Meet the winemaker: Andrew and Hilary Mitchell, Mitchell Wines
The Mitchell family moved to South Australia’s Clare Valley when the property was a dairy, an orchard and a small patch of vineyard. After being born and growing up on the family vineyard, Andrew left to study wine science in the late 70s, a move which has driven the vineyard’s winemaking philosophies today.
Around 40 or so years later the family operating has welcomed the third generation of Mitchell’s to grow up on the vineyard and it’s this family-orientated ideology which really comes through in in balanced and elegant wine.
And now it is time to hand down some of the responsibility and his 42 years’ of experience to Hilary, who although helping out since she could walk, is now working on her second vintage as Andrew’s apprentice.
This dad and daughter duo share their love and memories of their time in the Clare Valley wine region.
Why did you decide to become a winemaker?
Andrew: I grew up in Clare and always loved the smells of vintage when the aromas of fermentation wafted from the old Stanley Wine Company through the classrooms of Clare Primary School. After studying science and economics at Adelaide Uni I wanted to establish a business of my own and winemaking just seemed the natural thing to do.
Hilary: When I was younger I never wanted to work in the winery because I had seen how hard Mum and Dad worked! I trained and worked in the fashion industry in Spain for 15 years, and one year came back to Clare for Mum’s Birthday and helped out cleaning some picking bins….it was way more fun!
What attracted you to the Clare Valley wine region in particular?
Andrew: Born to it.
Hilary: (same answer!)
Can you describe your winemaking style, and how it differs to your peers in the region?
Andrew: In Clare we can make wines with incredibly intense flavour but still with real elegance. Wines which drink well when young but can age beautifully in the long run. We like to make wines that have a soft, gentle touch. Not “show” wines which grab your attention but complex wines that seduce.
Which of your wines are you most proud of and why?
Andrew: they are like children, they are all so different but all have their own unique qualities.
Hilary: I wonder which one I am…? :)
What most surprises people about you or the wines you produce?
Hilary: That we are completely family owned and run, you can come into our cellar door and 9 times out of 10 you will be served by a family member.
What are you drinking now, and what are you cellaring?
Andrew: Right now its a glass of 2015 Watervale Riesling, but I will also be cellaring it with a view to enjoying it at its peak in 10 years or so. But for the long run everyone needs a cellar of old shiraz and cabernet.
Hilary: Drinking now, Semillon. It’s the perfect autumn drink: chilled in the afternoon sun or closer to room temperature on the cooler evening. The Cabernet Sauvignon is released at what we consider to be its “ready to drink” age (current vintage is 2008), but will still keep developing over the decades!
If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would that be?
Andrew: It would be a painful decision but if it could only be one it would be a cabernet sauvignon of at least 15-20 years of bottle age. The 1998 is just perfect now.
Hilary: For me it’s the cabernet, when I lived abroad, just the smell of this wine would make me homesick. It smells like every good memory.
What is the most exciting thing coming up for both you and the business over the next 12 months?
Andrew: The next vintage. It is always exciting to watch the grapes ripening and to anticipate the potential.
Hilary: Dad letting me make my own mistakes! Getting to play around with the blends and smaller batches that will probably only end up being drunk at our kitchen table!!!