"You enjoy the rest of your day" says Chloe, our charming waitress as we leave our delicious lunch at Vasse Felix winery. We are making the most of our weekend as two days later we are leaving this friendliest of countries as our three and a half year stint in Asia Pacific comes to a close. Margaret River is a great place to round off our adventures with a luxury room, fine food and wine and beautiful scenery. Next week will be builders, work, unpacking and flat hunting.
We are staying at Cape Lodge, a wine estate and restaurant which also has some of the best accomodation in the region. We splashed out on a lake view suite which is magnificent and the restaurant is equally fabulous. People tell us how great the breakfasts are but we are eating so much for lunch and dinner that we just have the fruit. I am also amused by how civilised everything is here. We are not offered tap water in the restaurants - instead you get "filtered rain water" wherever you go.
The Margaret River region is about 270km south of Perth and stretches between two capes - Naturaliste and Leeuwen - about 120km apart. The wine estates are set a bit back from the coast in rolling landscape. The friable soil and sea air was chosen by the early wine growers as it reminded them of the conditions around Bordeaux. Some of the estates are small with a little counter for tasting while others are very grand with beautiful tasting areas and restaurants.
After checking out a chocolate factory and foodie shop for presents we start our tour at Howard Park (above). They actually have three labels including "MadFish" and "Marchand and Burch". We stick to their main label and a jolly lady introduces us to their whites and reds. Margaret River is particularly known for its Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon - neither of which are our most favourite grapes. However our wine expert persuades us that the new Chardonnays are nothing like those crudely oaked ones from the 80s and we do like the premium 2015 Howard Park Chardonnay. We are not so keen on the reds although I suspect that the 2013 'Abercrombie' Cab Sauv would go very well with food. On the way out we spot their Vermouth which we had the night before at dinner - it was unusual and delicious so we snap up a bottle.
So the day proceeds. In between Juniper Estate (small, good wine) and Voyager (above, bit too busy for us) we head to the coast and watch some cool surfing. A dude tells us that the water is freezing as he pulls on a warm top and climbs into his pickup. At 2.30 we have an excellent lunch at the famous old estate of Leeuwen - well nothing is that old as the first vineyard was planted in the 60s! And after lunch a walk near the coast to make enough room for dinner.
The next day is beautiful with clear skies and a light breeze. We start with a visit to Vasse Virgin to buy delicious smellies and then head to the very fine winery of Woodlands where we are tasting some of their excellent Chardonnay and Cab Sauv/Merlot when one of my colleagues and his family walk in. Small world! We liked Woodlands and also Vasse Felix, the oldest of the Margaret River Wineries, where we have lunch. Ever friendly Ozzies chat as we try their selection while over the other side of the bar a big Chinese group are enjoying themselves on a tasting - no coke mixers in sight! The restaurant is more atmospheric than Leeuwen's the day before although the food is not quite as good. However the octopus starter is a treat and my beef hanger steak was very well cooked.
We spend the afternoon on a very good walk across the heath and then along the clifftops at Willyabrup. These granite and gneiss cliffs are a popular climbing spot although no one is on the crags today. The Cape to Cape path winds through shrubs and bushes smothered in spring flowers - on the one had it looks like Devon or Cornwall but when you spot the vegetation or cockatoos it's very different. After this it is back to Cape Lodge for one more night and more food and wine. A great time although I still haven't found out why all Ozzie place names end in "-up"!
This was a great way to end our time in Asia Pacific. We have been so lucky to do so much travel, both for work and pleasure. And while we will be thousands of miles away for all these amazing places we still plan to keep up with the many great new friends that we have made during our time here. I have listed some of the wines we liked and below that check out the photos in the gallery below to see more of beautiful Margaret River.
Margaret River wines
RIESLING | Abbey Creek, Great Southern, WA one of the house wines at Cape Lodge. Goes very well with the scallops
ZINFANDEL | Zinful, Margaret River, WA another Cape Lodge house wine - very tasty Italian style red which went well with the quail.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON | Glenmore, Timber Creek, Margaret River, WA a good CabSauv which went well with beef
2015 RIESLING | Howard Park, Denmark, WA a nice dry wine from their more southern winery
2016 SAUVIGNON BLANC/SEMILLON | Howard Park, Margaret River, WA nice dry and crisp wine, not too fruity
2015 CHARDONNAY | Howard Park, their premium Chardonnay, very smooth and well balanced but not cheap
2014 AQUITAINE BLANC | Juniper Estate, MR a very tasty Bordeaux style Sauvignon/Semillon blend
2013 HIGHER PLAIN CHARDONNAY | Juniper Estate - very tasty with good citrus flavours
ESTATE SPARKLING BRUT | Leeuwin Estate, crisp, light sparkling wine. Better than the one we tried the next day
ART SERIES 2008 RIESLING | Leeuwin Estate, very good mature and slightly oaky dry riesling
ART SERIES 2012 CABERNET SAUVIGNON | Leeuwin Estate, good rounded flavour that goes well with my beef
2015 CHLOE RESERVE CHARDONNAY | Woodlands, Margaret River - a really beautifully scented, not too heavy but like a really good French Chardonnay. Their regular 2015 Chardonnay was also good
2013 'Margaret' RESERVE CABERNET MERLOT | Woodlands, Margaret River - a very fine Bordeaux style wine. We liked a lot of wine from Woodlands including the 2012 straight Cab Sauv 'Thomas'
2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC/SEMILLION | Vasse Felix, Margaret River - light and refreshing wine from this well established winery
2015 FILIUS CHARDONNAY | Vasse Felix, Margaret River - good balanced wine, fruity and not too oaky
2013 SHIRAZ, Vasse Felix, Margaret River - one of the oldest set of vines in Margaret River - planted in 1967 from the Swan Valley. Very drinkable, quite light and fruity
2013 CABERNET SAUVIGNON, Vasse Felix, Margaret River - the star wine of the vineyard. Good as is the 2015 Cab Sauv.
but as the chap tasting next to us at Vasse Felix said "it all tastes great when you are on holiday"!