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OUT OF THE HAZE AND INTO THE LIMELIGHT

by / Comments Off on OUT OF THE HAZE AND INTO THE LIMELIGHT / 20 View / May 15, 2022

WOODY NOOK BLAZES A BRIGHT
PATH INTO THE FUTURE

"Describing Woody Nook conjures up feelings of romantic nostalgia and odes to a bygone era – where humble beginnings have evolved into
a relaxing ease and place of calm."

BERLINDA CONTI

THE late 70s in Margaret River was a magical time in WA’s wine history.
Although the spiritual home for peace-loving hippies, cheese cloth kaftans, hard-core surfers and beaten-up Combis (layered with nuances of patchouli and sandalwood and notes of a familiar “medicinal” smoky-haze) – there were very few wineries in the deep, forested southwest back then – though, for the visionaries who established a vineyard during this whimsical era, the benefits have rewarded three-fold.
Jeff and Wynn Gallagher, the original founders of Woody Nook Wines (this year celebrating its 40-year anniversary), had the foresight to purchase prime viticultural land within the golden triangle of Wilyabrup during this time.
Revered for its rich loamy soils and near-perfect Bordeaux-like conditions, the couple had every intention of planting vines in 1978 when they purchased their 25-hectare property, framed in verdant bushland.
Captivated by a landscape of dense jarrah and marri forest (the site has retained around 12 hectares of existing bushland), the property was previously home to a sawmill and sleeper cutters. The Gallagher’s planted the first cabernet sauvignon vines in 1982 – the dry-grown single vineyard block for the label’s iconic benchmark red.
Describing Woody Nook conjures up feelings of romantic nostalgia and odes to a bygone era – where humble beginnings have evolved into a relaxing ease and place of calm.
Meandering down a red gravel track from Metricup Road, parking here is a casual affair, and while Margaret River is home to some of the industry’s most prolific, high-spec winery gigs, Woody Nook has barely changed since the Gallagher’s built the endearing cellar door and homestead (now guest accommodation) from mudbricks and hard wood timber poles in the early 80s.
The ‘business card’ wall still remains, as do the hessian-adorned walls and traditional retro fonts depicted on the labels.
The original café – the Nookery – serves a refreshingly honest menu (think chunky polenta chips, a classic taste plate with homemade hummus and local cheeses, and grass fed scotch fillet with baby tats and greens), with rustic veranda vibes and spectacular bushland views. The cellar door gift shop is a treasure-trove of wine-related items, many with quirky good humour attached and several unique to Woody Nook.
By 1999, the Gallagher’s settled on retirement and in 2000 sold the business to current owners, Peter and Jane Bailey, who were living in the US at the time.
Appreciating the importance of retaining consistency, aligned with a fail-safe formula, the Baileys ensured the transition was seamless, aside from purchasing an additional 20 hectares at the neighbouring “Joliffe” property in 2005 where the following year they planted 8 hectares of semillon, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, tempranillo, graciano, shiraz, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
Jeff and Wynn’s son, Neil Gallagher, remained on site as viticulturalist and chief winemaker until his retirement in 2020, before passing the baton over to esteemed WA winemaker Digby Leddin who, with his winemaking assistant Courtney Dunkerton, is adding a refreshing new energy to the label.
It was an opportunity too good to refuse according to Leddin, who, after taking Swan Valley winery, Riverbank, to heady new heights receiving several industry awards, in addition to 20 years previously at Lamont’s Winery – Leddin was ready for a sea change.
“Neil (Gallagher) left the vineyard in pristine condition; the old (40 year) cabernet vines from the original vineyard are dry grown and hand-picked from a site that is exceptional for cabernet,” says Leddin referring to the best-selling Gallagher’s Choice Cabernet Sauvignon (RRP $65) and former International Wine & Spirit Competition and International Wine Challenge trophy winner.
“We deliberately hold this wine back with at least five years’ cellaring time before release,” says Leddin, who describes the wine as “classic Wilyabrup in every way; real cassis characters with slight eucalypt notes in comparison to cooler climate cabernets which evoke more menthol-like characters”.
While the cabernet formula has remained untethered, Leddin has made welcome tweaks to the stable, including a gold medal winning (2021) rosé (an off-dry style made with about 5.5mg of residual sugar) which collected a trophy at the 2021 Blackwood Valley & WA Boutique Wine Show, as well as modifications to the Killdog Creek Tempranillo which is intended to honour the true Spanish style; bottled early after minimal oak maturation and more fruit-forward characters.
During WA’s recent border closures, Leddin says the winery’s best-selling shiraz-grenache fortified, the Nooky Delight ($29) went down in history as the winery’s highest volume selling wine ever sold in one calendar year during the winery’s 40-year tenure.
“This is the other wine I simply will not meddle with, aside from topping-up the barrels with fresh material each year,” says Leddin.
Woody Nook chardonnay from the 2006 plantings, is showing excellent promise according to Dunkerton, with accolades achieved in 2016 (97 points) and 2017 as Winestate’s Top 5 Chardonnay of the Year (Annual Edition), while a loyal following is building for the winery’s sparkling wines – this year’s anniversary edition will be a vintage 2020 sparkling chenin blanc.
Made in the traditional method it will replace their sold-out 2018 Blanc-de-Blancs Anniversary Edition which spends three years on lees ($36) and according to Leddin, was one of the best sparkling wines he’d tasted in Margaret River. Other varieties are on the rise too.
“Courtney and I are excited about producing some alternative varieties and pushing the envelope a little; we would love to source vermentino, albarino and petit verdot from external growers to add to our small batch graciano and tempranillo.
“Currently our 2021 Fumé, a puncheon fermented sauvignon blanc, typifies the direction we’d like to take the wines,” says Leddin.
Remaining fully hands-on and in-house, adopting old school and contemporary techniques – both in the winery and in the vineyard – and producing wines that “people simply like to drink”, is how this family-owned business has proven profitable over four decades – and on any given day you will find one of the Baileys in the office, behind the counter or in the vineyard.
Woody Nook wines produces around 7,500 cases per annum and currently exports to the United Kingdom. The range includes the Folkloric Series (vibrant fruit-driven wines), the Heritage Series (single vineyard wines expressing true Margaret River characteristics) and their experimental batches such as the barrel fermented chenin blanc ‘Chenanigans’ and other limited release wines.

Visit woodynook.com.au | 506 Metricup Rd Wilyabrup
Western Australia | Open 7 days. Family and dog-friendly.