06/09/2005 - 22:00

Lenton Brae’s quiet achiever

06/09/2005 - 22:00

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The wine judged the best at the 2005 Sheraton Wine Awards wouldn’t have been entered for the competition if its maker had gotten his way.

Lenton Brae’s quiet achiever

The wine judged the best at the 2005 Sheraton Wine Awards wouldn’t have been entered for the competition if its maker had gotten his way.

The issue wasn’t one of entry requirements, timing issues or logistical problems; it’s just that Lenton Brae winemaker Edward Tomlinson made the 2005 Sauvignon Blanc for cellar door sales.

He knew it was good, but there were just a few hundred cases made. The wine was never destined for wider commercial sale, but rather for the casual ambiance of the Lenton Brae tasting room.

But Mr Tomlinson’s mother and cofounder of the vineyard, Jeanette Tomlinson, said it was proving quite popular with customers coming in for tastings. And, on her advice, Mr Tomlinson decided to give it a run in one of the state’s most influential wine awards.

“Its quite funny but I only entered the wine because mum said it was going well,” Mr Tomlinson says.

And so it was that, from grass roots appeal, this very reasonably priced sauvignon blanc not only took gold in its varietal category, but received the Sheraton Perth Hotel Chairman’s Award for Best Individual Entry.

From 600 entries provided by 145 Western Australian wineries, Mr Tomlinson’s wine was a clear choice, the only wine to poll convincing scores from all judges.

Following the award win, however, Mr Tomlinson is busy revising supply negotiations, which will hopefully result in more of the wine entering metropolitan wine circles soon.

“It is a young wine at the peak of its life,” he says of wine.

“Sauvignon blanc is not the wine community’s favourite – it has almost a begrudging acceptance in some circles but the public love it.”

The recognition marks a high point for Mr Tomlinson and Lenton Brae, one of Margaret River’s most unique wineries.

And the story of this wine’s triumph parallels the creation of Lenton Brae itself – a tale of success that’s as much about hard work as from good fortune.

Bruce and Jeanette Tomlinson established Lenton Brae Estate in 1982. At that time Mr Tomlinson was commissioned by then Moss Wood owner Bill Pannell to divide his property.

A town planner by trade, Bruce Tomlinson bought sections of the property, arguable some of the most unique in all of Western Australia for wine production, and began cultivating 10 hectares of chardonnay, semillon, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

Edward Tomlinson, who still remembers helping his father till the soil on weekends, graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College with a degree in oenology in 1992. He returned to Lenton Brae in 1995 as chief winemaker and has been at the helm ever since.

Initially surprised with the Sheraton win, Mr Tomlinson says he will be concentrating on brand building for the future.

So too, he says, has the experience on the judging panel at recent wine awards contributed to his understanding of the show system.

“Within the wine community, the chance to become involved in the judging network is great,” Mr Tomlinson says.

“You get an opportunity to learn best practices and even of future trends.”

Citing the example of established winemaker and head of Cullens Wines, Vanya Cullen, Mr Tomlinson believes wine award programs can provide significant insights for winemakers.

“For a while now there has been a trend towards finesse in wine as opposed to larger, oak dominated styles – and this direction has been provided by the show system,” he says.

Planning to enjoy his success while it lasts, Mr Tomlinson is quick to admit the result will not alter his approach to winemaking.

“The care and attention given to all the wines is the same. After all,  as a brand, we are only as strong as our weakest wine.”

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