When you think of a winery, what is the first thing that comes to mind – aside from wine, of course? If you’re like most people, it’s romance.
There’s something very romantic about being a winemaker and spending your days working with the vines, watching the grapes swell, then making the wine and seeing people enjoying it.
But what if you’re a winemaker, married to a winemaker?
Jeffrey Grosset and his wife Stephanie Toole have been called the power couple of the wine world by Decanter magazine. They both have their own wineries located in Clare Valley, Australia.
Clare Valley is one of the premium quality wine growing regions in Australia, accounting for top quality wine from the Riesling and Shiraz grapes.
Though Australia, like the United States, is a relatively new country, Clare Valley has a long and very important history that dates back to 1842 when John Horrocks planted the first vines. When copper was discovered in 1845, Clare Valley became a boom town and by the 1880s was known as the Hub of the North.
Though large wine corporations (Hardys, Penfolds and Berringer Blass) have moved in, the small town ambiance has retained its original charm. You will want to visit during the annual wine and food weekend (this year May 19 – 22) where the public can taste the young wine from the current vintage, taste lauded local cuisine, and tour the wineries.
Jeffrey Grosset is the passionate owner of Grosset Wines, producing nine highly-regarded premium wines and one spirit each vintage.
Established in 1981, the winery is situated in the historic township of Auburn in the Clare Valley, 100 kilometres north of Adelaide. His four high-altitude vineyards are Australian Certified Organic (ACO).
In October 2016, Grosset Wines was named in the list of the world’s 2016 Top 100 Wineries by United States Wine and Spirits magazine.
Grosset’s Riesling wines, in particular, define what has become known as the Clare Valley style, very lean, mineral-driven, bone-dry wines with structure, intensity, and backbone, with an unforgettable note of lime.
Jeffrey’s wife, Stephanie Toole, is the owner of the boutique winery Mount Horrocks Wines, also ACO-certified, and has been nominated for Australian Winemaker of the Year.
Stephanie’s Mount Horrocks’ Riesling is as sweet and luscious as Jeffrey’s Riesling is tart and dry, and absolutely addictive because of the tension between the zesty acidity and sweetness.
It’s not often that you find married winemakers who make very diverse expressions of the same varietal – especially as both Jeffrey and Stephanie’s Riesling wines are considered icons of their style in the region.
Q: How did you meet?
We met in 1991 in Perth, says Jeffrey. Stephanie was running a fine wine shop, selling a lot of Grosset Polish Hill, as she loved the wine and recommended it to her customers with great confidence. For that reason, I thought I had to meet her. We share a love of food and wine. And Riesling, of course.
Q: You are both famous for your Riesling. Is there tension because you both make wine from this varietal?
No, says Jeffrey. Fortunately in the case of Riesling in particular, and fine wine in general, the character of the wine originates from the vineyard. It is up to us to bring out the best of variety and place. As we each have our own vineyards, we face subtly different challenges.
Q: Tell us about the first time you saw consumers enjoying your wine at a party or event – what was it like to see someone enjoying what you put such intense work, expense, and passion into creating?
Mine was from the 1980’s just after one or two vintages, says Jeffrey. Someone stopped me to say that tasting Grosset Riesling had changed his life or something very similar. At the same time his spending on wine had become substantial!
Q: Do you drink your own wines at home with dinner, or do you like to try wines from around the world?
We treat each day as an opportunity to try other wines, says Jeffrey. There are so many wines and with so much happening in the wine world, it’s important to keep up to date.
Q: Stephanie, your sweet Riesling is delicious and made in an unusual way. Do you want to briefly discuss the way it’s made, and also suggest some food pairings? Personally, I love it as an apéritif before the meal.
Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling is produced by a unique and risky process, which involves cutting the canes in the vineyard and allowing the fruit to concentrate and raisin naturally on the vine, says Stephanie.
As a young wine, it is wonderful with summer fruits, Pavlova or peach melba, and with some age, try it with a delicious tarte tartin or crème brulee. However, don’t overlook the fact that it is also great with cheese and as you said a wonderful aperitif. Perhaps try it with a liver pate.
Q: The first vines were planted in 1842 so the region has a lot of history. Is there a lot to see and do in addition to visiting wineries for tastings? Can you suggest how to spend a perfect day (s), including your favorite restaurants?
Absolutely, says Jeffrey. Clare Valley is a beautiful, unpolluted place with wineries, places to stay and eateries such as Terroir in our town of Auburn and Seed in Clare. Both are outstanding and focus on local produce and wine.