A True Original
Steve James and Alexandra Burt take a moment to reflect on the role of her father, Michael J Wright, in creating Voyager Estate's most important wine release to date.
Steve James: Tell us where MJW originated
Alexandra Burt: Voyager Estate was established in 1978 but acquired in 1991 by my father, Michael J Wright. From the first vintage under his ownership, he set out to create a special wine, something that, when the vintage conditions were right, would stand head and shoulders above the rest of the collection. His first attempt was a 1992 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon followed by another from the 1994 vintage. In 1997, I remember sitting on our back verandah and sampling the vintage with some of the international delegates from the Master of Wine Symposium being held in Perth that year. Dad and I were surprised at how complimentary they were about both the '92 and '94. It gave Dad the confidence to formally put the 1994 wine under a label.
His wish was to name the wine in honour of a man whose contribution to our family's good fortune in the 1960's was undeniable, and in Dad's eye's, unsung. That man was an American named Tom Price and many extraordinary vintages of these wines have proudly borne his name. However, after dad's passing in 2012, we felt it was the right time to acknowledge him as the true creator of these beautiful wines. We've had to wait a while for the release but it comes at an excellent time as we celebrate 40 years of winegrowing.
As for the name of the wine, as you know he went by many names - Michael, Mike, Mikey, Big Mick, Sir, even the Holy Father. This last one he gave himself. However, when he signed off on things he always used his initials, MJW. It was his seal of approval. We are confident he would give his seal of approval to these new vintages.
SJ: Michael had a great interest and fascination for the soils which was almost an obsession, wouldn't you say?
AB: He was meticulous when it came to setting up vineyards and he oversaw the soil profiling of our land on a 20 metre x 20 metre grid pattern, five times the normal density. This ensured not only the quality of the soil being planted, but the uniformity of structure and depth. This obsession was a key factor in creating some of the incredible vineyard blocks we have today, particularly Broadvale Block 5 and Block 6 Chardonnay and North Block 12 Cabernet Sauvignon, which form the core of the MJW wines.
SJ: I certainly recall Michael's boots as being particularly well worn - both in the miles they travelled and the fact that he wore them until they literally fell apart. What do the boots represent to you?
AB: Ah, the boots. Yes they were a constant feature of his get-up, along with his custom multi-pocketed trousers and shirts. He had several pairs of RM Williams boots and rarely wore anything else. They gave him a very distinctive footfall on hard surfaces, but in the dirt he could creep up on you, until his jangling keys gave him away.
One particular pair of boots really summed him up - the most weathered and dirty, falling apart at the sides and showing 'maturity' beyond their years. These are the ones he wore out and about in the vineyard through mud, dust and puddles. To me they represent his desire to get out amongst the soil and the vines, to observe and assess, to reflect and improve, and to keep moving. They also represent his no-nonsense approach to work and life. Of all the symbols that are associated with him, his boots seemed the most appropriate for the MJW wine.
SJ: Can you convey your philosophy of what the MJW wines represent?
AB: It is a privilege to have vineyards as special as those we have at Voyager Estate, and I have my father to thank for that. Without his foresight and vision, I would never have had the opportunity to work with such amazing team in such a beautiful place to create wines that show the best of what Margaret River can do.
The MJW Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are to the Voyager Estate collection what Michael Wright is to me and the whole team - our inspiration, our guiding force, and our motivation to keep striving for excellence. It is most fitting that these wines are named to honour of him. Truly original wines, honouring a true original.
Today we release the 2014 MJW Cabernet Sauvignon and 2016 MJW Chardonnay. Both wines are available to purchase in our Online Store here