Adrian Santolin’s winemaking as much as his work ethic is informed by his Italian heritage and long hours working amongst the vines of the arid Riverina district, the irrigated food bowl of New South Wales. The tug for cool climate fruit and more elegant styles saw Santolin head to the Yarra, where his brand was given wings in 2012. The approach here is very much minimal intervention, but the style is overwhelmingly classic, with fruit purity and food-apt structure the order of the day. Santolin was awarded the Young Gun of Wine Best New Act for 2014.
Adrian Santolin got an early start in vineyards, helping out on his grandparent’s farm from a young age, then taking paid roles at another local winery in Griffith to work his way through University. His family are originally from Castelfranco, in the Veneto region in Italy’s north-west, with his grandparents immigrating in the 1930s. That sensibility underpins Santolin’s work, with a traditional ground-up approach to his lo-fi winemaking and a deep appreciation for food-friendly wines.
After completing his studies, Santolin moved to the Hunter Valley in 2003, working his way up from cellar hand to assistant winemaker, before pursuing his career further down south. He landed in the Yarra Valley in 2007 with his wife Rebecca, whose career was on the marketing side of the wine game – they’re 50/50 in their duties at Santolin wines. Adrian’s schooling in all things Yarra and cool climate saw him work at Wedgetail Estate, Rochford, De Bortoli, Sticks and Rob Dolan Wines, before the first, and much longed-for, steps to creating a family brand.
In 2012, the Santolins got their hands on a couple of tonnes of pinot noir fruit from the Syme on Yarra Vineyard (Thousand Candles’ contract pseudonym) and the eponymous brand was born. A chardonnay followed, and it wasn’t long before the Italian spirit got into the very classic Yarra Valley mix with the launch of the Il Capo range, including a nero d’avola, sourced from the Chalmers Vineyard in Heathcote, and an equal blend of nero d’avola and sangiovese, called ‘Cosa Nostra’.
In the winery, the process is as simple as possible, with tinkering avoided: natural yeasts, no additives bar sulphur, no fining and no filtration on the reds. “Minimal intervention makes for a complex wine with great finesse. It makes the varietal, regional and vineyard characters of a wine stand out, and that’s exactly what you’re looking for. It’s not what you put in; it is what you leave out,” says Adrian.