Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Everything about the Leeuwin Estate winery states grandeur and lavish extravagance. It's set on massive grounds complete with pond, field and beautiful gardens.

Attached to the cellar door is a majestic restaurant which obviously attracts high end clientele, whilst an impressive art gallery resides beneath. The gallery houses original paintings by some of Australia's best artists, whose work has appeared on Leeuwin Estate's gorgeous wine labels.

It's little wonder busloads of tourists regularly visit Leeuwin Estate, arguably the Margaret River's most visited cellar door. There's just so much going on for both the veteran wine drinker, and the tourist who doesn't even care about wine. Would you believe I have a friend who's heard about Leeuwin Estate as a restaurant and music venue, yet didn't realise they made wine?

Kerry hosted us at the cellar door on our visit and she was great. It was busy but steady, which allowed Kerry to pay adequate attention to us. In all honesty Kerry was probably in the top 2 cellar door hands I encountered in the Margaret River. She was polite, friendly and just dying to talk. Best of all she could sense when she had a serious wine drinker on her hands and treated me accordingly.

After a good chat Kerry was only too happy to bypass the $2.20 tasting fee for both the Art Series Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon for both myself and Beck. On top of this she pulled out a back vintage of Art Series Sauvignon Blanc for us, as well as giving us a bonus tasting of a 2000 Art Series Chardonnay. Good on you Kerry!

To top matters off she gave me a free 2009 WineArk poster of Australia's most collectable wines. Generosity like this at cellar doors is much appreciated and puts customers in a chirpier, happier mood, hence making them more likely to purchase. It's little wonder we walked away with nearly $200 worth of their products.

Maybe I was a little won over by the romance and friendly greeting but Leeuwin's current range looked great to me. With the exception of the commendable riesling and cabernet sauvignon the Art Series wines are performing spectacularly, close to all time bests even. The Prelude Chardonnay and Siblings white blend continue to provide brilliant value, their present incarnations especially. I didn't find the Sparkling Brut or 2008 Art Series Riesling to be terribly interesting, which is why I didn't get tasting notes for them.

Leeuwin Estate Siblings Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 ($21)
A wonderfully light, fresh and easy drinking quaffing style with great balance. I'd hate to use another cliche but this is just perfect for summer drinking. $21 is a bit overpriced though it should be readily available for around $15, at which cost it's a bargain. 90

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($28.50)
Clean, restrained, sweaty nose of gooseberry and lemon. Palate has great drive and thrust with zippy acids. Brilliant Aussie savvy. 93

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($?)
Belies its age with clear colour and great freshness. Looks almost identical to the 2008 wine. Once again a beautifully clean, racy palate with zingy acids. Could go another year with ease. Picking a preference between this and the 08 isn't easy. 93

Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2007 ($31)
Spent 8 months in oak compared to the current Art Series Chardonnay which spent 12 months. Still shows elements of raw, cedar/vanilla oak on nose, but its palate has great length of fruit and truly persistent flavour. (full review soon) 91

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2006 ($82.50)
Utterly brilliant wine. Not much more I'll say here. Could be the best Art Series of the past 4 vintages, but honestly I've loved them all. (reviewed in separate post) 96

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2000 ($?)
I reviewed this wine nearly 3 years ago, the difference being the bottle I reviewed was sealed by cork but this one was screwcap. 3 years ago I thought this was a complex, oily and well developed chardonnay with ample richness to its toasted nut, cashew, fig, honey and vanilla flavour, but far from a brilliant Art Series. I gave it 93pts. Under screwcap it looks less developed in colour than the bottle I had 3 years ago, but had the same faults. Will probably last another 3-5 years under screwcap but I don't think this wine is getting any better. 93

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Shiraz 2007 ($36)
Now this was one of the real surprises of my entire trip. I've never really liked this wine much, but along with Cape Mentelle's 2007 (whose shiraz I do like on occasion) my set views on Margaret River shiraz are in evolution. The 2007 Art Series is beautifully elegant with carefully poised pepper, red berry and cedar/vanilla oak aromas. These characters transfer perfectly over to the palate, which is a deliciously medium-bodied and gentle Margaret River shiraz of understated quality, framed by good tannin structure and length. (full review soon) 93

Leeuwin Estate Prelude Cabernet Merlot 2004 ($27)
Lifted, minty cassis and vanilla aromas give way to a soft, easy drinking palate of approachable charm. Good little wine but if this was $20 it'd be much better. 90

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($53)
I haven't liked the last few releases of this wine much and although the 2004 is a step up, it's hardly the regional icon it once was. It contains a good integration of settled berry fruits, toasty cedar oak and softened, perhaps quick maturing tannins, but it hardly over delivers. Seems like the kind of wine that is hardly done justice by a 30ml sample mind you. You know; elegant, understated, impeccably balanced but with nothing glaringly brilliant. 90

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