Today, Leeuwin is run by second-generation co-CEOs Justin Horgan and Simone Horgan-Furlong, the children of the founders Denis and Trisha Horgan. Talking with Denis and Simone for this story is an interesting experience. Underneath the warmth and Denis's 'taking our first step stories' is a professionalism and commitment to perfection that hasn't wavered since their founding. From the beginning, under the mentorship of Robert Mondavi who first recognized the wine growing potential of their land they identified the keys to long-term success, expressed in their vision and mission, and embraced it with a passion in everything they do. A large part of this is down to the passion and long-term vision of being a family business. Leeuwin enjoyed its first vintage in 1978, and was thrust into the international spotlight when Decanter Magazine gave its highest recommendation to the 1981 Art Series Chardonnay in an international blind tasting. The Leeuwin story was truly on its way.Family: (from left) Dennis, Tricia, Simone, Justin◆ On starting outDenis - "When I first met Mondavi I knew nothing about wine. In fact I hardly ever drank it. And he gave me a Rolls Royce education in it. I went over and had a look at his property. We were the fifth starting winery in Margaret River, so there weren't many others to judge by, and the others were very small in any event. We planted out a number of different varieties on the property, because he wasn't sure which would work. And as they grew up you took some of them out, and we planted more Chardonnay and Cabernet.I suppose what we set about (to do) was produce wines that rank with the best in the world. Then the next challenge was you can make wines that are the best in the world, but it's no use if no one recognizes you, if you haven't got a marketing strategy. So we decided we were about 'Fine Wine, Food and Art." Both of those factors complemented the wine, and it has worked extremely well for us."Restaurant at the winery serves amazing food|Leeuwin Estate holds a large outdoor concert once a year◆ The evolution of Margaret RiverDenis - "It started off as a village. When we first came for surfing, we were driving on gravel roads, it was almost outback. When we started planting vines, there were just these five wineries and we all got on very well, we all thought that Margaret River should make the best wines in the world.Since then Margaret River has been the fastest growing country town in Australia over the last 30 years. Today there are 220 wineries in the region, 18 of them produce 80 per cent of the wine, and of those the five founding wineries are still the best known. Though the area only produces 3% of Australia's wine, it produces over 20% of Australia's premium wines. We had the 50th anniversary of Margaret River this year, and it was celebrated extremely well."Simone - "Margaret River is still predominantly family-owned wineries, so there really is that long-term vision, passion and commitment to the industry. I think that families in the industry have a very important role, you really have to have a long-term vision and ride your way through that. Margaret River is an absolute mecca for attracting young, dynamic and vibrant winemakers. It's a hugely collaborative community at the moment, and all the winemakers regularly get together with barrels from their vintages and learn - it's a nurturing community and very supportive of each other. Everyone is very committed to great wine, so it is certainly collaborative, it's a wonderful community with a lot of energy and it really is a joy that such a small region is producing a small amount of Australia's wine, but is recognized for its high quality."◆ Changes over the years: vineyardsSimone - "I think we were absolutely blessed with the expertise of Robert Mondavi in selecting the varietals that he thought would work best in Margaret River. Then as we've got to understand our sites and climate and soils, and everything a bit better, made a few modifications along the way, but not radical changes. So we got it pretty right from the beginning. A lot of our Chardonnay is the Gingin clone which gives us the hen and chicken effect (in which tiny less ripe "chicken" grapes are mixed in with perfectly ripe golden "hen" berries, providing the wine with natural acidity).We just planted 20 hectares of new vineyards last year, including a little bit of clone 95 to see how it would do on our sites, but Gingin is dominant. For the Cabernets we have a number of varieties of Houghton selection. We originally made a Gewurztraminer but we don't any more. And then Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, we began making Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend in 1999, in the Siblings stable.Robert Mondavi (left) and Denis Horgan (right)Shiraz was one of our early plantings, and we recognized it wasn't planted on a soil type that was ideally suited - it was white quartz that reflected and burnt the grapes, so we grafted it over and it is now home to our finest quality Sauvignon Blanc. We stopped making Shiraz until we better understood site selection, and found a parcel about 15 kilometers from our home block, and further inland that experiences warmer days and cooler nights, and creates a style of Shiraz we really love.After not making it for a decade or so, we released our Art Series Shiraz in 2000. It's feminine and structural with spice and elegance, beautiful berry characteristics. It's a lovely perfumed wine and a lighter style than our Cabernet, so it sits beautifully in our Art Series portfolio. In the intervening years the Aboriginal indigenous art community had really taken off, so all of our Art Series Shiraz has Aboriginal artworks on the label, and the paintings tell the story of Australian art as well as wine and place.Really early on we got it right with our whites, we planted on the right site, we continue to learn but there wasn't a whole lot of style difference in what we are doing. With our red wine program it was more of a learning journey which is really exciting once we began to understand that. It all began in 2002 when we gave our winemakers the mandate of elevating the quality of our red wines to sit alongside the Art Series Chardonnay.The changes began in the vineyard, with lower yields, site selection, breaking it down into smaller parcels, more open canopy management. We want our vines to be a little bit stressed but not too stressed, with smaller berries to give more complexity of character to the Cabernet Sauvignons. Then we moved to smaller open fermenters, more exposure to oxygen, and again more refined oak selection, so we've got softer tannins, more elegance, more balance and length - it's all about being low interventionists and really protecting the purity of the fruit."VineyardsBlock 20 Chardonnay vineyardGingin clone chardonnay with hen-and-chicken berries◆ The change to screwcapsDenis - "One change we made in 2005 was our adoption of screwcaps,hich was a quality proposition driven decision. We believed that after years of trials, it is the best way to age our wines, to get consistency and longevity out of them for ageability. In 2004 we bottled 50:50 (screwcap/cork) just to test the waters, and it was an absolute choice to go to the screwcaps in 2005."◆ Evolving the use of oakSimone - "Oak selection is one of the greatest tools the winemaker has. When you are a non-interventionist producer and you want to do as little as possible to protect the purity of the fruit, the oak you select is going to have a massive impact, so you have to get it right.Originally we were very new world, and it was a little more challenging to have as much control over your French oak selection as we have now. Our coopers are highly engaged and thrilled to have their barrels being part of making wines with a reputation like Leeuwin Estate, and they fly out far more regularly to visit us and barrel sample and understand what our winemakers are looking for. And our winemakers are able to go to France a lot more now and get into the forest and look at the oak selection, and to work far more collaboratively with the coopers. We are working with up to 24 different coopers, continually doing barrel trials, and have 8 primary ones. We always want to see what complexities a different barrel can offer to some of our varietals.The finer grains, the amount of toast, whether it's a Bordeaux or a Burgundy style barrel, it all has an impact. And then there are the different parcels of fruit - if you look at our Art Series Chardonnay, when it is picked we break it down in up to 28 small parcels of fruit when it comes in, and its oak is selected on its individual fruit profile. Art Series fruit is incredibly opulent and powerful, and requires 11 months in 100% new French oak, whereas Prelude is 9 months in once used French oak, so it is a more readily expressive, earlier release style. So different barrels for different styles of fruit - and an interesting journey."Bordelais oak barrels for red-wine storage◆ The impact of vine age on wines over timeDenis - "As the vines have matured, the wines have become much more subtle and much more approachable. We've learnt a lot about the property too, about when to pick, how to handle the wines and more. All of our wines are now at 90 points, and some 100 points, and that has come about because of the gradual knowledge that we have built up, the oak we are using, how long we're using it for, the subtleties that come with age -just like you're feeling you're better than you were 20 years ago.The roots have gone as deep as they are ever going to go, and we are probably coming to the stage where we have to replace some of the vines in the not too distant future."Simone - "That's another reason for the new plantings, some self-insurance, because we don't really know how the vines will age. They are certainly still producing amazing fruit, but we would never let a mechanical harvester go anywhere near our Art Series Chardonnay vines. They are a lot more brittle than they were in their early days, and all handpicked. It takes 75 pickers 3 hours and all the fruit from block 20 Art Series Chardonnay is in."◆ Art Series artDenis - "When we first went into the art on our labels, I contacted Sidney Nolan and asked him "Would he do some art for us?" And he came back to me and said "I'm not a commercial artist, sorry." So I sent him a bottle of wine, and he came back to me and said, "for that wine I'll do a label." He has done a number of labels for us. What we do with the artists is we buy the painting off them, and we give them at least a case of wine with their label on it. So he's come back a number of times for another case of wine.When I asked John Olson whose art is on our Riesling labels, he sent us four paintings and said: "Keep the one you want and send back me the other three back." Well, we've got four kids so we put them on four labels and kept the lot.We now have about 150 original works of art, and they are displayed in an art gallery which was the original cellar."Art gallery in the winery - many of the Art Series label painting (and more) are kept hereLeeuwin Estate is the longest standing member of our portfolio. One reason is of course that the wine is of the very highest quality. Another important reason is the boundless energy that Leeuwin puts in to its restaurant and concerts, which attracts visitors from around the globe and leaves a lasting impression of the winery and Margaret River on them. It is that same energy that ensures consumers can learn more about Leeuwin Estate straight from the horse's mouth at seminars, tastings, and dinners every year in Japan too.