The Margaret River region has exploded with vineyards and cellar doors to tempt all palates. While traditionally, the terroir has suited chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, today there are many more varieties, and a big focus on sustainability.
2017 saw the vintage picked later than normal, but with spectacular results. So get your wine cap on and hit the road. Roadtripping along the Margaret River wine trail will leave your jaw on the floor with the views and the vintages. So prepare yourselves.
The first vineyard and winery in Australia to be certified carbon neutral with Men of Trees in 2006, the focus on organic, biodynamic farming produces exceptional wines at the hands of Vanya Cullen, daughter of the founders. The cellar door is a hymn to nature and wine, with the Kevin John Legacy Series Chardonnays, picked on fruit and flower days with complex fruit and floral aromas and rating 97 points they are great drinking now, (but they will also cellar for years.) Natural wines that exemplify place and people, Cullen wines will grab your wine loving heart and not let go.
Looking out over the Wilyabrup Valley, the cellar door is home to old fashioned values, minimum intervention, and family commitment. The focus? Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends, which is why you’re here. The Matthew 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is a heavy hitter with the pure blackcurrant notes dominant and fine tannins teasing out the palate, and do pick up a bottle of the 2015 Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot which at $28 will cellar and give you pleasure in years to come.
Brookland is the region’s most highly awarded producer in Australian wine shows for good reason. Now owned by the behemoth, Accolade Wines, with Courtney Treacher tending her vines with skill and care, the terroir yields some of the best grapes in the region. Sea breezes from the Indian Ocean and the Wilyabrup brook running through the valley combine for a perfect microclimate. Drift through the café and the cellar door where you’ll find something for every wine enthusiast, but we think you should dive into the Chardonnays. The 2016 has full body with intense flavour, and the Gold Medal 2015 Reserve is a hand-picked, wild fermented beauty in its class.
The first winery to be built in the Margaret River (1967). Heck, with heritage like that, this is a must visit. The wines are pretty good too. Virginia Willcock was Australian Winemaker of the Year in 2012, and is still knocking it out of the park. From the Icon series, the Heytesbury Chardonnay 2016 and Premier Collection Cabernet 2014, 2015 Shiraz, and the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, down to the bargain priced Filius (son of) range, quality is what it’s all about. And if there’s any of the specialty wines available for tasting, particularly the Cane Cut Semillon, savour that.
A feng-shui designed cellar door sets the winery apart and will lead you into a relaxed, guided tasting like no other. View the artwork by Andrew Carter as you sip and taste, looking out at vines in one of the most exciting buildings in the Margaret River region. Howard Park Wines is the only winery in the south west of Western Australia to make champagne method sparkling wines in house. It’s not often you get to try before you buy with sparkling, so dive into the Jeté Brut Blanc ($34) as well as the 2012 Grand Jeté Vintage Brut Cuvée.
Already a winner of ‘Star Cellar Door’, the rammed earth Cabernet Cellar will see you tutored in wine and food pairing, and the petanque course helps to make this an experience like no other. And with a focus on sustainability and longevity, you can watch the guinea fowl and geese hurtle through the vines doing their job catching weevils. So do your job and try the Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, 2014 – at $49 huge value with a complex, lemon-lime zing and the Wallcliffe Cabernet, Cabernet Franc red blends are small batch, limited to cellar door and are like drinking the terroir - with fruit, spice and oak all combining to make beautiful balance on the palate.
The cellar door at Amelia Park has to be seen to be believed. High above you, lit by a very modern take on chandeliers, the ceiling glows wood. Their ethos of tradition, craft and quality permeates the entire site, and winemaker Jeremy Gordon ensures his wines are elegant varietals with fruit, first and foremost the key. Jeremy and wife Daniela concentrated on Bordeaux varietals as well as the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay common to the region. With a raft of highly rated wines, you might just settle in and start with the Trellis 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, and move on to the Shiraz or Cabernet Merlot blend. Even though the business, established in 2009 is new by local standards, the wines show a maturity and complexity, winning awards and attention. Sit and savour, soak up the architecture of the building, and the wine in your glass. This is Margaret River.
Mentored by iconic Napa Valley winemaker, Robert Mondavi, and under the second generation of Horgans, Leeuwin combines fine wine, food and art. With a focus now on music as well their events attract visitors from around the globe, so your time here really shouldn’t be rushed. Settle in, have lunch, browse the art gallery and taste the wines. The Art Series heads the team, but the drink now 2013 Brut Pinot Noir Chardonnay, at $35 is fun and bottle fermented.
Here, the Estate Tour will take you into the wine rooms, the underground cellar, and have you tasting wine straight from the barrel. Authentic? Absolutely. This is the real deal. Wine flights at $9 are an incredibly cheap way to taste the latest vintages, and comparative wine tastings will have you sighing “Oh my!” The restaurant, of course focuses on local, seasonal produce and a wander through the rose garden to finish is a treat for all senses. And it just gets better – they’ve cellared some outstanding years so you don’t have to – the 2011 Chardonnay is showing wonderful fruit and acid, and the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot is superb now, or you can cellar until 2022.
A small dark horse in the cellar door firmament, Firetail is one to watch. With Bruce Dukes and Peter Stanlake as chief winemakers, maturing vines and attention to detail that is producing rave inducing, gold medal winning wines, this is a young estate that is hitting its stride but still has a long way to go. At the cellar door, you get to talk to Jessica or Rob, the owners. How rare is that? With chooks roaming the vineyards, and guinea fowls de-bugging, it’s on the money with sustainability. And the prices? Unbelievable! Every wine you taste, has won a medal. The 2010 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc at $10 with passionfruit from the Sauvignon Blanc and a flinty back taste from the Semillon seems too good to be true. And the medal winning 2006 Merlot, at $10? Well, just fill the boot.