During the 1970’s a young man named Jeff Burch travelled to this remote, rugged, costal region in search of great waves to surf; he found them. After many return trips, in the 1980’s Jeff bought a house and some land in the Wilyabrup Valley. Around this time Margaret River quickly became known as the ultra premium wine producing region in Australia. Even today this region that accounts for only 3% of Australia’s total wine production holds 20+% of the ultra premium market share! In 1993 Jeff’s passion for wine became more than a hobby when he became a partner in Howard Park, a winery originally founded in 1986. From this point forward the Burch family never looked back, today they have multiple generations involved in just about every aspect of the business. They have some of the most mature vineyards in the region, a winemaker (Janice McDonald) that has worked in the industry for over twenty-five years and have been rated as a top, five star winery for seventeen consecutive years by renowned Australia critic James Halliday.
The Cabernet based wines tread the middle ground perfectly between modern fruit driven Cab and classic Bordeaux. There is great weight and richness to the fruit but the flavors retain some of those classic Cabernet varietal characters of tobacco, mint, and cedar wood that can be lost in some over-ripe “jammy” expressions of this noble grape. While very accessible and delicious now, I am confident these wines will age for a decade plus no problem. Howard Park’s Shiraz is certainly rich and fruit driven but once again retains elements of smoked meat, earth, pepper and some of those wild, gamey elements that make Shiraz/Syrah so complex as a varietal. The Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc is a fantastically fresh, fruit driven, lush wine with lovely fruit, mouth watering acidity and rich palate texture. I was very impressed by the concentration of flavor here. The Howard Park Chardonnay is a powerful wine, stunning concentration and flavor without being overweight or over-oaked. Just incredible fruit purity, energy and long, long persistence. Flavor spectrum is more yellow stone fruit with citrus highlights and some lovely almond, baked bread lees nuances. The Marchand & Burch Chard is in a similar vein but perhaps a little more chiseled linear and mineral intensive. The wine, being biodynamic and wild yeast fermented, has a little wilder side with lees/yeast notes, granite, struck flint. Very persistent, textural and full of dynamic energy and drive. Fantastic Chard in a very Burgundian ilk.