Among the many challenges Sarah faced when she arrived at Yarra Yering was how to build on the heritage and DNA instilled by an industry icon, and manage the transition in an increasingly sophisticated market to ensure Yarra Yering's ongoing success. Easy-going, warm and joyful on the one hand, thoughtful and considered on the other, Sarah has hurdled numerous challenges as she builds up Yarra Yering for success over the long term.◆ When you arrived at Yarra Yering, how did you approach the heritage created by Dr. Bailey carrodus?Sarah -Though I never had the opportunity to meet Bailey myself, he is the kind of character that everyone has a story about. The sense I got was a huge amount of respect, for what he did, and also for being a little bit unique. He was very firm in his beliefs and opinions. He used to say that 'good fences make for good neighbours,' as in 'you do your thing and I'll do mine kind of approach to the world.' And he would really do things a little bit differently, and learn from that.When he arrived and planted in 1969, and Dr. John Middleton planted Mt. Mary Estate in 1971, they were pioneering the region and even table wine styles as well. Back then everything was a bit more of asecret, and a bit more competitive, whereas today we are quite a united industry and region.Many documents have been passed from winemaker to winemaker, and sometimes I stumble across files on my computer that are really interesting. So I tried to piece together a history, a bit of a timeline, to get a better understanding. But while that is important, at the same time the future is even more important. People forget sometimes that the vineyard and the wine styles evolved constantly under Bailey as well.Dr Bailey Carrodus◆ So how much did Bailey get right and how did he evolve in his time?-- His focus was more to the vineyard than winemaking, and in some years to the detriment of the wine quality. Staff-wise he used to have 8 people who worked in the vineyard, and only one to help him in the winery. So there is a lot of variability in the wine quality. When his wines were good they were brilliant, and a lot of that comes down to the vineyard, which grows extremely powerful fruit - it is the best quality fruitI've ever worked with. It's a combination of the site he chose and being dry-farmed. His wines were expensive for the time and he never made any apologies for that. Like Bailey, we are not chasing high yields, we just want wines that taste good.The planting mix in the vineyard changed a bit over time. Cabernet Franc didn't work in the vineyard - Bailey made it and made it but never used it in a wine, he called it 'rusty tank water.' So he removed that and planted more Cabernet. There were blocks on the vineyard that he either never made into wine himself, so he either put it down the drain or sold it.We are doing a little bit of vineyard planting evolution at the moment as well, because the dominant variety is Shiraz, and I can't make enough Chardonnay and Pinot. We have a little bit of Rousseau, so there is new wine coming out, more Marsanne, and a bit of Viognier.As far as winemaking goes, Bailey very much had his style and technique,and that's what he used for a long long time. The first year I made wine in 2014, I was very anxious about making wine in the same way in which I thought he would have made them, which was a wonderful learning experience. But in 2015 I decided that was good because it added to my bank of knowledge, but now I had to make the wines the way I knew how, and use my own intuition rather than what I thought somebody else would do. So the wine style has changed a little bit in response to that.Yarra Yerring vineyards from above◆ What has changed in the winery since you arrived? --When I arrived it was fairly rudimentary really.It was almost like a badge of honor to do things the hard way,and I don't really work like that. The new owner shad bought some new equipment in 2013,but there weren't a lot of tanks. Sometimes I forget how little was in that winery 5years ago when you walk in there now. I just slowly bought new equipment and tanks. I think if we embrace this machinery or technology we are actually going to make better wines and are probably going to be nicer people at the end of harvest as well.What I am trying to do now is stretch the front end of wine production, including the efforts we put in the vineyard. Stretching out the beginning for the style I tend to use: hand harvesting, sorting, vibrating the feeding hoppers that feed the sorting table, a very gentled stemmer for lots of whole berry fermentation, hand plunging, gentle extraction. Bailey was famous for introducing stalk baskets and stalk tann in, and I get the impression he was fairly consistent in its use across the wines- a third had stalk baskets, a third didn't, and a third had some stalks put in the bottom.I don't work in that way it needs to be in response to the season, the flavours, the tannin development in the vineyard. So if I think our stalks are too green, I'll use a lot less of the stalk baskets. I also will press the wines and separate them from their skins and seeds a lot earlier than Bailey used to, so the impact on style is that his wines were a lot more savoury, and mine have a lot more fruit purity. And that is a separation between old world style and today's style, which has a lot more consistency. If Bailey wasn't happy with a wine he could just put it down the drain. I don't own the business, so my business is to make good wine every year. If I poured it down the drain (which you can't literally do these days!) I would have to explain to somebody where it went.Bailey trialled things no-one else was thinking about, using what you had, but it is so different from today. My choices of almost anything are 10-fold what his choices were.For yeast, I think all of Bailey's wines were from indigenous ferments, where I think a lot of the elevated volatility in his wines came from. I like indigenous ferments on Chardonnay. I like to control the flavour and tannins more so in the reds, so I actually inoculate with yeast in response to the season and the wine I'm tasting. Over the last 3 years I have been doing lots of different yeast trials and the differences in the wine is really quite remarkable.I can build layers, and texture and fruit profile, complexity, by using lots of different yeast. It also gives me an understanding if it is lacking in structure, I will use more of a yeast that will help bring structure to the wines. Having many small fermenters I can do so many things with one batch of fruit. So yeast has been a bit of an eye-opener for me as well.Also, the difference between oak use today and in Bailey's time, I am using less new oak in the wines, a lighter toasting in the barrels, and taking wine out of the barrels a fair bit earlier than he would usually do. He would always bottle 20-22 months later, so some of my wines have 12 months less which is pretty significant. Softer oak, less time, less heavy char.To complete the idea of where the wines are going, they will have a bit more fruit purity, be a bit more approachable as young wines, but the vineyard and the fruit remain the same, the acids and tannins, balance and ripeness, so they will still live for a very long time.Sarah in front of tea-chest fermenter (from facebook)◆ What other significant changes have you noticed?-- Since coming to Yarra Yering my opinion on vine age has definitely changed and I think vine selection trumps vine age. The reason is we have got wines Bailey made in the 70s and 80s which sometimes I am privileged enough to open, and they're still amazing. And today, we would disregard wine that is from such young vines - which they were at the time.Today we've got new vines and we have got vine age, so it probably just builds on the story and the complexity of the wines. But I've yet to see Yarra Yering wines starting to fall away. Bailey's wines are still bright and fresh, and so we don't know the aging limits of the wine yet.◆ What impact has being named 'Australian Winemaker of the Year 2017' had?-It has given me confidence in making these wines in a way and style that I know, instead of trying to replicate what had been done before. It has been brilliant for reminding people about Yarra Yering, because a lot of people's relationship with the brand was also with Bailey. So after he passed away in 2008, the connection was broken and they just kind of stopped.It is also introducing the brand to younger people, because a lot of our loyal customers have been buying the wines for 20 or 30 years, and it has pened us up to the future of our business at the same time.Cellar door visitation has definitely grown since the Award. What I love in the last 2 years is that people are coming and tasting the wines and buying what they can afford which is one or two bottles. It is like an aspirational brand for them, and the award was the trigger point for them to come and try the wine and be introduced to the brand.Sarah Crowe◆ Tell me about the award-winning wines?-Really there is one wine I introduced, the Pinot-Shiraz blend which is a bit of an unusual blend, that I made in a completely non-Bailey style. I thought 'let's take half of this block of Shiraz and whole bunch ferment it and see what we end up with,' and it was this beautiful aromatic fragrant wine, not in the traditional Yarra Yering style.I had never done whole-bunch fermentation until I came to the Yarra. The cool thing about being here is it has made me try different techniques and styles, and want to understand them better. And this was a bit of an experiment that turned out really well.I never knew what I was going to do with it for the first six months and then I tasted this beautiful old Mt. Pleasant wine made by Maurice O'Shea from 1952, and we talking about 'How much Pinot do you think is in this Shiraz?' because it was called Hermitage, but we all knew he added Pinot to it. And that conversation and wine stuck with me all throughout the weekend and I found myself thinking about that sort of wine and the way he would have made it with no electricity. I went into work on the Monday and got a sample of that bunchy Shiraz, and thought how does it look if I put some Pinot with it. And it was beautiful, with a completely different style.The really funny thing was I showed it to my boss who was interested, but who said I have to take it to the owners. They both used to go and visit Bailey yearly and buy wine from him, and he was a friend, and you need to be very respectful of the history. So I went 'Oh they are never going to agree to this wine.'A few weeks later I came in and my staff said what are we going to do today, and I said 'We're going to blend that Pinot-Shiraz.' 'Oh they said, Yes' and I said 'no, not yet,' but we are going to blend it anyway, it just feels like the right day. So I blended the wine, and still didn't get approval. I had the labels designed, booked it in for bottling, 300 cases. I just knew it was the right thing to do for the brand, to relaunch. And luckily, the owners eventually they said yes (and James Halliday rated it 98 points).◆ Where would you like to take your winemaking over the next 5 years?-It is all about understanding the vineyards and the details and refining,rather than revolutionising what we are doing. So after 5 vintages now, I don't want to be in a situation where I just do the same thing with the same block of fruit every year, and I have to remind myself from time to time. Yes, that worked well, but is there something that can work even better?