Western Australia, holds travel possibilities as limitless as its seemingly infinite stretches of natural bush and cerulean skies. Here’s what VERNE MAREE saw on her wine tour in Margaret River.
Glenn was our guide for the day, and also the driver of the 13-seater bus. Including a total of nine stops between the 10 am hotel pickup and 5.30pm drop-off, our $115 each included lunch and was good value, we thought.
1. At Watershed Winery, just down the road from Margaret River Town, we tasted a teaspoonful each of a long list of wines – none stood out particularly for us, but then 10.05am might not be the ideal time for wine, especially on an empty stomach. It has gorgeous grounds and a lovely visitor centre, though, and we’re told it’s famous for its cabernet sauvignon. Established as recently in 2001, the wine growing is all computerised; for example, rainfall sensors indicate how much irrigation is required. Harvesting usually takes place at the end of January, Terri told us – but if the winter is long, can take place in mid February, when the sugars have had time to develop in the grapes.
2. Voyager’s lovely Cape Dutch architecture was directly inspired by somewhere like Boschendal, in South Africa’s Cape winelands, and comes complete with slave bell. Its 30-metre flagpole is the highest privately owned flagpole in the country; any higher, we’re told, and it would have to be registered for aircraft clearance. (Roy and I had lunch here ten years ago, and I remember it was delicious.)
This time, the experienced and knowledgeable Mark introduced us to the four wines on the tasting list, starting with a most palatable chenin – and threw in another couple, just because we’re such lovely people. Finally, a walk around Voyager’s exquisite rose garden and its formally symmetrical double garden, done in the Dutch style, we’re told. 3At Leeuwin, it was straight to our alfresco lunch table, for a choice of pasta, fish or a Black Angus sirloin that was beautifully aged and perfectly presented. You overlook a grassy amphitheatre where the likes of James Taylor, Shirley Bassey, Queen and Dame Kiri te Kanawa have all performed.
3. At Leeuwin, it was straight to our alfresco lunch table, for a choice of pasta, fish or a Black Angus sirloin that was beautifully aged and perfectly presented. You overlook a grassy amphitheatre where the likes of James Taylor, Shirley Bassey, Queen and Dame Kiri te Kanawa have all performed.
4. Acres of grazing deer are a hint that you’re approaching WA’s first commercial deer farm, operated by Margaret River Venison – turn left along Carter Road, just north of Margaret River. Here you can taste various processed meat products made from venison, beef, goat and lamb, including chorizo and biltong, plus cheese, crafts and more.
5. They’re generous with the tasting buffet at Olio Bello – not only different olive oils, but a wide variety of pesto, tapenade style and other products to taste – and that really does encourage you to buy.
6. Bettenay’s Wine and Nougat. Why wine and nougat, you may ask. Well, why not?
7. This is the original branch of Margaret River Chocolate Company, and it’s just like the outlet in the Swan Valley; there’s another in Murray Street in the city of Perth, too. Free tastings of the chocolate pellets imported from Belgium make it popular; but if you’re annoyed by swarms of greedy children of all ages, I suggest you steer clear.
8. We’re on the home straight now, and the folk at Margaret River Dairy Company look as though they, too, have just about had enough for the day.
9. Saving the best for last, Glenn drives us through Cowamarup – a town festooned with dozens of life-sized faux Friesland cows – to Adinfern wine estate. In her very engaging presentation, Jan explains that the place was originally a dairy farm and then a sheep farm, before her husband Merv retrained in viticulture and then wine-making at the age of 50. It seemed hard to leave without buying a bottle of the white port ($30), so we didn’t.
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