Renata Morello Lyons Will Estate
Lyons Will is a small estate in the Macedon Ranges owned and run by husband and wife team Renata Morello and Oliver Rapson. Planted to chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir and gamay, the wines are as much expressions of variety as they are of the elevated, cold vineyard site and the traditional, manual winemaking.
Renata Morello never harboured a desire to make wine. She never studied winemaking, or viticulture. But she did have a pretty handy education in wine, thanks to her father. He was an avid wine collector, and somewhat food obsessed. A Calabrian immigrant, he had cellared many memorable wines over the years, and Morello had a rich ad-hoc education via a vast trove of Australian classics that had been cellared for a decade and sometimes two. Labels like Moss Wood, Pierro, Giaconda and Mount Mary regularly graced the table at home.
And even though a passion for fine was fostered, it was physiotherapy that was Morello’s chosen career path. She graduated in 1999, and after a stint working in country Victoria decided to head to the UK to work and travel. Time in Italy to learn Italian with her extended family pushed wine up the agenda a little. The wine bars of Europe, and particularly in Torino, where she was mainly living, cultivated the notion of starting her own, with them as a model. That never eventuated, but it did set the stage.
“When I met Ollie and he started talking about vineyards and wineries, I figured it wasn’t much of a stretch from what I had in mind, so it didn’t take much for me to jump onboard the idea of Lyons Will. Also, I love the country lifestyle, hell, why not pick up from Fitzroy and move to Lancefield!” Morello says.
Morello was working in a physiotherapy research role and studying for her PhD when the prospect of decamping to the Macedon Ranges become a real possibility. In 2013, the pair bought an established vineyard near Lancefield. The property is 12 hectares, and had 2 hectares devoted to vines, with a little more pinot noir than chardonnay. That same year, the couple planted gamay and riesling to double the small vineyard’s size. They also built a small winery.
Morello finished her PhD in public health in 2016, as well as having the couple’s second child, and regards her first vintage as 2017. The previous wines were made off site, but she enlisted the help of friend Shaun Crinion (Dappled) who talked her through the 2017 and 2018 vintage makes via FaceTime, phone and email. Morello had decided to focus on the new vines, while her husband tended to the original ones. “Divide and conquer is kind of how we run at Lyons Will. In essence this means I am in charge of the direction and the winemaking of the riesling and gamay. Ollie the chardonnay and pinot noir,” she says.
Morello makes gamay with a whole-bunch carbonic component and a whole berry parcel. Both are basket pressed and aged in French oak. The riesling gets more of an old-world Germanic make than suing classic Australian methods, with some skin contact, barrel fermentation and a dab of residual sugar. Both wines clearly express their variety and their cool origins. “Our vineyard is 540 metres above sea level. The unique environment and soils play a huge part in Lyons Will wines. All wines are made from exclusively estate grown fruit with minimal intervention in the winery to ensure the wines speak of the site in which they are grown.”