Curlewis Winery is located in Curlewis, a region nestled on the Bellarine Peninsula just outside Geelong, about an hour from Melbourne. Pinot Noir was first planted in the region in the mid-eighties, and the Curlewis MV6 vines are amongst the oldest in the region.
The winery first produced its own Curlewis Pinot Noir in 1998. Winemaker Rainer Breit set out to produce a French-style Pinot Noir – similar to the Burgundian wines he and partner Wendy Oliver are partial to. The two had completed winemaking and viticulture courses, but Rainer’s approach to winemaking left much of his Australian training behind, in part because it wasn’t as applicable to cool-climate winemaking, and in majority due to his desire to create a pinot noir which was as yet unseen in Australia. Rainer’s artisan approach, using a blend of methods from France to California and Australia, forms the backbone of Curlewis’ winemaking today.
Blending is also a hallmark of Curlewis Wines. Rainer’s first vintage was, to his mind, undrinkable, but as fate would have it, a perfect marriage for the second vintage when blended. Curlewis wines are hand blended to this day.
Joining Rainer and Wendy around the tasting table these days you’ll find co-winemaker Stefano Marasco and Leesa Freyer, who have owned Curlewis Winery since 2011. Not far away will be son Bas, and a couple of inquisitive hounds named Basil and Pablo. The wines are measured by Rainer’s palate, and combined with input from Wendy, Stefano and Leesa.
For the forseeable future, Rainer and Wendy, Stefano and Leesa will blend the wines together, aiming to improve the quality of each vintage year on year. The winery handover period has long expired – but the friendship and mentorship continues, and Rainer and Stefano remain the Curlewis Winery Winemakers together.
"Winemaking at Curlewis Winery starts in the cool June weather, when cane pruning begins. Stefano takes ‘hands on’ winemaking literally – he wraps each cordon himself."
Whilst blending and bottling are exciting parts of the process - much of winemaking can be classified as farming. Winemaking at Curlewis Winery starts in the cool June weather, when vines are cut back and new cordons are wrapped around the wires. Stefano wraps each cordon himself by hand in a process that takes up to three months. This hands-on, detailed approach is applied to every step of growing, nurturing, protecting and eventually picking the fruit.
Stefano uses his background as an engineer to work out ways to minimise the handling of the wine – whether it be a new approach to syphoning which avoids one movement of the barrels, or creating custom syphoning tools to leave as much sediment behind as possible. The glossy, refined finish on an unfiltered vintage Curlewis Pinot Noir is testament to his attention to detail.
Stefano and Leesa invite members and guests to come and enjoy the winery – whether it be visiting the cellar door for a tasting or at a course to learn how to make salami and sausages the way Stefano’s Italian grandparents made them.
The vision for Curlewis Winery is simple and unchanged - to continue enjoying the beautiful property, entertaining guests, and constantly improving the Curlewis Pinot Noir to make an Australian wine comfortable alongside a French Grand Cru.
MV6 vineyard planted and named Hermsley Vineyard
May 1, 1982
Rainer Breit and Wendy Oliver purchase vineyard
September 4, 1996
February 11, 1998
PM 15 Pommard clone vineyard planted
May 1, 2005
Stefano Marasco and Leesa Freyer purchase vineyard
January 5, 2011
July 4, 2011
July 3, 2012
July 3, 2013
May 3, 2014
January 3, 2015