Behind every successful person is a tale of grit, sacrifice, and compromise. For Melbourne native Steph Dutton, the road to becoming a winemaker at Australia’s most iconic producer, Penfolds, meant leaving the country’s second-largest city for a quieter life in the country. It’s a challenge, and she’s still getting used to it.
Dutton’s decision to stop serving and start making wine came while working as a sommelier in Melbourne. Her transition to winemaking started by completing a bachelor of science degree at the University of Melbourne, before moving to Adelaide to begin a masters in Oenology.
In 2007, Dutton started working at Penfolds’ Magill Estate Restaurant and Cellar Door tasting room. Three years later, she joined the winemaking team at Penfolds’ Barossa Valley Nuriootpa Winery.
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Dutton describes her winemaking style as “intuitive,” and aims to create elegant, structured, and age-worthy wines. She recently caught up with VinePair to discuss her love of Chardonnay, and her preferred twist on a Whiskey Sour.
1. What’s the bottle that made you fall in love with wine?
The wine that changed the course of my life forever was a 1997 Barolo that I served to a table of four in the Melbourne restaurant I was working at. They loved it beyond words, and I figured if it was so rewarding for me to make this selection for them, how rewarding would it be to craft wines that had this effect on people?
2. FMK three varieties: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay.
F: Cabernet (because you don’t feel like it ALL the time). M: Chardonnay (because I can live with this wine EVERY DAY). K: Pinot Noir (because of its temperament and the games it plays).
3. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper wine?
To be totally pretentious and pick for purely hedonistic reasons, the 1996 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay.
4. You can only drink one wine for the rest of your life. What is it?
This ties in to me saying I could drink Chardonnay Every. Single. Day. Adelaide Hills and Margaret River Chardonnay.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
Any bar that I find myself in when my football team is winning…
6. What’s the best and worst wine on your rack (or in your fridge) right now?
Worst wine would definitely be a German rosé that I brought home when I was working there nearly 10 years ago now. But I can’t throw something out that has traveled over 10,000 miles with me. Best wines would have to be old vintages of Penfolds Grange.
7. If you could no longer drink wine, what would be your beverage of choice?
Whiskey Sours. My preference is a smoky style using a Scotch base rather than bourbon.