Not only does Robert Stein Winery & Vineyard’s chief winemaker Jacob Stein have a wealth of knowledge, passion and the good fortune of being born into the wine industry, he also has a collection of enviable awards under his belt to match – most recently he won the 2012 Gourmet Traveller Young Winemaker of the Year award!
After graduating from University, Jacob spent 5 years away from Mudgee, visiting and working in many wineries including Italy, Canada, Western Australia, Victoria and Germany (where his love for Riesling really took off).
But before long he was enticed back to our beloved Mudgee where he, and the wine, only continues to blossom further.
Here, The Wine Pig was extremely grateful for the opportunity to speak to the man behind some of Australia’s best wine.
What drove your decision to become a winemaker?
Growing up between Sydney and our family farm in Mudgee, I saw the best of both worlds. However the potential to carry on the lineage and tradition on our farm was too much to neglect.
My role is predominantly winemaker, but our farm encompasses a vineyard, winery and livestock, and it's the diversity that each day presents is what keeps me going. Winemaking is a great mix of art, science', management, hard work, passion and learning from your mistakes - I love the challenge and thrill of vintage variation, and working with many growers in our region.
Can you describe your winemaking style, and how it differs to your peers in the region?
Our winemaking style is generally fairly similar to others in our region. Mudgee is mostly small family run wineries, where the wines are made by hand and t are from single vineyards with a focus on quality.
Our vineyard is run with wine quality in mind, with a focus on soil and vine health in order to limit or eliminate the use of synthetic chemicals to combat pests and diseases.
Our fruit is picked by hand and a gentle approach to winemaking employed, in order to allow the fruit to express itself in our wines. Our Riesling style is quite unique, and has been mentioned being "Alsasce" like, typically from having a European approach of minimal intervention.
Which of your wines are you most proud of and why?
Hands Down, our Riesling wines. We have been focusing on this variety for many years, but it's most recently paying off.
Our show success is huge, winning many major trophies and awards for the last 8 vintages of Rieslings.
It's also ironic that Riesling is the variety which we have an important historic background " it's really in our blood! "
What most surprises people most about you or the wines you produce?
Again it's our Rieslings that surprise. Mudgee has historically been known for rich, earthy, age worthy red wines, and rightly so, we make very good examples of these styles. But good Riesling from Mudgee is a fairly recent occurrence, and seeing we have won "wine of show" for the last two consecutive years at the Mudgee wine show, it's vastly becoming the one to beat. However I believe this to be the case for all of Mudgee’s white varietals, extremely underrated and will thrive in the future showing how versatile our region is.
What are you drinking now, and what are you cellaring?
Tassie Sparklings and Pinot Noir (literally drinking now).
I'm starting up cellaring classic Aussie wines again, after a few year hiatus. Grossett Riesling, Moss Wood Cabernet, Bannockurn and Giacondas - it's expensive now, but I'll be happy in 15 years.
If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would that be?
How could I choose anything else but Riesling, it's a celebratory drink, relatively cheap to buy now and will last forever.
It’s hard to go past good Rheingau and Rheinhessen…
What is the most exciting thing coming up for both you and the business over the next 12 months?
We have a few exciting events on over the next few months, being our 40th year anniversary.
Our 40th lunch will be a great day to reflect on our past 40, and celebrate with friends, hopefully setting us up for the next 40.
There are a few expansions plans for the business, and as usual some equipment upgrades, but I hope we can keep the vineyard heading in the same direction with our increasing fruit and wine quality.
A few exciting personal tasks on the hush for now, and slowly working on them!