Meet Cellr’s Weekly Crush: Mike Garland for Western Australian Winery, Castelli Estate. Castelli Estate is a family owned business producing award winning, cool climate wines at Mount Shadforth in Denmark. With the help of James (Jimi) Majer, National Sales & Export Manager, we got the inside scoop on how the Castelli brand operates in today’s market, their experience with counterfeit wine, creative marketing, wines to come, V20 laughs, their unique winery pet…and more.
Also don’t forget to check out the Riesling playlist Jimi put together for our wine and music pairing on the Cellr Spotify here.
Talk to us about the early days…how did the estate start (and who was behind it)?
Sam Castelli bought the half-finished winery in 2005, he dearly loved the Denmark region and always had wine in his blood. Sam and I met and he convinced me to come on board (I had my own winery – Garlands Estate at the time) and drive the winery and Castelli brand. Our first vintage was way back in 2007 where we primarily operated as a contract winemaking facility. The initial crush for Castelli was only 15 tonnes (compared to ~250 now).
Finish this sentence: Castelli wines are more cultural, than commercially driven.
Your urban Cellar Door is a cracker. What’s the strategy behind bringing your list to the masses in this way?
The Urban Cellar Door is the first of its kind in WA. Being located in the Great Southern has its pros and cons. Pro – amazing fruit and less vintage variation. Con – almost a five hour drive! The Urban Cellar Door lets us interact with our customers at a local level, and is also often used to host export leads (particularly from Asia) who may only be in the state for a few days and can’t always make the journey.
On the Wine Market… We asked Castelli Estate to shed some light on their experience in the wine market, as a big part of what we do at Cellr is make true direct to consumer marketing easy for winemakers.
What other channels do you use to engage customers to buy your wine outside the cellar door? What do you do in these channels?
Particularly in the ‘covid climate’ we’re working very hard to put forward a positive image with our marketing. We’re getting creative with all sorts of initiatives such as Zoom tastings for VIP clients, Facebook live webinars with top sommeliers blind tasting our wines, and a few other surprises coming up. We also have our own sales team at the coal face to tell our story in the trade.
In what ways do you feel it is challenging to engage with customers?
The wine industry is a fairly traditional market, while wine styles/preferences have changed greatly over the last few years the mechanics of selling haven’t. It’s all about relationships and having a product that fits the needs of the market. One of the biggest challenges is a changing market! What fit three years ago may not now. Producers and distributors need to be nimble and ready to meet the market, however its also important to ‘stick to your guns’ on your wine styles and not make things only because they’re on trend. It’s a balancing act sometimes.
On Authentication and Supply Chains: We asked Castelli Estate about their views on authentication and his current supply chain management. At Cellr we want to understand how winemakers feel about the current systems in place and make a packaging solution that is consistent with what they need.
Talk to us about your supply chain? Do you currently have visibility of your products after they leave the winery?
We’re in a fairly unique position where we run our own sales, logistics and distribution in our home state. It’s a luxury many don’t have. Once the wines leave WA, no we don’t have visibility however we work with trusted partners wherever possible.
With the global explosion of wine fraud pushing into the mid/premium brackets due to sheer volume, how important is it for wine consumers to be able to identify your (legitimate) products via anti-counterfeit measures?
Very. We’ve even had colleagues who have had the wines copied by their own importers. Having our name on a bottle and having no control over the quality of the wine inside the bottle is something we’d rather not imagine!
Send us a photo of your wine dog or cat (if you have one)
I haven’t included a dog photo – but here is a photo of ‘Hebrew’ (pronounced Hey Bro in a Kiwi accent) who was our baby winery kangaroo that one of our winemakers saved….
Other than your own, which wine were you enjoying the most over Summer? Who made it?
I’ve really enjoyed drinking some wines from Lethbridge, from the Bellarine – amazing Pinot and Chard, but also some really interesting styles with their Il Modo and Between Five Bells gear.
Funniest v20 moment was…
The joint efforts of trying to plunge some grenache with 60% whole bunch, virtually impossible so finished up being down to jumping in, problem was one cellar hand was so light she couldn’t break the cap and it was funny watching her simply stand on the cap jumping trying to break through.
What does 2025 have in store for fans of Castelli wines?
We’ll have some individual batches of aged release Rieslings that will be available by then (specially made for aging and different from our Estate) and also a very special single vineyard Shiraz that will be coming out at about that time.