Meet Donna Stephens of Red Hill Estate
From working on a crocodile farm, Pinot Noir food pairings and Game of Thrones, it’s time to get to know Red Hill Estate’s Chief Winemaker, Donna Stephens.
Did you always know you were going to be a winemaker?
No, winemaking was actually my second degree. My first degree was in environmental biology and resource management. I came out of that and worked on a crocodile farm in Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory. How that lead to winemaking…well that’s a long story.
What is your favourite thing about winemaking?
What l like the most is customer and consumer satisfaction. When people get to taste the wines that I have spent so long making and pouring my heart and soul into, and they love them, then it has been worth the journey.
What are some of your most memorable career highlights?
There are so many highlights l wouldn’t know where to start. It has been a fantastic career filled with great experiences and wonderful opportunities. But if I had to pick one thing, travel around the world would have to be the stand out.
In your opinion is the Mornington Peninsula the best wine region in Australia?
It is a very special region to grow super premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The fruit and the wines that can be produced from this region are exceptional.
If you had to pick a favourite varietal, which one would you choose and why?
That’s too hard to answer. I like so many. My favourite would depend on the mood l am in, the dinner party l am at or the occasion. I do have a soft spot for Italian varietals though.
What advice would you give to those thinking about entering the wine industry?
Be artistic with what you do, open your mind, and never stop learning.
What does a normal day in the life of a winemaker look like?
Tasting, talking, creating, planning and experiencing.
Have you travelled to many international wine regions?
Yes, l have travelled to regions in China, Italy, France, UK, and New Zealand.
If you had to pick a favourite wine at Red Hill Estate, which one would it be?
Our Single Vineyard Pinot Noir. It’s delicious, elegant, truly varietal and seductive.
The Cool Climate Pinot Noir 2016 is our wine of the month – what makes this wine such a standout?
It is such a good valued Pinot Noir. It is distinctly varietal, and the tannins are smooth and silky. It is easy to drink and it is fantastic to pair with food. If you love Pinot Noir you will love drinking this wine with or without food. It is exceptionally good value for money. Easy to fall in love with.
As part of our Chef & the Cellar Calendar Collection we have paired it with a delicious corn-fed duck breast with fermented grains. What do you enjoy pairing it with?
I am a huge Peking duck lover and so l always enjoy drinking this particular Pinot Noir with this dish.
Other than your own wine, what wine do you like to drink at home?
I drink a lot of different varietals and styles at home. I love trying new and interesting wines. It keeps a winemaker’s brain buzzing with ideas.
What is your ultimate wine and food match?
Where do you start when you are a foodie and wine lover…
What is your favourite…
Television show? Game of Thrones
Weekend activity? Spending time with my three children
Board game? Monopoly…and yes, l get frustrated and flip the board…my sisters always tease me about this