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While memories live on of former winemaker, Simon Burnell, lost to a windsurfing accident in 2015, the transition to the impressive Kim Horton has been seamless and Willow Bridge’s wines continue to improve. Jeff and Vicki Dewar established this Ferguson Valley winery 20 years ago and now have 60 hectares of vines established at between 230 and 280 metres on the Darling Scarp.
Making great wines means evolving, and over the last six years, Willow Bridge has undertaken some exciting new changes to the vineyard varietal mix. Much of it based on the successful introduction of Tempranillo to the property.
In 2011, Willow Bridge began a sustained program of evaluating the current clones on the estate, and where appropriate introduce the newer material available in Australia, with the outlook of making further gains in quality and complexity.
In that first season, Willow Bridge removed Cabernet Sauvignon, clone SA126, and replaced with a clone with a superior Western Australian track record. Known as the Houghton clones, Cabernet Sauvignon planted in the 1930s, a selection of 21 vines in the 1950s became monitored vines, and eventually ‘mother’ vines to the industry. Of those, twenty clone isolates were planted in Frankland River in 1973, of which a further selection was made in 2008, to isolate four WA clones, clone 5, 9, 19 and 20, with 5 and 9 considered superior for quality. Our original 1625 rootlings went to ground in late 2011.
2012, saw the planting of two Dijon clones. Clone 76 originates from Saône-et-Loire, this clone is a regular clone in terms of production as well as quality. Clone 95 originates from Côte-dOr and usually has a good level of production and excellent quality. Control of yields gives particularly high quality wines, and we harvested the first of this fruit in 2014, it now has become a regular in our G1-10 with the Mendoza or Gingin clone complementing the Burgundian clones.
In 2015, encouraged by the resulting wine from Clone 95, we extended this planting by a further two hectares.
In the same year, Willow Bridge also planted Mouvedre, Malbec and Grenache. We know that vines are only as good as the soil they are planted, thus we removed some of our prized Shiraz to ensure the deep gravel loam soils were available for our new plantings. An act bordering on crazy, however time and time again we have seen vignerons introducing new and exciting varieties but planting on poor land. Land that was unfit for planting in the first place! We want to give our vines every chance at a sustainable future.
In 2016, we furthered our program by removing some of the much maligned USA derived UC Davis Merlot clone, D3V14, and replacing it with clone 181 from Bordeaux. Merlot in Bordeaux is almost exclusively from three clones (70%), thus we are excited to see the first fruit come through the system in 2018.
Furthermore, we extended our Cabernet Sauvignon project by a further 1.32 hectares, now totalling 3.35 hectares planted to the