Sex­ton, in­dus­try trea­sure

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Wine -

THE Devil’s Lair Mar­garet River Chardon­nays and Caber­nets are the best that they have ever been and still im­prov­ing ev­ery year.

Devil’s Lair was just one of the flavour-based ideas (beer, cof­fee, wine, restau­rants) that flowed end­lessly from the ex­tra­or­di­nary mind of Phil Sex­ton when he lived in WA.

Sex­ton was in­stru­men­tal in found­ing The Matilda Bay Brew­ing Com­pany, Devil’s Lair Wines, Lit­tle Crea­tures Brew­ing Co and was in­volved in the early days of Dome Cof­fee.

These days he has Gi­ant Steps win­ery in the Yarra Val­ley.

Sex­ton’s ap­proach to busi­ness was amaz­ing.

In late De­cem­ber 1989, he rang me from Syd­ney to ask if I would go halves in a win­ery ven­ture with him that he wanted to have op­er­a­tional within a few weeks? If so, could I find some fruit and a con­tract wine­maker?

My ad­vice, which I thought was ac­cepted, was to wait, plan and start the fol­low­ing year in 1991.

Sex­ton rang again min­utes later, said that he could not wait and could I start look­ing for fruit?

John Wade made the first few vin­tages and twice in three vin­tages won tro­phies for Best Wine of Show at Mount Barker, still the largest show for WA wines.

I left the part­ner­ship af­ter a cou­ple of years and much later Sex­ton sold Devil’s Lair to what is now Trea­sury Wine Es­tates (TWE) who also own Wynns, Sep­pelts, Lin­de­mans, Rose­mount, Wolf Blass, Sal­tram and many other house­hold names in­clud­ing Pen­folds.

Whilst TWE have in­vested mil­lions in vine­yard and win­ery de­vel­op­ment over the decades, it is only with the latest few vin­tages that each of the wines, in their var­i­ous price ranges, are now match­ing al­most any­thing that Mar­garet River can do.

The 2011 $100+ each Ninth Cham­ber Chardon­nay (18.8 points) and com­ing Caber­net (18.9 points) are won­der­ful, but the value star is the 2013 Chardon­nay, the best ever un­der this la­bel (18.6 points and $50, but avail­able be­low $40 on spe­cial).

With John Jens

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