Western Australia - A Capel Vale winemaker's passion for wine

Simon Pratten enthuses about his corner of Western Australia

By Louise Johnson
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Restaurant at Capel Vale, South West wine region of Western Australia

Restaurant at Capel Vale, South West wine region of Western Australia

Cellar door, Capel Vale, South West wine region of Western Australia
Simon Pratten, winemaker, Capel Vale, South West wine region of Western Australia
Capel Vale, South West wine region of Western Australia


Enthusiasm for wine and winemaking is overflowing at Capel Vale in the Geographe region of SW Western Australia. Winemaker Simon Pratten - who also has vineyards in neighbouring Margaret RIver - loves the industry, the wine and sharing it with friends and family.

He says the decision to become a winemaker was an easy one. “Who doesn’t want to make wine – it is such an awesome an industry. Then you can head home and drink it with friends!”

The 2009 has been a smaller vintage than previous years. Simon says a wet, windy spring with poor fruit set in all cool regions, most evident in the far south, resulted in 15 to 25 percent reduction in vintage with smaller sized, open bunches. “But good ripening conditions extended into autumn, together with naturally limited crop levels, have produced excellent flavours and aromatics and well balanced acidity,” he says.

The 2009 white wines promise to be outstanding, with obvious regional varietal characters and the reds, picked roughly ten days later, are more elegant than in 2007 and 2008: “with good soft tannin development and showing full-flavoured varietal complexity and prominent aromatics”.

Simon’s favourite wine on current release is The Scholar, 2007 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.  “It’s named in honour of my father and, despite his modest nature, we pushed ahead with the naming as he founded a high school in Albany”.

The site for The Scholar Vineyard was selected after five years of searching through the entire Margaret River region.  “We chose the site in the Wilyabrup sub-region specifically to grow top quality Bordeaux styled wine grapes. Here, there are sandy laterite soils over decomposed granite on the well drained slopes providing an ideal environment for intensely flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon, with typically very specific outstanding regional characteristics,” he says.

“This vineyard slopes to the south west and is one of the few exposed to the strong cool ocean winds producing thick skinned grapes. Good surface water is collected into a two hectare dam and the vines are trickle irrigated during the summer. Here, the low yielding vines have been proven to produce very high quality grapes. Almost every wine that has been made from this vineyard has achieved an award, with the most recent being the 2005 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon winning gold at the National Canberra Show.”

Capel Vale’s Single Vineyard wines represent the ultimate expression of varietal fruit flavour and winemaking excellence. They are only released in years when the highest quality standards are achieved. The winemaking team is constantly alert to the subtle nuances that characterize a truly exceptional vintage within a specific viticultural region. When such an opportunity presents itself, a single vineyard release is possible. These wines are a statement of ultimate hand-crafted winemaking, resulting in wines of great character, concentration, harmony and balance.

After a sucessful year being named in Wine Business Magazine’s Top 10 Cellar Doors and then awarded the Best Restaurant in South West, Simon says Capel Vale still has plenty to achieve.

“The restaurant we have features elegant cuisine which reflects the diversity and quality f produce available in Australia’s South-West. The menu changes frequently to take advantage of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

“Our Cellar Exclusive wines are limited releases of exceptional varietal wines, developed at the “cutting edge” of viticulture in the cool climate vineyards of Western Australia married with modern wine making techniques used to exemplify the unique flavours and aromas from these grapes.

“We allow the winemaking team to have a bit of fun with this range and the results have been fantastic. Our 2007 Viognier has been awarded a gold at Decanter and Mount Barker, while the 2005 Cabernet Blend was awarded a gold at the International Wine Challenge,” he says.


Simon’s favourites

•    The Goose Cafe at Busselton – great views

•    If you are a cheese fan like me, then you’ll love the fresh local produce from The Challenge Australian Dairy or Blue Cow Cheese Company. We often stock their cheeses at our cellar door.

A perfect (non-wine) day

•    A morning sailing in Geographe Bay, then hiking in Ferguson Valley followed by golf at Capel Golf Club.



  • Geographe (WA)
  • Margaret River (WA)
  • South West WA (WA)

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August 21st, 2009
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