Rutherglen’s Simon Killeen has gone it alone, sourcing fruit across North East Victoria for his new wine label Simão & Co. Essentials spoke with Simon about his pop-up label – one that’s already won multiple awards.
You’ve recently launched a range of wines under your own label Simão & Co. which is gaining swift attention. What varieties have you released and what’s making popular drinking?
I’ve made wines from varieties I like to drink and enjoy myself. At the moment there are tempranillo, shiraz, sauvignon blanc, ugni blanc and a vintage port. The temp and ugni seem to be the most popular – perhaps because of the interest and structure these wines have.
You’re sourcing fruit from across North East Victoria; what is the advantage of doing this versus a single-estate winery concept?
The advantage I find in doing this is that I get to cherry-pick the North East for grapes that suit particular styles. Like sav blanc: I don’t want to make a sav blanc from Rutherglen because I find it too warm a place to give me the cut grass and passionfruits I want. But King Valley fruit has exactly those qualities.
The Killeen family name has gained great respect in the Australian wine industry. Did your father and grandfather inspire you to make wines, and why?
Most definitely. I grew up idolising both of them for their wisdom and knowledge, and have never wanted to do anything else than make wine.
Can you tell us about your travels and overseas winemaking experience?
I’ve worked in the Rhone Valley for M. Chapoutier in 2010 to gain more understanding of shiraz, the Douro Valley with Taylors, Croft and Fonseca in 2012 to learn more about port and the varieties used, and in Burgundy with Benjamin Leroux in 2014 to get away and have fun. A mate and I worked there together.
Simão & Co. branches into new or different winemaking territory than the Stanton and Killeen winery. Why have you chosen to go it alone, and do you think that your new wines offer fresh appeal?
I went on my own because I was under-utilised, frustrated and unhappy. I wasn’t making the wines I wanted to make and wasn’t attaining the goals I wanted to achieve. So, I left. I think I’ve rediscovered some burn and passion for what I do. I hope my wines give off a fresh appeal; I want my wines to introduce, reacquaint and give an invitation to people for the North East valleys.
How far and wide are you selling and showing your wines?
Many local restaurants in the North East, places in Melbourne like Stokehouse, Cutler & Co. and Lûmé, and places in Sydney like Nomad. I was also nominated for the Young Gun of Wine award which was encouraging for a first release. As for awards, the Simão & Co. Tempranillo 2014 won best Alternative Variety, Best Alpine Valleys Wine and Best Red Wine in Show trophy at the North East Wine Challenge this year. And early in November my Simão & Co. Ugni Blanc 2015 shared the Wines to Watch Award at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show in Mildura.
You’re planting a vineyard at Stanley near Beechworth with a friend this week?
I’ve been helping my friends Tessa Brown and Jeremy Schmolzer plant their vineyard. They started their wine label at the same time I did and we’ve helped each other a lot.