The man who could quite well be responsible for making WA’s first chardonnay is retiring from wine making after spending his entire life in the industry.
Born and bred in the Barossa Valley, it is probably little surprise Bob Cartwright ended up in the wine industry, making his way to the Margaret River region 40 years ago.
He had his first job in his hometown working in the bottling line at Kaiser Stuhl before he moved onto vintage shoveling grapes.
“It was not as mechanised as it is now,” he said.
“I then went into the laboratory, I spent two years there before I did a Roseworthy course.”
When Mr Cartwright came to WA he worked at Valencia, which was a sister company of Houghton’s in the Swan Valley, the vineyard had just grown enough chardonnay grapes to pick.
“That is when we made some,” he said.
A job advertisement at Leeuwin Estate lured Mr Cartwright to the region, he was successful and has been here ever since.
He said the friendly nature of the industry had kept him here all these years.
“The people in it are really quite friendly to each other and very helpful, particularly in this area, if someone has a problem or needs a hand people help out” he said.
“When I first started here there were not many qualifications, there was David Hohen and myself, a lot of people who were starting out were doctors or farmers who decided to get into it.
“For some of them, their knowledge was very limited, so it was good to help them out.”
Now he has officially decided to retire after his first attempt in 2002, Mr Cartwright said he would miss everything about wine making
“It always a buzz when each new year comes on, the new shoots, the grapes ripen, at the moment everything is going into dormancy, after pruning the new shoots everything will look green, fresh and vibrant again.”
Mr Cartwright said the interesting thing about the region’s reputation was that it came about very quickly.
He said initially it was Vasse Felix which received recognition for their earlier rieslings, followed by Cape Mentelle with their Jimmy Watson Cabernets then Leeuwin with their chardonnays.
“Within 10 years I guess the region had got recognition, which other areas took years and years to get,” he said.
“Margaret River is now recognised around the world, and has been for many years, as a premium area for growing Cabernet and chardonnay in particular.
“It is probably, and perhaps arguably, the best place for growing grapes in Australia. Things have just gone on getting better and better.”
Mr Cartwright said one of his career highlights was the work he had done in establishing the region’s chardonnays as a world class wine.
“If I talk about Leeuwin chardonnays where I spent most of my time, we never ever did a dud, they were all brilliant and that is something no other winery in Australia has managed to achieve,” he said.
“The chardonnay at Leeuwin has consistently been the best.”
Of his latest achievements, Mr Cartwright worked with Thompson Estate where they made the Specialist range, which he said turned out to be great wines and was what he set out to do.
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