Sexton, industry treasure
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).