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  4.  | Issue 12 Meet The Winemaker – Donna Stephens
Cappa Stone Wines

Donna Stephens


“If we get it right in the vineyard with flavours and balance, then the rest comes naturally.”

Cappa Stone Wines Logo

When did you realise you wanted tobecome a winemaker?

[This is] not the usual career explanation! My first Bachelor of Science degree was in environmental biology and resource management, and with this I worked on a crocodile farm in Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory. I then left and found vintage work in a winery – the rest is history. I loved it that much that I studied a Bachelor of Wine Science while having children, and didn’t look back.

Please tell us about your career so far.

I have two bachelor’s degrees – the second one being wine science – and I also have a diploma in cartooning as well. I have worked in large and small wineries like Buronga Hill, Cranswick, Evans & Tate Groups, Kirrihill Wines in the Clare Valley and Red Hill Estate in the Mornington Peninsula. I currently still consult domestically and internationally with wine sales, [and have been] doing this for many years now. We started Cappa Stone Wines in 2009. I have also started my own business, Dynasty of Tea. Tea is like winemaking – terroir, different varieties and techniques, and amazing flavours.

What do you love most about being a winemaker?

What I love about being a winemaker is that I get to work daily with my family. My son Kade is studying winemaking, and my eldest

daughter Chloe is our sales and marketing guru. My youngest daughter Georgia does our book-keeping, and my husband does all our cellar work – so this makes life satisfying. We all get along extremely well and wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is your favourite wine, and what food do you typically pair it with?

I love any well-made and interesting wine depending on the mood and food situation, but my heart is with alternative varieties – they are something special. We experiment with some fabulous varieties and love sharing them.

Is there a specific process you follow when developing a new wine?

The beauty of developing a new alternative wine is not having a plan. We normally do a fair bit of research on a variety, and then experiment on what winemaking techniques will work, without overworking or trying too hard. If we get it right in the vineyard with flavours and balance, then the rest comes naturally. The whole family gets excited and we banter a lot [regarding] what we think could work well.

Is there any vintage you’re particularly proud of creating? Why?

Every vintage has its standouts – except for 2011, that was a heartbreaking year with all of the floods.

How does the local climate/soil affect the wine you make?

Soil, climate and vineyard practices are all very important in what we do. We monitor all our varieties very closely – we don’t like surprises!

Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in?

I love to indulge in our alternative wines; Nero d’Avola, vermentino, fiano, nebbiolo and sangiovese.

Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think your winemaking will evolve during this time?

In five years, I hope to see our business grow and my children be proud and flourish with it. [My children] are a breath of fresh air for me with all their ideas and excitement. They have been exposed to the winery since they were small, and to see them in the winery, doing what they do, makes me smile like a Cheshire cat! Our winemaking will evolve as my son takes over the reins, and adds his flair to [the winery]. It is an exciting thing to plan for.

From Wineries of Victoria – Issue 12, edited by Bethany Hayes.