At The Bar with Mitchelton’s Winemaker Natalie Cleghorn

When South Australian winemaker Natalie Cleghorn, of Yalumba and Katnook fame, received a call to consider becoming the Chief Winemaker at Mitchelton in Nagambie, she was moments from responding to a different job offer.

She has spent the last two decades working on red wines in the Barossa and Coonawarra regions, and was up for an exciting new career chapter she didn’t necessarily see coming. It was also a chance to explore making white wines too.

“I spent 15 years focused on making red wines, so coming to Mitchelton nine months ago, i embraced a kaleidoscope of varietals and have had to learn very quickly,” says Natalie Cleghorn.

“We just bottled a 2023 Preece Prosecco. I had never made one before. Making white wine has taught me is that it’s a different skill set,” she says.

“Reds are more relaxed to begin with, but whites are demanding,” she says.

“We have three blocks to choose from and have a precious parcel of aromatic white wines. If you’re too rash or not responsive enough, you can make mistakes and take what you spent a long time growing and bugger it up. It’s been such a thrill to work with many whites like Pinot Grigio, Prosecco and Riesling,” says Cleghorn.

But it was also the ability to work for a family business that suited her best. Cleghorn had worked for corporate wine companies as a chief winemaker in the past but felt more comfortable in a smaller environment.

“The ability to work for family was appealing. I met with Mitchelton, tasted the wine and suddenly felt excitement,” she says.

“I like that it’s a historic brand and family owned. Chief winemaker opportunities don’t come up every day especially for female winemakers – they simply don’t,” says Cleghorn.

“It was an exciting step in my career to work with a great wine brand and a family who have the enthusiasm to be successful and bring Mitchelton back to where it was 30 years ago.”

My City

I live in Nagambie Victoria, a vibrant town that is vastly different from the Barossa where I spent many years. Nagambie is a town of two seasons- winter and summer. Winter is when you can explore the region and try some restaurants. A little town Avenel has a great pizza restaurant called The Bank. In summer time, we have the lake and the river and lots of outdoor events you can take part in. There’s lots of great shops from high end fashion to op shops. You wouldn’t get bored if you visited for a weekend.

Favourite Food Memory

When I worked at Yalumba we did a Tasting Australia event in 2019 and hosted a lunch at Mayura Station in Canundra, South Australia. We had a beef and lobster pie that still resonates with me. If I was on death row, and had the chance to eat one more meal, it would be this exact pie!

Favourite Bar or Drink

When I go to the city, it’s always a Campari with a splash of soda in a short glass. I don’t mind looking at the whisky list too. I don’t tend to explore the wine lists in a bar setting – I tend to explore the spirits.  A negroni, Campari is my go-to at The Prince in St Kilda.

What Wine Best Describes Your Personality

I have two sides of my personality. The one most people see is a Cabernet Sauvignon. I like to think that Cabernet is a rule follower and that person that doesn’t bring too much attention to themselves, and quite comfortable in my skin. But if I have too many Campari’s i am more a bottle of bubbles.

Best Hangover Cure

Mine is a bottle of Bundaberg ginger ale and a banana. That was given to me by fellow winemaker Sam Wigan. He shared his secret and I swear it works.

A Winery to Visit

I love going to Pikes Wines in the Clare Valley. They make lovely wines, have a great restaurant and a brewery.  It’s a one stop destination. In Victoria, I also recommend Giant Steps in Healesville – a great tasting experience on the main street. It’s not quintessential winery surrounded by vines, but they give a great tasting session and wines are stunning.

Favourite Wine To Drink Now

I am really impressed with the Mitchelton Shiraz. It’s a beautiful elegant style in Australia and has blown my mind.  It’s one you should definitely try.

What’s the Newest Addition at Mitchelton

Our newest endeavour is a Preece Nouveau Red – a more approachable crunchy un-oaked style best served slightly chilled. We bottled it last week. It’s a Merlot Cabernet blend from the Yarra Valley and treated with a nice deft hand that you can stick in the esky for 10-minutes and pour it into a glass this summer while enjoying the fruits without much tannin.

 

 

 

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