(Cont’d from Part 1)
The region is most famous for its whites: Chardonnay of course but also Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.
The most famous reds: Cabernet Sauvignon and the mixed Cab Sav – Merlot.
But now Shiraz is growing quite aggressively, which, in my opinion, is a mistake.
This time, we wanted to have a serious look at some small vineyards which we had not visited in the past, either because they didn’t exist or because we had ignored them.
Swings and Roundabouts:
Offer a whole range of wines from Sparkling to Shiraz through Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, etc.
Their wines are split into three levels:
We selected the premium Chardonnay with a macadamia and peach nose & a complex palate with a crisp citrus finish.
The Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) presenting light tannins, a taste of fine fruits. Very good wines for a price of around $35.
We also discovered a sweet wine, whose special making is growing increasingly popular in this region: the Cane Cut.
The cane of the vine is cut with all grapes still attached to it and the fruit is left to mature with the cane it is attached to.
Since there is no Botrytis in the Margaret River Area, it is a way to make a dessert wine, not as strong as the traditional ones but still quite pleasant.
More than 30 years in the winemaking business, with a wide range of grapes varieties, split into two levels.
We tried the new Chenin Blanc, light, mixed fruits palate but quite pleasant and easy to drink ($18), the unoaked Chardonnay, light, strong citrus nose & palate ($20).
In the Collector’s range:
Overall, an excellent winery with very enjoyable wines for their price range.
Recent winery at least in the winemaking business because they have grown grapes for many years but only selling them. Now the family keeps 10% (the best ones?) of the harvest to make their wines.
A more limited range but still diversified with a Pinot Gris fruity and pleasant to drink in their second label: Beach Head.
Their first label being Credaro Family.
We tried their Chardonnay 2012, 95 points by James Halliday – peachy nose, creamy palate with a nice not too acid finish which is commendable ($35), the Shiraz 2012, needed a lot of breathing, clear ruby colour, fruity nose, long palate dominated by plum, very enjoyable ($40), and the Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: blackberries nose and spices, strong tannins, palate dominated by peach and apricot – 94 points by James Halliday ($45).
Overall serious wines worth cellaring at least 5 years.
This vineyard, located on a small road perpendicular to the cave road, had been visited by us many times.
It’s always a pleasure to speak with the owners, Robert and Karen Karri-Davies. Robert is the son of one of the founders of Margaret River and a focused winemaker.
His wines are handpicked and basket pressed.
Limited production and range, his Chenin Blanc is traditional and very pleasant to drink, his Chardonnay well made and worth its price ($38), but where he excels is in his way of making Cabernet Sauvignon.
We have been buying his Cabernet Sauvignon for many years. It comes with a rich fruity nose, red berries, plum, and the palate is long with balanced tannins and the wine age very well.
We are presently enjoying his Cab. Sav. 2004 which can even wait for a few years before reaching its best – we highly recommend this wine, particularly in magnum ($55 bottle, $150 magnum).
This vineyard was recommended to us by a friend of ours and we thank him for that.
The vineyard is relatively new (2004 for the Chardonnay and 2009 for the Cabernet) and definitely small: 2.25 ha producing around 300 cases per year out of a total production of 1,000 cases.
We tasted the whole range while having a passionate discussion with the winemaker Stuart (career through Voyager Estate, Devil’s Lair, Stella Bella, etc. ).
All the wines are elegant, subtle, extremely well made:
Then their premium range coming from their very tiny vineyard: The Queen of the Earth Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon: the Chardonnay has a wonderful nose of peach, apricot, grapefruit, with a long palate of complex fruits; very Chablis-like. The Cabernet is rich, dense, concentrated.
Definitely to be cellared at least 5 years before even touching it.
If you can put your hands on some of these wines, please do it and keep them in your Vintec to cellar them for a few years. They are worth the effort.
Price range around the $30/35 mark for the standard but $55 for the Chardonnay Queen of Earth and $74 for its companion the Cabernet.
And now just a few words now about the big names which can’t be ignored when in this region:
Part of the Marchand & Burch group together with Mad Fish: thanks to a personal relationship with the manager of the cellar door we were given a “special” tasting covering 11 wines starting with a fascinating Sparkling Jete, 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir – fine bubbles, very fresh and elegant.
This was confirmed by the tasting of three Cab Sav all from the 2012 vintage. One from Leston, Margaret River, traditional, light, red fruit, tannin, the two others from the Great Southern Region, Scottsdale and Abercrombie; these two had subtle tannins, very long palate, strong fruits characteristics: raspberries, gooseberries, red currants – our favourites particularly the Abercrombie.
Many millions have been invested in this estate by the founder before his death, whether in the vines, the vast rose garden, the cellar door and the restaurant.
You can enjoy, first a magnificent garden of roses of all varieties and colour.
Then you will enter the vast cellar door where you will be able to taste a wide range of very well made wines. They are all of a very high standard but we have particularly noted the Chenin Blanc, the Chardonnay, the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Starting 6 years ago, the Estate is now producing under the label “Project U 12 North Block” an outstanding 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a small parcel of 20 years old vines. To be cellared over 15 years.
The restaurant: as mentioned previously, is a must – top food and service in an elegant setting.
One of the most imposing properties of the region with many hectares of planted vines.
The estate is famous for its annual music festival which has been gathering several thousands of spectators every March of the last 30 years.
The range of wines from the Riesling to the Cabernet is split into two levels: the Leeuwin Estate and the Arts series whose label is created by a renowned artist every year. All wines are excellent but our favourite is still the Art Series Chardonnay, at its best after 8 years cellaring.
Last of our list but not the least. In fact, Cullen is our favourite vineyard.
Here everything is biodynamic and very interestingly explained through the small vegetable garden open to the public.
Being NBC members (Nothing but Chardonnay) my wife and I can’t drink enough of the John Kevin Chardonnay named from Vanya’s father. And the famous Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot can easily bear the comparison with the best Bordeaux.
Vanya Cullen, one of the most famous and revered “biodynamic” winemaker in Australia is constantly looking for new ways of making wines. One of her last babies is the Cullen Amber wine: a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc made like a red, with the grapes left on skins at the beginning of the fermentation. This gives a wine of an extraordinary complexity. To be tasted “absolument”.
Driving through this road you will discover a very different landscape whether you are South of Margaret River or North.
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