While driving towards Augusta have you ever wondered what lies behind those romantic rows of poplars, with glimpses of olive groves behind their soft foliage? Here, right in the heart of the Margaret River Region, Cassandra Charlick has just discovered a little slice of Italy in her own backyard.
The day of my visit to Arlewood Estate, I turn into Calgardup road and am greeted by a view that wouldn’t appear out of place in the latest European rom-com. Glorious sunshine casts it’s rays over rows of olive trees, a stretch of silver poplars framing the grove. In the next paddock, baby lambs are frolicking and nearby under blue skies; while busy winery workers are pruning vines in readiness for the next stage of growth. Did I also mention those horses peacefully grazing by the cellar door entrance?
The estate is very much a family affair at the core of the Gosatti family. Gary Gosatti purchased the current property in 2008, where the winery is now located. With their home overlooking the vineyard, olive groves, and farming pasture; it is easy to see why Garry’s son and partner, Jordan and Paris, are happy to take the reins of the cellar door and hold the fort in between family visits. “After we won the 2017 Halliday Dark Horse of The Year Award we decided to open up the cellar door officially. Prior to that we were only open for private tastings and on Saturdays when Garry could be here. So that’s when I really started in cellar door – almost three years ago now, and I haven’t looked back”, shares Paris.
With a wide grin, it is clear that country life suits Paris as she welcomes me into the cellar door. “Take a breather and relax, that’s what we are all about. Often our visitors arrive just one at a time so it’s never crowed here, we can give everyone lots of attention.” After meeting Jordan, it didn’t take much convincing to swap her heels of inner city Melbourne life for her working boots. “Every day I’m learning something new, especially with the sheep and the farming aspect. I mean I was assisting a lamb’s birth the other day. It’s these crazy situations you get yourself into! Jordan actually studied Viticulture, he’s taught me a lot about how to look after the vines. We just get out there and make the most of it – what’s the worst that can happen?!”, she adds with a laugh.
The estate is intimate and family run: the long table for tasting holds a maximum of 10 people at any one time; and the Italian connection flows throughout. “Garry leant about the winemaking that his grandfather and great grandfather used to do. He relocated the family for fifteen months to Northern Italy to retrace his Italian roots, and immerse them all into their way of life back when Jordan was just a boy.”
There are three tiers of wines, and it is the experimental tier, named La Bratta, that pays homage to the tiny village northern Italy where Garry’s mother was born. Paris adds, “We have produce here as well. We sell our own olive oil pressed from the 200 trees on our property, as well as the buckwheat pasta, Pizzoccheri. I’ve made a recipe with Jordan’s Nonna for guests to take home – be warned there is a LOT of butter involved! We get guests buying boxes of it every week.”
Of course, the main feature in the cellar door is the actual wine. “We have three tiers: The Villaggio ‘village wine’ which is light, low in alcohol, really fruit driven, just fun and in both a white and red. The Arlewood range is in the classic Margaret River style and then La Bratta, which is our experimental line. These are quite European in style. Bigger bolder wines and multilayered. We don’t make them every year, they are made in only our best vintages and they really benefit from food – which is where the idea for chocolate pairing sprung from.”
Launching in March earlier this year, the ‘La Bratta Experience’ has proved to be extremely popular. “It’s kind of unusual, a bit funky and a bit different and that’s what I like about it. Yes, we could serve the wines with cheese or meat, but I think chocolate is just fun! I mean who doesn’t like chocolate? Everything is custom made: the stemware, even the dishes for the chocolates are made by local artist Deanna Mosca just for us. It all just comes together and partnering with someone local like Temper Temper; they are family run as well and they love playing around with different combination. They are so adventurous! We are actually coming up with a new chocolate combination next week – so it’s continuously evolving. Every few months the chocolate changes, just as the wine develops over time. People always get a different experience each time they visit.”
Which is handy, as the estate has a large number of repeat visitors. No two trips are the same: from new release, small batch wines; to different chocolate and wine pairings, though to sunset vineyard tours and tastings. There is clearly a passion and excitement from the family for their business and delicious products. “It’s awesome that l get to be hands on and show off the end result in the cellar door. We are all very involved. I love it. It’s our livelihood.” And with that, it’s time for an afternoon of pruning the Chardonnay block.
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Image Credits: Cassandra Charlick