26 September 2023

50 years of vines at Margaret River’s iconic Cape Mentelle

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By John Rozentals.

As per label expession: tall trees overlooking the rows of vines.

It’s hard to believe that it’s 50 years since winemaker David Hohnen and his brothers, Mark and Giles, planted 16 hectares of vines in what emerged as a truly iconic location in Western Australia’s Margaret River — Cape Mentelle’s Wallcliffe Vineyard.

Like the area itself, Cape Mentelle has definitely had French dealings, with Veuve Clicquot and currently with Moet Hennessy Louis Voutton.

Meanwhile, the area under vines has expanded enormously through the development of new vineyards, and the winemaking technology has improved.

Among the rare constants — quality apart — has been David’s label concept of a dominant row of trees overlooking the vines. I seem to remember that right from the start.

He also knew, right from the start, that Cape Mentelle was special in terms of qualtiy and initiated a series of tastings comparing the quality of his cabernets with the world’s best, including from Bordeaux.

His wines never failed to impress.

I was fortunate enough to attend one of the early comparitive tastings, and with it came one of my most memorable wine moments.

I had the privilege of a private tour of David’s famous rammed-earth winery, which was known to reverberate to some pretty loud music during vintage.

“And what do you play while pressing the zinfandel?” I asked, going straight for the gutsy red he was best known for.

“Heavy metal,” he immediately responded, “very loudly.”


Cape Mentelle 2017 Trinders Cabernet Merlot ($31): A completely dry red blended from two classic Bordeaux vartieties grown on a block established in 1988 and named after a local school. As the winemaker’s notes say, the wine captures the depth and structure of cabernet sauvignon, together with the dark fruit and plush flavours of merlot. Drink with roast beef.

Cape Mentelle 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon ($26): Probably the best version of this classic Margaret River blended white. It’s fresh, it’s crisp, it’s dry and it’s racy. What more can you ask for? Apart from a plate of the freshest Sydney rock oysters. Also good on its own as an aperitif.


Cape Mentelle 2017 Chardonnay ($55): You’ll forget the price as soon as you taste this lipsmacker of a dry white, which is laden with great cool-climate fruit and clever winemaking complexity. The former endows the wine with subtle nectarine flavours, the latter with creamy butterscotch. Drink with richly sauced seafood, such as lobster with just about anything.

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