CLAIRAULT is a new experience and worth a visit the next time that you head down south.In July 1999, the Martin family bought Clairault wines from the Lewis’s who had planted the original vines in 1976.Over a coffee in the completely refurbished restaurant and cellar door facilities, Bill Martin outlined the ‘Clairault Experience’. He said he had been coming down to Margaret River over the past 20-something years and had always had one eye open for an opportunity to purchase a winery. He had always had a love affair with not only wine, but with Margaret River, so Cape Clairault was a chance he couldn’t resist.Giving up his home and successful career in Ireland, Bill left determined to some day own his own business. After working in a trading company which became Seagrams in the late 1970s (a time when Ben Ean was top of the pops) he left to create the very successful Garlic Bread venture, the first commercial venture to put such produce on supermarket shelves. It realised his dream of owing his own business.Bill has sold that business but retains a similar US operation.Clairault is a driving focus for Bill and his family, who are involved in the running of the business. His wife Ena can be found proudly showing wines to cellar door visitors, or helping out in the restaurant. His son Connor is responsible for the day to day running of the cellar door, Restaurant and function operations. Brian, another son, is the assistant viticulturist. Bill say’s that he ‘would like to follow with the philosophy that the Lewis family started with in 1976 to remain quite achievers with a reputation for quality above all else’.Clairault has undergone rapid expansion over the last couple of years. The vineyard has undergone a big redevelopment with new plantings, well under way with another 100 acres due for development over the next few months to enable the winery access to around 1000 tonnes of fruit within four or five years. A labyrinth of underground streams feed a huge dam that will become another feature of Clairault.Winemaker Peter Stark joined Clairault in 1994 after putting his previous career on hold and heading back to studying wine making. He has worked at Hougtons and Amberley before running his own consulting business and moving into the position at Clairault. Peter tells me that he loves the lifestyle involved with making wine. Where else can you be on a tractor in the morning and be in a Black Tie presenting your product in the evening.Much of the Clairault vision revolves around the lifestyle of food and wine. Peter makes wines that display well when matched with food. He explores the spectrum of flavours available to him as he puts together the wines in the portfolio and, in doing so, has fostered a range that is a life style, drinking wine with food.So what this Swagman’s Kiss all about? It is a serious wine with a label that is pretty out there. What does it represent? The fact that everyone at Clairault tells the swagman story differently adds a little mystique to the label. What is evident is that that the new line is not a second label, it is simply another label by Clairault. Over time Peter reckons it will grow to include single varieties as quality dictates. The Kiss legend refers to the days of drovers and swagman who used to camp at Gunyulgup creek which runs through Clairault. The cool water was ‘sensual and satisfying as a kiss’. I am thinking that these blokes spent to much time on their own.Swagman’s Kiss Premium White 2000rrp $17.00Blended using Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and a touch of Chardonnay, the Swagman’s white shows typical Margaret River grassy herbaceous aromas with just a hint of some stone fruit aromas. The palate is alive with fruit and displays rounded acidity with a fresh zingy finish. Sit back and enjoy!Clairault Sauvignon Blanc 2000 rrp $22.00Not a typical Western Australian Sauvignon Blanc, this wine shows more of the French Loire style with flinty, mineral and restrained grassy, citrus aroams. While the flavour spectrum on the palate is refined and shows finesse. Lemon citrus flavours with an almond essence and balanced acidity that sneaks up on you, and wine finishes with plenty of length and flavour.Clairault Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2000rrp $22.00Winemaker Peter Stark uses a host of different techniques when putting this wine together. From partial barrel fermentation and extended lees contact through to picking the varieties at different beaume levels.Aromas hinted around the citrus lemon-lime spectrum with a snowpea fringe and a little restraint. The textured palate shows a refinement and structure with plenty to look for. You will find this an excellent wine to enjoy with food.Swagman’s Kiss Premium Red 1999 rrp $19.00More lip smacking delightful ripe fruit flavour in this Bordeaux blend offeringAn abundance of plum, blackcurrant, cassis and a grind of coffee aromas tend to pull you into this serious offering from Clairault. The fruit weight that sits on the palate will immediately grab your attention. It is full of blackberries and plums with a slight prune and chervil edge, tannins integrate with the acidity and while still remaining food focused there is still plenty to find whilst your waiting to serve the rack of lamb.Clairault Cabernet Merlot 1999 rrp $25.00Fantastic ! What benefit you can get from access to older vines. This vintage has been put together using 78 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 22 per cent Merlot with about 50 per cent of the wine seeing new French oak. Distinctive perfumed aroams, plums, chocolate, prune and a medicinal hint. A rich yet sublet palate shows structure and refinement of flavour that while shows very well now will come together gracefully over the next couple of years.Clairault 1998 rrp $48.00 not yet released18/20 pointsPeter Stark explains that this wine is made to a style not a receipt, components are added according to flavour and complexity and vary from vintage to vintage. The first of the reserve wines were made in 1993 as the flag ship wine of Clairault using only outstanding parcel’s of estate fruit.The reserve shows layers of complex aromas, plums, prunes, and brambles with savory medicinal and oak hints. While still in its infancy the palate is full of lush fruits that show restraint and refinement, the tannins and acidity integrate with the fruit. While the excellent use of oak although sitting up in the front seat now will evolve evenly through the wine over the next few years, seeing this wine drinking well into later half of this decade. Expect to hear more about this wine!Tasty times at valley festivalIF you haven’t tasted the fine cuisine on offer at the Tastes of the Valley festival then be sure to head down this weekend.If one night is all your schedule will allow for, try a gourmart event that combines food, wine and art into one.This Friday, the Olive Farm is the host, featuring wine from Olive Farm, Swanbrook Estate and Upper Reach Vineyard and Winery.Award winning Swan Valley ceramics artist Anne Rowe will be presenting her artworks and head chef Mark Sayers will be creating an exquisite six-course meal.n n nWhen tasting the food at the valley be sure to find out all about the wines too, so you can win the “Match My Food” competition at the Globe Wine Bar and Restaurant.The Globe has thrown out the challenge to all would-be wine connoisseurs to bring along wines that match Cheong Liew’s four-course meal perfectly.A panel of judges will select the best wine match for each course, and in the spirit of competition, prizes will be awardedThe evening will take place on May 4 at 7pm.n n nWine promotion is the order of the day from the Great Southern Development Commission, which has injected $5,000 towards promoting the region’s wine.The Great Southern Wine Producers Association is developing a guide to wine and food in the region, which is aimed at encouraging visitors to experience the quality of food and wine first hand.A total of 40,000 copies of the guide will be produced by mid-year.n n nThe Hotel Grand Chancellor is running a special promotion to target conference bookings offering a free night’s accommodation to any person who books three or more functions with the hotel before August 31.If you only need to book the one function they are also running a promotional offer which gives you a choice of a free bonus (either free post function drinks and nibbles, a complimentary dinner for two at Seasons on Wellington or tea and coffee on arrival to the function). This promotion is also valid until August 31.
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