We seriously love what we do
A former Vet from Argentina, Natalia moved into the wine industry 8 years ago and has lived in five different countries. She completed her WSET Diploma with Distinction and was awarded a prize for achieving the highest marks in the UK. She loves cats, playing tennis and reading history books. Wine history books, even better.
Nico CentonzeWinemaker & Vineyard Manager
Born and raised on his family vineyard in Southern Italy's Puglia region, Nico has two university degrees in wine and has held winemaking positions in several countries. He spends his days in the vineyard and in the cellar. The only coffee he drinks is espresso and he adores both cooking and talking about food; that’s how Italian he is.
Richard Bartle-ManRetail Manager
Richard is a passionate hospitality professional with a love of food and wine. He enjoys English sparkling wine and a good cheese board! Born and raised in Cornwall, he likes nothing more than being by the sea, enjoying a glass of bubbly and a cream tea (jam first of course!).
Derek WalklateCellar Hand & Tour Guide
After early retirement, Derek discovered that working in a winery was a million times more fun than finance/IT. Passionate about music, craft beer and wine, he completed his WSET Level 2, loves travel and food too - especially Staffordshire oatcakes!
Ryan SaywoodCellar Hand & Retail Assistant
Born in Zimbabwe, raised in Malawi, and educated in South Africa, Ryan discovered his passion for wine whilst at University in Cape Town. He has completed his WSET Level 2 and recently moved to the UK to work in the English Wine Industry. He loves fishing with a nice cold beer in hand and preferably a sunset.
Tina ClarkeRetail Assistant
During the week Tina works in the music industry, specifically with professional drummers, and enjoys going to gigs. She has a passion for travelling and has visited many wine regions around the world. She loves a glass of fizz especially our Stanlake Brut. Her favourite team member is Lucy, that’s because she loves cats!
Kerry GodleyRetail Assistant & Tour Guide
Enjoying an ‘Eventful’ career Kerry, being the outdoorsy type, loves the contrast at the Vineyard, from tour guide to pruning to wedding tastings. She completed WSET Level 2. A fan of food, swimming, George Michael, oh she’s also trekked to that little Himalayan base camp and was promptly proposed to!
Joan IzquierdoRetail Assistant
A wine loving former Social Worker, Joan has been kept busy helping her 2 daughters achieve their dreams; one is a 5 times World Champion dancer and the other is a City lawyer. She loves watching musical theatre shows, travelling and socialising. Her favourite wine is Stanlake Brut.
Tamsin BrownTour Guide
A long time wine enthusiast, Tamsin is also a keen foodie and Francophile. She completed her WSET Level 3 with Distinction, loves hosting tastings with friends, and is delighted to be a part of the team at Stanlake Park. Current favourites are the Rosé Superior and Kings Fumé.
Lydia I'AnsonTour Guide
Being half French and half English, wine has always been a part of Lydia’s life and having worked in the industry for over a decade her passion still continues today. She completed her WSET Level 3 with Distinction, loves the great outdoors, as well as a nice chilled glass of wine by the sea!
Phil RelfTour Guide
Phil's love of wine developed alongside his culinary skills when he came to Reading for university. As an amateur enthusiast he hosted wine events for friends, sharing good times and learning from experience. He completed his WSET Level 3 with distinction, and considers it a real privilege to work with the Stanlake team and share his passion with our guests.
Yvonne StawarzTour Guide
Having taken early retirement from her career as a specialist dietitian Yvonne now indulges her passion for wine, food and travel. She has passed her WSET Level 3 with Distinction and awarded highest honours in the French Wine Scholar exam. Spending time sharing her enthusiasm and knowledge with the guests at Stanlake is an absolute pleasure.
Lucy was born and raised at Stanlake Park, which means she’s the real owner of the Estate. She’s an avid hunter but also enjoys harassing customers for food and love. Her mum, Delilah, also lives in the estate but she's shy and never around customers. If you spot a sneaky black kitten, that's Mango, Stanlake's youngest feline member of the family!
Come meet us, we’re open every day!
History of our Team
From Italy to Berkshire
Stanlake Park Wine Estate is currently managed by Nico Centonze and Natalia Pezzone, a passionate professional couple that have travelled the world working in the wine industry. But their journeys weren’t always easy and their story is full of surprises.
They first met in 2009 in Piedmont, when Nico had just finished viticulture and oenology university, and Natalia was working on a project with a team of researchers at Veterinary school in Turin.
Coincidentally, Nico’s first job as a winemaker was in the Rioja region of Argentina, and so they travelled together for some time before Nico’s harvest season started. Later on, Natalia was awarded a scholarship for Veterinary university in Madrid, where she spent some time while Nico was in Italy working on his family’s vineyard. This was until she decided she wouldn’t go back to Argentina.
Never coming back
“I simply missed the return flight. Not even my family knew my plans”, Natalia remembers. “By that time, I was doing my PhD in Veterinary Science, I had two great jobs as a researcher and a teacher, but I knew something was missing. I was great at what I was doing, but I wasn’t convinced that was the path.”
She moved to Puglia with Nico at the end of 2010, a period where securing a job in Southern Italy wasn’t easy. Despite Natalia’s impressive CV, there weren’t any positions for Vets, so she started doing another thing she was good at: writing. Helped by her Italian surname, she began creating web content for several companies in Italy. “They would only hire Italian native speakers, but my writing skills were good enough that they thought I was Italian!”, she laughs.
Meanwhile, Nico was working for a local winery where he was promised a position as an assistant winemaker. In reality, he was treated as a simple worker and didn’t even get to talk with the head winemaker. “I knew I would never grow my skills there, and that I would just spend years just putting bottles into boxes”, he remembers.
Time for a change
It was the right time for a change. At that point, Nico didn’t speak a word of English, so they both took their backpacks and moved to the UK. Initially they spent some time in Scotland and England, volunteering with families so Nico could learn English. Months went by, and with the 2013 harvest approaching in England, Nico managed to secure a position at the famous Nyetimber Estate in West Sussex.
Unfortunately, because Natalia didn’t have an EU passport at that time, they were forced to leave the UK after harvest and move to France where they spent time volunteering and working. While in Bordeaux, a well-known winemaker offered Nico a Head Winemaker position at a boutique winery in Romania. The couple had no idea of what life would be like in Romania, but the adventure (and the position!) seemed more than worthwhile, so they packed everything and moved again.
“Only in Romania did I have the chance to be in charge of everything; all the processes, the staff, and the entire building were now my responsibility”, Nico says, recognising that he preferred to work in less mainstream wine producing countries. “If you work for a super fancy, modern winery in France or Italy, everything has a protocol and you find yourself just following steps, like a machine. Unless you are the owner of the winery, there’s little room for experimenting, changing and learning. Only by challenging yourself can you grow as a winemaker.”
A new project
Following their time in Romania, the couple decided they wanted to work for themselves. So when the opportunity to take over from Nico’s father at his family vineyard arose, they jumped at the chance. Filled with new energy, experience and knowledge, acquired through many years of working for other people, Nico and Natalia moved back to Italy and started work on their own project.
“Nico would take care of the vineyards and make the wine in a friend’s winery to start, while I would create the brand, the logo, the e-commerce and everything that is needed to run a business. We were making two reds initially, and already they had names and labels“, Natalia remembers.
However, starting a business in Italy would turn out to be a nightmare. Bureaucracy, taxes and very complicated legislation made things impossible for the couple. “We were trying to obtain government agricultural funding for young people that was supposed to be launched that year. However, the program only started 3 years later“, Nico says.
They couldn’t wait as they didn’t have enough savings, so Nico secured a job as an assistant winemaker, while Natalia started working as a tour manager for a local winery. Time went by and the dream of making their own wine started to fade.
By 2018, they decided it was time for a change again. Italy wasn’t able to offer them the opportunity they were after, so they turned their eyes to the country they loved the most during their travels: England.
Back to England
Fate gave them a big helping hand this time as Stanlake Park in Berkshire was also looking for a change. At the time, the owner of the estate felt that the current management team was neglecting operations and that Stanlake Park wines were not on the radar of consumers.
Initially, they were only looking for a new winemaker, but after meeting both, it was clear that Nico and Natalia would work much better as a team. All those years together, facing so many different challenges and making hard decisions had made the couple very resilient and deeply connected.
Stanlake Park had enormous, unused potential. It was not only one of the largest vineyards and wineries in the area, but the heritage-protected buildings and stunning grounds made the estate ideal for wine tourism.
“I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I came for the first time, there weren’t any unattractive, big stainless-steel tanks around, just charming barns and walls older than my own country!”, Natalia remembers. “I was staring at the 17th-century clock tower on the winery barn and I could just imagine people sitting by the ancient wisteria enjoying a glass of wine in the sunshine”.
The winery needed some changes and the wines needed improvement, but Nico and Natalia gladly accepted the challenge ahead. “Finally it was like having our own winery, only I wouldn’t be making Primitivo, but Pinot Noir”, laughs Nico.
Hard work pays off
From the very start, they worked as hard as they could. No weekends, no bank holidays, and no counting hours. There was so much to be done, and they simply could not wait to get started. It was all systems go. They were finally making everything for their own project and all their ideas would soon become a reality.
Of course, it paid off. In just one year, everything looked different. The wines were of much greater quality, Stanlake Park brand awareness had grown massively on a local and national scale, the sales target for the first year was tripled, and the cellar shop and wine bar were packed with people every weekend.
All it took was some passionate people for the magic to begin at Stanlake Park. “You know what they say, when you find a job that you love, you don’t have to work anymore… well, nobody likes to work, right?”, they laugh.