Day 4 – Margaret River

Busselton JettyA glance at the forecast tells us today is likely to be the fairest of the rest, so we bolt up to Busselton. Foiled again. Stormy seas have muddied visibility and the aquarium at the jetty is closed.

So instead we head up to Cape Naturaliste, stopping at Dunsborough to see Christian Fletchers’ photo gallery. Breathtaking talent and well worth the detour. En route to Cape Naturaliste we stop to take pictures of the millions of lilies scattered across the fields. I’m told they’re noxious here but I still love them.

At Cape Naturaliste we pay the nice lady for passes to the lighthouse and then wish we hadn’t. It’s small (much smaller than Cape Leeuwin) and sealed in with an eight foot fence that precludes any decent shots of the view.

Wise WinesIn disdain, we consider our options and make the best of logical decisions. We head to the next winery. Wise Wines is just off the road heading back from the lighthouse. The view from the cellar door and restaurant is spectacular with a vista from the lush valley to the ocean beyond. The wines complete the experience.Wise Wines View The Pinot Grigio would make an Italian proud and the 2010 Lot 80 Cab Sav is stupendous. The finesse of the tannin curls delicately around cassis, vanilla and settles on a wisp of smokiness.

We take the scenic ocean drive to Meelup Bay. If you see no other beach in WA, see this one.Beach Meelup

Wills Domain ViewJust about everyone I know who has been to Margaret River has recommended our next stop and with good reason. Will’s Domain is perched atop a valley and is a feast for both scenery junkies and fusion foodies.Wills Domain Brisket Their eclectic menu is bold, complex and creative. I opt for the Ningaloo wagyu brisket with pickled walnuts, quince, kale and parsnip – served on a platter. My husband has the “Big Red” pork collar and belly with smoked shallots, dumplings and pear – served as a casserole.

A chilly mist rolls up the hill and snaps at our ankles as we head for the next winery – Pierro. As we get out of the car I can smell the lees and my tastebuds start a little jingle. My husband loves the LTC – an SBS with a “little touch of chardonnay”. I adore the 2011 Chardonnay. Sure the 2009 scored big but I can’t imagine much difference with a bit of cellaring. As for the 2009 Pinot Noir – yum, yum, yum – and just the thing for a cold night in front of the fire.

Day 2 – Margaret River

Wanting a day for both of us to kick back without driving and get a decent orientation of the area, day two is spent in the good company of Harvest Tours.

General VineyardWe are collected from our chalet by Jamie, co-owner, tour host and son of a local dairy farmer. Knowing that Harvest Tours is family-owned, devoted to personal attention and devoid of big tour company hustle, we’ve booked the wine tour for foodies – encouragingly affordable and great value.

After collecting 2 other couples, we start at Adinfern wine estate, just south of Cowaramup (which oddly is named after a bird, not a cow). Here we are introduced to the craft, passion and challenges of the winemaker before supping the results – with some gentle guidance on the art of wine-tasting sans the snobbery.

Next we head into Cowaramup for delightful delicacies made by the resident Italian chef at Margaret Riviera. Here you can sample home-made pesto, dukkah, flavoured oils and stock up for those evening platters in front of the fire. Directly next door is a gorgeous gift shop and across the road is a bottle store dedicated to the region’s wines.

MR Providore is our next stop. ProvidoreMy husband and I have this little joke. I’m irrevocably addicted to little jars – notably those filled with jams, salt rubs, nuts, tappenades, pickles, marinades, sauces … you get the picture. I have a pantry full of the little buggers. If we ever had a famine, we could live for months on them. Well, this is little jar (and big jar) heaven and my poor man has hardly finished groaning before I mentally clear out the first aisle.

My picks – the lemon curd, shiraz sauce, Moroccan couscous and raspberry jus. Don’t worry – you can taste most of them first. His picks – dark chocolate liqueur and macchiato liqueur. Do not miss tasting these – even if you think they will be too sweet. For those as useless at baking as I am, this is a great way to finish a dinner party. I’ve already done it and will be ordering cases of the stuff for Christmas gifts.

Vasse Felix Fireplace BarAppetites armed, we’re off to Vasse Felix for more wine tasting and lunch. This is the first (and only) Sauvignon Blanc Semillon that I enjoyed. I’m sure there are some exceptional varieties around, but I’m not a Semillon fan and Vasse Felix has got this blend to perfection for my palate. Probably as much to do with the subtle oaking to add a touch of spice and tannin as a deft hand. The Chardonnay is everything you’d expect from the exceptional care taken to produce a wine with very satisfying texture and depth but remarkable purity. You could stop there and you wouldn’t be disappointed, but don’t miss the chance to taste the Heytesbury Chardonnay, especially if you can get the 2010 vintage. This one snagged 12 gold awards for good reason.

For an everyday ready-to-drink-now red the classic dry is entirely quaffable. For winter perfection and with one of those delicious venison racks I mentioned earlier, try the Shiraz. Very different to a Barossa Shiraz, with more white pepper than black but a gorgeous hit of spice and a hint of jasmine, vanilla and coffee. The Cab Sav is outstanding too, but I must stop or risk sounding like they’re paying me to write this (which they’re not).

Vasse Felix has a warmVasse Felix Pork Belly, inviting cellar door and this theme is carried through to the restaurant. Situated upstairs the view of the luscious grounds and the creek is a perfect backdrop to the stone and wood interior kept toasty with an impressive hearth. The food is hearty too. The lamb shanks are substantial though a little lacklustre, but the pork belly is outstanding.

Nothing better after a little (or big) lunch than a little chocolate. Especially when it’s dark, organic, freshly crushed and tempered from the best cocoa beans in the world. I’ve been to Belgium. I’ve gorged on Belgians chocolate made by boutique chocolatiers in Brugge and Brussels. Until now, I would have bet anything that you’d not find better chocolate in the world. And forgive me, but at the very least I would not have expected to find it in Australia. Aptly named after an angel (and my grandmother), Gabriel chocolate is – pardon the pun – heavenly.

Well fed and bouncing off the walls from our sugar hit, we brave the hammering rain and puddle-hop into Windows Estate. It’s all about subtlety and finesse here. Our tasting comes with perfectly paired local cheeses and a lovely history of the winery. The basket pressed Cab Sav is gorgeously earthy, while the Chardonnay balances fresh citrus notes with a creamy nuttiness to perfection.

Waterfalls Pinda RoadSurprisingly, after all this, we have time for a little detour en route to Yahava coffee; and Jamie takes us to an enchanting waterfall off Kevill Road. Worth the few minutes it will take you to get there off the main road.

An idyllic day that you would think could get no better. Until we arrive back at our chalet and glimpse a woman walking by with a roo in tow. Thinking we’ve had too much wine we continue staring until curiosity gets the better of my husband and off he goes for a chat (as he does). Turns out this dear lady is a roo rescuer and has a baby joey slung around her mid in a blanket. The roo following her is one she saved a couple of years ago and has not been able to release back into the wild. The little joey is only 6 weeks old and so needs 24/7 nurturing – for a total of six months. The world needs more people like this. And hats off to Willy Bay for offering their resort as a “soft-release” area for these bouncing beauties.Baby Joey