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Willow Bridge

Willow Bridge

In 1996, husband-and-wife team Jeff and Vicki Dewar decided to realise their ambition of branching out from broadacre farming, and set out to find a vineyard site. Ferguson Valley isn't a particularly well-known wine-producing area, situated in the relatively newly emerging Geographe region which borders the coastal Margaret River, but when a friend showed them around the area they fell in love with it and purchased some land.

Jeff and Vicki immediately planted 100 hectares here, extending the vineyard to 180 hectares by 1998, and completed their own winery in time for the 2000 vintage. The vines are around 20km from the sea, surrounded by three hills, and planted on well-drained, deep, gravelly loam. At 220-360m above sea level, the vineyards are much higher than those in Margaret River, and experience more sunshine (moderated by cool afternoon sea breezes) and cooler nights. This results in a style of cabernet sauvignon which rests its quality on juicy fruit and dense cassis flavours.

As well as cabernet, Jeff and Vicki have planted merlot and shiraz for their reds, sauvignon blanc, semillon, chenin blanc and chardonnay for their whites and sangiovese and tempranillo for their rosé. Careful work in the vineyards has enabled them to identify the best plots, and they have split these into 30 blocks, each of which they vinify separately. The Estate range showcases the unique character of these individual vineyard plots.

Simon Burnell has been winemaker here since 2010, after gaining experience at Cape Mentelle in Margaret River, and also throughout the Geographe region. The winery is energy-efficient but also equipped for small-batch fermentation to allow greater precision and expression of variation between vineyard plots.

The Dragonfly range presents serious wines with bright fresh fruit at a more everyday price. The Society lists the cabernet-merlot - a blend of around 55% cabernet sauvignon and 45% merlot - most of which is sourced from the Blinman West vineyard, but around one quarter of which is merlot from an estate a few kilometres away where it is a little warmer. Separate vineyard parcels are fermented in tanks before ageing in French oak (around 10% of it new) for 12 months. It can age for up to five years.

The Dewars have already gained recognition throughout the world - in fact, they won a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge with their very first vintage.