Larry Cherubino has worked for or consulted to some of the biggest names in the world of wine, but it is with his Cherubino label that he gets to explore the regions of Western Australia his way. Cherubino employs both traditional methods perfected over decades of winemaking, as well as throwing out the rulebook and bucking convention. His sustainably farmed sites grow classic varieties, as well as welcoming a brace of less-familiar grapes. Cherubino was a Young Gun finalist in 2007.
Cherubino started his career as a horticulturist, then diverted to winemaking in an era when winemakers spent pretty much all their time in sheds. He first made a name for himself at Tintara, then transferred to Houghton where he re-established the importance of that great old producer (founded 1836). That led to Cherubino’s services being in very high demand and a period of consultancy followed both in Australia and New Zealand, as well as in France, the US, South Africa and Italy.
That notion of being a flying winemaker was one that was common through the 90s and 00s, and no doubt still is, but for Cherubino it was always about getting back to the roots – literally. That era of remote winemaking and the winery being the centre of the process has shifted somewhat, with vineyards now being accorded their natural kingship.
Today, winemakers are likely to spend as much time amongst the vines as they are in the winery, from pruning in winter to assessing the harvest right through the season, and this is where Cherubino’s passion lies. While he was fashioning one of the most lauded and famous winemaking careers, Cherubino was building his own brand, intent on celebrating the different terroirs of Western Australia through working with the best vineyards and the best fruit possible.
Cherubino and his wife Edwina (a fourth-generation West Australian) first bought a small plot of land in Frankland River in 2004, adding an adjacent vineyard and prime unplanted land a few years later. The first wine under Cherubino’s eponymous label followed in 2005. That brand would grow rapidly, but carefully, with Cherubino focused on quality of site, varietal suitability and fruit health.
That home vineyard, named Riversdale after the original farm, is still Cherubino’s base and is now planted to shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, mencía, touriga nacional, grenache, mourvèdre, malbec, fiano and tempranillo. He also has another vineyard in Frankland River, as well as one each in Pemberton, Porongurup and Margaret River, with a total area under vine exceeding 120 hectares. All the sites are managed sustainably, with no herbicides used, and minimal copper employed.
Cherubino now has eight ranges under his banner, with single site expressions as well as regional blends. And while those wanting some of the finest classic expressions of Margaret River chardonnay and cabernet or Frankland River riesling should look no further, Cherubino has always pushed the envelope too.
The Laissez Faire wines were launched in 2012, featuring ‘alternative varieties’ alongside those more familiar and made with no additions except a little sulphur at bottling. Today, there are 12 wines in the range, including a mencía and skin-contact vermentino. More recently, Cherubino launched Uovo from the 2017 vintage, with a suite of wines fermented and raised in clay cement eggs. And that’s how it is at Cherubino, with constant evolution and experimentation happily rubbing shoulders with tradition.