Here's a name that's been in the Margaret River region for quite some time and although I've seen the odd bottle of Sandalford in the shops here, the label hasn't really had a impact on the New Zealand scene to date. But after tasting these smartly priced wines, I think that things might change.
I was surprised to find that Sandalford is one of the Margaret River's most long established producers and the largest family-owned company in the region. The cellar door is highly geared for tourists. There's the two hour Swan River cruise on 'Miss Sandalford' from Perth to the winery in Caversham, there are vineyard and winery tours available and there's a vineyard restaurant - so I've added Sandalford's recommended food matches for the wines.
There are some pretty good wines in this portfolio. There is the cheaper 'Element' Range with its trendy packaging and graphics representing the earth's four elements of wind, earth, fire and water.
Then there is the Sandalford range where each variety has a subtle colour coding. Grapes are sourced from the Margaret River, Mount Barker, Frankland River and the Swan Valley viticultural regions.
The tasting, however, was held in Auckland. Here are the wines I tried.
Sandalford Element Chardonnay 2001
This 'entry level' chardonnay has subtle melon oak aromas and melon carries though to the mouth. This fresh & easy drinking style is bone dry but the fruit from the hot climate of the Swan Valley is ripe and sweet. There's a good lengthy finish and very little oak influence (20% French oak was used). NZ$15.75
Recommended food match: Bouillabaisse soup
Sandalford Margaret River Verdelho 2001 (screwcap)
Closed on nose at first but starting to emit very subtle florals and spice plus guava, passionfruit and quince-like scents. Lots of zesty, spicy acidity and the wine fills out on the finish with ripe tropical fruits. Very long finish - it is a lovely and ripe full-bodied wine and quite refreshing. NZ$19.95.
Recommended food match: Fresh white-fleshed seafood, oysters and goats cheese. A good alternative to sauvignon blanc.
Sandalford is the first West Australian winery to reintroduce screwcaps to premium wines and the Verdelho is the first wine to wear it. As the screwcapping technology was not available in Western Australia when required the wine was trucked to South Australia for bottling. The screwcapping technology is now available in WA and Sandalford will use this closure for all their premium whites except chardonnay. The Riesling will be 100% screwcap and the other will be 50.50 screwcap and cork.
Sandalford WA Riesling 2001
Dry chalky aromas. Nice pure lemony/lime and long zesty finish with good palate weight. Just off-dry with 4-5g/l rs. Excellent wine, unfortunately not available in New Zealand.
The 2002 will come into NZ but will be under allocation.
Sandalford Margaret River Chardonnay 2001
Green hints in this lemon gold wine. Rich toasty melon butter aromas - quite savoury powerful oak. Rich and savoury, dry nutty meaty finish. Quite juicy and lots of flavour. Very long. Good wine. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and was matured in 100% new French oak. NZ$29.50.
Recommended food match: White meats. The restaurant serves 'White Rocks Veal' with a cream sauce to match the meaty savoury finish on the wine.
Sandalford Element Late Harvest Riesling 2001
Good market for this. There is no botrytis in this wine and I would consider it a medium style if comparing to a wine from NZ. This would be a good aperitif wine Has a long luscious finish. Serve chilled.
Recommended food match: Thai or spicy food. Dukkah.
Sandalford Element Shiraz Cabernet 2001
(70/30 blend from Swan valley). Blacky-red intense colour. Sweet fruit nose and really juicy flavours with blackcurrants and jube lollies. 100% older Fr & Am oak. Soft, creamy and easy drinking. NZ$15.75. Great buy. Good bottle presentation.
Recommended food match: BBQ's, Pizza or pasta. Soft creamy brie cheese.
Sandalford Margaret River Mt Barker Swan Valley Shiraz 98
Developed colour Quite dry, savoury nose, big tarry tannins. An older style shiraz, fairly developed and a wine to drink now, not to cellar. NZ$24.50.
1998 was considered a good year in WA, but not a great year.
Recommended food match: Beef.
There was no 1999 Shiraz to taste and none was produced in 2000.
Sandalford Margaret River Mt Barker Swan Valley Shiraz 2001 (barrel sample)
Big crimson black colour. Spicy, good fruit, creamy spicy peppery fruit, ripe firm tannins, juicy - great finish showing great potential. Yet to be blended and fined.
Recommended food match: Beef.
Sandalford Mt Barker Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 1898
Deep colour, developed bricky black Developed nose - NZ-like herbal 'pong' but plum, strawberry jam aromas and flavours. Savoury, a little spicy, well-flavoured full-bodied, lifted cassis flavours. An interesting flavoursome wine that will go well with food.
Recommended food match: The herbal elements in this wine would go with lamb and rosemary or lamb with a parmesan and herb curst.
Sandalford Mt Barker Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Big in colour, blacky red. This is a big savoury wine with lots of flavour and sweeter fruit than the 98. I like the spicy complexity and firm structure with licorice flavours emerging. It is a powerful wine (14.'5% alc.) with very good flavour and ripe fruit tannins. Excellent value @ $24.50. **Best Buy**
Recommended food match: Fillet of lamb with a big juicy sauve. Border line match for beef.
Sandalford Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
Savoury oak, thick chewy leathery tannins without the upfront fruit. A good long finish with blackcurrant flavours lingering. . Needs food - will handle good meaty foods.
Sandalford Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (barrel sample)
Aromatic fragrant cassis, wild berry vibrant colour. Juicy, blackberries, anise, good tannins, pure fruit.
The star wines of this tasting were the Riesling 2001 (which is unfortunately not available in NZ), the Element Shiraz Cabernet 2001 (will probably be found for under $15) and the excellent Cabernet Sauvignon 1999.
Go to the website www.sandalford.com for further information.
© Sue Courtney. July 2002