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Young gun: winemaker Tim Dolan

By Chloe Szentpeteri

After 60 years of making wine, the legacy of the Barossa Valley’s Dolan family continues through the work of up-and-coming winemaker, Tim Dolan. With extensive experience in and out of the vines, he now shares his knowledge and enthusiasm as senior winemaker at Peter Lehmann Wines. Chloe Szentpeteri sat down to hear more of his story.

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The premium wine, abundant vineyards and cellar doors of the Barossa Valley need no introduction.

It’s a landscape that talented winemaker Tim Dolan knows well.

He accepted the role of senior winemaker at Peter Lehmann Wines last year, and now looks forward to a future bathed in wine success.

With a growing market and increasing opportunities for the wine industry, the 32 year old doesn’t shy away from a challenge.


Small beginnings
With his father, Nigel, and grandfather, Bryan, having both been prominent winemakers in the region, it’s no surprise that Tim’s interest in wine peaked at a young age.

At 10 years old, he began helping his father during vintage at the Saltram Wine Estate in Angaston. From there he never looked back.

Receiving pocket money for his efforts, he helped out in the vineyard and was often found crushing the grapes.

“I really fell in love with the whole vintage vibe and how much fun it seemed to be and how everybody got along and had a good time,” Dolan said.

“There’s obviously some long hours but I knew from then it was something I wanted to give a shot.”

Learning the tools of the winemaking trade working alongside his father, Dolan crafted his first vintage in 2004 at Yalumba.

“Tasting the wine throughout its life and into the bottle is a fun experience and the quality of wine is consistent both at Peter Lehmann and other wineries in the market”


It was the first of many to come and a stepping stone to his future.

“It was a big vintage and a very good one which was a lot of fun to make,” he said.

Fast-forward a few years and Dolan completed a degree of Oenology at the University of Adelaide and set his sights on the wine world that lay beyond Australia.

“At the time there [weren’t] too many jobs locally, it was a bit of a downturn with the whole GFC and I took it as an opportunity to explore and get away to gain as much experience as I possibly could.

“I visited and worked in some great regions including Napa, Sonoma, and Barolo initially, and also in Ontario,” he said.

“I just wanted to make sure I got as much experience as I could and ensure I wasn’t locked in to making just one style of wine. I gained a broader perspective of winemaking across the world.”


Best blends
His knowledge of the industry eventually landed him a role at Peter Lehmann Wines back in the heart of the Barossa.

As one of the most iconic names in the Australian wine industry, and with a collaborative approach involving more than 140 growers in the region, Peter Lehmann has a rich culture that propelled Dolan’s growth in winemaking.

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After having worked under the stewardship of then chief winemaker, Andrew Wiggan, whose whites and reds have been recognised with multiple awards in Australia and overseas, Dolan achieved the title of senior winemaker in early 2017.

“We’re located in the top wine region in South Australia and that community really rubs off on people,” Dolan said.

“Peter Lehmann’s is such an iconic Australian story in the wine industry that I think carrying that on now and helping make the wine for the company is what it’s all about.”

Dolan contributed to one of Peter Lehmann Wines’ most successful recent releases, a ‘next generation’ Shiraz entitled ‘The Barossan’.

With fruit sourced from sub-regions across the Barossa, it’s being seen as a success in terms of product development, wine show reviews and sales to the general public.

Dolan said the full bodied wine was delivered with pride and that its success hinted at similar prospects for future releases.

“Seeing that take off in leaps and bounds has been a real highlight for me because I was involved in making that wine,” he said.

“It’s really great to see it do so well.”

Dolan said the high quality of local grapes produced in recent vintages has allowed for a diverse portfolio of blends and varieties.

“I have a soft spot for Barossa Grenache and there’s some really special parcels in the fruit we get for Lehmann’s.

“Eden Valley Riesling I quite enjoy making and to drink a young Riesling in the summer is great,” he said.


Future prospects
With a growing market bolstered by increased export opportunities and international trade, Dolan said exciting opportunities are on the horizon for the wine industry.

“Tasting the wine throughout its life and into the bottle is a fun experience and the quality of wine is consistent both at Peter Lehmann and other wineries in the market.”

With his love for travel, Dolan said he hopes to return to Barolo in Italy one day as it holds a special place in his heart.

But for now his plans are to continue learning in his role as senior winemaker.

“I’m really enjoying my current role at Lehmann’s and feel that I’m growing into it and have amazing support from everybody in the team, so I want to stick at it and try to keep making good wine.

“For the immediate future that’s the plan,” he said.

For the enthusiastic winemaker, country hockey player and self-confessed ‘fisherman-fail’, Dolan looks forward to a promising future in wine.

In his words, he “lives, breathes and bleeds” wine.