Heritage Estate is excited to announce Stephen Oliver as head winemaker.

Our former winemaking magician, John Handy, is stepping down after an impressive 4 decades on the estate and 17 years as winemaker to pursue his own personal project. We wish him well fishing in FNQ.

Whilst John’s are big shoes to fill, we’re confident Stephen is up to the task – he’s been responsible for some of Queensland’s top wines through his previous roles.

The role of the head winemaker is a lot like that of a head chef: from leading a team of vineyard workers, and then cellar hands, to create signature wines and styles, and the nitty-gritty of running a winery including all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes such as OH&S and compliance. It’s a big job! Our hunt for the perfect candidate took a long time; we searched Australia wide, and as luck had it the perfect fit was found at a neighboring winery a stone’s throw away at the second oldest winery on the Granite Belt, Rhumbalara. Having a winemaker familiar with the region and fruit is always a big plus.

Stephen is the oldest of 5 children and his partner is one of 12 , so they are jointly used to teamwork! Stephen was first interested in wine when he was just a kid through his father’s work. It was only natural for Stephen to start a career in the wine industry on the Granite Belt, in 2003.

His first winery job was at Heritage Estate as a cellar hand under the legendary Jim Barnes.  Stephen worked with Jim gaining more and more practical and theoretical experience, and graduated from his Viticulture and Oenology qualifications in 2008. Stephen has made wines for Heritage Estate, Summit Estate, Hidden Creek, Harrington Glen Estate, Jester Hill Wines, Robert Channon Wines, and finally Rumbalara.

Stephen was twice the Associate Judge for the Royal Queensland Agricultural Society and also Queensland Wine Awards.  His favourite grape is Shiraz, hands down. “There is nowhere to hide with Shiraz, its purity of fruit, acidity, length, the spectrum of style from austere to marvelous bouquets, dry to off-dry. A technical wine to make that is unforgiving if you let your concentration lapse” … Stephen has learned to always let the grapes and vineyard speak for themselves while gently guiding the wine along its path to bottle to be the best it can be.  After 20 years in the industry, Stephen is still mesmerized by the diversity of daily tasks between vineyards, winery, bottling, and customer interaction. Still, it is the creativity, the focus, and the ability to create something unique that brings people together that excites the winemaker.  Awards attributed to Stephen are:

  • 2009 Young Winemaker of Australia Finalist,
  • 2010 Winestate World’s Greatest Shiraz Challenge, 2nd Place.
  • 2010 Gold Trophy Queensland Royal Agricultural Society, Shiraz
  • Halliday Awards:
    2009 95Pts Shiraz
    2010 95Pts Shiraz
    2008 93Pts Cabernet
    2012 93Pts Verdelho
    2013 90Pts Cabernet
    2013 92Pts Petit Verdot
    2014 90Pts Chardonnay
    2012 94Pts Shiraz
    2012 94Pts Sangiovese
    2008 91Pts Cabernet
    2011 91Pts Petit Verdot
    2010 90Pts Verdelho
    2010 90Pts Petit Verdot
    2008 90Pts Shiraz
    2009 90Pts Shiraz
    2009 90Pts Verdelho
    2010 90Pts Verdelho
    2013 90Pts Petit Verdot
    Plus a swag of Bronze medals with Halliday

“We’re amazed that Stephen has come ‘full-circle’ to be at Heritage Estate again, after his ‘Mice and Men’ adventures in the Queensland wine industry,” says Robert Fenwick, vintner.

Stephen says: “I have a great passion for the wines of the Granite Belt and the region as a whole. I am looking forward to being able to fully immerse myself focussing on the region’s wines at Heritage Estate Wines and I am excited by the prospect of working with the experienced team to guide this historic brand into the future.”

In his spare time, Stephen is the father of four children, runs Angus cattle on his property, and is the Fireman’s First Officer at the local Rural Fire Service, as well as a Fire Service qualified Trainer & Assessor.

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