Forrest wines still winners

FORREST Hill on Muirs Highway, Mount Baker is one of the pioneering vineyards of Western Australia. The Department of Agriculture commissioned a viticulturist from California called Harold Olmo, who was at the time something of a guru to, look into prospects of our Great Southern land as a wine producing area. Needless to say his report, although put in a filing cabinet for a number of years, recommended both the Frankland River area and Mount Baker.

In 1965 a site was selected at Forrest Hill near Mount Baker and officials from the Department of Agriculture wandered onto the Pearse family property. Bruce Pearse, whose parents farm it, told me that “in those days when the Department of Agriculture ventured onto your farm you would almost be stood on the porch with a shot gun draped over your shoulder in fear”. His parents were in a state of complete bewilderment when the gentleman from the department asked if they could lease some of there land to plant vines.

“I think my parents thought these blokes were stark raving mad, but other parts of the region were slowly starting to diversify farm practices, so they agreed, ” he said.

The first plantings didn’t fair all that well and were in fact replaced the following year, being 1967, the first crop being taken off in 1969. The fruit was for a number of years sold to Sandalford and it was during that time that the 1975 Riesling made by Dorham Mann went on to win a staggering number of gold medals and trophies. In 1976 the vineyard reverted back to the control of the Pearse family until 1989 when the Holmes a Court family purchased the property.

Tim Lyons has the property nestled firmly in his control through a series of unforeseen circumstances. Having already purchased a farming property adjacent to the Forrest Hill site, he was invited to grab a slice of the vineyard and having had his palate tempted purchased the property outright in 1998 under the auctioneer’s hammer.

Over the past couple of years, Tim, with plenty of advice from the Vasse Felix team which he continues a close association with, now has the old Pearse family property back to its original size and has expanded the area under vine to around 90 hectares.

Forrest Hill Riesling 2000 rrp $16.00 16/20

It is a shame that folks don’t embrace Riesling as enthusiastically as they do the more classic whites styles. C’est la vie, more for the purists.

Delightfully clear with a touch of a green tinge. The aromas are classically lime citrus. Diving into the glass you find a palate exploding with lime and mandarin flavours, a steel roundness with soft rounded acidity. I find a subtle attractive botyritis character within the wine, plenty of length and it’s is screaming to be drunk.

Forrest Hill Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2000 rrp $16.00 17/20

Pungent passionfruit and snowpea aromas together with a spicy herbaceous touch draw you to a palate that is has a lot of spunk. Occupied with zingy fruits, passionfriut and gooseberry flavours combine with a spiciness, the palate is full of flavour. This is a really well constructed wine that demands you to enjoy as an aperitif or with a warm autumn salad. It is a very approachable wine in a style that is almost uniquely West Australian.

Forrest Hill Chardonnay rrp $16.00 19/20

This is a sensational wine, and one of the best 2000 Chardonnays that I have tasted over recent times. It is packed full of flavour and is guaranteed to wow back those “oh no, not Chardonnay again” drinkers.

There is much to find in the aromas, pineapple, cashews, figs, and some citrus hints. Refined fruit floats round the palate, tight lemon and lime citrus with white peaches and nectarines and grapefruit all combine with a complementing acidity and oak handling, leaving a long and rewarding finish. I will be buying plenty of this. Drink now or over the next four or five years.

Forrest Hill Shiraz 1999

rrp $21.00 16.75/20

With only their second release of a shiraz under the Forrest Hill label you will get an indication of how good Shiraz can do in the Great Southern and where these guys are heading. Spicy Rhone Valley savory aromas that are fragrant with hints of licorice and a medicinal character lurking.

On the palate you find plenty of red berry fruits, with a spicy chervil herbal character.

The cedary oak links together with plumy flavours.

There is length of finish and a promise for short-term cellaring.

Forrest Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

rrp $21.00 17.5/20

I thought that the 1998 version was good, well come on down 1999. The Cabernet displays typical Cabernet aromas with tobacco leaf, cassis and blackcurrant. This palate has a kaleidoscope of flavour. A pool of jamey fruit, blackcurrants, mulberries and a hint of aniseed open up in the glass leaving you with little question but to go back for more. This would be one of the best value WA Cabernets in the market. It has rewards now and further rewards drinking it over the next five or six years. Delicious.

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