For a winery I consider to be among the top three highest profile producers in the Margaret River, not to mention its ownership under the prestigious Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy group, Cape Mentelle really has an unassuming cellar door. It's completely devoid of a fancy restaurant, art gallery, manicured garden or oversized souvenir shop, but does put forth all that is required. Wine that is; or in this case, excellent wine.
The tastings were poured by a lady with a European accent. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get her name, but she was certainly one of the most knowledgeable cellar door hands I encountered in the Margaret River. After all, her husband is a winemaker. She knew her wines well and managed to answer my large array of questions without having to consult winery tasting notes or technical data. There's definitely something to respect about that. We exchanged wine stories together with growing ease as the tasting progressed, something she didn't accomplish with the older couple who arrived, asked to taste the shiraz, then left.
Cape Mentelle is one of the few big names in the Margaret River happy to experiment with varieties which aren't considered regional staples. With the results they've achieved thus far, it's a wonder more haven't followed suit. Their lightly oaked wines made from white Rhone varieties proved very interesting, and whilst the Marmaduke blend of red Rhone varieties may not be an exceptional drink, it provides smooth, fruit forward, easy drinking qualities which would make it an ideal Margaret River BBQ red. The sangiovese however, left a little to be desired.
Of the better known Cape Mentelle wines there were numerous highlights. 2007 delivered another exceptional Cape Mentelle Chardonnay, which after several superb vintages is now this producer's best wine in my opinion. I happily bought a few bottles for later consumption.
In fact the other highlights were from 2007 as well. The Trinders Cabernet Merlot from that year is the exceptional, underpriced wine it should be. Easily the best since 2004.
The real, or perhaps more surprising standout here though was the 2007 Shiraz. I normally associate Cape Mentelle with being one of the Margaret River's best makers of shiraz, but the 2007 really excelled where other previous vintages have just fallen short. It's the best Cape Mentelle Shiraz I've had. Along with Leeuwin Estate's Art Series from the same vintage, it appears 2007 could deliver a bag of brilliant Margaret River shiraz. I'm keeping an eager eye out for Voyager Estate's in particular......
The white wines here happily reflect a house style. Clean, gently flavoured wines with the emphasis on restrained, savoury fruit quality and complex texture. Good stuff all round.
Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 ($25)
5% oak. Ripe, pungent, rather forward and keenly textured style. Just lacks the acidic drive of the best vintages. 90
Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007 ($35)
Spent a whopping 15 months in oak. I asked the cellar door hand if it was the most oaked sav blanc/sem in Australia and if it wasn't who's was, but she kept avoiding my question. For reasons unknown to me she kept telling me how Australian chardonnay was usually more oaked than sav blanc/sems, which I already knew and didn't answer my question. Once again the wine is fairly rounded, with the focus mostly on a divine textural experience. Its varietal fruit is expressed in a more restrained, savoury mould. It's a very good, complex white wine, but like the standard release just seemed to lack brilliant drive and fresh, natural acidity, which might've been swallowed up by its very generous oak treatment. 92
Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2007 ($41)
Beautiful, ripe, peachy chardonnay fruit aromas jump out the glass towards you with finely tuned nuances of grilled nuts and toasty vanilla/cedar oak. Its clean, elegant palate shows excellent balance and restraint of its understated fruit/oak flavour. Everything is perfectly in place here though. It's just waiting to develop more richness and complexity throughout its delightfully textured, long palate with medium term aging. This wine's performing almost as well as the region's best now, but at a fraction of the price. 95
Cape Mentelle Marsanne Roussanne 2006 ($30?)
4 months oak. Once again a nice, clean, evenly balanced and texturally driven wine, with pleasing notes of lemon citrus, nuts and light stonefruit. 90
Cape Mentelle Viognier 2008 ($30?)
4 months oak. Classic varietal dried apricot/orange blossom characters travel along a smoothly textured, yet slightly plump palate. Is devoid of undesirable viognier oiliness or phenolics. 90
Cape Mentelle Marmaduke 2007 ($25?)
Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre. Bright and vibrant, early drinking style with vivid, juicy, almost confectionary red fruits ala Barossa. Not a lot of structure but who cares? 88
Cape Mentelle Sangiovese 2007 ($25?)
Savoury, thinly veiled aromas with tea leaf and herb precedes a palate which lacks flavour definition or interest. 85
Cape Mentelle Trinders Cabernet Merlot 2007 ($25?)
Vibrant, dusted blackcurrant and smoky cedar notes with hints of herb. Medium-bodied palate is offset by fine, prickly tannins. Shows good harmony, structure and regional character. A welcome return to form for what should be one of the region's best value reds. 92
Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2007 ($37?)
Pronounced black pepper to plum and redcurrant fruits. Very nice, even, truly elegant Margaret River shiraz with beautifully understated character. Is one of those wines which is as much about what it doesn't say, as does. Top regional example. 94
Cape Mentelle Zinfandel 2007 ($41?)
Licorice/aniseed and black pepper highlight its aroma, which has more red accents to its black fruit than expected. Palate drives hard and fast, with very powerful tannins and imposing structure, but perhaps lacks the depth or length of fruit required for a wine of its magnitude. Not one of Cape Mentelle's better zinfandels. 89
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($84)
Savoury, red/black berry aromas with fine cedar oak and earthy notes. Palate shows good concentration and richness initially, but does reveal some rawness towards a finish marked by drying tannins and lingering notes of tobacco. Good, but not exceptional wine. 91
Cape Mentelle Botrytis Viognier 2008 ($35)
Floral, perfumed, musky nose with more lemon/citrus marmalade aromas than stonefruit. Luscious, rich palate has great depth of fruit and persistent flavour. Along with Yalumba's Botrytis Viognier from Wrattonbully, I'm starting to fall for this style. 90