Howard Park (dubbed the ‘HP Sauce’ by locals), owned by Jeff and Amy Burch, is kind of a ‘Ma & Pa’ operation, but one with a proverbial shedload of accolades, an architectural marvel of a cellar door, and 30+ years of experience under its belt.
It’s a real family enterprise. Jeff’s brother and sister also work in the business (both ex-ballet dancers… what a career change!), and so do his three kids. The family’s dogs – two Westies, Hamish and Henry, and Buddy the pug – also do their bit to help out, too.
Jeff grew up in Adelaide and his childhood memories are of riding through the vines in the seat of his great-grandfather’s bike in the Adelaide Hills. His best wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, not Pinot unfortunately!) is named after him: Walter Abercrombie.
When he was still a young man, Jeff moved to Western Australia, where he met his wife Amy at a university library. The couple were soon lured to Margaret River … but for the surf. This was pre-grapes.
Jeff fell into winemaking when his friend, John Wade (ex-Wynns winemaker from Coonawarra) asked whether Jeff would like to join his fledgling new wine venture, Howard Park, in the Great Southern (John was making two wines in a shed in Denmark, WA, at the time). Jeff bought land in both Margaret River and Denmark, and together he and John built Howard Park’s first winery and cellar door down there. Fruit is sourced from both regions to this day, although all the Pinot comes from Great Southern.
Today, Howard Park is considered by critics as a top Australian winery. It’s part of the prestigious Australia’s First Families of Wine collective, and its only West Australian member. Jeff’s children, Nat and Richard, are the next generation, taking up the mantle from their parents. The wines are made by Janice McDonald (a WA winemaking legend that has worked with many of the big names & helped establish a few) and her crew.
Not only is the on-site cellar door a great place to try Howard Park, MadFish and Marchand & Burch wines, it’s also just a great place to hang out. Set on 138-hectares of native bushland and architecturally and feng-shui designed, it’s perfect for a picnic or game of bocce in summer, and for curling up in front of the fire in winter.
Although there are lots of varieties of wine made under the Howard Park and other Burch Family Wines labels, the family stresses that Pinot is their favourite! In fact, they love it so much that they spent a decade looking for the perfect site to grow it in the Great Southern; they make Pinot in France and Australia in collaboration with Burgundian winemaker Pascal Marchand; and when Jeff Burch drinks wine at night, he ALWAYS drinks Pinot. Every. Single. Night.
Which style do you think characterises the Pinot of your region?
All our Pinot Noir hails from the Great Southern region of Western Australia. The vines respond well to the moderate climate, cooling Antarctic airstreams and ancient, nutrient-poor soils which characterise the best vineyard sites. The resulting wines showcase balance and elegance within a fruit-forward style, with savoury and earthy notes emerging after time in bottle. Our best asset is our untapped future potential and the promise of exceptional wines to come as our vineyards mature and our knowledge and understanding deepens.
Tell us three things we need to know about your region?
- We’re on ancient lands
- Great Southern is a cool climate region
- It’s full of spectacular unspoiled scenery
What’s the one thing we must do in your region?
Take a dip in the icy and refreshing Southern Ocean – there are beautiful spots like Middleton Beach in Albany, or Elephant Rocks and Madfish Bay near Denmark.
Where do you Pinot?
Well look, if one were to be all wine snobby about it, of course there’s nothing like drinking fine Pinot in its homeland of Burgundy. But if that’s not available, during winter pairing it with a ‘shroom pasta and sitting fireside with the rain pounding on an old tin roof in WA’s South West is the goods.
If your Pinot was a music artist, who would it be?
Most specifically, it would be a Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue duet. With the right mix of gaminess, minerality (rock!) and dark, broody elegance, but with a bright cherry fruit edge.
If not you, who else should people try?
We have lots of Howard Park alumni running around the Great Southern that are worth a look – Harewood is run by ex-Howard Park winemaker James Kellie, while Brave New Wine by Andries Mostert is doing funky things.
What song should we listen to when driving to the winery?
What song should we listen to when driving away and onto the next one?
Howard Park is available from the Cellar Door, from the website (with loads of extra loving for our Wine Club members), in retail stores, independent bottle shops (we love those!) and in fine restaurants.