Spotlight on: Voyager Estate
There’s no two ways about it. The Margaret River casts a spell over all who encounter the fruits of its soils. It’s not just the climate – Mediterranean-like, without the extremes of heat and cold – that is responsible for its impressive reputation. It’s also the people of the region as well, who, across a span of over 50 years, have turned this area outside Perth into a world-class centre of wine production and a site of constant viticultural reinvention.
Voyager Estate, nestled in Halliday’s so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ of the Margaret River that also encompasses the nearby Leeuwin Estate and Cape Mentelle, is an embodiment of that capacity for renewal and change. Founded in 1991 by Michael Wright, the Estate vineyard was originally planted in 1978 by Peter Gheradi, a long-time friend of the winery.
Wright, a soil fanatic, had spent years digging holes on neighbouring properties to explore whether they had the necessary soil composition to bear grapes that could produce world-class wines. He showed extraordinary attention to detail in profiling potential vineyards, using a 20m x 20m grid formation – five times the typical density.
And, as the story goes, the moment he dipped his shovel in the gravelly, stony soils of what would become Voyager Estate, he knew he had found something truly special.
PASSING THE TORCH
Voyager Estate’s current vineyard blocks remain based on this original profiling, a process that current Head of Viticulture and Winemaking Steven James was involved with over a number of years. The end result is that each block has a uniformity of soil structure and depth, where underlying clay releases moisture and nutrients slowly into the vines, resulting in vineyards which display a beautiful natural balance with moderate vigour and yields.
Their quality is a testament to the passion and vision of Wright, who sadly passed away in 2012. The winery is now owned by his daughter, Alexandra Burt who, as General Manager of the vineyard prior to her father’s passing, naturally developed an intimate knowledge of the Estate and what made it so special. Her relationship with the team has continued the Voyager Estate journey seamlessly, retaining the independence and family-owned qualities it’s always been known for.
FRUITS OF THEIR LABOUR
With an emphasis on growing grapes best suited to the Margaret River region and to the individual vineyard sites, the winery’s focus is on crafting pure, honest wines that express the natural qualities of the vines and the incredible soils of its wild, coastal location. In particular, the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are all hand-pruned, harvested by hand and cropped between five and six tonnes per hectare.
It is also home to some of the oldest Chenin Blanc vines in the region, and by the time of Wright’s passing in 2012, it had established itself as one of the pre-eminent wine producers in the country thanks in no small part to the assistance of former Chief Winemaker Cliff Royle. Celebrated for such early hits as its 2001 Cabernet/Merlot, the 2002 Chardonnay vintage and more recent output like its effortlessly elegant and expressive 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, the Estate’s wines have certainly delivered on the original promise of its soils.
Worth particular mention is its recent Girt By Sea, a deuxième Cabernet Merlot that offers an entry-point into the vineyard’s fine quality wine - at exceptionally good value.
STRENGTH TO STRENGTH
Under Alexandra Burt’s ownership with Steven James at the vines, Voyager Estate has continued its ongoing journey of refined evolution.
James, recently interviewed by Wine Selectors, has an intimate knowledge of each vine on the Estate vineyard’s 110ha, and continues to push the limits of viticulture to realise the vision of Voyager Estate a truly vineyard-driven winery. He is especially proud of the current transition towards organic certification, with one-third of its vineyards under conversion, and plans to see the entire vineyard certified organic by 2023. “Our team is committed to leaving the land in a better condition than we started for future generations,” he says.
Responsible, sustainable winemaking underpins the whole process, as Voyager Estate strive for wines that express a sense of place without other influences dominating. Hand-harvested Chardonnay, hand-sorted red fruit, and small batch fermentation all play a big part in preserving the fruit-freshness that gives the wines such subtlety and character.
WINE ROOM AND RESTAURANT
The flavours of Voyager Estate are best discovered through the Estate’s Wine Room, where you can take a ‘Wine Flight’ of suggested wines to explore. Or, you can create your own flight of fancy from the full Voyager Estate range, including aged and limited release vintages. Each ‘flight’ has three wines to compare and enjoy, with staff on hand and iPads to provide detailed tasting notes.
And with such well-regarded wines on offer, it’s only natural that the Estate accommodates food lovers with their Restaurant. Led by Head Chef Santiago Fernandez, it showcases the best of Margaret River produce by sourcing ingredients straight from its Kitchen Garden or local suppliers, serving fresh produce and inspiration daily.
Due to the seasonal nature of the offer and its emphasis on discovery, Voyager recommends not previewing the menu… but for those who can’t resist, the most recent four course menu showed a delectable assortment of flavours from finger lime to lamb shoulder with black garlic and nettle right through to fermented persimmon for dessert. Trust us – whatever season you visit, you won’t be disappointed for choice.
TOURS AND EVENTS
Voyager Estate delivers a wealth of opportunities to enjoy its fabulous wines, with a host of lunch tours and exclusive dining experiences. Top of the list are the Culinary Project, where you’re invited into the heart of Voyager Estate’s Cordi House to experience an intimate dinner with Chef Santi, learning how the dishes are crafted and with complementary wines poured by Sommelier Clare Tonon.
Or experience the journey from vine to wine, and garden to table with the Voyager Estate Tour and 7-course lunch, a five-hour experience that takes you from the vineyard to the Cellar Door and then onto the Restaurant to savour seven dishes, each inspired by the Estate’s wines. And for those looking to tie the knot or celebrate a happy occasion, Voyager Estate offers its gorgeous facilities for personally tailored private functions.
Whatever the time of year, if you’re visiting the Margaret River region, make time to stop by Voyager Estate. From humble beginnings in the late 1970s as an 8ha planting, it’s truly earned its place as one of the premier wine producers not just in Australia, but the world.
Voyager Estate is located on Stevens Road, Margaret River, Western Australia. For more information visit their website, or click here to explore more wines from this great region with Wine Selectors.