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Nadja Wallington & Steve Mobbs ChaLou

Top Winemakers

Nadja Wallington and Steve Mobbs met while studying winemaking in 2008, but then they went their separate ways, touring the world making wine. Both landing in Orange somewhat later, the pair made wine for others, before launching their own brands, then finally settling on a vineyard in 2020 to start their own ground up venture. Specialising in chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir and shiraz, the pair are making classically styled wines that emphasise the cool refinement of the region.

“We are trying to make wines that have charm, depth and character,” says Wallington. “Fine-boned, elegant, thoughtful wines. We are an authentic bud-to-bottle production, growing grapes, making and slinging our own wine. Having both worked in the region at other wineries for the past eight years, we have learnt a lot about the region and have been well supported by our peers. We want to create wines for everyone, without pretence or ego.”

 

“We believe that the best wines are made in the vineyard. Having an intuition for our site means that you are able to get the best from the vineyard... We can understand the subtle differences in each ferment depending on which rows they came from. Growing the fruit ourselves gives us a lot more control over the decisions in the vineyards and when things are picked. We can really drill down on parcels/blocks and learn more about the site.”
Opposite: Nadja Wallington: “We are an authentic bud-to-bottle production, growing grapes, making and slinging our own wine.” Above: Steve Mobbs.
“It is a cool site that lends itself to fine-boned wines with good acid structure. It performs well in cool wet years, with rocky free-draining soils, but has good water security for drought years. The wines are distinctly expressive of their site and place, showcasing the varieties that we feel perform effortlessly across the Orange region: riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz.”

Wallington and Mobbs met in 2008 while studying winemaking at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. After university, they took different paths. Steve completed harvests in Canada, Germany, California and across Australia, while Nadja worked in California, South Africa, Bordeaux and Cote-Rôtie.

In 2014, both came to the New South Wales’s Orange region for winemaking roles, with Wallington at Philip Shaw Wines and Mobbs at Cumulus. In 2020, the couple purchased a vineyard in Orange, which is the same year they got married. In 2021, the first harvest launched their ChaLou Brand. Their first child arrived the same year.

The pair both come from winemaking backgrounds, with Mobbs’s family owning Bago Wines in the Hastings River region – the property also sports one of the world’s largest hedge mazes. The Wallington family’s certified biodynamic vineyard, Wallington Wines, is in Canowindra, and it is where the pair have worked since 2017.

“We are both farm kids,” says Mobbs. “We have a strong connection to the land and love being able to work the vines and create a unique product that we can share. Getting to know our site is key. We will change things in time, but at the moment we are getting to better understand its potential. Nadja had worked with the fruit for a few years through her role at Philip Shaw Wines (they had a lease on the vineyard), so we knew it could produce fantastic fruit.”

In addition to making the Wallington wines, the pair have also started their own brands before acquiring the site, with Mobbs’s label called Dreaded Firend, and Wallington’s a co-lab with childhood friend and Sydney sommelier Louella Matthews (Bibo Wine Bar), aptly named The Somm and the Winemaker. Wallington Wines provides fruit for both ventures.

The ChaLou Vineyard has 6 hectares of vines, with chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling, shiraz, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, viognier and arneis in the ground. The site is a lofty one, even for Orange standards, clocking in at 900 metres. “It is a cool site that lends itself to fine-boned wines with good acid structure,” says Wallington. “It performs well in cool wet years, with rocky free-draining soils, but has good water security for drought years. The wines are distinctly expressive of their site and place, showcasing the varieties that we feel perform effortlessly across the Orange region: riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz.”

Mobbs says that they had always wanted to do their own thing, plotting out a plan of attack for a number of years. “Our home at ChaLou captured us both on our first visit, and we set our sights on finding a way to make it work,” he says. “Nadja was fortunate to have been selected in 2019 to be a part of the Wine Australia Future Leaders Program where she was coached by Corrina Wright – It gave us the nudge we needed to start making our dreams a reality.”

The pair work with Liz Riley of Vitibit to fine-tune the vineyard, with long term goals of improving the soil health. “We want to operate our vineyards and wine business using the most sustainable practices and increase the biodiversity on our property,” says Mobbs. “We have signed up to Sustainable Winegrowing Australia as a part of this goal. We will be working to reduce the reliance of the vineyard on irrigation by building up organic material in soil and mulching to reduce loss of moisture from the soil.”

Wallington says that working with the vineyard allows them to better understand the fruit expression. “Pruning the vineyard ourselves and doing all operations throughout the year allows us to see the variation in the vines and changes in soil,” she says. “We believe that the best wines are made in the vineyard. Having an intuition for our site means that you are able to get the best from the vineyard… We can understand the subtle differences in each ferment depending on which rows they came from. Growing the fruit ourselves gives us a lot more control over the decisions in the vineyards and when things are picked. We can really drill down on parcels/blocks and learn more about the site.”

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