Frick Yeah Ferguson (Valley)
How one little sub-region nestled up in the nooks of the Darling Scarp is responsible for a mightily inviting selection of wines.
The Geographe wine region is responsible for eminently drinkable, delicious and exciting wines. Many, ok likely all, of the producers there are family owned and run, and to say that the region excels in one, two or three main varieties would be a difficult statement to pin down. From Harvey, to Busselton, and inland to Donnybrook, the region spans a wide range of topography and countryside, meaning little pockets are suited very well to different varieties.
Ferguson Valley is located to the west of the Wellington Dam/Wellington National Park area, and is set atop dramatic hilltops and beautiful valleys. Around every corner I find myself thinking ‘Oooh, I could live there. Oh yes. There.’ The elevation of circa 200m provides just enough height to ensure the retention of natural acidity in the wines, and the way in which the seabreeze comes up the hill and cools the vines means this is actually a pretty cool site, that ripens very well.
The view from the Green Door cellar door is captured in the main image above. The winery and cellar door are perched on the top of one of the dramatic hillsides of the Darling Scarp facing the South West. The sunset was spectacular from up there.
I went in to the cellar door with preconceived ideas around what to expect. I was expecting to run into a delicious Ferguson Tempranillo and that would be that. Foolish to be so simplistic. I did find some beautiful Ferguson temp, but I was also bowled for six by three 2018 wines produced by Green Door: The Amphora Garnacha, Amphora Tempranillo and the Amphora Monastrell. The wines are made in amphora (a big open topped clay vase lined in beeswax, for want of a more specific description) which can yield wines of a certain wildness and personality, these are additionally silky, finely knit and again, plush. The Monastrell was effectively sold out when we were there, they were down to their last handful of bottles. At $35 a bottle one wonders how they could possibly be making enough money to justify the hard work and attention to detail that they pour into these wines, but if someone has to buy them, I’m happy for that someone to be me. And you, if you wish.
Owners Kath and Ash Keefe had made the difficult decision to close their cellar door just the day after we were there due to the global pandemic, so, as with all small businesses that have had to close their doors, I hope they are finding a new way in these strange times.
There are a number of producers who are not based in the Ferguson Valley who choose to make wines from grapes that are grown there, and one of them is LS Merchants. Based in Margaret River, winemaker/owner Dylan Arvidson has chosen to make a (bloody delicious) Touriga Nacional grown by Dave and Anne Mazza, of Mazza wines (vineyard in the Ferguson). Thank goodness he did. The wine was put in front of me at a blind tasting hosted by Old Bridge Cellars (bottle shop in North Fremantle) last Saturday night via Instagram Live. Apart from having a really good time drinking wine and flooding the feed with likely unwanted commentary on the exciting wines they put before us, the LS Touriga did an excellent job of stopping me in my tracks. The advice it came with was ‘decant, if you can.’ I did, about an hour before the tasting started, and we tried it about an hour in, so I’d say it was decanting for two-ish hours prior to drinking. I am still thinking of how good that wine was.
Plush, precise, red fruits that morphed into purple: mulberry, boysenberry, raspberry, back to hints of blackcurrant and red liquorice. The texture was an absolute standout – it had luxury and plushness and generosity that frankly I wasn’t expecting from a touriga. They can be tannic. Broody. They can be hard. This was as far from that as possible, while still conveying the concentration and density that makes good red wine, so damn good.
I was similarly attracted to another of Dylan’s wines – the Margies Shiraz – at the very beginning of this year. I bought it over the counter at Settler’s Tavern in Margaret River and drank it with friends that night for dinner. It was beautiful. Totally different to the Touriga, as you’d expect. It was fine, spicy, medium bodied, and although I didn’t write a note on it that night, I remember clearly the sparkling line of acidity and the fine-ness of the fruit. It had energy and life about it.
If you are not familiar with the great wines of the Ferguson Valley, and the Geographe wine region at large, here is a list of superstars you could start with:
Green Door wines – see above, but don’t miss the entry level reds (outrageous bargains and brilliant quality at circa $20), the fiano was also a standout;
Mazza wines – Dave at one time released a back vintage Temp. 2006 I think. It was sensational. Obviously the Touriga, the Temp as a starting point;
Talisman wines – always the Riesling, Gabriel Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Malbec, among others;
Bakkheia Wines – mailing list only, organically grown, and often winning medals and trophies at the Geographe wine show;
Willow Bridge wines – The Estate and Maris Sol wines are the heart and soul of the range, the Dragonfly wines offer brilliant value drinking, and the Black Dog shiraz is the one outlier in terms of price in the region, coming in at a modest $65.
There are many more. This is just a starting point.
Wineries from outside the Geographe who make beautiful wines from Ferguson fruit:
LS Merchants – the Touriga Nacional, Ferguson Valley fruit
La Kooki – The Ten Foot Temp, Ferguson Valley fruit
LAS Vino – Wholebunch Grenache
There are many more. This is just a starting point.