Behind the Wine: Dylan McMahon of Seville Estate

Beth Bicknell
By Beth Bicknell
about 1 year ago
5 min read

One of the founding wineries of the Yarra Valley, Halliday Winery of the Year 2019 and an impressive, newly renovated site which is home to award-winning wines – welcome to Seville Estate. We caught up with winemaker Dylan McMahon after his win at the Halliday Wine Awards and ask a few questions about the history of Seville Estate, his personal journey in wine and what the future holds. Dylan’s story is one of both passion and precision, along with a deep appreciation of the site with which he works and the winemaking community in the Yarra, that both supports and inspires him. The only thing that we didn’t get a chance to delve into was Dylan’s side-hustle as the bass player in winemaker supergroup Harvest Goon. But hey, we’ll leave that for another time... 

What’s your background and how did you get into winemaking? 

My grandfather Dr Peter McMahon and his wife Margaret first planted the vineyard at Seville Estate in 1972. Growing up I helped over harvest by picking grapes and driving fruit from the vineyard to the winery in an old red Suzuki ute we called ‘Suzie’. The work was hard but I loved it. I never even considered working in the wine industry and after school accepted an entry into electronic engineering. 

I deferred my degree for a year to travel and take some time out. It was only when I worked my first ‘real’ vintage at Seville Estate that I realised this was for me. I was drawn to the interesting and changing job dynamic of the wine industry. One day you can be completely filthy plunging ferments and cleaning drains, the next you’re wearing a suit hosting a high end dinner with wine stained hands!  

Did you choose to work in the Yarra Valley for a specific reason?

Having the historical connection with Seville Estate, I was passionate about the brand and success of the wines. I also love the Yarra Valley, it’s an amazing region that can grow multiple varieties well every year. I believe it’s at the forefront of growing some of the best chardonnay in the world. The people are also what make the Yarra Valley such a great place to be. The camaraderie of the winemaking community is another reason our region is so strong. Everyone is supportive in promoting the region as a whole.    

Tell us about the recent changes at Seville Estate. 

There have been some major renovations at Seville Estate in the last six months with the original homestead, restaurant and landscaping. We’re excited to share that we now have: 

- Paid and complimentary tastings, wine sales and kitchen bar menu at the Cellar Door

- An on-site restaurant that seats 65 (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) with group bookings available

- Three self-contained renovated apartments, a short walk through the vineyard to Cellar Door

- An outdoor dining area opening in Spring 2018

- An original homestead refurbished and restyled which sleeps eight, has three bathrooms, living and dining areas, open kitchen and AGA cooker, and an outdoor pool which overlooks the vineyard and winery. Available for short term stays and private functions.

- Re-landscaped gardens, featuring backdrop view of Mount Donna Buang and Mount Baw Baw

- Manicured lawn, available for events and wedding ceremonies

- Sustainable kitchen vegetable garden opening in Spring 2018

- Vineyard and winery tours (by appointment only)

What’s on your ultimate winemaking playlist? 

Good question, there are too many… The whole winery is hooked up to a big stereo that runs Spotify so the playlists are endless. Although artists such as War on Drugs, Cash Savage, Alabama Shakes, Tropical Fuck Storm and The National come up a fair bit.

What does winemaking mean to you? 

For me winemaking is that great balance between art and science. Science is the backbone of winemaking, ensuring wines are sound and show varietal character. The art is being creative, push those boundaries to making more interesting wines and trusting your instinct to make the right decisions. My philosophy is to make wines that are true to variety, style and site. 

What’s been your proudest achievement and biggest fail? 

Definitely winning James Halliday Wine Companion 2019 ‘Winery of the Year’ award would have to be my proudest achievement so far. My biggest fail is that is has taken me this long to recognise the potential of this site and properly showcase the wines.   

Who’s been your biggest inspiration?

Early on in my career my grandfather was a great influence, he taught me to enjoy wine and not take it too seriously or more importantly, yourself. I learnt my winemaking techniques and determination from Alistair Butt and Iain Riggs (previous winemakers) which I feel gave me the foundation and ability to make good wines. More recently though, the local winemaking community has been very influential. A few times per year all local winemakers will get together and taste each other’s wines, discussing any issues, vintage conditions and other interesting techniques that have been successful (or not). Also, people like Steve Flamsteed (Giant Steps and Salo) with their amazing generosity and supportive nature have shown me that the wine industry can be a kind and friendly environment. Coming from a small business, this interaction has been fundamental to my professional development.  

You’re relaxing on a Friday night - what’s your wine of choice?

Anything that is good… “Drink less, drink better”  

What’s next? 

For us the next major project is to preserve the original vine material from the property. Last year we began a long-term plan grafting the original vines onto known rootstocks. This will enable us to preserve the original clonal material which is fundamental to the style and success of Seville Estate