Ella Stening Knows What To Drink
Ella Stening works with wine. Wine that is kind to the earth and good to your body. Five years ago she was burnt out, nearly dropping out of uni, and working in a fish and chip shop. "I smelled like grease trap. If you'd told me I would be lying on the grass in Burgundy, drinking wines textured like honey and gold, I would have sneered in disbelief."
Fresh from stints making wine around the world, Stening now works alongside the team at DRNKS and on the newly launched Loose Ends, a monthly subscription wine service that delivers a curated selection of sustainably farmed wines – along with informative and refreshing tasting notes – to your door.
We caught up with Ella for a quick chat and convinced her to put her expert palate to work curating the wine selection for our February adventure, Yoga Cucina Au Natural...
What’s the best part of what you do?
Working in wine has opened up parts of the world that I never dreamed would be accessible. If you’d told me five years ago that I’d be in surrounded by the clean air and sprawling vineyards of Burgundy, sitting with people who had calm words but brimmed with passion and knowledge…The experiences I have are increasingly esoteric and emblematic to this industry.
How do you feel when you’re in your flow?
Exactly that way. It’s difficult to exist linearly when you’re in a job you’re not passionate about. I now work with a focus and drive that was not previously accessible. One of my favourite feelings is to jump into the ocean after a particularly productive day. So good!
Favourite project so far?
Years ago I worked on a demolition derby for a surf wear label. That was bloody sick. But my recent winemaking experience in Stellenbosch at Radford Dale, South Africa was the most important thing I've ever done in my life. To learn and work closely and deeply with people you love and respect, creating something that perfectly sums up that time – I left a big piece of my heart there.
Making a wine with an incredible female musician. A couple of years ago MJK from Tool made a wine with Ochota Barrels. Maybe Courtney Love or the girls from Warpaint will read this and take me up on it. Please?
What drives you crazy?
I find an unwillingness to learn particularly debilitating to be around.
Top 3 places to eat in Sydney?
I go to Brickfields every morning. The people that work there light up my morning, their rye bread is dense, chewy and tart, and the food is fresh, simple and staggeringly good.
Stanbuli is beautiful. I like sitting at the big wooden bar, snacking on mezze. Anything Ibs, the owner and head chef, has an eye over is sensational. Balanced, fragrant and yum.
Don Peppino’s, in the old Blue Room on Oxford Street, is wonderful. Dan, Harry, Danny and Paloma are focused on rustic Italian food with a modern inflection. All the wine is shit hot and extremely thoughtful too (thank Sally Rainbows for that!). It's the kind of place you can be chill mid-week with a bowl of pasta and a nice wine, or bring a bunch of mates to get down and feast.
Top yoga pose, what and why?
It’s easy to forget how good yoga is when you’re surrounded by alcohol all the time. Any variation of pigeon pose allows me to stretch out my hip flexors and zone out pretty effectively.
Song that gets you on the dance floor?
It doesn’t take much! At the moment it’s Charlie XCX "5 in the Morning". Trashy, filthy, well-constructed pop.
Favourite place to travel?
On any big trip I stop in New York. I like falling into the black hole of the city, emerging 3 kilos heavier, soul nourished with the obscure happenings that only eventuate there.
What do you eat when you get there?
I go straight to whatever bar my friends like and eat and drink everything I can. I had a really wonderful meal and booze at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a little French focused, natural wine bar in NoLita.