Tag Archives: Margaret River

Juniper Estate and Higher Planes


Juniper Estate and Higher Planes

Barry Weinman: 11th July 2016 -2

Wrights was one of the earliest wineries established in the Margaret River region. In 1998 the winery was sold and the new owners renamed the winery Juniper Estate. Given this, Juniper Estate has some of the oldest vines in the region.

Coinciding with the purchase, Mark Messenger was brought in as winemaker, and has been there ever since. Mark had a good idea of what the vineyards were capable of, as he had worked at other wineries in the area that had been purchasing fruit from Wrights.

The venture expanded in 2007, with the purchase of the Higher Planes winery and vineyards, and winemaking for this was brought in-house. The Higher Planes vineyards are further south than Juniper Estate and the wines are vinified and bottled separately to that of Juniper Estate.

This seems to confer a slight difference in style, with the Higher Planes reds appearing pretty and elegant, whilst the Juniper reds appear more masculine and firm.

N.B. As these wines were not reviewed blind, no points have been allocated.


Higher Planes – Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc – 2015. ($20). A 50/50 blend with lifted fruit and grassy undertones. Whilst only 5% of the wine had barrel fermentation, this was enough to really flesh out the texture, in combination with a degree of lees stirring. Vibrant acidity on the finish adds vitality.

Higher Planes – Chardonnay – 2013. ($37). This is a modern, yet accessible wine with ripe stone fruit and creamy/nutty notes. The palate is taut and elegant, with creamy oak adding texture. The finish is near seamless. Single vineyard, wild yeast fermentation, 100% Gin Gin clone.

Higher Planes – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011 ($50 though on special for $34 from the winery). The vineyard is planted at 4500 vines per hectare. The wine has lovely, complex dark fruits over cedar and spice. This is taut, textured and complex, with the really fine tannins and oak shutting the fruit down at present. Give it time.-1

Higher Planes – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 (October Release). Cooler fruit characters compared to Juniper Estate, with mint, spice and blueberries. The oak frames the fruit, adding depth and structure. A very fine wine with great balance.

Higher Planes – Cabernet Sauvignon – Messenger – 2012 ($65). A Cabernet dominant Bordeaux blend. Pretty aromatic fruit that has floral and berry characters over mineral and earthy notes. The palate is savoury and textured, with the oak adding depth. A complex wine with restrained power and excellent length. Great now, but better in 10+ years.

Juniper Estate – Semillon – 2014 ($30). I am not sure why more straight Semillon is not produced in the region, as this is a cracking wine. Lovely ripe fruit, with savoury/grassy notes and hints of citrus, tropical fruit and gentle spice from the oak. Quite textural with a drying finish.

Juniper Estate – Chardonnay – 2014 ($37). From a cooler vintage. Modern and taut, this appears a touch finer than the Higher Planes, with grapefruit, stone-fruit and cashew notes. The creamy oak adds depth on both the nose and palate. Will flesh out with a couple of years in bottle. Wild yeast/Gin Gin and Clone 95 (25%).

Juniper Estate – Cabernet blend – Aquitaine Rouge – 2012 ($37). A new addition to the range, designed to be an earlier drinking style. Contains all five Bordeaux varieties. Fragrant mulberry fruit with attractive blueberry notes courtesy of the inclusion of 17% Malbec. The spicy fruit is complemented by supple, textural oak and fine tannins. Great drinking any time over the next 5+ years.

Juniper Estate – Cabernet blend – Aquitaine Rouge –2013 (Released this month). Again, this has delicious blueberry fruit combined with plum notes. Compared to the 2011, the fruit has more density and texture, and the graphite/mineral characters give way to slightly dusty tannins. Give it an hour in a decanter before drinking to let the fruit open up.-1

Juniper Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011 ($60). Made entirely from the original 1973 dry-grown vineyard, from a warmer year. This has more generous fruit, with blackcurrant and cassis notes and a touch of mint and eucalypt. The finish is taut and structured, with dusty tannins and textured oak. The palate transition is note-worthy.

Juniper Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 (Released this month). A powerful wine, with brooding, brambly fruit. With air, the fruit gets really fragrant and pretty. A great wine in the making, though a little patience will be required.



Barry Weinman: 4th November 2015

Cloudburst VineyardCloudburst may be the most famous winery you have never heard of. They might not be well known, but they are making some of the most expensive wines to come out of Margaret River.

The man behind the label is Will Berliner. Will hails from Mayne in the north-east of the USA, and has a varied background, most recently being a film-maker. Given the costs of establishing an operation like Cloudburst, Will was obviously successful.

Will’s connection to Australia, and wine in general is a relatively new phenomenon. Wills partner is Australian, and it was while he was on a holiday that he fell in love with Australia, and Margaret River in particular.

Photo Courtesy of Cloudburst Winery

After a few years of looking for the right location, the family relocated to Margaret River as a lifestyle decision, unrelated to wine. The location of the former cattle property clinched the deal, and the Berliners ended up with 100 hectares of farmland, which included 40 hectares of native bush.

Starting with stripped pasture, Will gradually built up the soil health, using organic and biodynamic principles.

The initial plan was to grow avocados but logistical challenges led to planting grapes, given the clearly evident affinity of the region to vines.

As a non-wine drinker, Will started researching and got completely hooked, taking an almost spiritual approach to the vineyard and wine. Will speaks with reverence on the establishment of the vineyard, as well as how he learned from others in the region.

This is a small operation. There are currently 1.2 hectares under vine, of which 0.5 hectares are in production! The first vines were planted in 2005, closely planted in short rows and small blocks. The first vintage was in 2010, with the wines being made at Woodlands, with the oversight of Stuart Watson.

Due to the family’s connections to the USA, the wines ended up on the wine lists of some of New York’s finest restaurants, which may go some way to explaining why the wines are the most expensive. It is only now that a local distributor has been appointed (The Drink Well Philosophy).Cloudburst Vineyard







 Photos Courtesy of Cloudburst winery


Cloudburst – Chardonnay – 2014. Very refined and elegant with hints of perfume and lanolin. The pristine fruit is the primary focus. The palate has excellent structure, with lemon, grapefruit and a touch of zest. The finish is almost chewy and textural. The acid is really polished and fine.

Cloudburst – Chardonnay – 2013. More complex and developed on the nose than the 2014, this is really attractive and interesting. A touch linear in the mouth initially, but the finish really fleshes out, showing grapefruit, and a touch of phenolic richness. Again, the acid is really fine, supporting the fruit, and helping to integrate the near seamless palate. Lemony fruit to close.

Cloudburst – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2013. Very complex and deep smelling. Menthol, blackcurrant and shades of eucalypt all meld into an alluring nose. The palate is fine and linear, with a clear minerality running from front to back. There is an almost graphite-like textural component. The supple acid and tannins combine with the fine-grained French oak to suppress the fruit somewhat on the finish. Give it some air or 5 – 10 years in the cellar. Bordeaux-like. 1,688 bottles made.

Cloudburst – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012. Really interesting nose, with the minerality that is all about white pepper and Australian mountain pepper. This gives way to a core of ripe fruit. A lovely expression of Margaret River Cabernet. Fine and taut, with blackberry fruit over supple spice. The slightly chewy tannins add to the overall package, making this an excellent drink now or in 10 years.

Cloudburst – Malbec – 2013. Excellent purity of fruit on the nose. The palate shows ripe red fruits, plum, spice and textural tannins. Opens up to show mint, menthol and redcurrant that is plump and ripe, with a cedary oak lift. A succulent, delicious wine that is drinking brilliantly now. 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cloudburst – Malbec – 2012. More restrained. Fine, elegant, balanced. Silky and near seamless. The oak and tannins add texture and vibrancy to the finish, with fine acids carrying the finish. Will cellar well for a decade or more, but is delicious now. Becomes quite chewy with air. 422 Bottles made


Western Australian Cabernet Sauvignon

Barry Weinman: 10th September 2015

Western Australian Cabernet Sauvignon

Western Australia and Margaret River in particular, has had a string of excellent vintages stretching back to 2007. Whilst there have been some year-to-year variations, the consistency has been remarkable. The question is whether there is one year in particular that is even better than the others?

A number of wineries believe that 2012 was a particularly Singlefile Cabernet Sauvignon 2013strong year. Others have suggested that their 2013s are even stronger.

In an effort to find out, the panel sat down to try a mix of wines from Western Australia to see if there were any obvious trends.

As to the outcome of the tasting, one thing is clear. There were a number of great wines from both 2012 and 2013. Remarkably, 9 of the 20 wines tasted made it to this review. Pick a good producer and you are sure to do well.


Houghton – Cabernet Sauvignon – Gladstones – 2013 (18.7). This is a lovely wine showing ripe, yet refined redcurrant and mint fruit notes. Gentle, balanced and with poise, the very fine fruit is perfectly matched to the winemaking inputs. The tannins are initially silky, but develop fine grippy notes to close. Good now, though this youthful wine will benefit from many years in the cellar. (RRP $85).

Vasse Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – Heytesbury – 2012 (18.7). Dense, powerful fruit here on both the nose and palate. There is mint and gentle herbs over red berry fruit. The palate is chewy and textured, with quality oak highlights. Really builds in the glass. Very long and powerful, this needs years to be at its best. A great wine. (RRP $90).

Flametree – Cabernet Sauvignon – S.R.S. – Wilyabrup – 2013 (18.5+). The fruit on the nose is both supple and subtle. On the palate this really shines. Plush, perfectly ripe fruit is paired with supple oak and fine tannins. There is intrinsic power to the fruit, but this is refined and very approachable. Lovely mouth-feel combines with excellent length on this remarkable wine. (RRP $58).

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Art Series – 2012 (18.5+). Menthol and eucalypt, with a slight herbal tinge reflective of the relatively southern location of the vineyards. The palate shows fresh, bright fruit, with a savoury edge. The fine tannins, oak and acidity combine with the shutdown the fruit on the finish. Long, refined and age-worthy, with latent power. Give it at least 5 – 10 years, but will live for 20. (RRP $75).

Fraser Gallop – Cabernet Sauvignon – Parterre – 2012 (18.5) Menthol and red fruits, over spice highlights from the oak. The palate is fine, though quite closed initially. Silky and supple, with texturing oak and tannins. A wine of the highest quality that needs a few years to express itself fully. (RRP $45).

Woodlands – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Malbec – Margaret – Reserve – 2012 (18.5). Lovely fruit here. Gentle red and black berry characters over mint and spice. The palate is fruit forward, but the souring acidity keeps the whole package in check. Cooler region fruit that needs a few years to hit its straps. The fruit really builds on the palate and there is great length of flavours. A silky wine with the potential to age, there are similarities here to the fine wines of Bordeaux. (RRP $46).

Singlefile – Cabernet Sauvignon – Frankland River – 2013. (18 – 18.5). Less overt berry characters on the nose initially. The fruit on the palate is almost thick, with layers of generous black fruits over cedar and a hint of licorice/tar. The tannins are remarkably fine, dusting the finish and adding texture and depth. Almost seamless, this is very fine indeed and decent value. Now – 10 years. (RRP $37).Arivina Cabernet Ssauvignon 2012

Aravina Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 (18.2). Menthol is the defining character on the nose. This is rich and luxurious, with no rough edges. The palate transition is near seamless. With air, the blackcurrant (almost cassis) fruit starts to shine. The length is noteworthy. A generous wine that can be drunk anytime over the next 10 years.

Leeuwin Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – Prelude Vineyards – 2012 (17.9). Bright fruit on the nose, in the red berry spectrum. The palate is fresh and lively, with the fruit the main attraction. Fine tannins, gentle oak and well judged acidity add to the drinking pleasure. With air, this gains more depth and structure, but is great drinking now. ($27.50 from the winery).

Flowstone Wines– New Release – July 2015

9th July 2015

Reviewed by Barry WeinmanSB

Stuart Pym at Flowstone wines has a stated aim of releasing his wines with a degree of bottle age to improve the drinkability and accessibility of the wines on release. He also has an aim of limiting production to only 1200 cases per year. This has presented him with the enviable challenge of trying to allocate stock, but still retain enough to supply restaurants who want to maintain a consistent wine list.

For the 2015 vintage, a dedicated winery opened adjacent to Flowstone’s vineyards in Forrest Grove. This will give Stuart even greater control over the winemaking process. These are carefully crafted wines, of high standard, so the future looks very promising indeed.

I tasted the wines with Stuart, therefore no scores are given. The quality of the wines was, however, excellent, and my picks are below.


Flowstone – Sauvignon Blanc – 2013. This has a really complex nose showing gooseberry, flint, struck match and lees work. The palate is rich and textured, with quality lemony fruit. Almost chewy, the finish is long and fine, with linear acidity and a touch of minerality. The oak is mainly for texture (fermented in one new 600l barrel with 47mm staves, the rest old). Good drinking. (RRP $32).

Flowstone – Chardonnay – 2012. Complex and rich, with struck match, minerality and barrel ferment notes. That said, there is a core of ripe fruit characters. This spends 12 months in high-quality French oak barrels, of which 20% are new. The wine goes though 100% malo-lactic fermentation which adds richness, yet the wine retains life. Excellent current drinking, but will age for a few years if that is your preference. (RRP $36).

Flowstone – Cabernet Sauvignon/Touriga – 2011. A 70%/30% blend. Initially, this is closed and tight on both the nose and the palate. The quality fruit is evident, but it needs years to evolve. Shows mint and eucalypt from the Cabernet, whilst the Touriga adds weight and depth to the finish. Tannins and oak keep fruit in check, but do not dominate. (2 years in oak, 20% new). Very long, this ideally needs 5 – 10yrs to start hitting its straps. (RRP $36).

Flowstone – Cabernet Sauvignon – Queen of the Earth – 2011. Lovely, classic Margaret River nose, with gentle eucalypt and mint over blackcurrant fruit. Continues on the palate, with dense fruit and fine, savoury tannins. Subtle oak to close adds depth (3 years in new oak). A lovely wine with great length and mouth-feel (RRP $75 – 99 Dozen made).

1996 Cabernet Sauvignon

Vintage in Focus by Barry Weinman

27th June 2015IMG_0544

I am in the fortunate position to be able to drink old wines regularly. Often, this is in the setting of dinner with friends, or a themed tasting. It is a rare treat however, to be able to drink a number of aged wines from the same vintage.

To make this tasting even more interesting, all wines were Bordeaux varietals or blends and the wines were equally divided between France and Australia. An added bonus was that 1996 was an excellent year on both sides of the globe. I could not find a bottle of Mosswood from this vintage, so substituted a bottle of the 1994 Reserve.

All wines came from the Wine and Food Society of Western Australia’s cellar. The Australian wines had been in the cellar since launch, whereas many of the French wines I purchased a few years ago when they had been shipped ex-cellar.

Opening the wines told a tale of two standards. The corks in the French wines were uniformly in great condition. Longer than the Australian’s, but also of perceptibly higher quality. The Australian wines’ corks started crumbling with a standard corkscrew, whereas the French wines’ corks came out easily without breaking.

Once again, I was very grateful to have a Durant corkscrew on hand to assist with cork removal. This remarkable device is a must for those regularly opening wines older than 15 years. Remarkably, there was no discernible cork taint in any of the wines. This was indeed a very special day!

Initially, I planned on serving the wines in matched pairs (Australia v France). On opening the wines, this plan changed as the overt power of the Australian wines would have overwhelmed the French wines.

The Wines

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the night was the Champagnes in Bracket One. Support for the three wines was equally divided across the group. The “standard” 2002 was the most accessible, making it the choice for those who value drinkability.Bracket 1

At the other end of the spectrum, the Sir Winston Churchill is a sublime wine that was the pick for the aficionados among us. Sitting in the middle and offering outstanding value was the Blanc de Blanc. A great drink!

The highlight of Bracket Two was the Roc de Cambes, coming from a fully mature vineyard that has similarities to St Emillon. This demonstrated just how good the wines from Cotes de Bourg (Cotes de Bordeaux) can be.

Bracket Three saw a step up in perceived quality, as all wines were of Grand Cru status. This was also reflected in the overall quality. The highlight was the Cantemerle, a still youthful wine of real class.

Bracket Four saw the first of the Australian wines. The change in style was immediately apparent, with the fruit more accessible. The wines retained balance and poise, but there was a degree of immediacy that, if anything, made the wines more accessible to the average drinker.

The Wynns displayed classic Coonawarra fruit and was a delight to drink. The Plantagenet was my pick. A wine that is in its prime, but one that will also last for years.

Bracket 5The final bracket consisted of three superstars. The Mosswood was the most complete drink, the 707 the most long-lived. All were brilliant wines in their own right, and equal to the best Cabernets anywhere in the world, albeit in a different style to the French. Ultimately, it was the Vasse Felix Heytesbury that was my pick for the night!

Bracket One

Pol Roger – Champagne – 2002. A rich and developed Champagne that is powerful and complex, with honeyed, aged notes. Textured and very long, this was preferred by several guests.

Pol Roger – Champagne – Blanc de Blanc – 2002. Perfumed and floral, the taut chardonnay fruit characters are clearly expressed here. Refined and delicate, yet there is latent power and excellent length. A great wine that will age well for another few years at least.

Pol Roger – Champagne – Sir Winston Churchill – 2000. The term “Less is more” comes to mind here. Very fine and delicate, yet has tremendous presence in the mouth. Elegance is the key.

Bracket Two

Lilian Ladouys – Saint Estephe – 1996. Lovely fragrant nose, with subtle spice complementing the still-fresh fruit. The palate is fully mature, with decent depth and length and a well-structured finish. Good drinking.

Roc de Cambes – Cotes de Bourg – 1996. Made primarily from Merlot, the fantastic fruit here has an almost new-world richness. Cassis and spice on the nose. The silky mouthfeel and depth of fruit on the palate are noteworthy. Considered by many to be the best wine from the Cotes de Bourg, this was a standout.

Labegorce – Margeaux – 1996. The perfumed fruit is typical of Margeaux, but the palate was starting to dry out. Perhaps not the best bottle.

Bracket Three

Clos de L’Oratoire – St. Emillon – Grand Cru – 1996. Delicious sweet fruit that has obvious power. Very long and texture, this is drinking perfectly now.

Chateau Cantemerle – Haut Medoc – 5th Growth – 1996. Sweet ripe fruit, with minty highlights. A powerful wine, with still firm tannins. The excellent length on the finish is a feature. A stand-out.

Grand Puy Ducasse – Pauliac – 5th Growth – 1996. Obvious powerful fruit, with a touch of earthy/ funky notes adding to the appeal. Fine tannins fan out on a long finish.

Bracket Four

Wynns – Cabernet Sauvignon – “Black Label” – 1996. Cassis and menthol speaks of classic Coonawarra Cabernet. The palate is not overly dense, but this is a delightful drink.

Plantagenet – Cabernet Sauvignon – 1996. Plump, fresh fruit on the nose. The palate is bright, fresh, taut and full of life. The balance is a highlight and the finish is long and fine. Excellent now, but will hold.

Irvine – Grand Merlot – 1996. A big wine, full of plump ripe fruit. Loved by some, but this was a bit overdone for me. This was, perhaps not a typical bottle, as I have enjoyed excellent bottles of this vintage in the recent past.

Bracket Five

Vase Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – Heytesbury – 1996. Intense, powerful fruit, with leather and spice over the superb fruit. The palate is remarkably youthful, with red fruit characters. A complete wine and quite spectacular!

Mosswood – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 1994. The most complete wine now, and an absolute pleasure to drink. The perfumed fruit retains power, but the palate is long, refined elegant and silky. A textural treat.

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – 707 – 1996. Tight and incredibly youthful, with powerful, yet restrained fruit. The palate is closed and tight, with chewy tannins that are remarkably fine. The line and length is a feature. The intense fruit builds and builds. The proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove, a great wine!

Chardonnay – New Release – May 2015

My love affair with Western Australian Chardonnay shows no sign of ending any time soon. Whether the fruit comes from Margaret River, Porongurup, Denmark or Mount Barker does not seem to impact on the quality. In fact, some, like Howard Park, blend fruit from several of these areas.

Interestingly, despite the climatic differences between these districts, this does not seem to directly translate into the wine style produced. Picking time and winemakers’ inputs also play a big role, along with clonal selection for the vineyards.

To keep the locals honest, I put a bottle of the Coldstream Hills Chardonnay into the tasting (Yarra Valley). This is a cracking wine and, at $25 on special from Vintage Cellars, represents very good value.

It was the wines of Howard Park and Singlefile that flew the flag admirably for the locals. This is the first time that I have seen both wineries’ new flagships


Howard Park – Chardonnay – Allingham – 2013 (18.5+). Cashew nut, lemon zest, grapefruit and spice, with complexity and structure from the fine-grained high quality oak. Fine acidity adds to the mouth-feel. The underlying power of the wine becomes apparent with air. This is a lovely, refined wine, with great depth of fruit and supple texture. A superb drink now or in 5+ years. (RRP $89).

Singlefile – Chardonnay – Family Reserve – 2014 (18/18.5). Complex, though subtle worked characters here. Minerals/curry leaf, partial malo, lees contact and quality oak all add to the package. The flavour profile matches the nose, with stonefruit, pineapple and citrus notes. Long and quite restrained, with nutty characters and apricot kernel astringency to close. An excellent wine that will be even better in 5 years. (RRP $50).

Singlefile – Chardonnay – The Vivienne – 2012 (18/18.5). A leaner, more restrained style that appears somewhat immature at this stage. Full of potential, the taut grapefruit and melon notes are the main flavours now. With air, the texture and lovely mouth-feel really shine, aided by deftly handled oak leading on to a very long, drying palate. Give it 5 years to see it at its best. (RRP $80).

Howard Park – Chardonnay – 2014 (18.3). Restrained and fine, though the high quality fruit and winemaking is evident. Pineapple like acidity carries the finish. Modern and lively, this is another wine that needs a few years to come into its own. That said, the balance and structure are exemplary. A complex, mouth-watering wine that needs time. (RRP $54).

Coldstream Hills – Chardonnay – 2013 (18). Youthful, almost zesty fruit gives way to complex fruit characters. The high quality oak adds depth and texture, yet is in no-way overt. Long and taut, this has excellent presence and mouth-feel, with drying acidity to close. A fine wine that will be best in 2 – 3 years, or with food now.

Marchand and Burch – Chardonnay – Porongurup – 2014 (18 – 18.5). This is a richly textured wine with great depth of fruit. Opens with lovely pineapple and stonefruit characters. The palate is very long, with savoury complexity and minerals becoming apparent on the finish. This is a very powerful wine that will be at its best in 3 – 5 years. (RRP $73).

Reviewed by Barry Weinman

Sittella Winery

New meets Old

May 2015

Sittella, situated in the Swan Valley on the outskirts of Perth, is owned and run by the Berns family. The winery was built in 1997, with the cellar door and restaurant opening the following year.

Fruit is primarily sourced from the family’s vineyards in the Swan Valley and Margaret River, supplemented by purchased fruit from these regions as well as Frankland.

Senior winemaker Colby Quirk is ably assisted by the next generation of the Berns family – Yuri. The focus here is clearly on quality. 40% of production is sparkling wine, with the sparkling Chenin Blanc being the winery’s largest volume wine.

The quality focus is not only in the vineyard, but also in the winery. The sparkling wines are made in the traditional method (secondary fermentation in bottle), and are fairly dry in style (all under 10gm/l residual sugar). All fermentation tanks are refrigerated and the winery has gyro-pallets installed to assist with the riddling of the sparkling wines prior to disgorgement (they are one of only a few facilities in WA that are able to produce quality sparkling wines in quantity).

Whilst the focus is on the sparkling wines, it is the Chardonnays that shone in this tasting. That said, their yet to be released Coffee Rock Shiraz from 2013 was the most interesting wine that I tried. Whilst different in style to Faber’s Shiraz for example, it is an excellent illustration of what the Swan Valley can do with this most versatile variety.


Sittella – Chenin Blanc – NV (NR). Made entirely from Swan Valley fruit, even the entry level offering has low dosage (less than 10g/l of residual sugar) and is made in the traditional method. It is the vibrant, floral fruit that is the feature here. Great Sunday afternoon wine. (RRP $24).

Sittella – Chardonnay – Blanc de Blanc – NV (17-17.5). Refined and elegant nose, with white peach and nectarine. The palate is dry and restrained, with the taut chardonnay fruit coming to the fore, with lemon-like acidity to close. Long and fine, this is a serious effort. Fruit from Pemberton. (RRP $29).

Sittella – Chardonnay – Reserve – Wilyabrup – 2014 (18+). Melon, peach and grapefruit on the nose, with supple oak. Powerful, complex and worked, yet refined and with a degree of restraint on the finish. This is youthful and fresh, with lemony acid to close. Long and supple, but will be even better in a year or two. Not yet released.

Sittella – Chardonnay – Reserve – 2013 (18). Tighter and more refined than the 2014, but still with high quality fruit apparent. A modern iteration of Chardonnay, this needs a few years to open up and build. With air; flint, minerals, spice notes evolve. The taut oak is apparent, but in no way overt. The textural components build and are a highlight. Value for money. (RRP $29).

Sittella – Cabernet Sauvignon – Margaret River – 2011 (17.2). Decent concentration of fruit here, though it is in the cooler spectrum, with mint and herbal notes. The palate is chewy and dense, with fine tannins from the fruit and oak. The textured finish is a treat. Remarkably approachable now, but will live for years. (Available for under $12 from the cellar door!)

Sittella – Shiraz/Grenache/Tempranillo – 2014 (17.3). Fleshy, ripe and delicious, I like this. Decent fruit quality in a riper style. Long and mouth-filling, what this lacks in elegance, it makes up for in richness. Good balance to close. (RRP $18).

Sittella – Shiraz – Coffee Rock – 2013 (18). Chocolate, mint, spice and aniseed all vie for attention on the nose. The palate is balanced, textured, refined and very long. The tannins are polished and supple. Succulent fruit, but will live for years, courtesy of the acid balance. Good now, but will be even better in a few years. This comes from old vines, grown in coffee rock in the Swan Valley. Despite being 15.5% alc, this shows no signs of being hot in the mouth.

Chardonnay – March 2015

5th March 2015

The team at Deep Woods continues to produce cracking wines. This time it is the turn of the Reserve Chardonnay to shine.

Vasse Felix also continues to impress. Whilst I have reviewed it before, the 2013 Heytesbury continues to impress. This wine is nothing short of spectacular.

The bargain of the tasting is likely to be the Clairault. A fine wine that will be close to half the price of the others listed here.


Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – Heytesbury – 2013 (18.7). More depth and complexity than any other wine tasted here. Opens with delicious curry leaf aromas and minerality over fine, texturing oak and lees work. The palate is very long and extraordinarily fine. This is a richly textured wine with expensive, yet restrained oak. A superb wine that is good now or any time in the next 5 years. A bargain compared to anything out of France. (RRP $65).

Deep Woods – Chardonnay – Reserve – 2013 (18.5). This is in a more savoury style. Spice and Chablis-like minerality over lemon and peach characters that tend towards white nectarine. The palate has underlying depth and power. Very long and fine, yet viscous, intense and powerful. Great wine.

Marchand and Burch – Chardonnay – Porongorup – 2013 (18+). (RRP $75). A superb wine that has plenty of pineapple (Gin Gin clone) fruit. Long and supple, the palate is a textural treat. The oak has been really well handled, framing the fruit without dominating. Will flesh out with a year or two in bottle.

Clairault – Chardonnay – 2012 (18 – 18.5). Whilst this is a leaner style, there is excellent quality fruit and fine balance. This is a subtle wine that needs some attention to appreciate its finer qualities. The restraint and subtlety means that this is a wine for the enthusiast rather than an everyday quaff.

Forester Estate – February 2015

Reviewed: 16th February 2015

Forester is owned by the McKay family and was established in 2002 following the sale of the family’s previous winery – Abbey Vale. It is situated in the northern part of the Margaret River region of Western Australia.

What made the wines reviewed here stand out in blind tastings was that they offered such good drinking. These are made in a middle of the road/mainstream style that highlights the quality fruit and confers early drinkability.

The wines will also age well in the short to medium term.


Forester Estate – Chardonnay – 2013 (18 – 18.5). (RRP $37). With youthful fresh fruit and acidity, this is a wine of real potential. Lemon curd, nectarine and fine grained French oak all feature. Excellent fruit, in a minimalist style, with a textured, almost chewy finish. Great now, but will be even better with a year or two in the bottle.

Forester Estate – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 (18 – 18.5). (RRP $37). Ribena, mint and eucalypt (menthol) fruit on the nose. The fleshy blackcurrant fruit on the palate is complemented by fine tannins and supple oak. This is only medium bodied, allowing the fruit to shine. A lovely drink now or in 10 years.




Higher Plane – February 2015

Reviewed: 10th February 2015

Higher Plane was established in 1996 by Cathie and Craig Smith, with a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The vineyard is close planted (4000 vines per hectare).

In 2006, the winery and vineyards were purchased by Juniper Estate (established/owned by the Hill Family) and Mark Messenger assumed responsibility for wine making. In conjunction with Ianto Ward, who took over management of the vineyards in 2008, the wines have never looked better!


Higher Plane – Sauvignon Blanc – South By Southwest – 2014 (17). A decent wine that sits in the middle of the road, with gentle tropical fruit being the primary focus. A crowd pleasing style. (RRP $22).

Higher Plane – Sauvignon Blanc – Barrel Fermented – 2014 (17.5). This is a savoury, food friendly wine that has grassy notes with a touch of almond and stone fruit. The palate has a touch of viscosity and crisp, lemony acidity. The lees contact and barrel ferment characters add a lovely textural component and there is excellent length. Great value (RRP $25).

Higher Plane – Chardonnay – 2012 (18.5). Opens with tropical/pineapple fruit, leading on to stone fruit and melon aromas. The palate is long, fine and silky, with cashew nut and spice highlights. The texture and balance are a highlight. With high-quality fruit and oak, handled sympathetically in the winery, this is a complete wine and a lovely drink. (RRP $40).

Higher Plane – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – South By Southwest – 2011 (18). I like the way the high quality fruit and earthy notes combine into a complex, savoury package. There are hints of mocha, and the cedar-like oak complements the fruit, without dominating. The structure is a highlight, with chewy tannins to close. Bargain. (RRP $22).

Higher Plane – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2010 (18.5+). This is a very fine wine. The fruit is perfectly ripe, yet subtle and shy. The structure is fine and savoury, with silky oak and fine tannins cloaking the fruit at present. Excellent length and persistence.Patience is required though, as this requires several years for the structure to unwind and for the fruit to open up. Sophisticated and polished. (RRP $50).