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Steve James, Manager of Winemaking and Viticulture at Voyager Estate in Margaret River, is currently touring the US, visiting vineyards and comparing notes with his American counterparts. Whether overseas or at home in Margaret River, he is dedicated to making wine that exemplifies its origins. He took some time out to talk us through his passion for winemaking.
How long have you worked at Voyager Estate?
What made you want to become a winemaker?
My background is viticulture, and I loved the idea of seeing the amazing grapes we grow being crafted into fine wines which evolve over many years. I really enjoy being a part of creating something beautiful and real for people to enjoy that shows the signature of our vineyard.
Which winemakers do you most look up to and why?
I really admire Vanya Cullen (Cullen Wines) and her approach to viticulture and winemaking. She makes wines with great purity and finesse.
From Margaret River, I also admire Larry Cherubino (Larry Cherubino Wines) for his knowledge, energy and passion.
What, if anything, do you find stressful about your job?
I guess the weather can sometimes bring a few anxious moments, but I’m old enough and knowledgeable enough now to know that there is no point worrying or stressing over it!
What wine are you proudest of?
The wine that I am most proud of is the Voyager Estate 2002 Chardonnay. Voyager Estate was one of the pioneers in producing the more restrained “modern” style Chardonnay and I feel this wine really put us on the map.
A few years ago we started to explore the individual components of our Chardonnay, notably two clones that predominately make up the Estate wine. People are very familiar with many apple varieties like Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji and so on and each have very different tastes and textures. Chardonnay is the same. We have Clone Gin Gin planted, which is the main variety found in Margaret River, as well as Clone 95, a Burgundian clone that wasn’t imported into Australia until 1988, as well as a few others. All are very different, and people can taste this difference with our Project 95 and Project Gin Gin Chardonnays.
We will continue to explore clonal selection as well as site expression and winemaking techniques to evolve our Chardonnay portfolio.
What is your favourite wine and why? What do you drink it with?
My favourite Voyager Estate wine would be the Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. It is a really elegant expression of Cabernet Sauvignon from our sub-region with lots of dark cassis fruit, a nice savoury edge and fine lingering tannins. The wines also cellar really well and look incredible with 10 to 12 years of age.
I like to drink it with a nice roasted rack of lamb.
You can learn more about Steve and the rest of the Voyager Estate team here.