How, when and why would a proud fifth generation member of one of Bordeaux’s family wine dynasties, its roots dating back to the 17th century, and a Colorado-raised IBM executive who had created a wholesale travel business, Aussie Adventures, come together (with their wives) on Kangaroo Island? Each fell in love with the rolling hills and wild coastlines of the Island which had remained off the map of all but the most intrepid travellers until it hit national headlines for the worst possible reason in January 2020 as bushfires ravaged 50% of its 155km long and 50km wide landscape.

Jacques Lurton was a flying winemaker travelling between vineyards in eight countries when he and his wife made landfall in 1997. The decision to make this his home away from home didn’t take long, buying a 280ha farm and planting an 11ha vineyard, followed by a made to measure winery.

Yale and wife Maren Norris plus two children arrived in 2011, and a year later invested in the business, progressively taking on his roles of general manager, vineyard manager, winemaker and sales director. Lurton continues as founder, co-owner and chief winemaker, having recently spent three weeks there during the height of vintage.

As Yale recounts ‘After losing our vineyard and infrastructure we were unsure if our land or the business would recover. We spent the better part of 2020 replacing fences, cleaning up debris, pulling out vineyard blocks damaged beyond repair, and cutting remaining vines to ground level to stimulate new shoot growth.’ The winter rainfall of 2020 was fantastic, with nearly 70% of the former vineyard actively regrowing. ‘We spent all Spring putting up new trellis and cordon wires, retraining vines, and installing a new irrigation system’ he continues.

The ensuing (’21) vintage centred on fruit from other Kangaroo Island vineyards not affected by the fires, ’22 largely contract grown, but entirely made at the restored estate winery. Muses Yale ‘So many positives can come from tragedy if you look forward and not back.’

 2018 The Islander Estate Vineyards Boundary Track Kangaroo Island Shiraz

Table-sorted (berry by berry) by hand. Wild fermented in 1000l ceramic eggs; on skins 8 weeks; matured in French demis (25% new) for 24 months. Still crimson hued; beautifully made, with silky tannins and fruit-freshness, the oak playing a nigh-on unseen hand. One glass insists on two.

96 points, drink to 2048, 13.5% alc, Screwcap, $75

2016 The Islander Estate Vineyards The Independence Kangaroo Island Malbec

Hand-picked, table-sorted, barrel fermented in seasoned 600l demis, 5 weeks on skins, 24 months in new 600l demis. An alluring, expressive bouquet with licorice, polished leather, eastern spices, dried plum and earth all calling out, joined by cedary oak tannins on the long, perfectly balanced, finish.

96 points, drink to 2036, 14.5% alc, Diam, $150

2021 The Islander Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc

Managed organically. Pale quartz-green. Classic sauvignon blanc flavours range from snowpea to wild herbs to gooseberry. No compromises needed – nor used. Revels in the exceptional vintage, flawless mouthfeel and balance.

94 points, drink to 2023, 13% alc, Screwcap, $30

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