Steve is the story at S.C. Pannell
We all love a good story. Whether it is fact or fantasy, stories take us to a different place – a bit of escapism perhaps? But is also illustrates a place, a winery, a person. Let me tell you a story I recently heard.
At S.C. Pannell Wines, Steve Pannell is the owner and winemaker. He is featured as the graphic stick man on every wine label; he lives and breathes his brand; he is “the story”. While this may sound like self-appointed greatness, this was said of him by someone else.
It is the wines, food and cellar door that reflect what Steve is about. In fact, many of us can relate to and enjoy what he is trying to achieve in his wines and at his cellar door especially when you taste the wines with food. Set up in 2014, the cellar door has a wonderful vibe that is so welcoming and friendly.
I travelled to S.C. Pannell to discover more about the man behind the brand and the team that are involved. As vintage had just started on the Saturday, Steve was tied up so I met with Tom at the cellar door and we chatted on the deck with its 180 degree views of the beautiful undulating McLaren Vale and its vineyards. Add to that scene, live summer Sunday music and it’s an even better spot to spend the afternoon. Tom is Steve’s right hand man who looks after sales to marketing, production, P&L, staff, export and domestic sales, there is nothing he doesn’t do.
“For Steve, wine is a food” Tom says. “And all the wines we make are meant to be on a table. Wine is a food for us and that concept has to be preserved and remembered.”
Tasting the wine with the food is encouraged with the seasonal and tantalising dishes served at the cellar door. The food that is cooked in the kitchen is in fact all grown on site. Growing local, making food that is in season will resonate with many of us. In fact, nine out of ten Aussie consumers prefer to buy locally made goods according to Smart Company.
“The inspiration for Steve’s wines comes back to food.” Tom continues, “Steve cooks for the people he loves so it is a very soulful thing for him. Anyone who loves food and making food has a connection to heart and family.”
Just discussing the food made my mouth water. Tom adds, “We make a dish with shishito pepper which we do with tempura batter and we have ponzu dipping sauce and it goes surprisingly well with Dead End Tempranillo.” Tom goes on, “Basso Garnacha is a wonderful match with baba ghanoush. I love our Barbera with anything with a tomato based sauce. One of our singularly and best matches has been the Fiano with our zucchini flowers.”
S.C. Pannell wine range – wines to go with food
Describing the wine range, Tom says, “They are approachable immediately. They improve with age but are always ready. It is the balance of tannin, acidity, fruit flavour, alcohol ripeness. They are never high in alcohol or out of balance with alcohol. Tannin is always very important; it is there and present and it is fine.”
The range includes:
Touriga Cabernet Mataro blend
Arido Rosé (made with Mourvedre and Touriga Nacional)
Tempranillo Touriga blend
Grenache Shiraz Touriga blend
Tempranillo Touriga blend
Grenache Shiraz blend
Varieties suited to climate
I was interested to hear and learn more about the varieties as well as how the teamis focused on growing those that are most suited to the climate; soil, weather, temperature, altitude which they started planting when the cellar door opened. I understand it makes sense to plant varieties that will flourish in the heat of the 46 degree days to the cooler nights. The stunning wine they make is the result of careful planning and consideration.”.
Tom explains, “We don’t want to make Shiraz for the sake of making Shiraz. We want it to be suited to where we live and eat so we make more Tempranillo, to go with our food. We have pulled out Shiraz and we have grafted Montepulciano onto Chardonnay. We have planted Aglianico. The young vines at the front of the property are Touriga Nacional. We are planting varieties that are meant to be here. Grenache is drought resistant.”
Tom adds, “The single vineyard wines is a key area, it is really important because it gives you a snap shot of a place. We are all about wine coming from somewhere and representing something. The great wines of the world represent a place and that is what we are trying to achieve. Most of our vineyards are farmed organically (though we are not certified) and all sustainably farmed. We don’t use insecticides or pesticides or fungicides. We stick to mostly organic methods and the people we work with have the same philosophy. We purchase 70% of grapes and grow 30% here at the 20 hectares of which 12 hectares is under vine here at the cellar door.”
Trialling New varieties and a Special Project
In their efforts to trial new varieties and styles they enjoy, last year the team launched a Riesling, for the first time. It was driven by Steve and Tom who made it in the style they enjoyed, as close to a German Riesling they could. JJ. Prüm was their inspiration. It has a low ph, 26g/L, and at 11%. Buy it soon as they may not make another one!
Koomilya is a special project that Steve has been working on recently where the vines comes from one place. Tom adds “”It is really taking the concept of place and concentrating it down to a fine point.” The name “ Koomilya” means “woman” in Port Lincoln Aboriginal dialect. When Steve was a teenager he found an old ship’s bell while diving off Busselton jetty in WA. The bell belonged to the ship called SS Koomilya which had been transporting hardwood from Western Australia to Adelaide. They are special parcel with only a couple hundred dozen made, only available to taste at the cellar door. They are not made every year, only when the conditions are right.
S.C. Pannell Wine Labels
Explaining the label Tom talks about the fact that the graphic depicting Steve is drawn in different forms which reflect the work that goes into each wine.
For the Basso Garnacha, “Steve is rooted. He is depicted under the ground as it is an underground kind of wine with minimal intervention, low sulphur and wild yeast. He is so close to the earth, he is under it. Steve is drawn under the ground with roots coming out of his legs.”
By contrast for the “Dead End” Tempranillo, the graphic depicts ‘Party Steve’ and the “Field Street” Shiraz shows Steve in the vineyard.
Vintage just started on Saturday 16th for the sparkling base and some whites in the Vale and they have just picked Grenache for the rosé. I can only try and imagine how exhausting and as Tom says “insane” it can become during vintage.
Due to the lack of winter rains as well as poor fruit set and hail, it will meant the quantity could be down by as much as 30%. However the quality is there. Toms’ words were, “the fruit is amazing.”
The team is focused on making fine wine and growing the varieties that are best suited to the climate in McLaren Vale at currently they produce 20,000 cases of 12 (240,000 bottles).
S.C. Pannell Cellar Door
The cellar door is open daily from 11am to 5pm. On my recent trips there over the year I have always found it to have a great vibe with friendly and knowledgeable staff, tasty dishes and wonderful views of McLaren Vale from the deck. The standard tasting is $5 and the Premium Tasting is $15. Both costs are redeemable against the cost of a bottle/bottles purchased. On Sundays in summer there is live music and with the 180 degree views and with a lovely mowed lawn at the back of the cellar door with barbeques, where would you rather be?
S.C. Pannell Website
If you can’t make it to the cellar door, check out their website, in particular about each of the wine profiles here. In addition to the descriptors of the aromatics, profile and body, what I found more interesting and unique are the descriptions about the
the wine texture (which I feel can be difficult to put into words) as well as a recommendation on what to listen to while enjoying the wine. For example, the Basso Garnacha recommended listening is “Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry on Wild Cherry.”
Whatever 2019 brings, I wish Steve, Tom and the team at S.C.Pannell all the best. With a unique childhood spent at Moss Wood followed by winning awards as a winemaker including 2016 McLaren Vale Bushing King and 2014 Jimmy Watson Winner, no doubt the future will be very bright indeed. More about his awards are here.
Swanny Cellars is a big supporter of S.C. Pannell. Drop in or call us about the range of S.C. Pannell wines that we stock!
Text written by Ruth, Swanny Cellar’s Roaming Reporter.
About the Roaming Reporter:
Ruth Turnbull is the Roaming Reporter. Having studied the WSET Advanced Certificate and WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits, Ruth has worked in the wine trade in both London and Perth for over 15 years. While living in WA, Ruth was a regular Panel member on the Liquor Barons Panel and managed the digital marketing for Swanbourne Cellars.
Now based in Adelaide, Ruth focuses on meeting the winemakers and the people behind the brand in order to highlight and share their story on the Swanbourne Cellars blog and social media channels.