My youngest brother and his wife recently visited us here in Australia, from Canada. It was really great having them here. They made the most of it; you can read more on his blog if you like.
They’re wine folks, like us, so one of the highlights was something that was as new to us as it was to them: a flight across to Perth and three days in the Margaret River wine region of Western Australia. The countryside is beautiful out there, the coast is breathtaking, the food is great, and the wine is top-notch.
I wanted to make a record of the wineries and wines I liked for future reference. Lucky you (if you have my taste in wine): you can have this list for free. Also, Cabernet Sauvignon is the highlight wine of the Margaret River, and that’s reflected in a lot of my favourites.
In no particular order:
- Swooping Magpie. Another super-friendly, very boutique producer, with a cellar door in his garage. Prices were very reasonable. Best of the bunch was his 2010 Verdelho and his 2008 Shiraz, really the only bottle of that variety I liked much on this trip.
- Deep Woods Estate. Small, rustic, with a friendly gent. I forgot to take notes here, but it was typical: cab sauv was the winner. Less typical: the gent was friendly enough to let us take home a barely-touched bottle! Yay! Buy their wine, all of it!
- The Growers. A cellar door collective of small producers. A fun spot, an entertaining gent behind the bar. None of the wines were fantastic, but some were decent, and all were incredible value for money with most bottles working out to be $10 or less! I’d drink the 2010 Niche Semillon Sauv Blanc and the 2009 Niche Shiraz again.
- Swings & Roundabouts. Busy, fun place, with great lawns and woodfired pizzas. Their 2010 Cab Merlot was ok. Their 1.5 litre bottles of white and red are BBQ-aimed value for money at $22 each.
- Woodlands. Wow. We went here by mistake, but it was one of the best. Tiny, unassuming, no frills, but what winemaking. Highlights: 2008 Margaret Reserve Cab Merlot, 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve de la Cave, 2009 Cab Sauv Alma May, and 2006 Robert Cab Sauv. They only do one white (a sign of craftspeople: only do what you’re good at). They also do 200 bottles of straight Cab Franc each year; I might have to get in on that.
- Knee Deep. Gorgeous, small, friendly, fun. We wanted to do lunch, but they were booked for a wedding. 2009 Kim’s Chardonnay wasn’t bad, 2009 Sue’s Cabernet was good, 2008 Kelsea’s Reserve Cab Sauv was superdelicious.
- Clairault. A bit fancy, but not huge, and the guy behind the bar was really great: funny, friendly, and very informative. Everyone liked their 2010 Semillon Sauv Blanc (53%/47%). I thought their 2007 Estate Cab Sauv (with just 8% Merlot) was fantastic.
- Laurance. What a poncy, gold-statue, art gallery, tasting-charging bunch of tosh. And their wines are awful, except for the 2009 Icon Cabernet, which is fantastic.
- Redgate. Small, but nothing special, nor overly friendly. Still, their 2011 Chenin Blanc and 2010 Rosé were more than drinkable. And their non-vintage Rhapsody In Red was a decent not-with-food and drunk-chilled at just $19.
- Watershed. A large place, with restaurant and function rooms, but friendlier than most its size. I fancied their 2009 Senses Viognier, their 2010 Senses Zinfandel, and their 2008 Awakening Cabernet.
- Howard Park. Too big, busy, and impersonal. There was some big event going on. Plus, there are two roads in and out, and we got lost by not going out the one we came in. Liked their 2008 Chardonnay, and their single vineyard 2009 Leston Cab Sauv.
- Hay Shed. A very friendly – and knowledgable – guy at the cellar door. The 2010 Hay Shed Hill Shiraz Tempranillo, at $20, was an easy-drinking BBQ wine. Their 2009 Block 2 Cab Sauv was very good, and their 2008 Kerrigan+Berry Cab Sauv was top notch.
- Wise Wine. Nice spot, with great views. There was a wedding reception going on. Highlights were their 2011 Sea Urchin Verdelho, their 2008 Lot 80 Petit Verdot, their 2009 Eagle Bay Cab Sauv, and their tawny port.
- Stella Bella. We were looking forward to this one a great deal, as we’ve been drinking their wines since our first visit to Australia. They did not disappoint: it was one of the best cellar door experiences we had, with laughs, discussion, and tasting of things we shouldn’t have had (wink wink). I loved a lot of the wines here, but wound up buying and shipping home two bottles each of their 2007 Suckfizzle Cab Sauv, 2011 Skuttlebutt Savvy Cab Sauv, and 2007 Suckfizzle Sauv Blanc Semillon.
- Bootleg Beer. Excellent beers, great outdoors eating areas, good vibe. Liked all their brews except for their Hefe, which was too banana-y.
- Margaret River Venison. They farm their own deer, produce all their meats, and will let you try all their fabulous produce.
- Yallingup Woodfired Bread. No web site. Google it and you’ll find others’ mentions. It’s hard to find, unless you ask a local. But my god, is it worth it.