It's a bout a 3hr drive from Perth down to Margaret River and it is particularly pleasurable if you are English and listening to Australia getting dismissed for 98 whilst we stroll on to 156-0 as the scenary rolls past!
This SW corner of WA is really beautiful with lovely pastoral views of farmland and acres of vines. This is the wine producing region of WA and reminds me of the landscape back in Bordeaux near where my parents live, except that this region is closer to the coast which changes the flavours. It is like a home from home to be surrounded by the delights of glorious countryside filled with vinyards from grand estates to small family labels taking advantage of the fertile soil along the reiver that gives the region its name.
It's not only the wine that makes this a tourist hot spot however. It is also a favourite for foodies with plenty to sample from local produce from cheese to chocolate and dine out at the many gourmet restaurants. For culture lovers there are art galleries and a year round programme of events from the cow parade to festivals and cinema under the stars in the summer. If you seek adventure and the great outdoors then you are also spoilt: fantastic surf, huge forests with walking trails and mazes, canoeing along the river, bush tours, caves to explore underground and recks and reefs to explore under the sea. With a range of accommodation from unpowered tent spots in the bush like ours to five star boutique apartments, spas and eco retreats it is easy to see why this corner of the world entices so many people to come and chill for a while and find pleasure in their own particular idea of paradise.
The only downside is the flies that swarm around you when outside in the still summer. They don't bite they are just annoying and make eating outside nearly impossible, limiting the al fresco lifestyle you might otherwise hope to enjoy down here. The most prevelant cologne is eau de Aeroguard (tropical strength) and the ultimate fashion accessory a leafy twig of eucalyptus to use as a fan. They also give JJLB fly rage!!
The only other annoyance is cafes in holiday resorts don't open until 8am so don't really cater for early risers, and after a peaceful night's sleep in the bush I'm awake by 6am at the latest. Baristas in Australia are also extremely slow … expect to wait over 10 minutes even for a takeaway. So it takes a long while to get my caffeine fix in the morning!! Finally if you ask for latte in a mug expect to get either a large latte in a glass or a flat white … sigh … coffee rant over!
We did find a cafe open before 8am overlooking the most gorgeous little sandy cove just outside Preverley. Another morning start with a coffee and a view of the Indian Ocean glistening like a jewel in a kaleidoscope of blues and turquoises to provide a dreamy start to our first day … I could get used to this …
We decided to start with what we know best, so after breakfast we returned to our camp site and sat on the verandah out the front, listening to the cricket on the wireless, waiting patiently for the Bushtucker Wine Discovery tour bus to come and pick us up. This fun bus drives us around taking us to wine tastings so we can enjoy food, drink and convivial company from out friendly guide Gordon, to the knowledgeable and passionate vintners and our fellow tourists. It took one tasting to feel really rather mellow, only the second for the Woodley Massive wine and cheese company to be born … well fantasised about at least!
We had lunch at the Adinfern Farm, the second winery, all 21 of us seated around a lovely cool mosaic dining table enjoying a delicious mix of local delicacies: smoked kangaroo, turkey, pestos, chutneys and fresh bread. Unfortunately there was also a ratehr large grub to try for dessert – it tastes vaguely of seafood only with more crunch and goo texture that is not pleasant. Yes I ate mine … unlike JJLB who spat hers out!
The real dessert came with a visit to the cheese factory and then the chocolate factory. Wine then cheese then chocolate … heavenly. Lovely creamy brie, sharp cheddars and then the bitter sweetness of chocolate. The palate was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed but there were still two wineries and a brewery to go so Istruggled on … it was an effort honestly! Tricia Tassell of Tassell Park did remind us that our taste buds are all at the front of our mouth and we don't have to swallow to appreciate wine ….. errrrrr .. true but you don't want to miss out on that warming, melting feeling inside do you? This boutique winery was the highlight of the day, but Greg Bettenay is the man to go and see if you like you wine served with a large side of charm and playful innuendo.
Final stop was the Coaramup Brewery where you can enjoy a tasting palette of their five beers for a nice refreshing end to the day, sat on cow skin stools, drinking ale in a cooling breeze. Nice … very nice…
Total tally for the day was: 1 x smoked kangaroo, 1 x grub, 30 x wines, 6 x cheeses, 3 x chocolates, 5 x beers and 1 x very long lie down ….
(Spoilt for) Wine and Beer Choice:
Father and son make wine and also nougat at this boutique winery.
Best for …. for sweet chardonnays.
2009 Semillion Sauvignon Blan
Very scoffable with crisp gooseberry and elderflower. 3/5
Sweet gorgeous honey nectar .. and I don't even like sweet Chardonnays, but this tasted like something else. 5/5
2010 Lost the Plot Sweet Dreams White
Floral aroma and really sweet, almost a dessert wine. 4/5
2008 Lost the Plot Cabernet Merlot
Blackberry flavours, sweet for a red. 2/5
Dark and rich colour with damson and mulberry flavours. Bitter finish. 3/5
2010 Lost the Plot Sweet Dreams Red
Rich scarlet colour. Redcurrant/cherry flavours. Make a lovely aperitif. 4/5
2010 Lost the Plot Hot Flush
Rose infused with chili … I kid you not. The first wine made by Bryce Bettenay, Greg's son this was very sweet with a warm flush of heat tingling the back of the throat to finish. It kind of works but I couldn't drink too much of it. 2/5
Family owned for 57 years moved from sheep to wine though they still have 600 sheep who help to keep the grass trim.
Best for …. deep reds.
2010 Shepherd's Rhapsody Semillion Sauvignon Blanc
Very pale, sweet with citrus fruits. 4/5
2009 Sauvignon Blanc
Light and crisp with sharp apple flavours and a melon finish. Very refreshing. 4/5
Colour and flavour of crushed raspberries with a sharp tobacco finish. 3/5
Lovely ruby colour and cherry aroma and rich fruity flavour. This one prompted oohs. Delicious now it will keep well for another 4-5 years. 5/5
2010 Shepherd's Serenade Semillion
Really tasty for a sweet wine with a rich syrupy honey finish (am getting converted to sweet wines if they are this good!) 4/5
2009 Shepherd's Harmony Caberney Sauvignon Shiraz
Chilled sweet red that would go well with italian food. Very very fruity but a slightly bitter finish. There most popular red but it didn't speak to me. 2/5
Shepherd's Fanfare Sparkling Red
Slightly spicy with deep cinnamon, this gently tickles your tongue and finishes with a gorgeous deep plum flavour. Would be wonderful with cheese. 5/5
The largest producer we visited and this tasting felt industrial as we were whizzed through with a rapid fire sales patter. They have three labels the budget Baldivis range, their Vita Novus label and their estate range that mainly goes direct to restaurants and bars.
Best for …. crisp sparkling white fizz
2009 Sparkling Chardonnay
Like biting into a crisp apple, refreshing with a dry finish. Lovely celebration wine. 4/5
Baldivis Classic White Semillon Chardonnay
Fruity with a fresh taste of melon. 3/5
2010 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
Lovely zesty tropical fruit flavours with a hint of lime and gooseberry at the finish. 3/5
2008 Vita Novus Chardonnay
Floral and sweey with honey. Not as rich or complex as the other sweet chardonnays tasted. 2/5
2009 Baldivis Rose (Shiraz)
Sweet rasberry with a blackcurrant finish. 3/5
2008 Baldivis Cabernet Merlot
Spicy berry flavours with a strong tobacco finish. 2/5
Blackcurrant and plum tones, fruity and spicy. 3/5
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Very rich blackcurrant and smooth chocolate flavours. Easy long melt in the mouth finish. 4/5
2007 Baldivis Sweet White Reisling
Smokey tobacco aroma leading into warm apricot flavours. 3/5
Small boutique husband/wife winery.
Best for …. refreshing, fruity whites and spicy caberney sauvignon.
2009 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon
Grassy aroma. Dry, gooseberry flavour but smooth rather than crisp. Lovely citrus finish. A subtle and complex white. 5/5
2010 Chenin Blanc
Crisp bold aroma "cheeky and tricky". Big fruity white with a smooth tropical finish. Again lovely and complex with a gorgeous lingering finish. 5/5
2009 Simply White Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
Sweet aroma, too sweet and floral for me but a light delicate honey/apricot flavour. 4/5
2009 Simply Shiraz
Chilled light red. Purple colour, slightly harsh opening but opening into a fruity blackcurrant. 2/5
Spicy, chocolate and coffee aroma. Marvellous rich warm taste with tones of deep damson flavours. Lovely complex character just lacking a bit of depth. 4/5
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
Fruity, plum aroma. Light and spicy fruit flavours that dance across the tongue. Warm rich chocolate finish give this wine great legs and a lovely complexity. 5/5
Gorgeous. Warm sweet liquid nectar … christmas in a drink!! 4/5
Rich, dark, hint of sweet liquorice.
India Pale Ale
Dark golden with a hint of chocolate.
Special Pale Ale
Rich amber fruity flavour with a caramel finish.
Sweet, wheat beer. Light gold with a hint of toffee.
Pale gold ale, hoppy and fruity with an undertone of sweet honeycomb.
Yes I did think they all tasted of sweets!!