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Natalie Cleghorn - Katnoon Estate

Natalie Cleghorn



Katnook Estate

When did you realise you wanted to become a winemaker? 

After tasting a glass of Veuve Grande Dame – I was a laboratory technician at the time – I was blown away by how the wine made me feel, and I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to create a wine that blew someone away!

Please tell us about your career so far.

I have been part of the wine industry for just over twenty-two years. I started out as a laboratory technician for the Hill Smith family at Yalumba and started studying winemaking through Charles Sturt University in the early 2000s. I was promoted to assistant winemaker in 2006, and my career has progressed from there. I have been blessed to be able to undertake a vintage in Tasmania in 2010 and a vintage in Priorat in 2014. In 2017, after discovering a love for judging, I was accepted into The Len Evans Tutorial, and I spent an amazing week immersing myself in the world’s best wines. I was the first female winemaker for Yalumba Menzies in 2017, and in 2021 I started my new role as senior winemaker and manager for the historic Katnook brand.

What do you love most about being a winemaker? 

I love the diversity the role brings, technical winemaking, creative expression, [being a] farmer, team leader and storyteller. Every day brings something new; every vintage is a fresh start and snapshot of the time, weather and region.

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

Cabernet hands down is my favourite wine! Right now, I am enamoured with our Katnook Estate Amara Cabernet, it is an amazing wine from an amazing part of the vineyard. I adore matching cabernet with slow cooked, rich meats.

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

I enjoy allowing a vineyard to speak, so if I bring on a new wine, it is generally something that has popped up from vintage that is demanding some individual attention.

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

At this stage, given the Katnook reds are still tucked away maturing, the 2017 Menzies is the wine that I am most proud of. It was my first as the new winemaker, and the wine went on to claim the Best Coonawarra Wine in the 2019 James Halliday Challenge. Given the calibre of fruit and winemakers in Coonawarra, that was very humbling. I am very much looking forward to seeing how the 2021 Katnook reds look, particularly the fruit from the Amara vineyard.

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

The climate and soil dictate to me the style of winemaking, the quality, and the eventual finished wine – Mother Nature still holds the cards! Picking decisions are the most crucial

[of the decisions] I make; all of my wines are picked after lots of walking the rows, tasting the fruit, watching how the fruit is ripening, what the tannins are doing… this is super important. Every year is slightly different – you have to be in the vineyard regularly to know how things are progressing.

Which of your own varieties do you typically indulge in? 

Sparkling, riesling, grenache and cabernet are my go-to varieties… I am enjoying gruner veltliner and lagrein more and more.

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

I really don’t know where I will be, the role as senior winemaker at Katnook Estate is going to be a great challenge and I see myself growing as a winemaker. I expect I will be working with some outstanding fruit from here, and hopefully making wines that reflect the region and its history.

From Wineries of South Australia Issue 5. Edited by Bethany Hayes.