Lifestyle / Alcohol

At Passel Estate, Enjoy the Finest Wines Margaret River Has to Offer

Wendy Stimpson, one of the owners of Passel Estate, speaks more about what Margaret River has to offer and takes us through the journey she embarked on with her husband in establishing their little paradise, Passel Estate.

Oct 11, 2022 | By Joseph Low
Barry and Wendy Stimpson, owners of Passel Estate.

When it comes to popular wine regions, many of us would immediately think of France or Italy. But also equally renowned are wines from Australia, specifically from the region of Margaret River. The area has climate conditions that ensure the vineyards produce the best grapes required for making some of the best-known Cabernet Sauvignons.

Wendy Stimpson, one of the owners of Passel Estate, speaks more about what Margaret River has to offer and takes us through the journey she embarked on with her husband in establishing their little paradise, Passel Estate.

You and your husband Barry originate from England and South Africa respectively. How did you discover and fall in love with Margaret River?

While living in Hong Kong we visited Barry’s childhood friend from Cape Town, who is now settled in Perth. He took us to Margaret River, knowing that we would fall in love with the beautiful natural landscape and stunning wines. The area is reminiscent of the Cape Winelands where Barry grew up.

You settled in Margaret Valley in 2005. When did you formally establish Passel Estate and start managing it as a business?  

Passel Estate Tasting Room.

We built our home in Margaret River in 2005 but continue to divide our time between Western Australia and Asia. We found the stunning property in 2011, which is now Passel Estate, and have been managing it ever since. We expanded the vineyard, built the tasting room and started producing wines under our own Passel Estate label from the 2015 vintage collection.

The Margaret River wine region is located in the remote southwest corner of Australia. It stretches 100km from North to South, surrounded by ocean on three sides. How important is maritime influence on the region’s viticulture?

An aerial view of the Passel Estate towards the Indian Ocean.

Passel Estate’s proximity to the ocean and the regional maritime-influenced climate are crucial components of our terroir. It means there is ample rainfall during the winter to fill our dams and set up the soils to nourish the developing vines through the subsequent growing season. Later, the cooling sea breezes moderate the summer heat temperatures, allowing the grapes to ripen gently through to harvest, resulting in exceptional-quality fruit. The consistent ripening conditions provided by the maritime-influenced climate are especially important for Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the varieties that Margaret River is most famous for, and we produce two stunning examples of this wine at Passel Estate.

The vineyard was first planted in 1994 and comprised 1.5ha each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz at that time. Additional plantings of Shiraz (1.1ha) and Chardonnay (2.6ha) were later established. How is the vineyard doing as of today, do you have additional expansion plans?

When we acquired the property, there were well-established vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, which with the help of our very experienced viticulturist, Andy Ferreira, are now producing some of their finest fruit. We have since expanded the vineyard considerably, most recently with new plantings of Chardonnay. We have plans to plant another aromatic white grape in the near future and to produce a Crémant style sparkling to add to our range.

Highly experienced winemaker Bruce Dukes has been working closely with you and your husband. How strategic has been his contribution to Passel Estate over the past years?

Winemaker Bruce Dukes.

We approached Bruce to make our wines because of his stellar reputation as a world-class winemaker and our shared philosophy to produce the highest quality wines that respond to the specific grapes and conditions of each vintage. We have a lot of fun working with Bruce. It is a very collaborative relationship, but we will always follow his guidance on specific winemaking decisions to ensure we deliver on our promise to produce the most elegant and balanced wines possible that express the vineyard and Passel Estate’s unique place in the Margaret River region.

As part of your commitment to sustainable and ESG-focused viticulture, you have recently welcomed a flock of local sheep to graze in your vineyard during winter. Is this the first step into sustainable viticulture, are other actions and transformations planned?

Passel Estate vineyards with viticulturist Andy Ferreira.

Along with the ongoing care and preservation of large areas of native bushland on the property as part of our commitment to wildlife conservation at Passel Estate, we have followed sustainable viticulture practices from the very start and will shortly receive formal sustainability accreditation for our wines.

We welcome sheep from a neighbouring farm to our vineyard every winter for grazing. The sheep keep our vineyard tidy without the use of machinery and they improve the soil quality with their foraging and excrements as natural fertiliser! Sheep agistment at Passel Estate benefits the animal, the farmers, our vineyard and the environment.

We also have established beehives in the vineyard to help pollinate the vineyard cover crops and ensure a healthy and diverse vineyard ecosystem. The vineyard honey we hand collect is available to buy in the tasting room and all the proceeds go towards further conservation at the estate.

Our conservation efforts actually pre-date the launch of our wines and it is an important aspect of our sustainable vineyard operations. Passel Estate has been a sanctuary for endangered Western Ringtail Possums since we acquired the property, following a devastating bushfire in Margaret River which destroyed much of their habitat. We have continued to work with conservation groups to help Western Ringtail Possums ever since. We have installed soft release enclosures at the estate and the family (or passel) of possums we have rehabilitated through them are thriving. We are also seeing an increased abundance of wildlife, birds and frogs at the estate as we continue to nurture and enhance the natural bushland areas.

Do you welcome visitors and wine lovers at Passel Estate?

Nature & Wine Walk at Passel Estate.

Yes, we have a beautifully appointed tasting room, where we welcome visitors to taste our wines surrounded by views of our vineyard and bushland sanctuary. The tasting room is open daily, and we offer a range of guided tasting experiences, including a Nature & Wine Walk which involves a private tour of our bushland conservation sanctuary and a tasting in situ alongside the very vines that went into the wine.

With the arrival of spring in Margaret River, we have just relaunched our Wine Sunsets at Passel Estate, which is a lovely way to spend the evening during the warmer months. On request, guests enjoy an after-hours tasting on Friday or Saturday evening, followed by a glass of their favourite Passel Estate wine alongside a platter of local, artisanal cheese as the sun sets over the vines. Then as dusk falls, they depart with a complimentary bottle of Passel Estate wine and chocolate-encased bonbons designed to pair perfectly with it, to finish the evening at home.

Tasting in situ alongside the vines.

It is necessary to book our tasting experiences in advance (and very easy to do so via our website). A portion of the fee for all of our experiences goes directly to our conservation projects at the estate.

During quieter periods, visitors are also welcome to drop in to enjoy a glass of wine and a platter on the deck or a picnic blanket on the lawn.

Which wine from the estate would you pick for a more formal dinner composed of beef or wild game meat?

Passel Estate Lot 71 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

You could not go wrong with our Passel Estate Lot 71 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This special wine is only made in exceptional vintages in small quantities and is a stunning expression of Margaret River cabernet sauvignon. It is produced from a single block of our cabernet sauvignon fruit with extended maturation in fine French oak barriques, over half of which are new, followed by further maturation in bottle before it is released.

The soft velvety tannins of this wine, with its black fruit flavours and secondary notes of coffee and fig will pair perfectly with a tasty roast beef or wild game dish.

Which wine from the estate would you pick for a lighter lunch?

Passel Estate Sauvignon Blanc.

For a lighter lunch here in Singapore — I am thinking goats cheese salad and a light salmon or fish dish — the Passel Estate Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect choice. With its partial oak ferment, this sauvignon blanc has the complexity to balance with your lunch, yet the fresh citrus fruit flavours and vibrant acidity keep it appetising, light and delicious throughout the warm, tropical afternoon.

How do you view Margaret River wine lovers in Asia versus European or American regular wine drinkers? How do their taste or requests differ?

Our visitors from Singapore and Hong Kong are very knowledgeable about Margaret River and many have an excellent palate, with a preference for fuller bodied red wines and chardonnay; visitors from further afield are often less familiar with the region and frequently surprised by the exceptional quality and elegance of our wines. Few realise that Margaret River is the smallest major wine producing region in Australia, but accounts for the highest percentage of premium Australian wine made.

Where can our readers purchase wine from Passel Estate in Singapore? Any wine-focused ecommerce platform you would recommend?   

Guided tasting at Passel Estate.

We have a wine club here in Singapore, which can be joined online. Interested buyers can also purchase our wines directly through our website.

Other stockists in Singapore include Le Rouge, The Cheese Shop and Surrey Hills Grocer, and we are privileged that our wines can also be found on the wine list at some of the leading restaurants in Singapore.

Your personal favourite memory of working together with your husband at Passel Estate?

Creating Passel Estate together, growing our wine business and taking care of our stunning property provides regular moments of joy for us. One of my personal favourite memories is of the evening we celebrated the launch of Passel Estate wines and officially opened the tasting room.

Wadandi cultural custodian, Josh Whiteland performed an incredible “Welcome to Country” ceremony to welcome us to the ancestral lands and we were blessed with a stunning sunset and dusk moon, surrounded by our friends and members of the local community who had helped make everything possible. It was the culmination of one long ambitious journey together and the start of a new one. As Barry said during the speeches that evening, “be careful about chasing your dreams, they have a way of leading to the next one, and the next one…”

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