To qualify for this award, each winery has to have received a five-star rating for the first time, and have a history of lesser ratings. Arlewood Estate is Dark Horse of the Year, and accordingly heads the list; the remaining wineries are in alphabetical order.

Next article: find out this year’s 10 Best Wineries for a bargain.

Back to the 2017 Awards homepage

  • Arlewood Estate dates back to 1988 and is located in the south of Margaret River, not the centre. It went through several ownership changes and is now owned and run by Garry Gosatti, who spent 2008–12 living on what was a very run-down vineyard. It was a hands-on, near full-time (one day per week in Perth) job. Now the vineyard is as he wanted it to be; he lives in Perth but spends every weekend on the vineyard.

    View winery

  • Anderson

    Father and daughter team Howard and Christobelle Anderson bring a wide range of skills and experience to their eponymous winery. Howard’s first and only occupation after leaving school was as a (trainee) winemaker, after which he spent 14 years as a senior winemaker at Seppelt Great Western, with particular involvement in making sparkling wines. Christobelle brings a first-class honours degree (2005) from the University of Adelaide, and Flying Winemaker stints in Alsace, Champagne and Meursault.

    View winery

  • Azte's Corner Wines

    Andy Kalleske is the sixth-generation descendant of one of several branches of two Kalleske families who arrived in South Australia in the 1830s and 1840s. His parents, John and Barb, purchased the Atze Vineyard in 1975, with its precious small blocks of shiraz planted in 1912 and 1951 respectively. Andy is first and foremost a viticulturist content to oversee the making of the wines, but very much the leader of the move to plant new varieties, and responsible for the sale of the production surplus to requirements.

    View winery

  • Claymore Wines

    Claymore has been knocking on the door for the past 11 years, with 4½ stars its dominant rating. It has two major resources, the first its impressive vineyards. There are five at Penwortham, producing the grapes for the red wines in the portfolio; the Joshua Tree Vineyard at Watervale provides the riesling. The second resource has been its winemakers’ experience. Donna Stephens made the wines that took Claymore Wines to five stars, but incoming winemaker Marnie Roberts (who took over from 2016) has had a long and successful career.

    View winery

  • Ernest Hill Wines

    The Wilson family’s vineyard is by far the closest to the town of Cessnock, and was chosen by district veteran viticulturist Harry Tulloch for Seppelt Wines in the early 1970s. I passed by it virtually every weekend, and daily during vintage in the formative years of Brokenwood. Seppelt lost interest in it, and in 1999 the Wilson family purchased the upper (superior) half of 9ha. They have methodically built the portfolio, and the appointment of Mark Woods as winemaker has lifted the quality of the 2014 shirazs to unprecedented levels.

    View winery

  • Lightfoot & Sons

    Brian and Helen Lightfoot have established 29ha of pinot noir, shiraz, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, the lion’s share to pinot noir and shiraz planted on soil very similar to that of Coonawarra, with terra rossa over limestone. With the arrival of Alastair Butt (formerly of Brokenwood and Seville Estate), supported by son Tom, production has increased. After four years with a 4.5 star rating, Lightfoot finally broke through to five stars this year with two beautiful wines, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.

    View winery

  • Piano Piano

    The development of Marc Scalzo and wife Lisa’s business may have been slow, but it was carefully considered. Marc had already obtained his degree in oenology from CSU, along with practical experience in Australia and New Zealand when, in 1997, they purchased and planted their Brangie Vineyard in the King Valley, followed by their Beechworth vineyard in 2006. Marc’s main job is winemaker for Rutherglen Estates.

    View winery

  • Sew & Sew Wines

    The name Sew & Sew comes from Jodie Armstrong’s annual visits to Jakarta to meet expat friends. She heard about a group of women who lived and worked on a Jakarta garbage dump, sorting through the refuse for recycling. A local Samaritan had taught them how to sew scraps of cloth together to eke out a living. Jody hit on the idea of having them sew wine gift bags; 100% of the proceeds go to the women who are empowered to leave the dump and find work in Jakarta’s clothing trade.

    View winery

  • Shaw Vineyard Estate

    This family-owned and run business has languished with a 4.5 star rating for each of the past five years, not a record that one would necessarily look for. The glass half full then points out it is the reason that it has qualified as a Dark Horse this year. It is the largest vineyard in the region, and has turned part of the working shearing shed into a gallery space for the first weekend in September, October and November, and over Easter. And, of course, there is the cellar door.

    View winery

  • Two Rivers

    A significant part of the viticultural scene in the Upper Hunter Valley, with 67.5ha of vineyards. Part of the fruit is sold under long-term contracts, and part is made for the winemaking and marketing operations of Two Rivers. The emphasis is on chardonnay and semillon, its 2011, 2013 and 2015 Semillons all rated 95 or 96 points. A contemporary cellar door adds significantly to the appeal of the Upper Hunter Valley as a wine-tourist destination. The appointment of highly talented winemaker Liz Silkman was a coup.

    View winery

Subscribe to Wine Companion today

Become a member

Get two bonus bottles of wine when you become a member*

Join today

For the full experience, please update your web browser. to something less antiquated

Special Value

Wines considered to offer special value for money.