We were very excited to have the opportunity to visit the Margaret River wine region, a three-hour drive south of Fremantle/Perth in Western Australia, on our second visit to Australia. Like most visitors, our first multi-week visit to Australia a few years ago had beenalong the coast in the southeast, visiting Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. We found the recent story (November 15, 2016) by Ted Loos in Travel and Leisure magazine a very apt description of Western Australia’s wine country.
“Aussies like to say that Perth, the capital of Western Australia and a five-hour flight from Sydney, is the most isolated major city in the world. Which means that the Margaret River wine region, which is set on a tab-shaped peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean—and a three-hour drive south of Perth—must be as remote as it gets…
“I made the trek to “Margs”, as locals call the area, primarily for the wine. The case can be made that it’s Australia’s best wine region because of the sophisticated restraint that vintners pour into its top bottles. (Cabernet Sauvignon is the star grape here, followed closely by Chardonnay.) There are nearly 100 wineries open for tastings, many of which are located north of the town of Margaret River along a 10-mile stretch of Caves Road, where dense patches of forest alternate with honey-colored pastures. Fees are nonexistent—the winemakers are just thrilled you made it to see them.
“But Margs has a lot to offer beyond the wine. It’s one of the most free-spirited places I’ve ever visited, and the people here have struck an enviable work-life balance. Because much of the coastline falls inside 145-square-mile Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park—a constantly shifting landscape of granite cliffs, scrubby forests, and golden sands—the beaches are pristine. ‘Surf culture runs deep here,’ said Will Berliner, when we met at his winery, Cloudburst. ‘If there’s a big swell that day, your plumber might be late to fix your sink.'”
“Vasse Felix was Margaret River’s first-ever winery, established in 1967 — and it still delivers one of the area’s most elegant experiences. The two-story tasting room has walls clad in reclaimed timber, and its concrete floors are painted to a dark gloss. At the restaurant, chef Aaron Carr’s cuisine far surpasses typical winery fare; he offers a $73, Asian-influenced tasting menu that might include kingfish, served alongside eel and wasabi, or a banana dessert with miso, yuzu, and peanuts.” — Travel and Leisure magazine We enjoyed an excellent multi-course luncheon on the deck with an excellent Vasse Feliz Shiraz (syrah) wine after our wine tasting (5 wines) that was accompanied with different small bites of food designed to showcase each wine.
The family owners of Cullen Wines have a very strong philosophy in operating their estate: “The Cullen philosophy can be defined in three simple words — Quality, Integrity and Sustainability. These values have taken us on a journey from minimal chemical inputs throughout the winery and vineyard in the 1970’s and 1980’s, to becoming certified organic in 2003, and in 2004 certified biodynamic for all wines and food grown and served at Cullen. We search for the purest and most transparent expression of place in our wine and food. This is manifest in the biodynamic vineyard, winery and gardens. We give back what we take from the land through our composting and recycling systems, creating a sustainable, individual, high quality expression of place.”
Canal Rocks Park, on the coast of the Margaret River region, Australia, shows subtle banding on the coastline rocks whose texture is characteristic of gneiss, a metamorphic or “changed” rock (originally granite), formed about 750 million years ago from molten rock many miles (kilometers) below the surface. About 230 million years later the supercontinent Gondwana began to form, causing this part of Australia to collide with Greater India. Extreme temperatures and pressures were generated deep with the Earth’s crust, altering the minerals and texture of the granite and changing it to the gneiss we see today. Canal Rocks Park is essentially an open-air museum of the geological features and rocks of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge that visitors can experience while surrounded by the powerful forces of wind and water that have helped to shape them. Visitors can cross the canals via recently upgraded narrow bridges and carefully clamber over the rocks to marvel at the ocean’s power.