Goldilocks and the Three Winemakers (Chapter 1)
Once upon a time there was a magical place in the Margaret River region of Western Australia called Wilyabrup. Other places in the region were considered just a little too hot, or a little too cold. But Wilyabrup was just right. It was a little microclimate producing some of WA’s best wines. One day a wine-loving gal named Goldilocks took a trip to the Margaret River, and she decided to visit the Momma bear, the Papa Bear, and the Baby Bear of the famous winemaking region.
Her first stop was to one of the oldest wineries in the Margaret River (although none are older than 50 years): Cullen. There she was lucky enough to meet the Momma herself, Vanya Cullen.
Tasting the almost-ripe grapes with Vanya Cullen
A ‘Mother Earth’ figure indeed, it was Vanya’s forward thinking and respect for her land that led her in 2007 to become the first carbon neutral vineyard in Australia. Cullen is (rather shockingly) one of the only Biodynamic producers in the Margaret River (a video of a chat with Vanya about this coming soon!). Cullen are certified Biodynamic both in the vineyards and in the winery which means they add relatively low levels of sulphur to the wine, and they don’t fine or filter. They generally try to intervene as little as possible.
Goldilocks was led on a tour of Cullen’s vineyards (with her hubby-uh-Silverlocks) by the vineyard manager, Pete, who explained to her that he’d previously been working for another large chemical-using winery and when he came to Cullen and learned about Biodynamic farming, he realised he could never go back to using chemicals. Good on ya’ Pete.
view from the top of one of the large tanks
A nice lady at the cellar door called Colette then let Goldilocks try lots of Cullen’s wines. And all of them were just right. Feminine in a ‘woman power’ kind of way (like their maker), Goldilocks was happier than a pig in mud. Cullen’s 2010 big white blend (Semillon, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin, and Riesling) was an easy drinking concoction of grapefruit, lemon, and flowers, and Colette suggested drinking it with Dim Sum, which went over well with Goldilocks since she’ll take Dim Sum over porridge any day. The 2008 Semillon was also a favourite: herbal, medicinal, lemony, and grassy, it was big, great with food, and what a Margaret River white should be. But it was the reds who were the stars of the show. The 2008 Diana Madeline (named after Vanya’s mother), a blend of 86% Cabernet and 14% Merlot had great structure with red and black fruits and tobacco notes that called out for a steak. More of an every day drinking wine, Cullen’s 2008 red blend (Cabernet, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc) was fruity and spicy with green leaves, eucalyptus, and tar–a perfect ‘weeknight wine’. The top wine though was the 2009 Mangan (named after Vanya’s brother). A blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Merlot, it was like a classy woman (sorry Vanya’s brother) with voluptuous tannins, a silky mouthfeel, and notes of cinnamon, pepper, and dark fruits.
A very grateful Goldilocks bid goodbye to her hosts at Cullen and set on her way in search the Papa Bear of the Margaret River. A burly woodsman he was not, this Papa Bear was the bronzed, golf-cart driving, Palm Springs holidaying kind of Papa. If class and money could be liquified, they’d taste like his wines–elegant, well crafted, exclusive–the Coach bags of the wine world.
But you’ll have to wait for Chapter 2 to reveal which winemaker Goldilocks next visited in the Margaret River.