It is hard to imagine a founding husband-and-wife team with such an ideal blend of viticultural and winemaking experience accumulated over a combined 40+ years. Cathy Howard (nee Spratt) was a winemaker for 16 years at Orlando and St Hallett in the Barossa Valley, and at Watershed Wines in Margaret River. She now has her own winemaking consulting business covering the southwest regions of WA, as well as making the Whicher Ridge wines. Neil Howard's career as a viticulturist began in the Pyrenees region with Taltarni vineyards and Blue Pyrenees Estate; then he moved to Mount Avoca as vineyard manager for 12 years.When he moved to the west, he managed the Sandalford vineyard in Margaret River for several years, then developed and managed a number of smaller vineyards throughout the region. Whicher Ridge's Odyssey Creek Vineyard at Chapman Hill has sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and viognier. The Howards have chosen the Frankland River subregion of the Great Southern to supply shiraz and riesling, and also buy grapes from Margaret River.
Our vineyard and winery are on our farming property at Chapman Hill, nestled in a hidden valley in the Whicher Range with Margaret River to the west of us, and Busselton to the north. Our vineyard is on the same latitude as Juniper Estate and Vasse Felix, and is at an elevation of 170 metres above sea level. The gravelly ironstone hillside plantings, and the cool winds at night coming off the Southern Ocean during summer, give rise to wines of intensity and finesse. We grow sauvignon blanc, viognier, petit verdot, malbec, mouvedre and cabernet sauvignon on our vineyard. We source riesling and shiraz from two vineyards in Frankland River, and our chardonnay from a vineyard in Margaret River. Our grape growing philosophy is to use sustainable biological farming practices in our vineyard. We do not use pesticides and use a minimal spray application programme to prevent disease. Undervine grasses and flowering plants are retained throughout the year, providing habitats that encourage predatory insects and insect diversity throughout our vineyard. We compost our winery and garden waste, and use this compost across our vineyard as well as in our extensive farm gardens. Our winemaking philosophy is to use hands on, traditional winemaking techniques and minimal additions in the winery. We utilise extended lees contact with all of our whites, meaning that we then can use much lower levels of sulphur dioxide during maturation. The additives that we do use, are all natural, for example our white juices may be lightly fined using skim milk, and our reds are never fined. We do make our Whicher Ridge wines using practices that are not the norm in many wineries around Australia. Our sauvignon blanc is a departure in style from what has become the norm in Australia and New Zealand. It is partial barrel fermented and aged on lees for 12 months. Our chardonnay is made in a similar style, with 100% of it being barrel fermented, as is our Viognier. Our Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are worked in small open fermenters, with barrel fermentation adding an extra layer of complexity during the fermentation process. The reds are basket pressed before going to oak to mature for 2 years. Our Whicher Ridge label summarises really our point of difference amongst the sea of other wine labels in the marketplace. It is based by a photo of our vineyard. The lightning bolt on the label and on our logo is about our ESP, our Energy, Strength and Power. The lightning bolt striking the ridge is symbolic of our energy that has gone into developing and nurturing our vineyard, producing grapes of the very highest quality and the energy that goes into the making of our wines. The strength and power of the lightning bolt also represents our unique partnership of an experienced viticulturalist and a highly skilled winemaker, with an enduring passion for what we do, and why we do it. We are an artisan winery committed to producing a range of the very best wines every year for our customers, and producing wines that we are very proud of. When you visit our winery and Cellar Door, our point of difference in our wine tourism experience is our Wine Sensory Garden which is unique, being the only one of it’s kind in Australia. The Garden design is a figure eight, with separate sections themed to seven different wine varieties. For each wine there is a ‘Descriptor Bed’ planted with fruit trees, flowers and herbs which describe the aromas and flavours in the wine. The adjacent ‘Affinity Bed’ has plantings of fruits, seasonal vegetables and herbs which have an affinity for, or which match with, that particular wine.