James Halliday shares the jet-set story of Owen Inglis and his wife Cassandra, the couple behind Adelaide Hills' Sidewood Estate.
Owen Inglis and his wife Cassandra took a circuitous route in their wine journey, ultimately leading to the ownership of Sidewood Estate. Another perspective is that it was written in the stars: while Owen was born in Hong Kong, he was educated in South Australia where he came to know every part of his aunt's racehorse stud in the Adelaide Hills.
He became a chartered accountant and worked in the profession for some years. When he returned to Hong Kong in 1983, he joined his father's business importing food and wine. In the fullness of time he became a qualified sommelier, but it was a manufacturing business in China (which he started in 1993) that made his fortune and enabled him to train and own racehorses in Hong Kong.
Cassandra was born into a wine-loving family in Perth and began wine studies aged 18. She then became a globetrotter, but stayed long enough in Santorini (why not?) to manage a very successful wine bar. In 1994 she moved to Hong Kong, became a teacher at a prestigious international school, completed her wine studies and married Owen.
They made a formidable team and began planning their return to Australia in 2004, purchasing Ashwood (127 hectares, 35 hectares of vines and pasture for racehorses) and planting an additional 22 hectares in '15.
In December ‘12 they returned from Hong Kong, and in late '13 acquired the five-hectare Nairne Vineyard and 400-tonne winery (since increased to 1000 tonnes). The cellar door was opened in January '14 at Maximillian's at Verdun via a lease that also included five-hectares of vineyard. The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle was the acquisition of a 25-hectare vineyard at Echunga, a small town in the Adelaide Hills, in March '16.
Chief winemaker Darryl Catlin and consultant viticulturist Mark Vella both have their own labels, Catlin and Vella Wines. When I visited Sidewood last December, their wines were presented alongside those of Sidewood. Generous? Yes. Clever? Very.
2016 Sidewood Estate Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc
Estate-grown and selected from several sites with different row orientation, the state of the art Pellenc harvester delivering flawless berries. Free-run juice chilled, wild yeast, cool fermented in tank, and kept on lees for four months to successfully build mid-palate texture without compromising its drive and length. The only gold in the sauvignon blanc class at the National Wine Show ’16. 12.5% alc.
RRP $20 | 2017
2015 Sidewood Estate 777 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir
Estate-grown utilising one of the newer clones from Burgundy, hand-picked and wild yeast open-fermented with 25-40% whole bunches in different 2-5-tonne pots, extended maceration, pressed to French oak (15% new) for 10 months. Light, clear colour; the highly fragrant red cherry/wild strawberry bouquet shape the elegant palate. Gold medal Adelaide Hills Wine Show ’16. 12.5% alc.
RRP $35 | 2023
2015 Sidewood Estate Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir
Estate-grown Oberlin and Able clones, hand-picked, chilled for 24 hours, small batches of wild yeast, whole bunch and whole berry ferments, 12 months maturation in French oak (10% new). The spicy bouquet shows unmistakable, complex whole-bunch aromas, the palate with a finely pitched savoury edge. 12.5% alc.
RRP $35 | 2025
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