Western Australia – Margaret River wineries – Go west!
By Winsor Dobbin
Margaret River, a three-hour drive south of Perth, may be one of Australia’s most remote wine regions but it is also one of the most stunning – both visually and because of the quality of the wines produced in a region with a maritime climate similar to Bordeaux.
The Margaret River region may make less than 3 per cent of all Australian wine, but Western Australia’s jewel in the crown accounts for almost 20 per cent of Australia's premium wine production.
With star names including Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix, Cullen, Cape Mentelle, Howard Park, Moss Wood, Pierro, Stella Bella and Xanadu and boutique operations like Edwards, McHenry Hohnen, Blue Poles, Flametree, Lenton Brae and Fraser Gallop Estate there are literally dozens of Margaret River cellar doors worthy of a visitor’s attention.
There are close to 100 Margaret River wineries in total – and plenty of ground to cover. Margaret River township and Cowaramup are at the centre of the winemaking activity, but the wine region stretches 60 kilometres to the north of the township and 40 kilometres to the south – and there is wide range of terroirs and micro-climates.
While the names may be familiar this is a relatively new wine tourism region. Vasse Felix and Cullen were the pioneers 40 years ago but the region has exploded over the past decade with myriad activities to keep wine tourists entertained.
Here’s a Margaret River itinerary that takes in some old favourites, and some new attractions; some of the big names and a couple of boutique operations. Taste, eat, stay and enjoy!
Stop 1 Shopping in Margaret River Township
Pop in to the Margaret River Visitors’ Centre to pick up some brochures or browse the Margaret River Bookshop and internet cafe for some interesting reading about the region before setting off on a voyage of discovery.
Stop 2 – Morning tea at McHenry’s Farm Shop
Locals have quickly fallen in love with the new McHenry Hohnen cellar door, café and produce store. McHenry’s Farm Shop sells produce from the family farm of Cape Mentelle and Cloudy Bay pioneer David Hohnen; meat from Arkady Wiltshire sheep, Jarrahdene free-range pork, Hairy Marron olive oils and sausages, bacons and hams. You can also taste the McHenry Hohnen wine range and enjoy tea, coffee and a range of home-made cakes. But it pays to arrive early. Leave it too late and the cakes may have sold out.
You must taste: McHenry Hohnen 2007 3 Amigos Red, a delicious blend of shiraz, grenache and mataro, and McHenry Hohnen Rocky Road 2009 Chardonnay.
Open: Daily 10am-5pm
5962 Caves Road, Margaret River
Phone (08) 9757 7600
Stop 3 – Lunch, tour and wine tasting at Voyager Estate
Voyager Estate has one of Australia’s most spectacular cellar door/restaurant complexes overlooking meticulously tended vines, rose gardens and sweeping lawns. The Cape Dutch-inspired complex offers tastings of several wines that are featured at cellar door only, as well as the core range. The restaurant, open daily for lunch, specialises in local produce including Margaret River venison and asparagus, estate-reared lamb and Pemberton marrons. Regular vineyard and cellar tours are available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays – but must be booked in advance. Self-guided tours are offered daily.
You must taste: The 2005 Cabernet Merlot, 2008 Shiraz and 2008 Chardonnay are outstanding, while the 2010 Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc Semillon are great summer wines.
Open: Cellar door: Daily from 10am-5pm. Restaurant: Daily 10am-4.30pm for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.
Stevens Road, Margaret River
Phone (08) 9757 6354
Stop 4 – Wine tasting at Edwards Wines
This is a small family winery with brothers Michael (winemaker) and Christo (viticulturist) Edwards at the helm. Several different grape varieties have been planted close to the cellar door and visitors can take a self-guided tour of the vines. Also check out the Tiger Moth plane “Matilda” in which the brothers’ late father made an epic voyage from London to Australia in 1990 to raise funds for charity. It’s stored in a hangar next to the winery.
You must taste: The 2008 cabernet sauvignon and shiraz have both garnered much praise.
Open: Daily. 10.30am-5pm
Cnr Caves Rd and Ellensbrook Rd, Cowaramup
Phone (08) 9755 5999
Stop 5 – Wine tasting at Cape Grace
Cape Grace is a tiny family-owned winery that produces only 2000 cases annually but has built a reputation for stellar chardonnays and cabernets. Robert Karri-Davies’s family has lived in the region since 1875 and he and his Canadian wife Karen produced their first wines in 2000. The cellar door is usually manned by one of the family.
You must taste: The acclaimed 2008 Margaret River Chardonnay.
Open: Daily 10am-5pm
281 Fifty One Road, Cowaramup
Phone (08) 9755 5669
Stop 6 – Pre-dinner drink at the Settlers Tavern
Join the locals for a beer or glass of local sauvignon blanc semillon at this popular pub, a hangout for local winemakers. There is frequent live entertainment and outstanding pub grub – and the wine list was named best in a pub restaurant in Australia in 2009.
114 Bussell Highway, Margaret River
Phone (08) 9757 2398
Stop 7 – Dinner at Must Margaret River
While Margaret River has several long-time restaurants, including the extremely popular Wino’s, the opening of Must Margaret River wine bar and bistro has taken casual dining to a whole new level. It’s busy, it’s bustling, the service is spot on and the food excellent, whether your preference is for the amazing charcuterie plate, a selection of dry-aged steaks, angel hair pasta with crab, house-made paella or simply a hamburger at the bar. On Tuesday evenings, the entire cellar of local wines is on offer at bottle shop prices – and there are three on-site suites for those who prefer to stay in town.
Open: 12 noon-late daily for lunch, dinner and drinks
107 Bussell Highway, Margaret River
Phone (08) 9758 8877
Stop 8 – Overnight at Windmills Break
Cape Lodge has traditionally been “the” place to stay in Margaret River, but visitors who like a more casual vibe will enjoy Windmills Break, an adults-only luxury boutique resort that caters for a maximum of 24 guests. It has a pool and spa, small gym, tennis courts and free internet access, including use of a laptop and is in a lovely bush setting, surrounded by 10 acres of gardens.
2024 Caves Road, Yallingup
Phone (08) 9755 2341
- A bite to eat at the Hay Shed Hill gourmet deli and café
- A trip to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse at Augusta, where the Southern and Indian oceans meet
- Sampling beer and wine at the shared Saracen Estates and Duckstein Brewery facility on Caves Road in Wilyabrup
- Shopping for local produce, organic vegetables, cheeses, jams and preserves at the Providore Farm Shop at Metricup
- Lunch at Knee Deep winery, where former New Zealand junior chef of the year Bradley Hornby is serving contemporary Australasian cuisine in a lovely vineyard setting
- Sampling chocolates at the Margaret River Chocolate Co.
- Margaret River (WA)
- South West WA (WA)
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