By Fergal Gleeson
Geographe is home to a diverse group of winemakers. A characteristic of the region is that most wineries are family owned and there’s a good chance you’ll meet the founders when you visit the cellar door.
Heading from north to south I’ve spoken to five winemakers about their stories.
Harvey River Estate
Kevin Sorgiovanni owns and operates two wineries in Western Australia’s south-west. Harvey River Estate in the Geographe region and Fishbone Wines in Margaret River. The Sorgiovanni family have a long history within the south-west’s agricultural industry.
In 1928 Kevin’s father, Giuseppe (Joe), emigrated from Italy and began farming on the banks of the Harvey River planting a large citrus orchard and later keeping sheep and cattle. Of course, like many of his fellow countrymen Joe made his own wines.
Growing up in the family business, Kevin’s childhood dream was to be a farmer. Kevin’s winery business evolved from vineyards into the Harvey River Estate label in 1999.
The first commercial vintage was produced in 2000 and the business went on to be awarded the Jimmy Watson award for its 2009 Joseph River Cabernet. They’ve since expanded into new markets including the UK and China.
“Our winery cellar door is in the middle of our orange orchards, and yes it does have a ‘Big Orange’ but I just love that we were able to develop our wine brand while retain our connection with the property and with my father in this way”, said Kevin Sorgiovanni.
In 2018 Kevin opened a second cellar door in the main street of Harvey. The GeoVino wine store offers tasting flights paired with gourmet produce to enjoy on the premises.
Customers can select from a range gourmet cheeses, charcuterie and olives to enjoy with their wine flight. GeoVino staff plate up the produce and serve it alongside the wines.
St Aidans Wines
Phil and Mary Smith bought a plot of land that had citrus trees and vines for table grapes when they moved from Busselton to Ferguson. Phil is an anaesthetist but always loved wine. So in 1997 wine grapes were planted.
They wanted a name for the label that was representative of the area so St Aidan Wines was named after the iconic little multidenominational church that adjoins the vineyards. St Aidans had their first vintage in 2000.
Phil planted Muscat grapes, identified as suitable for the area because of the warmer climate, which find their way into a highly awarded ‘Solera’ Muscat, a Moscato and a dry Muscat. St Aidan’s were also one of the first to plant Tempranillo.
“The varietal has great potential in the area given the similarity of our climate to Rioja in Spain,” Phil tells me. St Aidans also hosts a Tempranillo tasting each year with 18 Tempranillos on tasting (6 each from Spain, Geographe and the rest of Australia.)
They’ve recently upgraded their dining offering with a menu that changes regularly focusing on local cheeses, meats and vegetables including some from their own garden.
Apart from regular trophy success for their Fortified Muscat, they have also won gold and ‘best in class’ for their 2015 Sparkling Chardonnay.
Mandalay Road Wines
Husband and wife Tony and Bernice O’Connell had a quiet country life in mind when they bought a little property in Geographe. Tony worked at the CSIRO and Bernice was at TAFE at the time.
They had plans for some home winemaking. On being advised that there was as much work in growing half an acre as 10 they scaled up their ambitions with their first vine plantings in 1997.
“Chardonnay and Cabernet do well here” Tony says. But Tony sees the future for Geographe in alternative varietals. “Durif is one of our best sellers. We are one of just four growers in Western Australia. It’s a highly respected grape in Rutherglen in Victoria and well suited to an inland region because of it’s late ripening style.”
Mandalay also do Zinfandel in a table wine, a desert wine and a port.
A peruse of their website shows that their wines are highly awarded from leading wine shows. Their tasting notes also show their easy going sense of humour. A key to Mandalay’s success is it’s location, deep in the valley of the South Preston River, which leads to long ripening times developing intense flavour.
Tony says that they are typically still harvesting two weeks after most of the rest of Geographe has finished their vintage. Their Cellar Door is open 7 days a week.
Concludes next week….
From Found Magazine