Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough

Winemaker welcomes the mahi


‘‘Wouldn’t it be great to be a winemaker?’’ Those words were nothing more than a throwaway comment, made by a young Chloe Gabrielsen’s father as he sipped his habitual glass of wine one evening.

Gabrielsen didn’t realise it then, but those words, like seeds, lay dormant for a long time before sprouting into fruition when she found herself in Marlboroug­h, many years later.

The Lake Chalice Winemaker says growing up in Taupo¯ and attending Turakina Ma¯ ori Girls’ College in Marton, she knew nothing about the New Zealand wine industry.

Based on her parents’ choice of wine, she thought winemaking was exclusivel­y Australian or French.

For some reason, her father’s words stayed with her.

When she saw a newspaper advertisem­ent for a winemaking course in Blenheim, she cut it out and kept it. But it wasn’t until she arrived in Marlboroug­h ‘‘following a boy’’ some years later, that it dawned on her that New Zealand had its own thriving wine industry.

Never one to let an opportunit­y pass by, Gabrielsen applied for the Bachelor of Viticultur­e and Oenology at Nelson Marlboroug­h Institute of Technology. Despite not taking chemistry at high school, she got a place.

In 2006, after completing the degree the year before, she phoned

Saint Clair Family Estate to see if there were any vintage jobs available.

‘‘It was daunting as I’d done lots of work in the vineyard, but hadn’t spent any time in the winery,’’ says Gabrielsen, who had worked summers at Ormond Nurseries while she was studying.

‘‘Vintage had already started, so I was straight into it. There were a lot of lightbulb moments on that first day. The team was amazing; I was only one of three or four females, it was very male dominated at that time.’’

Seventeen years and a number of roles later, Gabrielsen remains at Saint Clair Family Estate.

‘‘No one told me to finish up yet,’’ she laughs.

After one full vintage as cellarhand, Gabrielsen was offered the Cellar Master role.

Back then, the position was not as big as it is now, but at the time it was a big jump for her, she says.

‘‘I didn’t feel ready, but the team was very supportive, and I’ve always been happy to take on a challenge and see what I can learn. I’m not shy of doing the mahi, and I’m not afraid to fail or take a step back if something is too much.’’

After the birth of her son

Asher, Gabrielsen reduced her hours and responsibi­lities for a while as Health and Safety Officer, then in 2012 picked up a role with the winemaking team.

‘‘Winemaking was something I’d always wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure I was capable,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s one of those things you don’t know until you try whether you have the capacity in your palate, or the ability to manage the workflow, or imaginatio­n to dream up great wine and the skill to create it in the winery.’’

In 2016, Gabrielsen expanded her winemaking portfolio when Saint Clair Family Estate bought the Marlboroug­h wine label Lake Chalice Wines.

‘‘That’s when I really started learning the marketing side of wine too,’’ she says.

‘‘It was a big learning curve, being the face of a brand and taking all my winemaking knowledge and transition­ing into the marketplac­e, rather than just making the wine.’’

One of the key things she learned was to be herself, she says.

‘‘It’s very easy to look around and see other personalit­ies and think ‘that’s the kind of marketing person I need to be’. But you are what you know, and once I understood that and focused on being me and being genuine it was easy to transition into that face-to-face stuff.’’

❚ This article first appeared in Winepress magazine and is republishe­d with permission.

 ?? ?? Lake Chalice winemaker Chloe Gabrielsen.
Lake Chalice winemaker Chloe Gabrielsen.

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