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Meet Carissa Major and Marnie Roberts of Claymore Wines

Get to know the ladies behind Claymore Wines -General Manager Carissa Major and Winemaker, Marnie Roberts

Carrisa, you say you “had the good fortune to fall into” the wine industry days after your 18th birthday – what’s the story behind that good fortune? 

As in real estate – location location location! I grew up at the southern end of the Clare Valley, had travelled throughout my 17th year (thanks to the possibly misguided generosity of my parents) then landed back into the Clare Valley…a little bit jobless and without a sense of purpose. The idea of university for uni’s sake was less than appealing so my one year gap turned into two and through friends of the family I wound up with a position at Knappstein Wines Cellar Door. Tim was still on site then and I found the whole staff tastings both inspirational and intimidating but got enough out of them to want to learn more. Andrew Hardy had a similar approach to staff engagement so what started off as a spark became something a little more…so basically, I had the right door open at the right time. Got sucked in and found this amazing industry that brings people together while opening up the world.

Given the quirky nature of the brand, do you have to bring out your inner quirks too?

Well it’s not hard really…they are never too far from the surface! The best thing about the brand is that link to music informs so much of the fun every day and provides a motivating backdrop to the workplace. There is nothing better than an impromptu Friday afternoon singalong with customers as Meatloaf cranks out of the sound system (and yes that really did and does happen!)

 Are you a Voodoo Child, or do you like a splash of Purple Rain, or do you hear London calling? (i.e. what’s your favourite Claymore wine and does your love of the wine match your fondness for its namesake?)

Oh there are too many to choose from; from a wine perspective though I do have a soft spot for London Calling. It took a few years to win the boss over to Malbec – he’s more of a Merlot kind of guy – but it just shines in Clare and paired with cabernet it makes for such approachable drinking without compromising depth and intensity. One day I may be able to release that straight Malbec…not sure what label I’d choose though.

Can you recall the first wine you tried?

Easy one – we grew up farming on the outskirts of Auburn in the shadow of Taylors wines so it was their white wines that graced our family table for special occasions. From the age of about 12 I was allowed a half pour if their amazingly bone dry, fully worked Chardonnay which I would duly sip over the course of a meal. It was dry, acid and complex for my junior palate and I recall grimacing after the first taste but would never dare leave a drop…it was wayyyy too special!

What do you think is special about your wine region?

There is an easy intimacy to the Clare Valley that you don’t see in many other regions; intimate without being aloof or removed. From a wine perspective there is an underlying elegance to the wines we produce here – even those 15.8% brooding monsters carry an underpinning structure that balances that intensity. Any region that can pull off our delicately structured Rieslings that defy expectation with just how powerful they can be and at the same time produce complex, finely drawn cabernet and nuanced yet flavour busting shiraz has to be special. It’s a multi-faceted little dynamo that continues to surprise and delight..and the locals aren’t a bad lot either!

Do you have a favourite holiday destination/memory?

We spent many early years holidaying at Elliston on the West Coast in the family shack – total beachfront, tumble down tiny fibro thing that we’d have to drive seemingly endless distances to get to while listening to the Australia Open on the radio (?). Fishing off the beach and jetty, grandma’s garfish and squid for breakfast pan fried in truckloads of butter and playing tennis on asphalt courts then jumping into the ocean to cool off. Oh – nostalgia overload!

Now I like to recreate that sense of simple pleasure and we still holiday in shacks (just closer to home on the Yorke Peninsula) and chase fish and squid from the jetty and beach while fossicking in rockpools, building sandcastles and eating hot chips. Except now I chase it all down with a Riesling or two – best ever with fresh shucked oysters!

And Marnie, as Claymore Wines winemaker do you have to make the wines to match the songs? Or does lyrical inspiration come after the tasting?

The link of wines and songs seems to naturally evolve. The base constant is always to create the best wine to start with and I suppose, yes, doesn’t everyone get inspired in some way when they are drinking wine?! Certain labels do make complete sense to me. Nirvana is a Reserve Shiraz and drinking it you hope to reach a state of Nirvana. Dark Side of the Moon is our Clare Shiraz and it has the elegance and dark seductive fruit layered over oak.

Do you get to name any of the wines?

We all have input and suggestions which can be quite amusing. I got Skinny Love across the line which came to me in the car while singing it at the top of my lungs….the Claymore version of 'Car Pool Karaoke'.

Was it your dream of being a rock star that drew you to Claymore?

The Rockstar dream is still my back up occupation if the winemaking thing falls through. So far, the music world is safe. I do love the idea of the music and wine. I think to make good wine you have to have an element of love for the arts and the creation of things. Wine and Music just make sense  - both are so evocative and amazing for setting a sense of  place and time. All those great moments, you know the BIG celebrations in life can usually be tracked back in the memory banks tied to a particular wine or song!

What is your favourite wine to make?

I don’t think I could pick a variety or a style as such. I love the process and the chance to follow it the whole way through. From the vineyard basics of pruning and harvesting to ferment to batching to oak to tank to bottle to mouth….it’s an amazing journey that I get to guide these babies through.

When did you fall in love with wine?

Growing up on a block in Mildura that went from citrus to dried fruit to winegrapes, I have always had an appreciation for the fruit. The love of wine was the next step. I remember the cask wine in my parents’ fridge in the 80s and then the big purchases of wine in a bottle. I remember one night, when I was around 19 or 20, going to a friend’s house who was studying to be a winemaker and he opened a 1994 Lindemans Pyrus. A wine from Coonawarra that is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and Malbec blend. IT WAS MASSIVE and I thought wow, I need to try more wines. It really blew my socks off as I hadn’t tried anything as big and succulent as that before.

Can you cook? If so, what is your ‘signature dish’?

I love to cook. With a toddler and husband that works away, time is limited but when I can, I love to invite friends around and cook. Homemade pasta with a trio of different sauce options is always a winner. The other is a stuffed squid. A recipe I have had for about 20 years and it never seems to fail.

What do you do to relax away from the winery?

I love to chill at home but my favourite getaways are anywhere near the water. I love the beach in winter and the river in summer. Anytime with my family is a bonus and I have great friends who are around for a catch up…which usually includes wine and food!

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Five Of The Best Rutherglen Wineries and Cellar Doors
Explore world-renowned wines and enjoy great country hospitality as we present the best Rutherglen wineries and cellar doors with this guide and interactive map . Forged out of the fortunes of the gold rush era,  Rutherglen   is one of the oldest wine regions in Australia and that history is on display everywhere. From the historic corrugated iron sheds housing dusty barrels of world-class fortified wines, to the old hand-tended vines that have lived through world wars, drought and pests, the whole region embodies the quintessential pioneering Australian spirit. Rutherglen is arguably the unrivalled king of Australian fortified wines, but there is also a great variety of robust reds and crisp dry whites.  Durif   is the region's speciality red wine. It's full-bodied with dark fruit and cola characters and high levels of alcohol and tannin, but there is also a great abundance of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Shiraz and alternative varietals on offer. To help plan your trip, we've selected a collection of Rutherglen wineries we feel provide the best cellar door experience, plus we've included a handy interactive map down below . Rutherglen Cellar Doors List Stanton & Killeen
The charming Stanton & Killeen winery is set amongst established gums and rolling pasture with beautifully landscaped grounds and rustic iron sheds. For over 141 years, this Rutherglen icon has produced full-bodied, robust reds, crisp white wines and luscious Muscats, Topaque and vintage fortifieds and there is a great range available to sample during your tasting. Their fortified tasting flights are outstanding, allowing you to sample different categories of Muscat and Topaque to learn more about the process, the importance of ageing, blending and the difference between each method and variety. The historic bond room, originally added for storing spirit, and the original cement vats and fermenters give a snapshot of what winemaking practices were like at the turn of the century. 440 Jacks Road, Rutherglen -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Stanton & Killeen website Rutherglen Estates
  Rutherglen Estates  is proving to the world that Rutherglen can produce world class white wines in addition to the region's renowned fortified and red wines. There is a great range of traditional, Mediterranean and alternative varietals on offer from Viognier, Marsanne, Fiano, Savagnin and Roussanne through to Shiraz, Sangiovese and Durif. Located on the edge of the town in the Tuileries complex, Rutherglen Estates is the perfect place to base your stay in the region. There is a fantastic newly renovated cellar door, a unique Aboriginal art gallery as well as  boutique accommodation overlooking the vines  , a quality café, bar and a great restaurant. And you're just a stone's throw away from Rutherglen's Main Street to explore more after dark. Tuileries Complex, 13-35 Drummond Street, Rutherglen -  view on our map Open daily 10:00 am to 5:30 pm Visit the Rutherglen Estates website Pfeiffer Wines
This charming winery is set inside a historic old distillery complex by the bank of the Sunday Creek. The father and daughter winemaking team of Chris and Jen Pfeiffer produce a world class range of wines that has garnered over 50 trophies and 350 medals from wines shows around the globe. After sampling the full range in the tasting room, you can then relax outside under an umbrella on the century-old Sunday Creek Bridge. With a glass of their world-renowned  Pfeiffer Wines fortified  or aromatic Gamay, you can try to catch a glimpse of a platypus in the creek below. Distillery Rd, Wahgunyah -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Pfeiffer Wines website Cofield Wines
The Cofield family have been an integral part of the Rutherglen winemaking community since Frank Cofield first tendered to the St Leonards vineyards in 1909. Today, that family passion for wine lives on with third generation Damien at the helm of their wines with premium fruit sourced from Rutherglen, the King Valley, Alpine Valley and Beechworth. Cofield is a great choice when travelling with the family with lovely grounds, free BBQ facilities and outdoor games, bean bags, chess and totem tennis. And does spending the night under the stars with a glass of wine beside the vineyard where the grapes in that wine were grown sound like your ideal weekend escape? If so, then you're in luck, as you can camp beside the Cofield vines thanks to Grape Vine Glamping. Distillery Rd, Wahgunyah -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Cofield Wines website Campbells Wines
For over 145 years and five generations, the Campbells family have produced iconic, full flavoured Rutherglen reds and elegant Rutherglen Port, Muscat and Topaque. That heritage is on display as you walk along the 'muscat mews' lined with century-old barrels of ageing fortified wines in their cellars. There is a great range of emerging varietals, Rutherglen stalwarts such as Shiraz and Durif through to their renowned sweets and stickies to taste accompanied by local cheese and olives. Make sure to book ahead for a private tour and tasting or reserve a hamper filled with delicious regional treats to enjoy on the lawns beside the vines. 4603 Murray Valley Hwy, Rutherglen -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Campbells Wines website RUTHERGLEN WINERY MAP Planning a trip to Rutherglen? Download our interactive Rutherglen winery map. To save on your browser or device,  click here For more information on visiting Rutherglen, be sure to visit the official  explore Rutherglen website  or stop by the visitor information centre in the middle of town. But, if you'd like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit, explore our selection of Rutherglen wines and find out more about the wineries listed here in our  Meet the Makers section  . And, with the  Wine Selectors Regional Release program , you'll experience a different wine region each Release with all wines expertly selected by our Tasting Panel, plus you'll receive comprehensive tasting notes and fascinating insights into each region. Visit our  Regular Deliveries  page to find out more!
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Meet Tom Carson of Yabby Lake
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What is your favourite… Book ? Girt by David Hunt – every Australian should read this book and True Girt. Movie ? Alien. TV show? Game of Thrones. Restaurant?  Kisume. Breakfast ? Coffee. Lunch?  Long. Dinner? In summer a barbeque eating outside and enjoying a few nice wines. Time of day/night?  Morning. Sporting team?  Essendon FC. Beer?  Proper Italian brewed and canned Peroni Nastro Azzurro – not that rubbish they brew and bottle here, it is a scandal and should be exposed.
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Six of the Best Adelaide Hills Wineries and Cellar Doors
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Geoff Hardy’s K1 cellar door is, without doubt, one of the most magnificent cellar doors in Australia. Enjoy breathtaking views over the lake and vineyard from the verandah, before heading inside to sample the spectacular range of single estate (or even single block) wines at the hand-crafted tasting bench forged by Geoff from 400-year-old red gum.  And, if you’d like to experience a tasting of their premium vintage Sparkling, Tzimmukin Shiraz Cabernet and reserve museum stock, then be sure to try the Icons Experience for a modest fee (redeemable on purchase of any of the three wines from the tasting). 159 Tynan Rd, Kuitpo – view on our map Open daily 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Wines by Geoff Hardy website   Shaw + Smith
This sleek and modern Adelaide Hills winery focuses on the classic styles, best suited to the Adelaide Hills – Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. The whole look and feel of the modern tasting room is more reminiscent of a high-end restaurant than a winery. This is fitting, as the focus is on seated table service and guided flights of five Shaw + Smith wines matched to local cheeses, perfect for an afternoon visit. 136 Jones Rd, Balhanna – view on our map Open daily 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Shaw & Smith website   The Lane Vineyard
This spectacular Adelaide Hills cellar door is the full package, with fantastic wines, great scenery, unique tasting experiences and a top restaurant. The modern tasting room focuses on personalised, seated tastings where knowledgeable staff take you through a guided flight of their single vineyard wines paired with delicate morsels from Executive Chef James Brinklow, while you peer over the very same vines that produced your wine. The experience guides everything that The Lane Vineyard does, which is evident in the wide range of experiences you can pre-arrange, including barrel cellar master classes, vineyard tours, DIY wine blending and their indulgent 3-hour Chef’s Table experience. Find out more about The Lane Vineyard’s restaurant in Selector Magazine’s Taste of the Adelaide Hills article. 5 Ravenswood Ln, Hahndorf - view on our map Open daily 10 am to 4 pm Visit The Lane Vineyard website   Howard Vineyard
This charming family owned Adelaide Hills winery is set inside an immaculately restored stone barn, surrounded by gum trees, terraced lawns and rolling vines, the perfect setting to sample their elegant, cool climate Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Sparkling. After your wine tasting, make sure to take the time to wander through their beautifully manicured gardens, play a spot of croquet or cosy inside by the fire with a glass of one of their award-winning wines. And, every Sunday, the Clover Restaurant opens for lunch with Head Chef and former MasterChef contestant, Heather Day preparing a fantastic South-East Asian inspired menu, perfectly complementing Howard Vineyard’s excellent Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. Lot 1, 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne – view on our map Open Tue to Sun 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Howard Vineyard website   Bird in Hand
The Bird in Hand winery is one of the most impressive in Australia, with a great setting, an excellent cellar door, art gallery, a notable restaurant and an expansive lawn that hosts a range of local and international touring artists each year. The refined cool-climate wines available to taste are equally impressive, with a superb range of premium traditional varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, through to exciting alternative varieties such as Nero d’avola, Montepulciano and Arneis. You can find out more about their great lunchtime dining option in The Gallery restaurant in this recent Selector article . Bird in Hand Rd & Pfeiffer Rd, Woodside – view on our map Open daily; Mon to Frid 10 am to 5 pm; Sat to Sun 11 am to 5 pm Visit the Bird in Hand website   Deviation Road
This charming boutique winery is the perfect place to relax outdoors in the sunshine on their deck as you enjoy the great range of wines on offer. Husband and wife duo, Hamish and Kate Laurie are renowned for their award-winning artisanal Sparkling, due in no small part to Kate’s training from the Lycee Viticole d’Avize in Champagne. Taste their great range of premium cool climate wines from Sparkling and aromatic whites to basket pressed red wines, or book in for a tutored wine flight or master class. 207 Scott Creek Road, Longwood – view on our map Open daily 10 am to 5 pm Visit the Deviation Road website Adelaide Hills Winery Map Planning a trip to the Adelaide Hills? Download our interactive Adelaide Hills winery map. To save on your browser or device, click here . For more information on visiting the Adelaide Hills, be sure to visit the Adelaide Hills Wine website or stop by the visitor information centre in the on the corner of Mount Barker and Balhannah Rd in Hahndorf. But, if you'd like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit, explore our selection of Adelaide Hills wines and find out more about the wineries listed here in our Meet the Makers section . And, with the Wine Selectors Regional Release program , you'll experience a different wine region each Release with all wines expertly selected by our Tasting Panel, plus you’ll receive comprehensive tasting notes and fascinating insights into each region. Visit our Wine Plans page to find out more!
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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