Bruce and Jeanette Tomlinson established Lenton Brae Estate in 1982. It remains family owned and operated with son Edward the current winemaker.
The site of the vineyard was chosen after a chance conversation with Bill Pannell. Bill was the owner of Moss Wood winery and producing wines that were renowned throughout Australia and overseas. Bill had engaged Bruce to assist with the shire of Busselton’s planning requirements for sub dividing the Moss Wood property.
During a casual chat between the two men, Bill opined that the soils of one of the newly created properties were uniformly excellent and equal to those of the existing Moss Wood vineyard. Suitably impressed, Bruce decided to purchase the property immediately to the north of Moss Wood realising a long held desire to move from Perth to Margaret River. The need to establish a vineyard and winery just happened to be incidental.
The varieties selected for planting in 1982 were Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Pinot Noir was also originally planted but was removed in line with Bruce’s decision to focus Lenton Brae production on the red and white Bordeaux wine styles.
Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
About the time Bruce was wrestling with the implications of uprooting nearly 2 hectares of Pinot Noir there was a growing realisation that Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon and red Bordeaux style blends were both unique and of superb quality. Bruce extrapolated that if the red grapes were so suitably matched to Margaret River’s soils and climate might not Bordeaux’s white varieties too? This idea coupled with Bruce’s distaste for varietal Semillon was the genesis for Lenton Brae’s first blended Semillon Sauvignon Blanc released in 1987. It’s for others to debate Bruce’s role and development in the now ubiquitous ‘SSB’ from Margaret River, now widely recognised a regional speciality but what can’t be disputed is Lenton Brae’s fidelity with the style which in 2016 celebrates 30 consecutive releases.
The Naming of Lenton Brae
“Lenton” comes from the chapel district of Lenton in Nottingham, England. It is from here that the first Tomlinson’s migrated to Australia in 1882. “Brae” is a Scottish term for a small hill and a topographical feature of the Wilyabrup vineyard.
The first Cabernet Sauvignon was released from the1988 vintage. This wine won two trophies at the 1990 SGIO W.A winemakers’ exhibition, including best wine of show. Further success followed in 1992, with the Chardonnay winning gold and three trophies at the 1992 Perth Royal Wine Show. The trophies included the award for best West Australian wine of any class, best West Australian white wine and best West Australian Chardonnay.
Lenton Brae continues to be reviewed frequently and favourably and is consistently rated a 5 star winery by James Halliday.
- Semillon Sauvignon Blanc Accolades (pdf)
- Wilyabrup Chardonnay Accolades (pdf)
- Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon Accolades (pdf)
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Lenton Brae Building & its Bells
Bruce designed and built the winery in 1988, which incorporates the cellar sales gallery that has sweeping views across the Wilyabrup valley. The building has since been recommended for heritage listing by the shire of Busselton. Bruce’s winery design incorporated two complementary towers giving the option to install bells in either tower. 5 bells were duly commissioned and foundered in Perth by local bell makers and positioned in the south bell tower adjacent to the Wilyabrup valley. Unfortunately over time the bells fell ‘off key’ and attempts to re-tune were problematic, the bells fell silent in 2006.
In 2014 youngest son Edward began the process of commissioning a new quintet of bells in his father’s memory. Design and casting was carried out by John Taylor & Co in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England who has cast Notable London Bells including “Great Paul” at St Paul’s Cathedral. The quintet, weigh in at over a tonne and the mammoth task of installing and tunning the bells was handed to Laith Reynolds and Rhys Greenhalgh from Swan Bells in Perth, who worked meticulously during the final stages of the commissioning.
Today the bells chime on the quarter hour with the well-known Westminster Chimes which people associate with Grandfather clocks and the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster in London commonly known as Big Ben. Rhys Greenhalgh has volunteered that our 5 bells sound as good as he has heard! We invite you to visit and be the judge.