, it's bottled as a young wine. It's this highly fragrant perfume, supple juicy, delicious, a spring release red wine. It can be heavy, it can be consumed slightly chilled. It, you know, which made always, it reminds me of roses and Turkish delight and, um, maybe some fresh lavender it's, it's a really delicious, and I think awesome additive to our, or addition rather to our portfolio.

Listening to that, it isn't oaked Cabernet Franc, is it?

Not at all. It's roughly 50%, a hundred percent, whole bunch fermentation. So that carbonic maceration to get really technical. And that just brings out these beautiful, almost confectionary, pretty light sort of note. And then the rest of, the Cabernet Franc is treated quite lightly. Not really after big tannin extraction, we want it to be soft and supple then blended no Oak at all. Stainless steel all the way inside the bottle, the baby late June, early Jul.

Judging by your reaction. I don't think you're ever considering an oaked Cabernet Franc?

 We do a little bit of a Cabernet Franc and it's made in quite a different style in that we are trying to get some tannins. And we add that to, um, our Chertsey, which sits in our state range. And that's a Bordeaux blend, and we have a little bit of Cabernet Franc, which really adds quite a little bit of like almost a blue, blue flower perfume to lift to, to that blend.

Well, will there be any other, you know, grape types that you're considering that, you know, Penley could add to your portfolio?

We are constantly tossing around ideas of what else could go into the vineyard. I would like a little bit of Malbec, maybe a little bit of Petit Verdot. So we will see we might, we might, we have, we do have a Greenfield site or an unplanted site that we have been, um, preparing the earth, um, getting ready to plant. So there may be a few other bits and pieces go in the ground. We will be very excited for that one. 

Well, coming back to you as a female winemaker revolutionizing the wine scene in Australia, what are the challenges you think you face as a female winemaker in the industry, and what difference do you think that you brought to the table?

I guess wine making sounds very glamorous, but it is very dirty work. You know, you get sticky, covered in mud. It's quite physical. So, and this goes for both men and women or males and females, you need to be fit and strong and healthy and not be afraid to get dirty because you're going to. Um, we have a highly intensive harvest period where you pretty much need to be, mentally available 24 seven for a couple of months. So that can provide challenges, particularly if you have, a family and let's face it most, it will be quite controversial potentially, but a lot of, uh, parenting duties do tend to fall on the shoulders of, mothers to allow you, but that's no different to any other other industry. And I guess I've brought to the table at, Penley a belief that it can be done by anybody. I have another female winemaker on site and we work really well together. And I think flexibility is also a really important part of making sure there's a balance between like our own personal lives and our work lives and that everything can just, you know, cause if it's all imbalanced and in check, then everybody is happy and everything can keep moving forward.

Right. So did you think that, you know, you, you changed the wine scene in any way?

In my younger life, I've actually never worked for a female manager, always worked for male winemakers, and they've all been terrific. Maybe I've paved the way for younger female wine makers to know that they can do it and there are opportunities for them and it is quite achievable. You know, I now mentor a younger female wine maker and just helping her sort of navigate, I'm guessing navigate her career pathways.

Well, that is a great legacy that you set behind. It's amazing.  Well, just a couple more questions. So the wine scene here in Singapore is definitely on the rise. millennials and gen Y is recently showing interest in wine, but the tricky part is having them explore, you know, vineyards and grapes types, outside of, you know, usual Cabernet Sauvignon. So is there anything that you can, you know, kind of recommend or tips on how to venture out there and explore?

You know, my tips would be to be brave and open-minded, and find a wonderful wine merchant or Sommelier that you actually trust and allow them to guide you. And if they recommend wine and you take it and have and drink it and you love it, tell them because then they can really start to push you in directions that perhaps you didn't even know existed. So I think it's that, you know, be courageous, courageous and open-minded, but also trusting of the, of the experience that is around you to provide you the opportunity to taste beyond what is known.

What is your favorite region for wine or favorite grape varietals? How do I choose just one?

I mean, that's impossible for me to choose, either one variety or one region because, I like to drink wine from around the world. I like red wine, white wine, sparkling wine. I love the ones from Italy. I love, they're sort of quite savory textural, structure. I love drinking Chardonnay. You know, I like all wine. That is good quality wine. That is true. I can narrow it down and I'm not going to be biased and say, Coonawarra, it's basically not true. I like the other regions as well as Coonawarra.

What is a day off like for you?
Family, Slow cups of tea, a more leisurely approach to meal preparation, kids sport, walking
the dog and quiet time. I like to use the time to recharge the body and mind.

 Well,  thank you for your time Kate. I think that is all we have today. We appreciate your time, keep doing what you're doing, and we're very excited for what's to come for Penley and yourself.

Thank you so much for having us here and supporting Penley estate and look forward to doing something with you in person one day.