Meet Chief Viticulturist: John Fogarty

Meet Chief Viticulturist: John Fogarty

In July we spoke to John Fogarty, Chief Viticulturist for Fogarty Wine Group, about his passion for the Smithbrook vineyards and Pemberton region, as well as what makes the Smithbrook wines so unique!

When did you first know you wanted to work in the vineyard and why?

I started my viticulture journey on weekends and holidays whilst I was at school, helping out planting, pruning etc. this had my interest being outside working with the land and the environment, from here I went on to university to study viticulture and here I am today!

What do you love most about being in the vineyard at Smithbrook?

Pemberton is such a unique part of WA, it is very different to other viticultural regions and is really just a beautiful landscape being surrounded by tall karri trees, it truly is breathtaking and it just feels untouched! For some reason I always feel more relaxed whilst being onsite at Smithbrook even though we have 90Ha’s to run!

Why do the Smithbrook varietals suit the colder climate in Pemberton?

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Nebbiolo. Smithbrook has long even ripening with cooler climate being away from the coast, but not too far inland to gather the heat. The karri forests keep the humidity up and the heat down, chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo love the cooler weather and the humidity

When you think of the Smithbrook Estate in Pemberton, what comes to mind?

Karri Trees, water, karri loam soils and not much phone reception (quite relaxing!!)

From a viticulturists perspective, what makes the terroir at Smithbrook unique?

Smithbrook itself is an amazing site, quite like a large amphitheater with dams in the centre and surrounded by karri trees to 2/3 of the site which keeps a unique micro climate across the site as suggested with the humidity and relatively mild temperatures.

Most mornings onsite you wake to a mist/fog across the middle of the site raising from the dams. There are a mix of soils but generally karri loam to gravelly karri loams which are rich soils that vines thrive in

What do you think is the most important viticultural technique to produce outstanding cool-climate fruit in Pemberton?

Managing vigour and opening up canopies (leaf plucking) to ensure there is enough light on fruit and air flow.

What are you gearing up to do in the vineyards at Smithbrook at the moment?

We are currently reworking some Chardonnay inhouse with our team to cane pruning from old spur pruning to increase yield and quality, we have around 300 sheep onsite for maintaining the mid rows and weed control, and getting ready for pruning we mechanically prune the site first and then have a team of 10 seasonal workers to go through and hand prune after this.

We have also just had our first truffle hunt for the season which supplies our restaurants at Millbrook Winery and Bunkers Beach House for the winter months!

What is your favourite Smithbrook wine to drink right now?

Smithbrook Pinot is always a favourite of mine, it expresses the terroir of the site best. More so at this time of the year, a nice fire, glass of pinot and some Smithbrook truffles watching the rain fall across the valley here.

Browse the Smithbrook wines here.