Planning a Margaret River escapade? Raise a glass at these top-notch wineries.
By Katrina Lobley
Western Australia's Margaret River region has been making wine for just 50 years, but its wines are world-class. Two varieties in particular – cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay – have helped put the region on every connoisseur's radar. Drop in to these outstanding cellar doors and find out what all the fuss is about.
Start where the story of Margaret River's wines began – at Vasse Felix, the region's first vineyard. Established in 1967 when Dr Tom Cullity planted vines here, Vasse Felix produced the region's first cabernet sauvignon in 1972. Thanks to its geography and Mediterranean climate, Margaret River has proved a leader when it comes to producing powerful yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and premium chardonnay. These varieties are a big focus at Vasse Felix, alongside shiraz and semillon sauvignon blanc blends. The drawcard estate includes an art gallery fashioned from the original winery, showing works from the acclaimed Holmes à Court Collection. Join a guided tour, taste your way through the wine collection or take a seat in the restaurant.
Leeuwin Estate made a splash with its distinctive Art Series wine labels showcasing paintings from the likes of Australian artists John Olsen and Sidney Nolan. All but one of the works on the labels are part of the winery's renowned art collection, which is displayed in the on-site gallery (open daily, free entrance). Taste the estate's wines or enjoy them with lunch in the restaurant overlooking a meadow enveloped by majestic karri trees. It's possible to take a one-hour scenic flight from Jandakot, in Perth's southern suburbs, to the winery's private airstrip.
Go behind the scenes at Voyager Estate for a wine experience that includes tasting wine straight from the barrel, seeing Australia's largest underground barrel cellar and finishing with a private tasting. The estate features stunning Cape Dutch architecture and manicured gardens. The signature experience in the estate's elegant restaurant is a six-course, wine-paired lunch that celebrates Voyager's history.
Howard Park’s ultra-modern cellar door, flanked by towering marri and karri trees and with an angled ceiling that rises to nine metres (30 feet), was built along feng shui principles. These guidelines included balancing the amount of timber, concrete and stainless steel in the structure, and letting the maximum amount of light stream in through the north-facing windows. Chinese feng shui expert, Professor Cheng Jian Jun, helped design the award-winning building, which has a door sized to allow the maximum amount of good luck to flow through. Not that the winery needs luck when it's producing wines of such excellence. Howard Park is known for eminently drinkable riesling.
Knee Deep winery’s ultra-modern glass-walled restaurant, parked under a leafy tree, is a favourite destination for locals, who love its contemporary Australian fare with an Asian twist. Open for lunch daily between noon and 3pm, the restaurant might be offering Rottnest yellowfin tuna with lemon pepper pearls and a rice crisp, or twice-cooked pandan duck with king prawn spring rolls. The owners are the Childs family, and the names of the Childs girls, Kelsea, Kim and Hayley, can be found on the Knee Deep cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and shiraz.
When Perth businessman Steve Tobin established Aravina Estate in 2010, his vision was to create an experience that had something for everybody. Kids can entertain themselves in the playground while sports car enthusiasts can drool over the Aussie muscle cars and vintage vehicles that sit in their own gallery. Garden aficionados can stroll the hydrangea and rose gardens, or tour the kitchen garden. Taste Aravina’s wide range of wines in the cellar door or take a seat in the white wicker chairs on the veranda for lunch.
Diana Cullen, the late matriarch of Cullen Wines, was quite a woman. While her husband worked as a doctor, she managed their winery and became its chief winemaker in 1981. Today, Vanya Cullen is following in her mother's footsteps and has been the estate's chief winemaker since 1989. Taste her efforts in the cellar door or pair her wines with lunch at the estate's restaurant.