Day 5 – Margaret River

Leeuwin EntranceThe big wet is showing no interest in dissipating and we choose this day to dedicate almost entirely to one of the greats – Leeuwin Estate. We start with a wine tour. Not much happening at this time of the year but still interesting and the personal attention and private wine-tasting that follows makes it all the more worthwhile. We work our way through almost the entire offering, from the Prelude range through the Art Series. Leeuwin Art 1There’s probably nothing I can say that James Halliday and other wine boffs haven’t already said. All I can say is if you visit Margaret River and there is a winery you should not miss, this is it. This is premium wine and testament to Leeuwin’s heritage.

Leeuwin GardeNow so soggy outside we can barely see the Karri trees surrounding the property, our happy haze draws us to the crackling hearth and the promise of food.

Leeuwin Menu Pic

With my usual lack of restraint and want for trying everything, I start with the Art Series tasting plate. Oysters paired with the 2012 Riesling; Thai curry scallops with the 2012 Sav Blanc; d’Argental Lingot with cherry gel and candied walnuts is heaven with the 2012 Chardonnay; although the confit duck loses its legs a little against the 2008 Cab Sav.

Leeuwin Spanner Crab SouffleNot wanting to make a pig of myself but unable to resist crab or soufflé, I order this entrée instead of a main and Leeuwin Roast Artichokespair it with a side of roast artichokes and a glass of the Art Series Chardonnay. A happy pairing albeit with a slightly saggy soufflé.

Roger has the Rangers Valley scotch fillet with truffle fondant and horseradish bearnaise. He’s not a fan of gristle so this disappoints him, but the truffle fondant and béarnaise is sublime.Leeuwin Steak

On our way home, we pop into Watershed, impressive though a little exposed on a blustery day. We’ve heard the owner is dabbling in Manjimup truffles and vow to return to the vast restaurant, but for today I’m here to pay homage to their Senses Shiraz. A year ago I was lucky enough to pick up a few bottles of their 2010 vintage – outstanding and deserving of the Visy Gold award it picked up. Not as blown away by the current offering but one to watch. In the meantime, if you’re a fan, try the Zinfandel. Not many of them around (only five last time I checked) and this is a goodie.Watershed 2

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