Meet the winemaker

Our 2023 Dark Horse finalists

By Halliday Promotion

10 Aug, 2022

Get to know our finalists for this year's Dark Horse Award.

Aylesbury Estate – Geographe, WA

Aylesbury Estate vineyard

Ryan Gibbs, sixth-generation Gibbs family member, says being nominated for the 2023 Dark Horse Winery is humbling, "and satisfying that the blood, sweat and tears are being recognised in our wines."

H. Tell us about your winery and your wines?
RG. Worked by an unbroken chain of succession in the Gibbs family, since the 1880s, our farm is our home, our livelihood and has defined our way of life for five generations. We love and care for our place because there is no other way. We grow our fruit here and make wines that reflect the pristine, natural environment that we aim to preserve. Geographe is a relatively new wine region; our vines are 25 years old, and we have found great champions in our Pater Series wines (which is Latin for father) including chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. We also have a focus on exploring new and exciting alternate varieties specifically suited to our vineyard sites.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
RG. It’s all about the fruit! We're focused on letting the fruit characteristics, and ultimately flavour, shine through. Everything we do in the vineyard and winery is based around allowing the fruit to be the loudest voice. In doing so we believe our wines truly reflect our unique environment and the collective five generations of experience in managing our winery.

H. For anyone new to your winery, what is the perfect introductory wine?
RG. The QO5 Tempranillo 2020 – with bright, juicy aromas of red fruits, ripe plum and savoury spice – is a crowd favourite. Also new and exciting, we've just bottled the first vintage of our vermentino.

Flagship wine

2019 Aylesbury Estate The Pater Series Cabernet Sauvignon

2019 Aylesbury Estate The Pater Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Gorgeous cabernet, here. Cassis, bramble, exotic spice, raspberry, bitter cocoa and licorice straps. The acidity is briny and moreish. A really lovely rendition of cabernet sauvignon, from an extraordinarily pretty part of WA, the Ferguson Valley – Erin Larkin, Halliday Wine Companion.

RRP $50 | Drink to 2036 |

Kimbolton Wines – Langhorne Creek, SA

Kimbolton cellar door

Nicole Clark, co-owner of Kimbolton Wines, says: "For us to have been a contender in this category is be a finalist as a 5-star winery and recognised for the wines that we’re producing is exciting."

H. Tell us about your winery and your wines?
NC. Kimbolton wines is owned and run by fifth-generation vignerons – sibling duo Nicole Clark and Brad Case. The cellar door is located on the alluvial floodplain in Langhorne Creek. The architecturally designed cellar door is made from repurposed shipping containers, featuring modern ply and recycled timber to create an earthy modern setting. Nestled among the gum trees, the cellar door has sweeping views across the family-owned vineyards and the greater Langhorne Creek region. The Kimbolton experience isn’t complete without a venture to the rooftop deck to take in the spectacular views. Kimbolton produce a range of classic varieties from 55 hectares of vineyards, and pride themselves on showcasing alternative varieties including fiano, carignan, and the award-winning montepulciano.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
NC. We want to make sure the wines we produce are of the highest quality and showcase the region – especially when it come to our cabernet and shiraz. Over the last 10 years, we have invested in our vineyards to make sure we have the right mix between traditional and alternative varieties, and varieties that are suited to our climate. We have also ventured out of the region, purchasing chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from the Adelaide Hills.

H. For anyone new to your winery, what is the perfect introductory wine?
NC. Langhorne Creek has always been known for its amazing cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. Here at Kimbolton, montepulciano is a variety that we have been focusing on for a few years now as we believe it is well suited to the growing conditions of the region. We love the fact that we make three completely different wines styles from the one variety: our montepulciano rosé, our dry red, and our popular Bella Monte sparkling montepulciano.

Flagship wine

Kimbolton montepulciano

2021 Kimbolton Montepulciano

The block in question was grafted to montepulciano in 2006. It was hand-picked, vinified in small-batch open fermenters for seven days on skins, then spent nine months in old French oak. A vividly bright and clear magenta-purple colour introduces a multifaceted wine with a kaleidoscopic array of juicy red and blue forest berries, framed by fine-boned tannins.

RRP $28 | Drink to 2031 |

Zilzie Wines – Murray Darling, VIC

Zilzie cellar door

Andrew Forbes, owner and managing director of Zilzie Wines, says being nominated for Dark Horse Winery is incredible. "We love what we do and are honoured to be recognised for our achievements. It's a testament not only to our fabulous growers and winemakers but also to the massive amount of work from our entire team." 

H. Tell us about your winery and your wines?
AF. Established in 1999 by Ian, Roslyn, Steven and Andrew Forbes, Zilzie Wines is family owned and operated. We pride ourselves on making fresh, vibrant, delicious wines across our portfolio. Whether it's from our locally grown Selection 23 and Zilzie Estate wines, our terroir and expressive Regional Collection, or our more structured and layered ultra-premium Platinum and Limited Edition wines – we continue to challenge ourselves not only to make great wines at a range of prices, but to explore emerging varieties.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
AF. All wine begins in the vineyard. We work closely with our growers to understand the capabilities of the vineyards, to align each parcel of fruit with the desired finished wine before it comes into our winery. With a focus on freshness and vibrancy, we harvest based on optimal flavour maturity, while keeping an eye on what Mother Nature might be sending our way. Cooler fermentation temperatures, judicious amount of time on skins for reds, and early integration of oak are key.

H. For anyone new to your winery, what is the perfect introductory wine? 
AF. The 2018 Limited Edition McLaren Vale Shiraz (95 points). It was the first vintage to be released under the online exclusive Limited Edition range. The 2018 vintage was a classic – the steady ripening conditions led to great regional expressions of anise and raspberry. Techniques such as the inclusion of whole bunch fermentation and the utilisation of large and small oak format have allowed us to craft a layered wine with expressive oak (without dominating great McLaren Vale characteristics).

Flagship wine

2018 Limited Edition McLaren Vale Shiraz

2018 Zilzie Wines Limited Edition McLaren Vale Shiraz

Smooth and fleshy with concentrated layers of blackberries, raspberries and toasty vanillin oak. The ripe chewy tannins, depth and weight with lasting intensity is delicious now but will be rewarded by further cellaring.

RRP $70 | Drink to 2030 |

Top image credit: Visit Victoria.