On the October 15th-16th weekend, I visited Margaret River specifically for the Fine Vines Festival and visit twelve 'Open Vineyards' that are not normally open to the public and have no cellar door.
This post covers Day 2. If you haven't already, I suggest that you first read my post "Margaret River Fine Vines Festival 2021 'Open Vineyards' - Introduction & Day 1", in which I covered: Brash Vineyard, Dawson Wines, Dirt Temple, Jilyara, Rosabrook and St John's Wine (St John's Brook).
DAY 2 - SUNDAY, 16 OCTOBER 2021
On Sunday, I visited the following locations, being the final six:
Corymbia - Calgardup Vineyard
Burnside Organic Farm
My summaries follow for each location visited. Each includes a 'Learn More' button, linking to further information about that location on the WineVine WA website. There are further links to the winery/vineyard sites from there.
Festival Description: "a new Australian winery created by first-time American winemaker, Will Berliner. Their 2010 Cloudburst Cabernet took the Australian wine world by storm, sweeping the 2013 Margaret River Wine Show with its inaugural vintage. Berliner notes that, ‘we do not use any chemicals. In the vineyard, we follow biodynamic practices, align our activities with celestial influences, and build viable, integrated, and biodiverse soils. Everything is done by hand with no machinery. In the winery, we use wild ferments and Stelvin closures, strictly limiting the use of sulphur and avoiding anything that diminishes the health and freshness of our wines’".
This was my first visit of the day and, thanks to Will Berliner's kindness, I managed to score an earlier start time of 9 am. Not only did this mean that I got Will's attention all to myself but it also made my day a little less rushed in my quest to complete all 12 'Open Vineyards' available on the weekend. Thanks Will!
Directions to the vineyard had arrived in an email from Will, which read as follows:
"Our "top secret" location is not numbered, there is no sign, and it does not show up on a map. To get here, go to ... The vineyard gate is 100 meters on the left. Pull in and park just inside the gate by the piles of canes".
Note, I've left the actual map location undisclosed at this stage, remaining "top secret" ;-)
You can see the 'piles of canes' just inside the gate to the left, shown in one of the photos above, which is where I met Will before being directed to drive into the vineyard propper. This was the most 'raw' experience of the weekend; no fancy setups, or anything, just Will and I having a great chat about the vineyard, the wines and our respective wine business ventures.
The wineglass you can see 'posing' in the photos held a nice Chardonnay. The vines behind it are Chardonnay, upon which the grapes that went into that wine grew. It was a little cold when poured, but some warming of the glass with the palms of my hands soon fixed that, allowing the wine to express itself properly. The two other wines were a 100% Malbec, and a Cabernet Sauvignon containing 3% Malbec.
My Pick: 2018 Malbec.
Corymbia - Calgardup Vineyard
Festival Description: "born from over 110 years of Western Australian grape growing and winemaking experience. The wines are made by the team from vineyards they own and farm from dirt to bottle in the Swan Valley & Margaret River.
The wines are made from dry grown, organically farmed grapes from single vineyard sites, offering the purest expression of fruit and a clear sense of place. They’re throwing open their farm gates over the Open Vineyards weekend so you can hit the road, meet the winemakers and taste the gorgeous wines against the backdrop of a unique and beautiful Calgardup Vineyard".
Arriving at the 'expedition campsite' (ha! ha!) put a smile on my face before I even left my car. It was a wonderfully refreshing setup with a tarpaulin-style tent and seating provided on bales of hay or canvas chairs. I was having fun and I hadn't even gotten close to drinking the wine yet! My vote for the 'most quirky setup' of the festival (if there was such a competition).
The tent was manned (pun intended) by Genevieve, who is the wife of Rob Mann, the sixth generation winemaker in the family and grandson of Jack Mann (1906-1989). Genevieve is also a winemaker of significant experience. You might know that Jack Mann was famous as the creator of Houghton's White Burgandy in the Swan Valley, 1937. In addition to the Calgardup Vineyard, Corymbia has Rocket's Vineyard in the Swan Valley, also open by appointment only.
Now, unfortunately, the Cabernet Sauvignon was not available by this stage - all sold out, there's a pity. That left the Chenin Blanc and the Tempranillo Malbec. I would have guessed the Tempranillo Malbec - 54% and 46% respectively - would be my first preference and, although nice, my choice was the Chenin Blanc. I love it when I prefer the cheaper wine!
Interestingly, the Tempranillo Malbec winemaking process has included the grapes going through 'carbonic maceration' before normal fermentation, a technique understood to have been invented in the Beaujolais region of France. In essence, this requires a combination of intact berries, together with an environment rich in carbon dioxide and low in oxygen, whereby the berries start to ferment and start to produce alcohol from the inside, before bursting to release their juices at around 2% alcohol. It's a process suited to the production of lighter, fresher wine styles.
My Pick: 2020 Chenin Blanc.
Burnside Organic Farm
Festival Description: "planted 20 years ago by the McCall family. Certified Biodynamic in the vineyard and winery with Demeter for over 17 years. Join winemaker Lara McCall and Viticulturist Jamie McCall as they show you through their biodynamic wines, a true paddock to glass experience. Varieties planted include Zinfandel and Vermentino. All grapes are hand-picked, the wine made onsite, wild fermented with minimal sulphur added"
I was lucky enough to get Lara's full attention, while a group of people were doing one of the tours available on the day. You can just see them in the photo with the tractor above.
A small and alternative set of wines are produced under Lara's direction; Zinfandel, Vermentino and a Pétillant Naturel (Pet Nat: Vermentino), not the most typical varieties of the Margaret River wine region, particularly with no Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay on offer, but these alternatives all seem to be increasing in popularity throughout the region and elsewhere in the state.
Lara and Jamie planted the grapes in 2001. They handpick and make the wine onsite and the wines are all organically certified. Geese and sheep graze the grass in the vineyard and fertilise it naturally. Not only that, but the family are self-sufficient in meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit and honey as well!
My Pick: 2018 Reserve Zinfandel.
Festival Description: "a small urban winery that collects fruit from organic family-run vineyards throughout the region. All the wines are hand-crafted & naturally made, some of our favourites are their Pet Nats, Orange Wine and Rosé. Dormilona invites you to their little house for a weekend of wine tasting and eating... This experience will ensure pouring some wines that exhibit vintage & season into the glass direct from the winemaker herself, Josephine Perry. Plus, taste wine directly from barrel, amphora & cement eggs".
On the outskirts of Margaret River township, in a light industrial area, sits this white building with its pots of cacti and sporting Dormilona's unmistakable 'Lazy Bones' skull and crossbones logo. Josephine (Jo) Perry, owner and Winemaker, was awarded the Riedel Young Gun of Wine for Australia in 2016.
I'd have to say that this was the busiest of all the places I visited throughout the weekend. Apart from the fact that there was a food van on site, and that it was so close to town, it was also one of the most interesting because of its differences inside the building.
For wine production, this included a couple of giant concrete eggs and, on the opposite side of the dividing wall, a set of terracotta amphorae; both being alternative types of vessels used for the fermentation and maceration of grapes. There was also a manual bottle labelling station, which just added further to the eclectic ambience of the place.
For a small operation there sure is quite a list of wine varieties on offer here - there are 23 listed on their website! A couple of the 'white' wines caught my eye as they appeared orange in colour, both the Orenji (Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc) and the Skinnie (Sauvignon Blanc). These have picked up colour from being macerated, rested on their skins, for extended periods.
My Pick: 2020 Cabernet (100% Cabernet Sauvignon).
Festival Description: "a natural and minimalist intervention vineyard handcrafting a single vineyard Malbec and Bordeaux Blend, the latter being predominately Cabernet Sauvignon with varying amounts of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Wayne and Jill’s boutique, two-hectare vineyard was established in 2009 right near Yallingup. Natural and minimalist intervention practices are employed to ensure overall wine excellence and a sustainable vineyard. Their emphasis is on quality not quantity, hence only limited case numbers are produced each year. It’s time to ensure that one is yours".
Wayne & Jill McGriskin purchased the property in 2001 and, having established the vineyard was in 2009, they took up residence there in 2011. As I drove up to the property, it felt very much like a modern semi-rural residential estate but the almost 'manicured' appearance of the vines left no mistake that I was in the right place.
A makeshift cellar door had been set up at the front of the garage to their house. Everything was neat and tidy and the family was there to greet visitors in their matching Stonegaze shirts. One had a sense of fastidious attention to detail here.
Josephine (Jo) Perry, of Dormilona (see above), is the contract winemaker. Only two wines are produced; the Cabernet blend and the Malbec, which are named after two grandchildren of the owners, “Isabella” and “Noah” respectively.
In the photos above, you will see there are three bottles. The two on the right are both 2017 "Isabella", with the one on the left being an earlier vintage - 2016 "Isabella" under the previous "Stonegate" rather than the "Stonegaze" label. The name had to be changed from Stonegate due to a legal name dispute. There was, unfortunately, no Malbec available for tasting, as it had sold out.
My Pick: 2017 Cabernet blend (77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot).
Festival Description: "speaks of character; of people, love & family across generations and continents; that have led to this moment in history, this terroir, this vineyard; and of capturing this glory in a bottle. Trait Wines is a modern take on the traditional. It is rogue only in its convictions & bold belief in the vineyard. In all other aspects it respects the old world of wine, the old guard of wine, and aspires to tread the same hallowed halls. Their fruit is sourced from a 2.7 hectare vineyard mere kilometres from Margaret Rivers town centre in the south-west corner of Western Australia. Trait Wines is a cross-continental love story, leading two people to salvage an extraordinary old vineyard in Margaret River. It’s a story of perseverance, fortitude, and family. Theo and Clare invite to experience the magic of their vineyard and hear their story over this special weekend during Fine Vines".
The visit to Trait Wines literally required driving through paddocks and vines to reach a small open shed in a far corner of the vineyard. You'll see a "Nearly There" sign in one of the photos above, encouraging me with the confidence that I was not lost, which I was grateful for.
Both Theo and his wife Clare were there to greet me at the shed. Theo Truyts (pronounced ‘traits’) is the viticulturist and winemaker, and he and Clare have managed the property since 2019, having acquired it from Pierro, and having previously worked for Pierro in this vineyard some years earlier.
Due to the close planting of rows and lowering yields due to vine age, the vineyard had become difficult and unprofitable for Pierro, Theo told me. The use of machinery is not possible and requires a hands-on approach throughout the vineyard.
This white wine vineyard, with its plantings of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, was originally planted in 1988. Theo grafted in Chardonnay. The white wines available include a Field Blend, which is a combination of all the white varieties grown on the property. Trait Wines also offer a Grenache (red wine), but this is made from fruit grown in Ferguson Valley, part of the Geographe wine region.
My Pick: 2020 Chardonnay - Also my pick of the 'Open Vineyards' weekend!
So that's the Fine Vines Festival 'Open Vineyards' done. All twelve locations covered and I'm looking forward to seeing what's on offer at the festival next year. Cheers!