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Wednesday 20 May 2020

Experience makes the difference for Yarra winemaker Dolan

Rob Dolan is one of the sages of the Australian wine industry. A big man with a big personality, Dolan has seen it all and done it all over 35 vintages as a winemaker.

Known as “Sticks” during his days as an Australian Football ruckman for Port Adelaide, where he was a two-time SANFL champion, Dolan is today a leading light in the Yarra Valley with a focus on pinot noir across four different price points from $25 to the first of his Signature release pinots at $80.

He's also a dab hand with a range of impressive chardonnays. 

In the decade since he launched Ron Dolan Wines (in 2011), he’s had numerous successes, including the launch of the Signature series last year. The Rob Dolan 2017 Signature Series Pinot Noir was recently named Winestate’s Pinot of the Year.

“The majority of fruit for the 2017 Rob Dolan Signature Series wine is from the same grower I have worked with since 1991,” he says. “Winemaking is not an overnight success story - it takes time and persistence.    

“Our aim has always been to craft wines that reflect the magic of the Yarra Valley.

“The Signature Series range is a culmination of 35 years in the wine industry and is a result of utilising carefully selected vineyard sites and soils that have been lovingly tended to by our top grape growers and is made only in the finest vintages.”

In 2011, Dolan purchased the Hardy’s Yarra Burn winery located in South Warrandyte, just 30 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD.

The winery came well equipped and runs as a fully functioning state-of-the-art winemaking facility capable of processing more than 1,000 tonnes each vintage.

Dolan’s first experience in the Yarra Valley was as senior winemaker at Yarra Ridge Winery, a period during which he managed the entire Victorian winemaking operation for industry giant Mildara Blass (Fosters).

He went on to build two more contract winemaking ventures and launched two highly successful Yarra Valley brands – Sticks and Punt Road.  

Nowadays, he’s surrounded by a highly experienced team, along with two sons, Max and Ben and daughter Tess.

“Extreme drinkability has always been our goal,” Dolan says. “Our team of diversely skilled
winemakers ensures we balance purity of fruit expression, sophisticated balance and depth of flavour. We learn from each other on a very experienced team; and we learn from each season.”

Dolan says time has taught him to be patient when it comes to quality.

“Try to be flexible, patient and listen to others’ opinions,” he says. “Then you back your experience and judgement and don't always follow the crowd.

“Rob Dolan Wines is a multi-faceted wine-making business with fruit sourced from 30 vineyards across the Yarra Valley. We make wines for fifteen other wine companies and have supply arrangements with other wine companies.

“Making wine is a team effort, it's not a ‘one-man band. 

"It’s a relationship business with everyone working together and contributing - grape growers, contractors, winemakers, cellar staff, sales, marketing , logistics, distributors."

Dolan sources fruit from all over the Yarra – a region he has grown to love and respect.

“The Yarra is unique,” he says. “The grape-growing region is more than 80 square kilometres - soils vary and sites are diverse. It’s the grape growers who are the key – we source quality grapes from passionate and dedicated growers."

Rob Dolan Wines, 21-23 Delaneys Road, Warrandyte South, 3134. (03) 9876 5885.

# This is an edited version of a story that first appeared in Winestate Magazine 

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