09/12/2003 - 21:00


09/12/2003 - 21:00


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While David Pike is yet to take up a long-standing invitation to visit senior winemaker Nicole Esdaile and the team at Capel Vale, this week he tastes through his back catalogue and looks at some of the work they’ve been doing.


WITH the business end of the season over and the festive season getting into full swing, I have battened down the hatches, put the car in the garage and am currently enjoying the ‘good life’. 

In between tending the recently planted vegetable patch and testing the temperature of the Leeuwin current I have been undertaking the onerous task of tasting through a backlog of samples. Not surprisingly, I have found some real treats.

Admittedly it has been quite a while since I have sat down and had a good taste through the wines coming out of Capel Vale.

Each time I catch up with senior winemaker Nicole Esdaile she reminds me that I have never visited the winery. She usually hands out a navigation lesson as well, pointing out that I pass the turnoff twice a week as I drive up to and back from Perth from my tranquil hideaway in Margaret River, but never turn in.

She’s right, of course, and it is a rather sizable oversight on my behalf, as these guys have released a number of beauties this year. And I am sure there are a few other things hidden away in the winery awaiting release, so I have promised myself I’ll make that turn-off and explore more of the wines from the dynamic duo of Nicole Esdaile and Rebecca Catlin.

Capel Vale 2001 Blue Mannor Cabernet Sauvignon rrp $28 18.5/20

Delightful varietal characters that display perfume, red berry and cassis aromas, with a note of chocolate mocha oak.

The palate shows elegant ripe fruit with dusty tannin and lively acidity. Ripe fruits flow across the palate with a touch of herbal complexity and moorish length.

Capel Vale CV 2003 Sauvignon Blanc rrp $16 17.5/20

This one’s fabulous value for money. Lively acidity with zingy intensity of fruit. Guava, gooseberry, and snow pea notes flow through this wine. Light the barbecue, whack on a marron or two and pour yourself a glass.

Capel Vale 2003 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon rrp $19 17.5/20

Showing aromas of passionfruit and snow peas, complemented with tropical citrus notes. This is another bargain. The palate displays loads of fruit weight and integrated acidity.

You’ll want to buy this by the six-pack and ensure there is always a bottle in the fridge.

Good things come  in threes

Earlier this year Capel Vale winemaker Nicole Esdaile released a trio of shiraz from the Whispering Hill vineyard in Mt Barker.

The vineyard, now about 30 years old, was established as four individual blocks. One of those blocks is a small 0.6ha site that provides the fruit for Capel Vale’s flagship wine, Kinnaird Reserve.

Each of the blocks has a slightly different aspect and ‘terroir’ – more commonly referred to as dirt – and the wines each display quite different characters and individuality. Apart from the tiny Pwakenback block, the other parcels of fruit end up in the Capel Vale shiraz.

How did the project come together? For a number of years Ms Esdaile has been impressed with the individual characters the vineyard has shown, and in 2002 decided to expose the virtues of these characters in three individual wines.

“The three shiraz were all machine harvested on the same day, and each displays a slightly different alcohol level,” she says.

“The winemaking for each was the same; all the batches were fermented in 20-tonne static fermenters – pumped over three times a day, all underwent malolatic fermentation in tank before being transferred into oak.

“Thirty per cent of this was new and predominately French, the wines were racked every three months and spent 12 months in oak before bottling.” 

1. Pwakenback (7.5ha): The name for this block was taken from a local Aboriginal place name. The block has coarse, gravely, free-draining soils, with large marble sized gravel running through it.

Another feature is that the vines run east-west on the Kinnaird site and produce, according to Ms Esdaile, much more intensity of flavour than the other blocks within the vineyard.

Capel Vale 2002 Pwakenback Shiraz (14 per cent alcohol)    

This wine displayed bright, perfumed spice with raspberry, bramble and plum aromas and an underlying earthy chocolate note. The palate showed dusty tannins, with integrated acidity. There is sweetness to the red fruits showing briary characters and a touch of tea leaf and clove spice. Finishes with persistence.

2. Middleton block (4.2ha): The block shares its name with the spectacular Middleton Beach in Albany. The soils running through this block are deep, sandy soils with fine gravel, which are similar to the soils around the coastal location of Middleton Beach. Although it’s the least free-draining of the three blocks, Ms Esdaile suggests Middleton produces the most delicate of the three shiraz.

Capel Vale 2002 Middleton Shiraz (13 per cent alcohol)

This displays lively spice aromas with cherry, damson and a liquorice note. Predominately red berry fruits are displayed through this wine, while tannins show a grippy/chalky like structure. There is a slight leafy note with earthy mineral elements and tobacco note on the finish. Shows restraint and subtle fruit structure.  

3. Whispering Hill (5.3ha): There is a group of rare Casuarina trees on the property and, when the wind gets a giddy-up you can hear the trees whispering. This is the oldest block, planted on a slight contour, with coarse small marbled gravel soils that are free draining.

The vines on this block are the lowest yielding on the property.

Capel Vale 2002 Whispering Hill Shiraz (13.5 per cent alcohol)           

Enticing damson, cherry and dark berry fruit aromas. Ripe plums coated in chocolate.

The palate shows an intensity of fruit ripe plums with an underlying red berry complexity. There is a savoury briary element to this wine, while dusty tannins combine with integrated acidity and oak.

It shows a chervil note across the back palate, and finishes with good intensity. 

The shiraz trio is available from the cellar door at a rrp of $100. Call 9727 1986.



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