Samantha (Sam) Connew was born and raised in New Zealand’s South Island, where she obtained an arts/law degree in Christchurch and worked part-time at an excellent wine bar at the city’s Arts Centre. After overseas travel, and then postgraduate courses in viticulture and winemaking at New Zealand’s Lincoln University, she undertook vintages across Australia and in Italy, Spain and the US.

This rolling stone stopped for a 10-year stint as senior winemaker of Wirra Wirra in McLaren Vale, then a couple at Tower Estate in the Hunter Valley. Stitched through this timeline and later are a series of significant appointments: youngest judge at the Sydney Wine Show; first woman appointed Chair of Judges at that show. She was chosen as a scholar at the ’02 Len Evans Tutorial, won the George Mackey Award for the best wine exported from Australia in ’04, and was awarded International Red Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge London in ’07. She recently completed three years on the advisory board of Australian Women in Wine Awards and was employed by the Australian Wine Research Institute. She is a board member of Wine Tasmania.

In 2016, Connew fulfilled a long-held promise to herself when she acquired an 11ha vineyard (christened Palisander) in Tasmania’s Coal River Valley planted to half riesling and half pinot noir. The following year 2ha of pinot noir (four clones), chardonnay (four clones) and riesling were added; a further 2ha of six different varieties are being planted. Connew says the name of the property, Stargazer, was inspired by two people. The first, her high school classics teacher, would remind his students while visiting museums, art galleries and churches that the greatest treasures could be seen above them. The second was Stephen Hawking, who urged: “Always look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”

2020 Stargazer Palisander Vineyard Coal River Valley Riesling

Utterly exceptional riesling that could only come from Tasmania. The scented white flower and citrus blossom bouquet yields to a palate with mouthwatering grapefruit and lime surrounded by endless crystalline acidity that creates balance now or in a decade or more. 13% alc, screwcap 97 points, drink to 2040, $42

2020 Stargazer Single Vineyard Derwent Valley Chardonnay

A little hesitant on the bouquet, perhaps, but leaps with grapefruit and lemon on the vibrant, finely strung and very long palate, the aftertaste bringing even more facets into play. High quality Tasmanian chardonnay. 13.5% alc, screwcap 95 points, drink to 2032, $55

2020 Stargazer Palisander Vineyard Coal River Valley Pinot Noir

25% whole bunches, 75% whole berries; wild yeast ferment; matured in French puncheons for 8 months. Perfect clarity and colour; a vibrant pinot that caresses the mouth with its red cherry, wild strawberry/pomegranate flavours and gossamer tannins. Utterly delicious, with more to come as exotic spices start to play. 13.5% alc, screwcap 97 points, drink to 2030, $55

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