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Australia’s Wild West

Western Australia’s pioneering spirit is alive and well in its wine regions, which seem capable of turning almost any grape variety into gold.

Joe Czerwinski
Wine Enthusiast
Aug 6, 2013

A frown flickers across the face of hunter smith as we near the interchange. Despite recent advice to the contrary, it’s apparent that the highway from Margaret River to Frankland River is closed for roadwork. Without missing a beat, Smith—part of the family that owns Frankland Estate winery—swings his bulky Holden Colorado SUV onto the partially paved secondary road that we’ll follow instead.

At times a single dirt track, it widens as we approach hillocks so we can move left and avoid oncoming traffic. There isn’t any. We bounce along, taking care not to drop too much of our “brekkie burgers”—scrambled eggs, thickly sliced bacon and barbecue sauce—in our laps. Outside the car, vast open spaces and scrublands scarred by bushfires zip past, along with the occasional bodies of unfortunate marsupials. Behind us, a reddish haze of kickedup dirt traces our path. Far from the country’s teeming mining regions and the coast’s bustling cosmopolitan cities, this is a very different Australia.

Here, in the southwestern corner of Western Australia, although vines were planted by some of the original settlers in the mid 19th century, grape growing and winemaking are uncommon and relatively recent pursuits, born of a few prescient individuals’ vision and nurtured by the backbreaking labor of others.

93pts   Cullen 2010 Kevin John Chardonnay (Margaret River)
One of Australia’s leading Chardonnays, this is wonderfully mouthfilling and fleshy, yet remains cool and
sophisticated. Buttery, toasty and nutty notes accent grilled peach and pineapple flavors, all pulled together on the
finish by a refreshing squeeze of lime-driven citrus.

93pts   Leeuwin Estate 2009 Art Series Chardonnay (Margaret River)
Leeuwin’s 2009 is a worthy successor to the flamboyant 2008. While perhaps just a touch more restrained in aroma
and flavor despite being higher in alcohol, it still shows off flashy notes of grilled peach and pineapple. As always,
it’s full bodied and luscious without being overblown, and has a lingering finish.

91pts   Plantagenet 2010 Chardonnay (Mount Barker)
Plushly styled. Editors’ Choice.

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