Frankland Estate is to be revered and celebrated in equal measure. Quietly going about its work, it continues to delight and surprise.
Mike Bennie, Gourmet Traveller WINE
That’s right, it’s time to celebrate. It’s 30 years since Judi Cullam and Barrie Smith laid down the first vines on Isolation Ridge in Frankland River. It’s well known, with thanks to the naming of Frankland Estate’s top red wine, that Dr Harold Olmo singled out this remote patch of Western Australia as a singularly bright prospect for growing top-quality grapes. This partly informed Judi and Barrie’s decision. But as much as anything else, this dream was built on the idea that this utterly pure, pristine natural environment could team up with worldly intelligence and sheer bloody hard work to make some of Australia’s most effortless, elegant and expressive wines.
The vision and pioneering spirit of the founders has been matched by the curiosity and resolve of the next generation. “Visits to Great Southern and time spent with winemakers Hunter Smith and Brian Kent and viticulturist Elizabeth Smith have cemented my opinion Frankland Estate is one of Australia’s greatest wine producers with a thirst for excellence,” as Mike Bennie put it in an article late last year entitled “Constant Evolution”.
The title is hugely apt. The Smith Cullam clan are constant in that they espouse values that have never wavered, over all these years of frank self-assessment and dedication to raising quality in every quarter. There is enormous integrity here, in the way Frankland Estate farms its vines, raises wines true to site, and comports itself as pioneer and leader. Organic certification is worn as a badge of honour, and anyone who has witnessed Riesling Downunder – the global sensation that started life as the Frankland Estate International Riesling Tasting – will know that this is an estate where generosity, not ego, rules. Anyone searching for something truly genuine – and aren’t we all? – need look no further.
A milestone like this is especially dear to us here at CellarHand. It was, after all, a fateful pilgrimage to Germany and Austria in the late ‘90s – undertaken thanks to the Frankland Estate International Riesling Tasting scholarship – that planted the CellarHand seed.
Each new release is a source of affection, pride and excitement, then, but none more so than this. Frankland Estate’s achievements over the past 30 years have been remarkable, and it’s fitting the family gets to mark it with the stellar 2015 and ’17 vintages. The more recent of the two was about perfect for Riesling, with wines that show all the purity, precision, texture and detail that Poison Hill and Isolation Ridge are known for. And 2015 for reds was likewise a ripper, with the Isolation Ridge Shiraz and Olmo’s Reward Cabernet Franc blend shimmering with trademark fragrance and finesse, ironstone minerality and succulent fruit.
It’s a huge honour to lead the birthday celebrations for this wonderful family, and to commend to you their accomplishments – embodied in this magnificent set of single-vineyard releases.
SINGLE-VINEYARD 2017 RIESLING
A wet spring provided good early vine growth. A dry summer followed, while some minor rain events in January and early February kept the dry-grown vines in optimal health. 2017 vintage was reminiscent of Frankland River’s 1990s vintages. We harvested from 28th March until 6th April. Fruit was harvested in clean and ideal condition. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
2017 Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling RRP $43
The first certified-organic Riesling from this site, which has been framed organically for a number of years. Planted in 1988, the small three-hectare vineyard lies just on the northern edge of the Frankland River town site, 15km north of Isolation Ridge. The vineyard name resulted from it being located on a hill where the Heartleaf Bush, poisonous to all but indigenous animals, is found. Poison Hill has unique white clay and weathered granite and quartz soils that are reflected in a complex, alluringly perfumed, silky textured wine. Like all vineyards in the Frankland River region it benefits from the cool nights and long, slow ripening period prior to harvest that promotes maximum flavour development while maintaining the distinctive vibrant acidity for which Rieslings from this region are renowned.
Grapes are pressed immediately on arrival at the winery with the juice left to settle in tank overnight before being racked to fermentation vessel. The wine was then fermented in tank at low temperatures (less than 15°C) over 8 weeks with minimal intervention in order to obtain the purest expression of the pristine fruit from the Poison Hill vineyard. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
Poison Hill has unique white clay and weathered quartz soils. The winemaking here was pretty classic too. Perfumed, talcy, gently textural and dry with a resonant palate – lovely back palate linger. Sarah Ahmed, Wine Detective
2017 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling RRP $43
100% certified-organic Riesling grown on the Isolation Ridge vineyard at Frankland Estate. Riesling vines from two different clones were planted in 1988 on undulating north- and east-facing slopes with duplex soils of ironstone gravel over a clay sub-soil. Grapes are pressed immediately on arrival at the winery with the juice left to settle in tank overnight before being racked to fermentation vessel. The wine is fermented in stainless tanks at low temperatures (less than 15°C) over eight weeks with minimal intervention. The wine is then left on its lees for six months. A small parcel of Riesling was fermented and aged in neutral oak for 10 months where it attains lovely complex textural components and heightened opulence. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
Riesling from the Isolation Ridge Vineyard. It commands respect. Essence of Riesling. Floral and generally pretty but brilliant with fruit intensity. Lime blossom, honeysuckle, slate and then a gorgeous burst of gunsmoke-infused citrus. Ultra dry. Top class. 94 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front May 2018
Duplex soils of ironstone gravel over a clay sub-soil and a touch of elevation (256m) produce a pithier, limier, punchier Riesling with a tight acid back bone and dusty, gravelly minerality. Cracking! Since I first visited in 2008, the vineyard has been certified organic and winemaking has changed from classic protective winemaking to incorporating lees-ageing (for six months) and a small parcel fermented and aged in (neutral) oak for 10 months, both for texture. Sarah Ahmed, Wine Detective
2017 Frankland Estate Smith Cullam Riesling RRP $53
100% certified-organic Riesling from select parcels from within Isolation Ridge vineyard. Grapes are pressed immediately on arrival at the winery with the juice left to settle in tank overnight before being racked to fermentation vessel. The wine is fermented in a combination of small stainless tanks and aged foudre barrels at low temperatures over eight weeks with minimal intervention. The wine is then left on its lees for four to six months. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
It’s delicious for starters. It’s intense with lime and orange oil-like flavour and it boasts an excellent start, a good middle and a terrific finish. It begs you to come back for more but it drives long through the finish too; it’s quality all the way. Sweet-edged but thrilling. Quite beautiful. 93 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front May 2018
This well-balanced, off-dry Riesling (17g/L RS) presents a strikingly different profile, with hops/herbals hints to its Pfalz-like stone and passion fruits. It has a different, earthy, slightly reductive mineral tang too – one that I associate with volcanic basalt. Young with great potential. Sarah Ahmed, Wine Detective
SINGLE VINEYARD 2015 REDS
A wet spring provided good early vine growth followed by a dry and warmer-than-average January and February. The summer cooled considerably in early March, slowing ripening with the Shiraz harvest starting on 28th March and concluding 7th April. Fruit was harvested in clean and ideal condition. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
2015 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Shiraz RRP $43
Certified-organic Shiraz from three different locations in the Isolation Ridge vineyard. The vine canopy is trained on a combination of vertical shoot and Geneva Double Curtin (GDC). This wine was fermented as long and slowly as possible, at temperatures not exceeding 20°C in open tanks that allowed the cap to be worked by plunging and gently pumping over. An extended maceration period followed completion of the ferment to allow optimal, flavour and tannin extraction. It was aged for 18 months in 500-litre French oak puncheons. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
This will morph into something rather special – it’s too youthful now but already it has the hallmarks of a finely-tuned, expressive Frankland River Shiraz. Heady aromatics of florals, dark fruit, licorice, pepper and wood spices with chiselled tannins and clearly defined oak. Some creaminess on the palate adds another layer of complexity. 95 points. Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion August 2017
2015 Frankland Estate Olmo’s Reward RRP $88
72% Cabernet Franc, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec. All three varieties used in the blend were dry-grown on mature vines on organic-certified Isolation Ridge. The vines are trained on a combination of Scott Henry Trellis system and vertical shoot positioning. Each variety was fermented separately as slowly as possible at temperatures not exceeding 27°C. Open fermentation tanks facilitated working the cap with gentle plunging and pumping over. After fermentation, an extended maceration period allowed desired colour, flavour and tannin extraction. The component wines were blended on completion of malolactic conversion and then aged in French oak for 15 months. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
An elegantly structured and poised wine showing an increased amount of Cabernet Franc. It is a strongly Right Bank-influenced wine, showing a taut, controlled palate. Lifted notes of red berry and savoury earthy notes, with a little rich mocha character. Characteristic gravelly tannins support an extended finish. Has some ageing potential. 95 points. Ray Jordan, The West Australian June 2018