Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me!! What a fantastic day from start to finish! Caroline excelled herself arranging a tour of MR with a company called ‘Flying Corkscrew‘. I also feel extremely loved with the beautiful messages from people throughout the globe wishing me a Happy Birthday – thank you everyone, it means so much to me!!
I woke quite early today, probably a little too excited for the festivities to unfold. Similar to when I was little at Christmas time, waking up early to see if Santa had arrived. It was around 5am. Caroline turned over to give me the first birthday greeting and kiss for the day – so many more kisses followed throughout the day from my girls. Magic!
Ava woke around 6am, her usual time to rise when travelling in WA and was so patient waiting in bed whilst Caroline and Audrey continued to sleep. Ava couldn’t hold in her excitement, spotting Trixie up high with his hand on the mozzie spray. “Naughty Trixie!”The remaining tenants of the caravan awoke shortly afterwards, got dressed in our ‘smart clothes’ (which Caroline had stored away from the remainder of our clothes for special occasions) and headed for a birthday breakfast at “The Bakery”. YUM! I had an almond croissant, shared with my lovely wife of course, and a granola, the girls had bacon and eggs (which I had to finish) and Caroline had a healthier looking option with eggs and greens of some description.
Feeling extremely satisfied with our meal we headed back to the caravan park. Final make up touches for me along with some significant time spent grooming (that is a joke by the way), we were promptly picked up by Sully of Flying Corkscrew, for a day of tasting some of the Margie’s more boutique wineries, along with one on the opposite side of the spectrum. A short journey down the road to pick up Vicki and Karl, whilst learning a little about the history of the region. Sully advised us that his family were the second family to settle in MR! The name Margaret River originated from an Aussie that fell in love with an English Rose, named Margaret. He wrote to Margaret’s father in England, advising that he had found a magical plot of land, with a beautiful river running through it which extended to the ocean. In his letter, he said that if Margaret would accept his offer of marriage, he would name the region Margaret River! More than three months had passed and the Aussie lad hadn’t heard back from Margaret’s father. Despite the lack of correspondence and Margaret not accepting the offer of marriage, the region was still named Margaret River. Fortunately for me, my English rose said “REALLY” when I asked her to marry me – which I took for a ‘yes’ rather than a ‘no’. Clearly I got a bit more signals from Caroline than that poor Aussie fella got from Margaret!!
First stop, Windows Estate vineyard. Before arriving at our first destination, I was a little ambivalent of the first vineyard, linking the name to Windows Operating System. Initial impressions changed when we had our first glimpse of the vineyard. It seems the vineyard has won the best small cellar door Margaret River for 2015 and 2016 along with receiving accolade from James Halliday! We may be in for a real treat!
Wow the wines were impressive – as impressive as the lovely grounds that extended beyond the cellar door. A homely ‘cottage’ feel about the place that put us the in the right mood to start off a fantastic day! We enjoyed ourselves so much that we ordered a case to send home and keep a few wines with us for our continued journey. This vineyard confirmed with me the talent MR has in producing fine Chardonnay’s and Cabernet Sauvignon! Our first tasting and wines we purchased were as follows:
- 2016 Windows Estate Semillion Sauvignon Blanc
- 2015 Windows Estate Chardonnay
- 2014 Windows Basket Pressed Syrah
- 2014 Windows Basket Pressed Cabernet Sauvignon
After a first fantastic experience, next stop was ‘Amelia Park‘. Another stunning vineyard with the most amazingly large wooden doors at the entrance of the cellar door. Swinging these doors open you enter an enormous room, where barrels filled with Cabernet Sauvignon provide you with a personalised guard of honour. Walk a little closer to the equally large second set of timber doors. I felt like we were entering Aladin’s Cave as the doors slid to one side and we entered an open space filled with natural light coming from the floor to ceiling glass walls that overlooked the expansive vineyard.
We were seated in a beautiful formal private tasting room and were guided through their beautiful list of wines. The entry level wines were definitely fantastic value for money, however we settled on the following bottles – mind blowing wines that we will continue to keep our eyes on when returning to Sydney in a few months – they even sell in the UK, you can source where via their website:
- 2015 Reserve Chardonnay
- 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Stop three was slowly arriving on the horizon, ‘Arimia Wines‘. Another beautiful boutique vineyard. With most of the trip being a surprise, I found out we were having a tasting along with lunch here. Fantastic news as the girls, whom had been so patient through the first two vineyards, were in need of some nourishment – in truth I think we all were!
Arimia makes some more unique wines compared to other vineyards in the region, with a Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre, a dry Rose, a Mourvèdre and a Zinfandel! We had a fantastic meal and lovely wines, but decided against buying. In retrospect probably not the right move. We received exceptional service from the staff of Arimia. They were extremely knowledgeable about the wines, I think that as we were in such need for food, we were a little distracted to say the least. Maybe a return visit is in order?
After filling our bellies and getting ‘slightly’ back on Sully’s schedule, we headed to ‘Vasse Felix‘, a slight contradiction to the previous cellar doors we had visited. A goliath in comparison to the boutique vineyards. Once again we were seated in a private area and greeted by a member of the staff with a good knowledge on their wine list. Knowing these wines from previous purchases in Sydney, we had a good idea of what we were getting ourselves into for this leg of the journey.
To be frank, we were a little disappointed by Vasse Felix. Such a behemoth of a vineyard – it seems a little soulless. They don’t provide the same personalised service or passion for their wines as we had received compared to the boutique vineyards we visited. The sommelier rushed us through their list of unimpressive wines and we left with no intention of making a purchase. Our impressions after visiting a few vineyards within the region is that the ‘David’s’ of Margaret River do triumph over ‘Goliath’!
Our final stop for the day was another boutique vineyard, that only uses grapes from it’s vineyards rather than sourcing grapes from other growers to produce their wines. The drive into ‘Cape Grace Winery‘ was not picturesque. Sully our inside man for the day wisely removed his detachable reversing mirror before approaching the bumpy dirt road that led us to this fantastic little gem. We met the owners of the vineyard and willingly sampled their wines. Once again, we were extremely impressed with the quality of the wine, along with the passion, knowledge and time they took to educate us on their wines. Being a little ‘wine’d out’ we didn’t make a purchase. The girls had been so fantastic for an entire day and were starting to get tired and their dinner time was fast approaching. We did however make a commitment to the owners that we would return and buy some of their lovely wines – which they would then ship to Sydney along with other wines we purchased from other vineyards to complete the case, including:
- 2015 Chardonnay
- 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2014 Malbec
- 2014 Cane Cut Chenin Blanc
The Cane Cut Chenin Blanc was an interesting wine. Similar to a white grape from the Loire Valley, the winemaker cuts the ‘cane’ from the vine and leaves the grapes to dry detached from the main plant. The end result is a wine that is sweet, but not as sweet as a dessert wine with medium alcohol content. A perfect wine to have with blue cheese!
After leaving Cape Grace, we returned to the caravan park and fed the girls – putting them down earlier than normal as they were exhausted. Not exactly ‘wined’ out at this stage, we opened a lovely 2010 Basket Pressed Shiraz from SunnyHurst. A beautifully balanced red, that we decided was too good to entirely consume after the wine filled day that we had. Fear not it won’t go to waste, I am sure it will be revisited tomorrow evening!
So with December 6th almost over and leaving my 41st year behind me, the start of my 42nd year has been amazing. Special thanks to Vicki and Karl for joining Caroline and I on our wine filled adventure, to Sully from Flying Corkscrew for imparting his knowledge of the fabulous MR, his driving and childminding skills. To Ava and Audrey for being angelic for the entire day – so patient and well behaved! Finally thank you to my beautiful wife. What a fantastic birthday – can’t wait to see what you will have planned for my 43rd!!