On 250 acres in Australia's Margaret River region (the nation's equivalent to America's Napa Valley) and abutting a national park, American vintner Will Berliner carefully crafts his stellar array of Cloudburst wine. Only 400 cases leave the vineyard each year, making his annual offering of chardonnay and cabernet a rare treat. The utmost care for the soil and a deep relationship with the vines (closely knit on vertical shoot positioned trellises) contribute to a lush, delicately complex palate within both offerings. Despite Cloudburst's small size they've made a name at some of the most interesting restaurants around the world—Alinea, Fix St. James, Spruce and Blue Hill—to name a few.
After meeting his wife-to-be Stateside, Berliner relocated to her native Australia. Here the two took time to explore along Australia's temperate coast over three years, offering the sea-lover an opportunity to take in the region's expansive beauty. In 2004 Berliner took a leap and purchased land, setting into motion a great deal of change. In the midst of which, it dawned on Berliner that he had invested all of his money on a huge property 12 timezones away from what he knew to be home. There was some shock, plenty of thought, and then an even greater sense of exploration.
Despite the vastness of the property, there was a road within sight that Berliner wanted to mask. He hired an agronomist with the hopes of planting avocados, but was told that he had fantastic wine soil and should consider growing grapes. Recognizing that this was what the area was known for, Berliner embarked on a path that would take him to the prestigious viticulture and enology program at UC Davis and into the world of wine production. "I could have never thought, 10 years ago, that I would be producing wine. Period," he shares with CH. Thankfully, he does.
"You can develop your terroir by being true to the nature of the land," he continues. And within such a robust and inspiring region, Berliner does yield to the land. His vineyard utilizes no heavy machinery, rather his trellis system allows for minimal disruption to his plants. He carefully moderates the amount of sunlight and air circulation and there's no extra irrigation, as the close-planted vines who have developed their own root systems are naturally watered by the areas cycles. "I have nature as a mentor," he says. "I'm lucky. It's magic there."
Berliner notes an insurgence of "instavineyards" in the region; heavily financed and with a view in mind to produce cheap bottles—but he doesn't see them as opposition. He does note that the scarcity of his product has been an issue, fought best by his personal tenacity and the fact that the wines are superb. Because of that, he is steadily growing at a rate he can handle with hopes to produce more annually in the coming years. With everything, he is personally hands-on: "I need to be there all the time to catch the intuitive hit that I'm on the right track or there's something that needs to be done."
On the market now, Cloudburst offers a 2010, 2011 and 2012 chardonnay, as well as a cabernet from the same years. Regarding the white, each is clean and oaky, with the 2011 demonstrating a vibrant electric flavor. The 2012 is nuttier, but all three are standouts. As for his red, we found the 2011 demonstrates a bright tartness with notes of cherry and mulberry. The 2012 carries nutmeg and all spice. All have a distinct taste and tremendous clarity. These highly awarded wines are some of the best, if not the best, from an area known for producing the highest quality Australian wines.
Cloudburst wines are available online for $200 to $250 per bottle.
Images courtesy of Cloudburst Wines