Sarah Dunstan speaks with Mark and Belinda Smith ahead of the summer season at the artisan winery in Wingham.
Hi Mark and Belinda. Thank you for speaking with FOCUS. What’s special and unique about Jacaranda Estate?
Probably the most unique thing about us is that our wine is a single vineyard wine. The hardest thing to do in the wine industry is to do what we do. That is, there’s no option to blend with a wine from another area or variety. We are most similar to a vineyard in Burgundy, where the average size vineyard is 1 acre, the same as us, and we grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the same as Burgundy.
As summer has arrived, the Jacarandas are in full bloom, making the estate a must visit for tourists and locals this season. What are some of the specialty drops we can taste with the new season?
Our Pinot Noir vintage that we have just released is fantastic. It is dense, dark and unusual.
Our recently released Amarone is also made from our Pinot Noir. The fruit is dried in racks to intensify the sugar and resultant high alcohol of 16%. It is a rare wine style, very expensive to produce, but rewarding in the extreme.
As well as having a fully functioning wine bar and cellar door, the grounds of Jacaranda Estate are just beautiful. What else do you offer in the way of events and activities at the estate?
We no longer offer lunches, but rather encourage people to self cater or otherwise use our recommended caterers. We also provide barbecues for our guests to use. Our gardens are beautiful and divided into garden rooms that allow each group their own defined area, allowing kids and dogs their own personal area. We don’t do music events; we respect people’s love of the gentle karma of the silence of a garden environment.
I do understand, Mark. You were an avid sailor in your younger days and have merged into a renowned winemaker and seller. What do you love about working within the industry – and tell us about some of your career achievements in the business, as I know you’ve received a number of accolades for your work over the years …
Oh my goodness, where do I start? With three friends, all 18 to 19 years old at the time, we opened a restaurant called “On the Inside” in Surry Hills in Sydney. Wow! That was 48 years ago! After selling that, I worked for a very famous and successful French restaurant called Primos Lafette in Elizabeth Bay and then went on to run over 100 weddings in Double Bay.
I then had a commercial career in the finance industry for some 15 years, before developing a vineyard in the Hunter Valley. From there, I developed a new wine area in the Blue Mountains in the Megalong and Kanimbla Valleys. All the vineyards operating there today I either built or had a significant hand in their development.
I love the congeniality of the wine industry, the mateship amongst wine makers, the respect amongst producers who create something special. Yes, it is competitive, but never at the expense of not recognising each other’s achievements.
What are some of the processes and techniques used to create the red and white varieties of wine produced?
Like so many things that happen by mistake or unknowingly in the wine industry, so it did for us. I have no idea why I decided to press our fruit on site in old gentle basket presses and then transport the must to our winemaker in Orange. It just seemed to be the thing to do.
The nine hour trip produced a result not contemplated, being a gentle maceration and extraction of colour and phenolics from the skins, resulting in a Pinot that is more rich and dense than any others we have seen. Also, when we press the Pinot for Bella, we freeze the marc and then when we pick for our Pinot, we re-introduce that frozen marc.
This means that the marc arrives in Orange at 4 – 5 degrees, so we have not had to add sulphur to stop oxidisation – but more importantly, our Pinot Noir has about 30% more skin contact than could otherwise be achieved, and hence the resultant wine is dark and dense with amazing flavour concentration.
The famous Jacaranda “Bella” sparkling Pinot Chardonnay is lovingly named after your wife, Belinda, and a story you do enjoy telling customers. How did this come about?
Belinda’s family nickname is Bella, being “beautiful girl” in Italian. She is shy but bubbly, and when we first made this wine I saw it resembling Belinda’s character – so I christened it Bella. Just enough effervescence, but not too much, a little shyness, and always refreshing.
As well as an assortment of wines, Jacaranda Estate also turns out its own ciders and spirits, including gin and rum, which are just as popular. What are some of your favourite non-wine drops?
We now have 30 products. Our most popular mixed drink is Fizzy Gizzy, being strawberry liqueur, our Chardonnay spirit, and lemon squash. This was invented by one of our customers; her name is Giselle. Then of course, there is Hawaii Five O, being an Hawaiian Mimosa with coconut rum, pineapple juice and Saxby’s Creaming Soda.
And then there are our Citrus Liqueur Vermouths, made from our own fruit, and our Calvados Liqueur made with vanilla beans from the Daintree. And of course, there is more!
What is your vision and plan for the brand in 2019?
We are constantly asked by restaurants and bars to supply them with our wine. We can’t do that; we simply don’t have enough wine. However, our bottled mixed drinks with their quirky labels and unusual flavours are a product line that we will expand in the new year.
Thanks Mark and Belinda.
Jacaranda Estate is located in Wingham, close to the CBD. Opening hours are noon to 3pm weekdays and noon to 6pm from Friday to Sunday.
Visit www.jacarandaestate.com.au for more information.