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howard park WINE
The cabernet sauvignon remains the flagship of Howard Park. Having
already won multiple awards at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (including
gold medals and the Best Red Wine trophy), it was relabelled Howard Park
Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon in 2005.
Jeff Burch’s interest in winemaking can be traced back to his passion for
surfing. As a youngster growing up in the Adelaide Hills, within easy reach
of some of South Australia’s surf beaches, Jeff learned to surf and it quickly
became his favourite pastime. He was never a beer drinker, instead developing
an appreciation for fine wine, of which there was plenty in South Australia.
That combination of surfing and his love of wine would eventually lead him
and his family to Margaret River.
Jeff moved to Western Australia with his parents in the late 1960s and met
Amy at university in Perth in the 1970s. The couple spent many weekends on
the south-west coast, visiting different beaches, including Three Bears, The
Farm, Injidup and Yallingup. In later years they would often set off early in
the morning with their young family to drive down to Margaret River where
Jeff would surf while Amy and the children enjoyed time on the beach.
In the 1980s, they built a home in Yallingup, north of Margaret River,
so the family could spend more time away from the city and Jeff could
spend more time surfing. At the same time Margaret River was beginning to
establish itself as a wine region, so when the surf wasn’t up, Jeff and Amy
pursued their shared passion for regional wines. They joined tasting groups
and beg an to collect premium wines. At tastings in the newly established
vineyards they met and became friends with some of Western Australia’s
other wine pioneers, including Kevin and Di Cullen, Vanya Cullen and John
Brocksopp of Leeuwin Estate. The Burches would often invite them to
Yallingup to drink – and talk about – wine and enjoy Amy’s cooking.
Jeff and Amy bought a pastoral property in Margaret River in 1988
(destined to become Howard Park Leston) with the vision of creating
vineyards and a winery to produce their own wines. This move was inspired
by experts, such as the internationally acclaimed Dr John Gladstone, who
identified similarities between Margaret River and the Bordeaux region of
France, and was influential in promoting grape-growing in Western Australia.
A chance meeting with John Wade led Amy and Jeff to cement their
growing commitment to wine production by becoming partners in Howard
Park in 1993. They purchased French oak barrels, a modern press and tanks,
and established a winery in a rented shed at Denmark Agricultural College in
the Great Southern wine region, where the 1994 vintage was completed.
Leading Australian wine writer James Halliday awarded a rare 19.5 points
out of 20 for the 1994 Howard Park Cabernet Merlot in his annual Wine
Companion, which was a hug e turning point for the company. By this time
a new range of Howard Park wines with an emphasis on enjoyment, fruit
flavour and drinkability had been released under the MadFish label.
Jeff views MadFish as a different style for a different market and hopes it
will bring the Howard Park label to the attention of a new group of consumers.
“The Howard Park wines are of super-high quality and exceptionally well
balanced; the best that I can make of each variety with no expense spared.”
In 1996 Amy and Jeff purchased Parkhead, a rural property not far from
Madfish Bay and just two kilometres from Denmark.
Also in 1996 the first vines were planted at the Margaret River property
purchased by Amy and Jeff in 1988. They named it the Leston vineyard after
Jeff ’s father and mentor. The vines were planted by Jeff ’s brother, David, a
former principal dancer with the Australian Ballet.
Until 1999 all wines under the Howard Park and MadFish labels were
made from externally sourced fruit. The first reasonable crop from the Leston
vineyard was har vested in 1999. The whole family took part in this har vest as
Leston, who was ill, wanted to share the moment of har vesting the first fruit
from the vineyard bearing his name with his children and grandchildren.
The last few years of the twentieth century saw two landmarks in Howard
Park’s history. Senior winemaker and business partner John Wade left Howard
Park in 1998 and was replaced by Michael Kerrigan as senior winemaker. In
1999 the Single Vineyard series was launched with the first release of the
Leston Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River and the Scotsdale Shiraz
from the Great Southern. This range was extended in 2000 to a Shiraz and
Cabernet from both regions.
Howard Park opened its second winery and cellar door, built on the
highest point of the Leston vineyard, in 2000. The Leston winery and cellar
door in Margaret River has spectacular panoramic views over the vineyards
and adjacent valley. It is a tourist attraction in its own right having received
acclaim for its unique architecture, winning the commercial categ ory award
from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 2000.
Reflecting Amy’s Asian heritag e and passion for design, the design and
orientation of the Leston winery and cellar door combines contemporary
Australian ingenuity with traditional Feng Shui principles. The building was
Australia’s First Families
of Wine (AFFW), launched
in 2009 – a collective of
producers. Together, the
families represent 17 wine-
growing regions across
Australia and have more than
1200 years of experience
in winemaking and 48
generations of winemakers.
Each family occupies a
distinct niche in the Australian
wine industry and its proud
history, and makes a range of
premium wines of character
and personality – whether
they be great-value varietals
or single-vineyard icons.
Equally, each family
understands its responsibility
to defend and promote
place in the world of wine
and their own custodianship
of some of Australia’s finest
vineyards and most famous
Heart & Soul:
Families of Wine
($39.95, John Wiley & Sons)
The Burch family,
in among the vines.
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