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Margaret River, Western Australia
Part 7: Xanadu 

Next appointment was at Xanadu, a winery that been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride in recent years. Xanadu just missed being one of the earliest of the Margaret River pioneers, founded in 1977 by Irishman Dr John Lagan. Lagan had been living in the region since 1968, and liked what he saw so much he wanted a slice of the action. He named his new vineyard Xanadu, as in Coleridgeís famous poem. Lagan family ownership came to a close in 2001 when the winery was publically listed on the ASX in 2001. It then went on a massive growth spurt, from crushing 450 tons annually to a massive 2300 tons (2002) in the space of just three years.

Then the company was purchased by the Rathbone family, who have a superb portfolio of mid-sized producers including Yering Station and Mount Langhi Ghiran. Operations were refocused, and the first year of family ownership saw a crush of 650 tons.

When I arrived at Xanadu and was greeted by Glen Goodall (above), who has been the winemaker here since 1999, and has thus been through the period of rapid transition himself. Roseworthy-educated Glenn hails originally from New Zealand, and has experience in South Africa, Hawkes Bay and California. We had a look round the winery, which has a lot of stainless steel, as you might expect, and lots of rotary fermenters, some of which have been customized a bit. Glenn is keen on post-ferment macerations for some of the reds Ė pictured is one tank with dry ice added to keep the skins from going acetic.

Then we tasted the wines. These are not expensive: the Dragon label (a new addition) retails at £6.99 in the UK; the premium wines at £9.99. They're good commercial wines that are well judged and offer some value for money, and the Cabernet and Shiraz are reasonably serious efforts.

Dragon Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006
Fresh, zingy and bright with good acid, a bit of lemon and some grassiness. Crisp and light. 87/100

Dragon Chardonnay Unoaked 2006
Ripe, fresh nose shows some lemony fruit. Itís fresh on the palate with good acidity. A lean style of Chardonnay showing some minerality. 85/100

Xanadu Chardonnay 2005
Hand-picked and whole-bunch pressed. Soft, nutty nose with some toastiness and nice freshness. Broad nutty palate shows rounded fruit with some oak influence. Itís verging on fatness, but thereís some restraint, too. 88/100

Xanadu Chardonnay 2006
Less than a quarter of this was fermented in new oak, and there was a bit of wild yeast ferment, too. Itís a lot more restrained with good acidity and subtle oak. Thereís more purity of fruit here, with some rounded complexity to the palate. 90/100

Dragon Cabernet Merlot 2005 Western Australia
Nice gravelly edge to the ripe blackcurrant fruits. The palate is bright and supple with lovely purity and an attractive gravelliness. Savoury and with good structure this is food compatible. 88/100

Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Margaret River
This was a good year so the wine was given extended post-ferment maceration. Sweet, dark, chocolatey and spicy with some minerally backing. The palate is dense and quite ripe with a lovely spicy structure. A nice dark, intense wine. 90/100

Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Margaret River
Smooth, dark blackcurrant fruit nose with a spicy edge. Thereís a hint of herbiness. The palate is fresh with bright blackcurrant fruit and spicy, tannic structure. A big style of wine with some potential for development. 90/100

Dragon Shiraz 2005
Nice spicy chocolatey dark fruits nose showing distinctive black fruit character. The palate has a lovely fresh, peppery edge to the ripe, dark fruits with some nice savouriness. Stylish. 89/100

Xanadu Shiraz 2004
Focused dark fruits nose with some olive and spice. The palate displays lovely open fruit with lush, pure, meaty character. Perhaps a little too much oak? Still, a really successful wine. 91/100

Xanadu Shiraz 2005
This was co-fermented with Viognier skins, pressed to 720 litres/ton and then the skins were added back. This has a massive impact on the hue and the aromatics. Sweet, ripe aromatic nose with pure dark fruits and a hint of apricot. The palate is ripe, full and bold with sweet fruit and spiciness. A bold, rich style with lots of impact. 91/100

We then tried some barrel samples from 2006 and 2007. The stand-outs were some natural ferment Chardonnays (these are Mendoza clone), and a dark, spicy, chocolatey Malbec 2007 that was really complex.

Wines tasted 04/07
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