The Constellation outpost in the Margaret River sure is set on some beautiful grounds. The whole area is surrounded by a mini-forest, with nature walk, footbridge and a pretty creek which runs right along the side of the tasting room.
The most noticeable aspect of the tasting room was the significant amount of glassware available to purchase. There is literally thousands of dollars worth of glassware set up on flimsy shelves along one wall of the Brookland Valley cellar door. It seemed to me if a busloads of drunks rocked up with one particular, stumbling paro, they could be in for some trouble. Obviously it hasn't happened yet as the glassware is still there.
We were served by a young woman on the day, who was recommended to us by another cellar door hand. She was very well versed in her Brookland Valley range, but it was apparent her heart wasn't in it on this day. Her mood seemed a bit down and her charisma was lacking, not to mention she kept staring off into the distance while talking to us.
It surprised me to hear she believed being named James Halliday's Winery of the Year had little effect on their popularity. From what I've seen Brookland Valley's marketing team has certainly tried to drive home this fact, as numerous of their bottles now state it on their neck. I don't remember Balnaves doing that. Also, on their website, the words 'James Halliday's Winery of the Year' appear an amazing 5 times on the opening page alone. If what she said is true, then maybe the assertive Halliday inspired marketing strategy had gone to waste. She also told me working for Constellation is fantastic.
Surprisingly, all the Verse 1 wines, which I regularly enjoy, disappointed me. This range compromised of a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon and 2007 Chardonnay, as well as 2007 releases of Shiraz and Cabernet Merlot. All these wines were fair and offered reasonable but not exceptional value. The chardonnay was probably the pick of the bunch. The sav blanc/sem was nice but uninspiring, whilst the two reds both seemed a little thin and green. I definitely didn't like the 2008 rose, which had suspiciously dirty, sweet edges.
Here are tasting notes for the better, but unfortunately more expensive wines. For some reason I seem to of not taken notes for the 2006 Semillon. Mustn't have been too memorable.
Brookland Valley Chardonnay 2008 ($40)
Personally I was hoping the 2008 Verse 1 Chardonnay, which I've seen in stores, would be available for tasting. No such luck though. Fortunately they had this very tasty, fruit forward Margaret River styled chardonnay with any indication of its oak treatment sitting happily in the background. It's very clean, fresh and youthful, making it a delight to drink. 92
Brookland Valley Merlot 2002 ($38)
Developed, savoury and earthy characters. Even, settled palate, but it lacks excitement and life, whilst looking a little tired. 87
Brookland Valley Cabernet Merlot 2004 ($40)
Another fantastic Margaret River cabernet from this vintage. Black fruit, licorice, toasty cedar oak, light spice and faint herbal aromas show good intensity and lift. Elegant, truly regional palate with seamless balance, evenly ripened dark fruit flavours and a savoury finish framed by dusty tannins and emerging cedar oak. 93
Brookland Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($70)
Admittedly it was very nice of Emma to crack this for us, which isn't actually on the tasting list. It contains a deep nose with some developing barnyard characters evident. Its similarly mature palate reveals smooth texture and good polish, with ample drive and length. Very good but aging quickly for this price point, which probably makes it appear nicer now. 92