Despite growing up in a wine family (her great-grandfather imported American oak for wine barrels to South Australia in the 1930s), Mel Chester didn’t want to be a winemaker.
“Dad was like, ‘You’ll be a winemaker one day’,” Chester told Australian Financial Review drinks columnist Max Allen. “And I was like, ‘Dad, you don’t know me (too well)’.”
However, at the age of 17, her father suggested she earn some money working in a winery in McLaren Vale during vintage and since then, she’s been hooked.
Less than a decade later, with a winemaking degree and vintage experience in the Barossa and Portugal, and a senior role at Seppelt’s Great Western winery in Victoria, the then 26-year-old was offered the role of winemaker manager at Sutton Grange.
Within months, she was named Young Winemaker of the Year by Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine and in 2018, she was earned the people’s choice honour at the Young Gun of Wine awards.
Chester, this year, released four wines under Sutton Grange’s top label, Estate, that are expected to receive more acclaim for the young winemaker.
“These four Estate wines are little time capsules. They really talk about our place, and the years we made them,” Chester said.