While grapevines have been cultivated on the Jarrahdale site of Millbrook as far back as the 19th century, it’s in the past two decades that the Perth Hills winery has carved out a name in Western Australian wine; first for estate-grown varietals such as verdelho and shiraz, and now increasingly using fruit from around the state’s growing regions.
Emma Gillespie has been head winemaker at Millbrook throughout 2022 but was previously with the wider Fogarty Wine Group for eight years at Deep Woods – the Yallingup-based sister winery which counts the coveted Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy amongst its many accolades.
Gillespie says she worked closely with Damian Hutton, Millbrook’s previous head winemaker, and that her approach is to both respect his work but also offer her “own spin”.
Of Millbrook’s regional range, Gillespie says “it’s diverse and highlights different regions across WA versus our estate grown range.” Zeroing in on the Regional Fiano, made using fruit from Wilyabrup in the Margaret River region, Gillespie says that this is one of their smaller batch wines, with just 4000 litres produced each vintage.
“It’s just so exciting to make something more of an alternate varietal,” she says. Fiano is most associated with the Campania region of southern Italy, and Sicily, but Australian winemakers have taken to it in recent years, as it thrives in hot, dry climates. The draw with fiano is, says Gillespie, “knowing what the style is, from where its origins are, but also making it our own as well, maybe a bit more expressive in its fruit, not so oxidative or savoury, but still a lovely texture, that goes really well with food.”
The Millbrook Single Vineyard Chardonnay draws on fruit from the Geographe region between Perth and Margaret River, grown on a generous slope that offers altitude and cooler nights, “keeping that lovely acid retention,” and warmer days which lends a “lovely ripeness in the fruit”. Hand-picked and wild fermented, Gillespie says that it gets 30% new oak: “So, not too heavy handed on the oak, but just enough to frame and lengthen the palate.”
The tasting room is the place to taste the stalwarts of the Millbrook range, the estate grown Viognier, Shiraz Viognier, Petit Verdot and NV Pedro Ximénez.
Millbrook’s cellar door is also home to its nationally awarded Millbrook restaurant, built on a reputation for using estate-grown produce, and treading a true sustainable path. It’s an inspiration to other chefs and restaurateurs in WA. “It’s so exciting to me to be part of a restaurant so committed to on-farm production,” says Gillespie. “I get to work with them closely to match the wines, especially something like the Fiano that just goes so well with food.”