A few weeks ago, just as I was packing our camper trailer to head off for the long weekend, I received a call from Gavin Berry, Winemaker/Owner of West Cape Howe Wines in Western Australia’s Great Southern region. He was in town and wanted to swing past to show his new vintages of his fantastic wines. It was stinking hot in the shed, I was covered in sweat, had just realised I had mistakenly rewired the trailer with five core instead of seven core, leading to me having to rewire the trailer again (rookie mistake apparently), nicked my hands on the sheet metal too many times to remember, may have been using a lot of “daddy words” that rhyme with ship and was ready to kick the nearest dog/cat/child.
I mention all of this to show what kind of a guy Gavin is.
He came to our house, and was never once put off by the fact that I was sitting there a brooding, sweating (and slightly bloodied) and having a bit of a sulk really. He could have walked away, he could have said I’ll just leave this here, instead he walked in and asked if I needed a hand…which I probably would have accepted if he wasn’t in a shirt and tie.
Gavin is the sort of guy that isn’t put off by hard work, and this trait has worked well for him in his career. With 25 years of winemaking under his belt, nearly ten of that being spent as Senior Winemaker at West Cape Howe, Gavin has shown that with drive and determination come success.
Wine making isn’t a career that you can you just sit back and have happen around you, wine doesn’t end up in the bottle by magic. You need to be out in the vineyard, watching those vines, back in the cellar creating, blending, tasting, back out in the vineyards directing teams and so on. It all starts in the vineyard and then moves along working its way into the bottle. It’s actually a really physical job, the amount of lifting that goes on is often overlooked, as is the cleaning and sanitation. The lack of sleep while the grapes are being picked and vintage created is another area often not thought about.
Luckily for us, when its all done and the winemaker shows off their trade, we don’t have to leave the comfort of our lounge chair to admire it.
West Cape Howe was founded in 1997 by Brendan and Kylie Smith. In 2004 Gavin was at another great WA winery, Plantagent, when the opportunity arose for him and some business partners to purchase the winery, named after a nearby coastal landmark. Fruit for the wines are sourced mainly from the two estate vineyards in Mount Barker and the Frankland River area. The Mount Barker “Langton Vineyard” was established in 1978, and with it West Cape Howe has access to some of the most prized and mature Riesling, Cabernet and Shiraz vines in WA.
The wines themselves vary in style from the fresh and fruity Cape to Cape range to the more focused Regional Range, and to their top tier Single Vineyard Series. One thing they do have in common though is that West Cape Howe wines are exceptional value for money across the entire range.
2011 West Cape Howe “Book Ends” Cabernet Sauvignon– This was my pick of the Single vineyard series. It was so deep and dark in colour, almost squid ink black. Ripe dark fruits leap out of the glass with touches of dark chocolate. On the tongue its got a great mouthfeel good drying tannins and a fantastic long finish. This is one of those wines that you could easily cuddle up to tonight, or be just as comfy in 6 years time with it when you pull it out of the cellar. RRP $30, much cheaper online, finding it locally is harder than doing Chinese arithmatic.
2014 West Cape Howe Riesling – from their regional range comes this fantastic zippy riesling that is more than likely going to be on my Christmas table beside the fresh fish and prawns! Its bursting with limes and touches of struck match. Its pure and long on the tongue with a fresh acidity. And that acidity will see this develop quite well in the bottle too over the next eight or so years. RRP $22 around $17 in the bottleshops.
2013 West Cape Howe Cabernet Merlot – more proof that even West Cape Howe’s entry level wines are exceptional value, comes this Cape to Cape range red that has knocked the socks off some of Australia’s leading wine writers. The 80/20 percent blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, gives a wine with liquorice and dark plums and cherries in there, with a soft long finish. I could bang on about winemaking skills, and soils and wine blending, but in the end all you need to know is that this is a great buy. RRP $17, around $15 online and in your local.