Forester Estate is owned by the McKay family, and is situated on Wildwood Road, Yallingup, in the northern Margaret River region.
Built in 2002, Forester Estate is a new generation winery that strives to showcase the distinct regional characters of northern Margaret River fruit.
The Estate is surrounded by huge Eucalypt trees that once supported a thriving forestry trade established in the 1850’s. This forestry industry was the first to open up rugged land along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge and provide jobs for many of the new arrivals.
The Estate has a saw pit that was used by the original pioneers to mill timber which was transported by ox and cart to Yallingup-Siding, the nearby railway station.
This timber, especially the hardwood Mahogany (Jarrah), was shipped out from Geographe Bay to countries around the world. Even today, many streets of London lie on the Jarrah trees milled from the forests of Margaret River.
It is from this heritage that the name Forester Estate is derived.
Henry John Yelverton was a pioneer of much of the land in the Qunidalup region, west of Busselton in these early days. He was first licensed to cut loads of Jarrah from crown land in 1852 and by 1854 had built the largest timber mill in the colony. The mill employed over 100 men and was fed by a purpose built tramway extending 13 miles in length from the forest through to the Qunidalup jetty.
Before long a school, police station and post office were erected and Yelverton had become the benefactor of a small town. The following extract written by a visiting correspondent of the The Inquirer vividly captures his achievement.
“C and I walked along the tramway which extends three miles. It was so very pleasant – quantities of lovely bush flowers and magnificent trees looking so grand and lofty.
Yelverton’s station is a wonderful place. He has three steam engines at work; the last erected is very large; five pieces of timber can be cut at once and each with several saws … To me it is a most exciting scene; here in the midst of the dark forest, to see such ceaseless industry and the wonderful steam power causing the saws to go through the huge logs just as you would go through a piece of soap.
And all this, commenced and carried on by the energy and perseverance of one man, produces a sensation in me which I cannot describe.”
(Battye Library, The Inquirer, June 25th, 1862)
Forester Estate releases a “Yelverton” reserve Cabernet Sauvignon only in years where the best parcels of fruit are determined to be of exceptional quality.
These wines are carefully blended after 20 months in French oak before being bottled and laid down for up to three years in our cellar prior to release.
Forester has recently added to its premium wine range the Yelverton Chardonnay, also only produced in years of exceptional quality.
KEVIN MCKAY & TODD PAYNE
Winemaker, Vigneron, Owner
After attending Muresk Agricultural College, Kevin chased the good life and came south with surfboard under arm.
Realising the potential of the region as a producer of premium wines, he set about developing 70 acres of vines at the family’s Abbey Vale property in 1986.
Having conquered this challenge, Kevin sought further fruit by developing 100 acres via contract growers. The wood for the grower’s vines was taken from the Abbey Vale property and planted under Kevin’s guidance.
Sensing the need to value-add, Kevin soon realised the importance of being able to make wine. He turned his attention to winemaking.
To strengthen Kevin’s winemaking he engaged the services of consultant winemaker Dorham Mann, previously from Sandalford and Houghton, in the early nineties. Dorham has been Kevin’s mentor ever since.
Kevin was winemaker and vigneron at Abbey Vale until the family sold in February 2001.
Next Kevin turned his attention to making super premium and iconic wines under the Forester Estate label, and for a select few producers in the Margaret River region.
“My aim is not to get too big, but to focus my attention to detail and build complexity into my wines from the ground up.”
He continually maintains the emphasis on production, from grape to bottle, as a consistent super premium product.
We want our wines to consistently reflect the premium fruit grown in the Margaret River region.
Starting out his working career completing an apprenticeship in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning, Todd soon realised that this was not the career for him, and with a passion for wine growing stronger, he took his hard earned money and left for a working holiday through Europe.
Returning from his trip with an ever increasing love of wine, Todd was led to study a Bachelor of Science in Viticulture and Oenology at Curtin University.
Armed with his new qualifications, he completed a couple of vintages in the Great Southern and Napa Valley (US) before taking on the Assistant Winemaker position at Plantagenet Wines in Mt Barker at the end of 2003, working his way up to Winemaker over the course of 3 years.
In January 2007 Todd moved with his wife to New Zealand to take on the role of Winemaker at Esk Valley Estate in Hawke’s Bay.
Being part of the Villa Maria group meant that he was able to work with ultra-premium fruit from the famous Gimblett Gravels region of Hawke’s Bay, as well as travel to Marlborough and Auckland to taste and blend all the major varieties from New Zealand’s wine growing areas (and yes, lots of Sauvignon Blanc!!).
He also managed to squeeze in two French vintages in the Northern Rhone working for Domaine du Monteillet in 2006 and Yves Cuilleron in 2008.
Todd has been chief winemaker at Forester Estate since 2010 and is delighted to now be raising his family at home in WA. He is an integral part of the Forester Estate team and his passion for winemaking is evident in the finished product.
I really enjoy making wines from the Margaret River region. Forester wines have been going from strength to strength and I am very happy to be a part of the team to help this continue.
WINEMAKING & SUB REGIONS
The home vineyard was historically referred to as Redland Valley. It was planted on an open lyre trellising system in 1995 and
purchased by Kevin and Jenny McKay in 2001. The property runs north-south up the eastern flowing Wildwood Valley.
The open lyre trellis demands more manual labour and less machinery doing the work. The resulting decreased vigour and
increased sunlight penetration provide unique fruit qualities that favour riper fruit spectrums and fully developed tannins.
Quality and Variety
With over 20 years grape growing experience in the region, Kevin McKay has built relationships with a number of key growers to ensure Forester Estate has access to older vineyards.
Considering that Margaret River is only 40 years old as a commercial wine growing region, we view vines greater than 20 years of age as mature here!
Sourcing fruit from up to 14 vineyards in a given vintage allows the Forester winemakers plenty of options when it comes to maximizing quality and preserving varietal expression in each wine.
Each property has unique site characteristics that are reflected in the fruit it grows. In some cases individual blocks of fruit on the one vineyard are picked in stages to further isolate subtle soil boundaries impacting on fruit quality.
These unique site characteristics of soil composition, aspect to the sun, drainage patterns and climate all interact in almost magical ways to stamp a vineyard’s fruit with a certain quality.
The French have acknowledged this for generations and applied the term ‘terroir’ to the summary of a particular site’s sense of place or viticultural potential.
So much so that in fact the French Appelation d’origine controlee (AOC) system which defines winemaking and wine labelling laws in France is heavily based on historical knowledge of terroir in each of the sub regions around the country.
While quality has always been tied directly to site in France, the new world winemaking countries have generally allowed the finished quality of a wine in the bottle to define the perceived quality of a producer.
Small batch winemaking
There is however a growing trend for Australian producers to focus more specifically on small, unique vineyard blocks with exceptional terroir to create their premium and ultra-premium wines.
Forester Estate is absolutely committed to this approach to fruit sourcing with considerable resources applied to small batch winemaking in an effort to discover the ‘gems’ that lie among the hills and valleys of Margaret River.
Access to fruit from a range of unique vineyard sites provides options and potential complexity.
How then does a winery define its style and provide the consumer with wines they can get to know and trust over successive vintages?
The Yallingup Sub Region
In the case of Forester Estate this encompassing style parameter is the choice to source nearly all of its fruit from the northern third of the 100km long Margaret River wine region.
With lower rainfall and higher sunshine hours than the southern end of the region, and being impacted by the large body of warm water in Geographe Bay to the northeast, the Yallingup sub region lends towards riper, fruitier white wines and finely structured elegant reds.
Finding good vineyard sites is a big part of the quality pie, but it is not all of it.
Viticultural management practices are crucial to the maximizing of fruit potential and to the protection of Forester’s assets in years of adverse weather or strong disease pressure.
The decisions that can be made in establishing a new vineyard are endless, however once well established our approach to each vineyard is more or less the same – minimal inputs for the most natural output attainable.
Irrigation is only used if absolutely required to keep vine health at an optimum. Chemical inputs are extremely low and again only used as a supplement to physical forms of pest and disease management.
The goal is always to let the vines find a natural balance in the dirt they call home and then to assess the fruit on its merits.