Steph Dutton is an integral part of the Penfolds winemaking team and has been so for the past decade and counting. Being part of the heritage and history of one of the oldest wineries in the world is a privilege she doesn’t take for granted: “Some of our wines in the portfolio have more than 50 consecutive vintages and their style is really clearly identifiable, they’re recognizable, and from a winemaker’s perspective, I feel we’re more of a caretaker for those wines, we’re certainly not the creator of them,” she says.
While Penfolds is steeped in its nearly 200- year history, it certainly hasn’t stood still and is constantly striving to create new styles and source from new regions, such as the newest release with the Penfolds California Collection. Dutton led this project with Penfolds Chief Winemaker Peter Gago and Red Winemaker Andrew Baldwin, another 30+ year veteran of Penfolds. The project began before Dutton’s time but ramped up in 2017 when the winemakers started preparing for Penfolds’ first official California Collection vintage in 2018. That now marks a moment in Penfolds’ history, with the portfolio of wines released in March 2021 to much acclaim.
It certainly fits the philosophy of Max Schubert, Penfolds first Chief Winemaker and creator of Penfolds Grange, who said: “We must not be afraid to put into effect the strength of our own convictions, continue to use our imagination in winemaking generally, and be prepared to experiment in order to gain something extra, different and unique in the world of wine.”
Dutton’s role today is one of her most important— making wines of the highest quality possible, because the wines you make today may outlast your lifetime.
In her time at Penfolds, Dutton has had a hand in “everything: the whole family of wines.” At the same time, her job comes with responsibilities beyond winemaking. “During vintage it might be all vineyards and all winery work,” she says, “but outside of vintage, we have things that pop up in our calendar such as Re- corking clinics, Rewards of Patience tastings and trade work.”