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Monday 10 June 2024

Orange winemaker prepares to pull up stumps after 25 years


Gerald Naef, the transplanted Californian who has been making terrific wines in Orange for a quarter of a century, has revealed he is in the process of winding down his wine industry career.

With more travel on the agenda for Naef and his artist wife Anji, he describes himself as "nearing the home stretch" of a great career. 

Coming off a classic 2024 vintage in the Central West of NSW, Naef has not yet decided whether he will be making any more wine under their Patina label in the future.

"It’s been a great ride but I'm progressing to the next phase that will involve more traveling," he writes in his newsletter. 

Naef's career has taken him from study in the US, where he experimented with making wines as a young child, to cotton farming in Wee Waa, to crafting wines with impressive individuality in Orange, made from fruit grown in the foothills of Mount Canobolas. 

He started studying wine science at Charles Sturt University in 1999 and learned as his wine journey progressed. 

"I have enjoyed some great accolades along the way starting with my first-ever chardonnay winning a couple of trophies and recently being shortlisted for the Halliday Winemaker of the Year," he says.. 

"This last one really surprised me as I have remained a small producer making the style I like and not paying much attention to what is popular. But my biggest reward is to see the appreciation my wines have garnered from loyal followers." 

Naef, who is about to turn 69, added: "I started farming at 19...that’s long enough. Time to move on to the next phase. It's time to spend a little more time traveling."

Naef estimates he has enough wines in his warehouse to last a couple more years if sales figures remain stable. I suspect he might sell out sooner once news of his retirement gets around. He will be offering back vintages to Patina wine club members. 

"If wine sales continue at their current rate and I don't make more wine, I estimate that stocks will be gone in two years," he says. 

"I am surprised how well my wines age. I recently included some very old sauvignon blanc and rosé in some Mystery Dozens and have had requests for more."

As things wind down, the Patina cellar door will be closed over August and September while the Naefs go travelling. 

Having been lucky enough to try some of his earliest releases, I am a huge admirer of Naef's creativity. Looking back though my notes, it has been his chardonnays that I have enjoyed most over the years. 

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