April 23, 2020

Weekly Crush: Noah Ward

By Angela Oemcke

Meet our first Weekly Crush, Noah Ward! Why are we crushing on Noah? Other than being ruggedly handsome and a natty-wine-know-it-all Noah is the Brand Coordinator at  Adelaide Hills Winery, Unico Zelo

Hey Noah, let’s jump right into it. I have this photo of you getting the elbow grease flowing, what’s going on here? 

This is from the first day that our epic wine making crew FINALLY let me in the cellar to process some Fiano. Sadly, one of my last days as I’ve been isolated from the Winery due to the big C word… 

No kidding, the Adelaide Hills Region have a really hectic year with the bushfires and now COVID19.

We were one of many wineries affected by the bush fires, and we’re really lucky that we didn’t lose too much. The fires did get really close to the cellar door, we sadly lost one of the Merlot vineyards we purchased from, and tourism did fall during that period. However when the #bookthemout campaigns rolled out we got a boost.

Things were looking good after that until COVID19 came seemingly out of nowhere and we had to take things seriously, for the safety of our community and staff. When bars and bottle shops were shut off we lost our entire hospitality revenue stream almost overnight, which generated 75% of our wholesales. 

From what we have seen Unico Zelo are still pulling off an incredible vintage, in addition to launching some incredible marketing campaigns in light of this. How do you guys do it all?

We had to radically pivot our approach to focus on everything being online and find ways to engage people from their homes. We have always been passionate about creating a community to talk wine, and from August last year we had already focused our attention on building Unico Zelo’s online presence to engage with our customers. Being forced to shift our entire focus to DTC sales channels has given us the opportunity to find novel ways to interact with our customers. This is why we jumped on Facebook and Instagram to do the Unico Zelo and Applewood live tastings at 5pm… Every. Single. Day. 

Does the daily live tasting work in line with the Iso-Vino Care Packages you guys also launched as a part on your DTC campaigning?

Yeah it does! We were seeing people being forced to stay at home and wanted to make sure that didn’t stop them from having access to wine that they usually would- or the conversations that go with each glass. For us it was about replacing the social moments we can’t currently have. People can crack open a bottle from our Is-Vino Care Packages, have a glass with us and join the discussions we are having from the comfort of their homes. It’s been really rewarding seeing the names of customers we have known for years pop up when they join the viewing.

Tell me a bit about your weekly blog and the Friday Fluff segment! 

I write most of our blogs, the rest of the team are chipping in now though as it is getting alot to pump out ten a week! But yeah, I am editing if not writing the content. It’s great fun. 

As for Friday Fluff… yeah silly idea, but what has been a positive take from this bad situation is people are still coming up with really fun things from home and it’s great to be able to share that stuff with our audience. Cabin fever is spurring creativity because people need an outlet and I just wanted to feed into that.

First thing that comes to mind, what makes you passionate about Unico Zelo? 

That Brendan and Laura built the business around their beliefs, sustainable winemaking. It’s all about trying to make great wine while using as little water  as possible. We are in the natural wine lens, however we position ourselves as a winery with a minimal intervention philosophy. For Unico, it’s more about backing up the sustainability claim with actual data and numbers, how much we’re actually doing to save water, how much we’re actually giving back to the growers and farmers. At the end of the day I think that’s the most important thing we do.

What’s your go to when people ask you where they should go when they visit the Adelaide Hills? 

There’s so many other epic wineries around the Adelaide Hills but I always go for CRFT Wines. They specialise in Gruner Veltliner, an epic textural Austrian variety that has started to pop up more in the Adelaide hills and they make some of the best examples of it. Also they make some epic Pinot Noir too! Murdoch Hill is another producer i’ll always spruke as they’re destined to become stalwarts of the hills as they produce some of the classiest examples of Pinot and Chardonnay around. Tapanappa and Whisson Lake are some other strong mentions for wine. Gin? Gotta be Ambleside. Epic gins and their brand ambassador and my great friend Lewi Soden has just wrote up their new cocktail list and it is SMART. 

You gotta eat too, and my favourite places are the Summertown Aristologist, Comida in Hahndorf and the Stanley Bridge Tavern!

So, what is it that gets you going about wine? 

When you get into wine you really start to get into the story. You start talking about vine to glass to a point where the wine is less about the bottle itself and more about delving into the vineyard it’s from, who manages the vineyard, the agriculture, the soil and so on.

Finish this sentence, Wine is best drunk: Outside! 

Send us a photo or video from vintage 2020 and tell us why you took it!

It’s a photo I took in the Riverland probably just before vintage started for us. This is some new vines of Nero D’avola being planted in an organic vineyard in the Riverland. It’s a grape that we’ve really championed for the last 10 years, as it makes so much sense to grow in the climate of Australia as it thrives in the heat with minimal water. This is highlighted in the Riverland as it is arguably the most unsustainable place in the world to make wine, and is known mostly for bulk wine production of highly irrigated varieties that just flat out don’t belong there. For me, heading to the Riverland, and seeing more of this stuff being planted in an amazingly managed vineyard gives me hope that maybe the Australian wine industry can take some notes and start to shift to drought tolerant varieties, and start saving a bit more of our most essential resource for life – water.  

You are stranded on an island and can only take three bottles of wine with you, what are they?

Oooft. Toughie. Always a Chenin Blanc – the best variety for desert islands in my opinion – and one of my favourites is Dormilona’s Chenin Blanc from Margaret River – Outrageous, textural and drinks, like custard and apples. Definitely want a light red and I better take something from the Unico shed so it’s gotta be Halcyon Day’s Nero D’avola from the Riverland. Dry grown, organic, and wine built for the esky, light cherries and vanilla, so good. And probably some good Champagne. Like, lots of it.

When you shop for a wine what do you look for?

It’s always very tough because it always changes. If there is a new release I’m keen to check out, I’ll seek that out. I’m always looking for smart, well made, and ideally sustainably made wine – I generally like small producers. But most of all I generally drink with a focus on region and try to learn about new places that excite me with its soil and climate, what varieties grow well there and who makes great examples of them. Otherwise, I just grab a textural white wine!

And one more to finish on. If a wine bottle could talk, what would you want it to tell you? 

Have another glass bud, you’ve earned it. 

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