Lenton Brae

Lenton Brae was established in Margaret River in 1982 after the Tomlinson family connected with Bill Pannell, formerly of Moss Wood fame. Bruce Tomlinson, co-owner and founder of Lenton Brae, was working on a sub-division of the Moss Wood property and Pannell happened to comment on the virtue of the soil and site that had been sub-divided. Tomlinson leapt at the opportunity to purchase it, though the site originally was planned as a sea change rather than a career move. The lure of owning vineyards and producing wines became attractive and Lenton Brae was born.

Vineyards went in predominantly planted to cabernet sauvignon, semillon and sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and merlot. Lenton Brae is sometimes overlooked in the upper echelon of Margaret River wine producers, and maintains a less showy output. Those in the know maintain a kind of collective silence, lest a horde of new buyers come looking to pinch the gems that emerge from this winery.

Yearly tastings of Lenton Brae wines reveal an unnerving consistency, high scores across the ranges and, importantly, a continuing value-for-money proposition as others in the region have increased pricing at pace. It’s a producer whose wines feel decidedly in that midway point between traditional and modern, where classic wines find the vivacity and detail to be ‘drink early’ propositions, but with time they will age beautifully.

Ed Tomlinson is the second generation at Lenton Brae and is the ongoing (25-plus vintages) winemaker and partner in the business. He’s an understated kind of guy, but quick-thinking and a well-practiced wine professional. His career has been shaped by landmarks including attending Roseworthy College, experience in wine show judging, standing as a committee member of the local wine show and international work as a journeyman winemaker in his earlier years. As a human, he’s a delight to be around.

The 2019 Lenton Brae No Way Rosé (A$18) is produced from shiraz with a clever addition of semillon, and the wine is wild fermented and raised in barrel. It’s pale, bone dry but offers a good core of refreshing pomegranate fruit flavours with a lick of spice and yeasty complexity. Likewise, 2018 Lenton Brae Pinot Blanc (A$30) is edgy and dry, though there’s a bit more weight as the wine has settled in bottle, showing touches of marzipan in the green apple and stone fruit scents and flavours. It’s an excellent example.

One of the wines that Lenton Brae excels at most is its semillon/sauvignon blanc blend. Indeed, 2019 Lenton Brae Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (A$20) is a regional benchmark you could say. It’s scintillating in its freshness, shaped with very fine chalkiness in texture, precise, long and pure-feeling, with classic green herb and tropical fruit characters, it’s bright, fresh and lively.

Chardonnay continues to be well done from Lenton Brae, with 2017 Lenton Brae Southside (A$30) a little off the pace of 2016 and 2015 releases, showing as a fleshier wine than expected, but still holds good appeal. Smooth, soft, gentle chardonnay characters with light buttery notes over stone fruits and a touch of melon. Scents and flavours match well, generous enough, fresh enough.

The reds from this suite of releases are excellent. The 2017 Lenton Brae Lady Douglas Cabernet Sauvignon (A$36) offers incredible value, a succulent wine of cassis and dark berry fruits, with touches of black olive and bay leaf. It’s a little more generous than the Wilyabrup label cabernet but shows class in spades.

Indeed, the 2014 Lenton Brae Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon (A$80) is a stellar release – it’s produced from a block of vineyard planted using Moss Wood cuttings. It’s a fragrant red lavish in cassis, plum, black olive, green herbs and bay leaf, with a faint nougat/nutty note chiming in. Pleasing as can be. The palate is restrained, cinched with fine, lacy tannins. It’s superb in its tension, shape and length. All these wines are the real deal.

Blood Moon Wines

I had been chasing the elusive Blood Moon Wines for several years. An empty bottle at a friend’s place reminded me of my previous pursuits so I thought I would try once more. A final message via social media and I’d struck a reply.

Blood Moon Wines is the work of pals Matt Aulich, Alex Barty and Glenn Smith and their families. The trio kicked the wine production off in 2014 with an experimental batch of shiraz and have built on the first wine with varying styles and some other varieties.

The motif reads like most of the avant-garde set of Australian wine, minimal-intervention winemaking, sourcing from sustainable vineyards, lower alcohol and fresher wines built for early drinking and, importantly, affordability in mind. They tick some good boxes, and the wines have been a great find for my own drinking repertoire, with gluggability and vitality writ large in each cuvée. Fruit comes from a series of vineyards in Heathcote, Sunbury and Yarra Valley.

The 2018 Blood Moon Wines Alive! Syrah Nouveau (A$23) is a heady, herb-lashed red of crunchy texture, medium weight and prickly acidity. It displays sour cherry with a splash of mezcal on the nose, but drinks cool and crisp. It’s good with a light chill, whereas 2017 Blood Moon Wines Sang de Lune Shiraz (A$20) is best drunk at a normal temperature to open up the spice and earthier characters found in the spread of forest berry scents and flavours rolling through the wine. It’s perhaps the most serious wine in the suite I tasted, with more detail, finesse of tannin and length apparent. It’s a great wine in any language.

The Chalmers Vineyard in Heathcote allows Blood Moon Wines to produce a delicate schioppettino, an oxymoron in most cases, but here realised in the 2018 Blood Moon Wines Promise Schioppettino (A$20), which has plummy fruit character, chiselled tannins, an undergrowth and brambly note and zesty acidity that leaves a mouth-watering pucker after each sip. It has the grunt of the variety yet holds immense freshness. Indeed, this is a fascinating wine.

The 2018 Blood Moon Wines Eruption! Cabernet Franc (A$23) is a wild style red that maintains that fine line between cassis-like fruit and rosemary/green herbal character so often found in cabernet franc. Carbonic maceration through natural fermentation props the fruit up. It’s slightly sweet, definitely juicy and a whole lot of fun in each glass.

The final wine of my tasting was the 2018 Blood Moon Wines Sang de Soleil Chenin Blanc (A$23), which reminded me of a liquefied Calippo Lemon, but with fine, silty texture wrapped around tart, lemony fruit flavours and a finish that feels pleasingly brittle, tangy and clean. This is a wonderful wine, and as it approached room temperature a textural nuance became apparent.

Blood Moon Wines are such joyous, well-reasoned and vibrant expressions, and fall firmly in the category of producers to track down, follow and go along for the ride
as new ideas and wines emerge.