Western Australia - Great Southern - tasting way out (south) west
By Winsor Dobbin
Most wine visitors to Western Australia gravitate immediately to the many attractions of Margaret River – overlooking the charms of the even more remote Great Southern region.
That’s a pity because the Great Southern offers myriad attractions ranging from fabulous beaches, awe-inspiring old-growth forests, whale- and dolphin-watching opportunities and history galore to dozens of gourmet options. The region is huge, with five sub-regions in Frankland River, Porongurup and the Albany/Denmark/Mount Barker triangle.
Albany, the region’s biggest town, is a five-hour direct drive from Perth. Wineries in and around Albany include Oranje Tractor and Wignalls, while Alkoomi has a cellar door facility in town and the Great Southern Distilling Company produces whisky, vodka and gin.
Stop 1 – Morning walk/market visit in Albany
The historic town of Albany was the first European settlement in Western Australia and today has around 30,000 residents. It’s a port and the administrative hub for the region. The old convict jail, in the centre of town, attracts history buffs and is used as a museum, while there are several other historic buildings on York Street. The Albany Farmers Market, held every Saturday morning from 8am-noon, is the ideal spot at which to sample fresh produce from dozens of local farms. Producers from across the Great Southern bring fresh, seasonal produce to sell, including a huge range of fruit and vegetables, organic meat, ostrich, pork, goat and venison products, yoghurts, cheeses and olive oils, as well as a range of gorgeous flowers.
Stop 2 – Wine tasting at Alkoomi
Alkoomi’s “home” cellar door is outside the township of Frankland River – pretty much off the beaten track, but the Lange family have also set up shop in a cellar door in downtown Albany where you can taste their wide range.
You must taste: The excellent Blackbutt red blend and the semillon-sauvignon blanc blend.
Open: Daily 11am-5pm
225 Stirling Terrace, Albany
Phone (08) 9841 2027
Stop 3 – Tasting at the Great Southern Distilling Company
This Albany distillery only started operation in 2005 and is the only single-malt whisky distillery in Western Australia. The flagship product is Limburners single-malt, made exclusively from locally sourced raw materials, including peat from Porongurup. Visitors to the distillery can also sample locally made brandy, grappa, gin, vodka and fruit liqueurs.
Open: Daily 10am-5pm
252 Frenchman Bay Road, Robinson, Albany
Phone (08) 9842 5363
Stop 4 – Take a beach walk
The Great Southern Coastline between Albany and Denmark is dramatically rugged with cliffs and rock pools to explore. The drive between the two towns takes just 40 minutes, so it is well worth stopping along the way and taking in the scenery. If a picnic takes your fancy, pick up supplies at Bay Merchants deli in Albany. Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks are top spots for sublime beaches and stunning scenery.
Stop 5 – Tasting at Forest Hill/lunch at Greenpool
One of the best cellar door restaurants in the country is found just outside Denmark. Chef Silas Masih uses fresh local produce and matches his dishes to suit the wines produced from the oldest cool-climate vineyard in the state. The degustation menus, partnered with estate wines, are outstanding, or try dishes featuring local marron or Linley Valley pork. Expect top-notch service and sweeping views and make certain to try one of the excellent Forest Hill rieslings.
Open: Friday-Sunday noon-4pm and on Friday evenings
Cnr South Coast Highway and Myers Road, Denmark
Phone Restaurant (08) 9848 0000
Phone Cellar Door (08) 9848 0003
Stop 6 – Tasting at Howard Park
Howard Park has been based at Denmark since 1986, although the owners, the Birch family, also have a winery and cellar door in Margaret River. Surrounded by a spectacular Karri forest, the modern cellar door hosts regular concerts and events. The Denmark cellar door is bright and airy with very knowledgeable staff.
You must taste: The Howard Park Great Southern Riesling is always outstanding, as are cabernets and shirazes from the Scotsdale vineyard.
Open: Daily 10am-4pm
377 Scotsdale Road, Denmark
Phone (08) 9848 2345
Stop 7 – Tasting at West Cape Howe
The West Cape Howe operation has moved from Denmark to the former Goundrey winery and cellar door at Mount Barker. There are lovely grounds, a children’s playground and barbecue facilities. A new-look cellar door is up and running.
You must taste: The Great Southern range features great value regional wines including a tempranillo and viognier.
Open: Daily 10-5pm
14923 Muir Highway, Mount Barker
Phone (08) 9892 1444
Stop 8 – Dinner at Maleeya’s Thai Cafe
In a Porongurup bush setting, this cosy cabin serves terrifically good Thai food. Maleeya Form, from Chiang Mai, and her husband Peter serve dishes like a delicious tom yum goong (spicy prawn soup) or Thai beef curry with kaffir limes. Lemongrass, coriander, galangal, 20 varieties of chillis and other herbs and spices are all grown on the property. Peter runs a bamboo and palm nursery on the same site.
Open: Friday-Sunday for lunch and dinner
1416 Porongurup Road, Porongurup
Phone (08) 9853 1123
Stop 9 – Overnight at Cloud Nine Spa Chalets
Hosts Stan and Shelley Sypko have put a lot of thought into their two well-equipped chalets. Sit on the deck and soak in the views, enjoy a spa or sauna, sup on complimentary Jingalla bubbly, watch satellite TV, or explore the 100-acre farm and meet the animals. The hosts seem to have thought of everything. There are fully equipped kitchens, or you can order from a selection of Shelley’s home-made wood-fired pizzas to be delivered to your chalet. Several wineries, including Castle Rock and Abbey Creek are nearby.
278 Moorialup Road, East Porongurup
Phone (08) 9853 1111
- A glass of boutique beer at the White Star Hotel in Albany
- Tasting Ducketts Mill Wines and Denmark Farmhouse cheeses
- Taking a side trip to the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk
- A takeaway from Middleton Beach Fish and Chips
- Japanese cuisine from Gosyu-Ya at Emu Point
- Dolphin watching from any number of coastal lookouts
- Albany (WA)
- Denmark (WA)
- Frankland River (WA)
- Mount Barker (WA)
- Porongurup (WA)
- South West WA (WA)
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