A tale of two wines

in Wine by

By Celia Strong

If your memory is working, long term, you’ll remember bits and pieces of today’s discussion. 

Multiple years ago, we did enjoy a wine from the Margaret River area of Australia. Today, we have a new wine from there, from the same winery, in fact. And, because the wine we did years ago is still so good, and a newer vintage, we might just take a quick peek at it too. 

Margaret River “appellation” is located in the Western Australia wine region. There are about 200 wineries in the designated Margaret River area with over 12,000 acres of vineyards. (Interestingly, the first vines were planted in the late 1960s, which is fairly recently in the wine world.) 

The climate in these vineyards is very maritime-influenced, being right on the Indian Ocean. It has the lowest average temperatures of any Australian wine region, much like that of Bordeaux. 

The soil is predominantly gravelly or gritty sandy loam from the granite underneath it. The soil is very susceptible to water seeping into it, but, because of all the breezes (winds really) from off the ocean, it dries out quickly. That makes it good for growing grapes. Twenty percent of Australia’s wine production comes from this region. 

Our winery this week is Cape Mentelle, officially known as Cale Mentelle Vineyards. It is one of the oldest Margaret River wineries, founded in 1970, with just under 40 acres, and their first vintage produced was 1977. The winery’s name comes from a nearby cape. 

In the beginning, the winery experimented with different grape varieties – Shiraz, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Zinfandel. In 1983, they won an award for their Cabernet Sauvignon: the best 1-year-old dry red wine. It established their reputation. 

For many years, their Cabernet was considered one of the best made in Australia. It almost meant, for many years, they concentrated on making red wines. 

In 1985, Cape Mentelle’s owner established their sister winery in New Zealand, Cloudy Bay. 

Huge success with the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc turned their Australian side toward white wines. And the Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon was born.  

Hopefully, you remember this wine from our previous visit? It is 57 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 43 percent Semillon. 

Its style emphasizes the fruit forwardness of each variety and adds in the complexities and weights of blending the two. The wine is juicy clean with cassis, juniper berry, pepper, passion fruit and citrus; aromas and flavors; and honey notes and a creamy texture. 

Just when you think you don’t feel like a Sauvignon Blanc, there’s a perfect alternative. For $14.99

But, now, we get to discover our new, new wine. The Cape Mentelle Rosé is made from 71 percent Shiraz and 29 percent Grenache.  

These grapes come from their Crossroads vineyard, the only Grenache vines they own were planted there 13 years ago along with some Shiraz. 

They get more Shiraz from just north of here, in the Wilyabrup area. The soils are geologically-ancient with free draining sandy loams and a large percentage of lateritic gravel. The soils and the climate allow for the Shiraz to develop pepper notes and the Grenache to explode with complex fruit flavors. 

This is a beautiful wine, starting with the color that is like watermelon and rose-colored edges. The aromas and flavors include strawberries, cream, cranberries, roses, melons (including watermelon), lemon, basil leaves and citrus fruits. There is a fresh acidity, minerality and salinity.  

The complexities of this rosé let it pair well with a range of foods, from simple to elaborate. Sushi. Seafoods and shellfish of all sorts. Grilled, roasted, chilled, raw. Cream sauces. Tomatoes and tomato sauces. Vegetable dishes. Herb sauces. Cheeses. Gazpacho. Ceviche. And, my favorite, Sunday afternoon nibbles. 

For $14.99. Enjoy!

Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.