Well Margaret River, you have exceeded my expectations. I have lived a life blinded by the majesty of your Barossa and McLaren Vale Shiraz’. Margaret has exceptional Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, wines I will keep my eyes open for when ordering wine back in Sydney!
Another morning of Ava waking first in the caravan. The familiar calls from her top bunk of “Daddy, can I get up now?”, “No, it’s too early” I reply. Obediently, she stays in bed, her mind ticking – thinking when is it appropriate to ask again. Ava spots Trixie, Santa’s naughty elf, whom has got stuck in a box of the coffee we are drinking. Around 6.30am another familiar chant from Ava. “Daddy, can I get up now?”. “Oh, you should see what naughty Trixie has got up to!”. A wave of the hand in a semi-slumbered state from me and Ava makes her way to our bed for a morning cuddle. A minute later and the blonde bob-mop of hair joins us too. Audrey seems to have a magnetic attraction to me in the morning, always keen for a ‘daddy cuddle’. What else can a man ask for!
No breakfast at campsite today, I have taken a leaf from Sully from Flying Corkscrew and developed our own boutique wine extravaganza today. The plan of attack as it stands is as follows; 8.30am breakfast at White Elephant Cafe, Canal Rocks, Injidup point, Stormflower Vineyard, Woodlands Wines, Juniper Estate, Margaret River Chocolate Company, McHenry Hohnen with a final destination of Cape Grace (again) to secure our final purchase in Margaret River. Possible? I think so! Karl and I were designated drivers today – bring on the ladies day of sun, surf, SSB’s and Cabernet Sauvignon!
White Elephant Cafe was a fantastic place to start today’s journey. An incredibly picturesque location right on top of the beach, coffee in hand patiently waiting for our breakfast to arrive – it is such a pity that Sydney doesn’t have cafe’s like this – being so close to the sea immediately puts you in holiday mode.
The surf was pumping. Karl and Vicki were up early (6am we believe) looking at the surf, admiring it from the shoreline. We had a brilliant table overlooking the barrelling waves, while enjoying a fantastic breakfast. We filled our bellies in preparation for what will be a jam packed agenda through the MR.
Leaving White Elephant, we headed in a northerly direction towards Canal Rocks to revel in the striking rock formations that make up this peninsula. Massive granite rocks form a canal, allowing rapid water movement. Waves crash and you receive a gentle sea spray when crossing the boardwalk. A must when visiting the region!
Slight change of plans to what was previously indicated. Karl, an avid surfer (and appreciator of good surfing conditions!) was keen on seeing what the surf was like at Smiths Beach. A literal hop, skip and jump down the road and we entered the park adjoining Smiths Beach. Filled to the brim with surfers who were detaching themselves from their wetsuit prisons, we found parks and admired the surf from a distance. I think Vicki and Karl will frequent this locale over the next few days!
On the road again, we headed to Injidup point to witness the massive sand dunes – which Caroline had visited with her mum over a decade ago. Winding through the roads of Injidup we were once again greeted by a ‘sea’ of surfers. All of which were waxing boards, donning on sunscreen – in anticipation of catching the perfect wave. Being a good cub scout, I came prepared, removing one of the empty half case boxes from the boot of the car – to be used as an implement to ‘ride’ the massive sand dunes. We walked down the creaky staircase that joined the car park to the beach and headed on our trek to the far corner of the beach – to witness the grandeur of the sand dunes.
Spotting a few dolphins frolicking with surfers along our way, we finally arrived at the sand dunes. I have to say I was impressed! Enormous, gargantuan, I can’t think of a word that accurately describes the sand dunes that were standing in front of us. All I could think about was how pleased I was that I had bought the empty half case along. Recalling advertisements from my youth, yes a long time ago, I recall a Coke ad where people were sliding down sand dunes on cardboard boxes. The box under my arm was going to provide the ultimate means of traversing these mountains of sand.
Climbing to the top of the sand dunes, with the cardboard box under my arms I dove onto said box. My chest hit the cardboard as my legs flailed in the air. Not enough momentum I think, I stopped immediately. The end result was short (and undies) filled with Margaret Rivers finest sand! We climbed the staircase back to the car park and headed to the first vineyard of the day, Stormflower Vineyard. The accumulated sand was generously reposited by me at the numerous vineyards we visited during the day!
I have to admit, Stormflower initially caught my attention in the tourist Information centre of Busselton. Located in the Wilyabrup pocket of the Margaret River region, Stormflower is boutique vineyard that has recently moved towards organic wine production. Entering the cellar door from a rustic garden of Australian wildflowers, we were greeted by a lovely lady whom was well versed on the different types of wines Stormflower was renoun for. A intermediate sized vineyard, approximately 9 hectares in size, the vineyard specialised in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, however as we experienced made a cracking Cabernet Shiraz! As may be expected, we purchased wine from this vineyard – to be freighted back to Sydney! Notable wines from this vineyard were which we purchased were:
- 2014 Chardonnay
- 2013 Shiraz – Silver medal 2015 Sydney Royal Wine Show, 92 points James Halliday
- 2014 Cabernet Shiraz
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Before departing Stormflower, I made a fantastic suggestion to our convoy. Why not give them our other UHF radio, so we could communicate with each other in-between vineyards. Genius idea that kept our girls entertained speaking to Vicki and Karl, whom donned Australian accents and imitated different animals along our journey! Karl, we are yet to hear the award winning Jack Russell. Australia is waiting Karl! Australia is waiting!!
Vineyard number two, Woodlands Wines – a vineyard of which we had received numerous recommendations. Vicki and Caroline were unrelenting, sampling wines from Chardonnay through to the Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Benjamin’ at $150 a bottle. While the wines were nice, unfortunately they didn’t marry up with our expectations. Another frantic call for “I need a poo” from Ava whilst the ladies were sampling wines, so I removed myself from the comfortable faux velvet chair and escorted her to what she stated “the most beautiful bathroom I had ever seen. Daddy you need to write about this in your blog”. Ava your wish has been granted, sorry no picture attached.
After Woodlands we visited Juniper Estate, a beautiful little vineyard. Upon parking the car we were greeted by an eclectic array of Australian flora, unfortunately my knowledge of botany isn’t sufficient enough to decipher the species that were noted! There were also many wrens playing just outside the window as if performing for us.
We entered the cellar door and met the General Manager of Juniper Estate, whom drew the short straw while the staff were enjoying Christmas celebrations at a local brewery. Having heard of Juniper previously, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this vineyard. Caroline and Vicki were immediately surprised by the wines on offer, having the opportunity to taste the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that was so new it hadn’t been released as yet through the cellar door. The wines that took Caroline’s fancy were and that we purchased were:
- 2014 Estate Semillion
- 2014 Estate Malbec
To the girls delight (I will include Vicki, Karl and I in this bracket) our next destination was Margaret River Chocolate Company – a place where we could entertain the girls desires of a ‘tasting’ and refuel our tanks with chocolate and food. A factory of sorts, filled to the brim with chocolate delights of all descriptions, the girls and I were repeat offenders for filling our hands with the free white, milk and dark chocolate buttons.
While I had been back a few times myself, I looked in disgust at an elderly lady whom used a MR brochure as a ‘cone’ to fill up with chocolate. Not sure if I was disgusted with her behaviour for being upset that I hadn’t come up with the idea. Nevertheless Audrey and Ava, in particular, had a fantastic experience at the chocolate company. Returning to the vehicle, the girls were definitely on a sugar high!
With blood glucose sugar spikes emitting from our car we headed to McHenry Hohnen, another vineyard that had promise of good things! We entered the cellar door and were greeted by the smell of smoked meat goods. The vineyard itself was run by people of German extraction, it would be silly of us not to smell fantastic smoked meat upon entering the cellar door. Wouldn’t it?
The vineyard itself probably levitates somewhere between that of a medium and larger vineyard, sourcing grapes from three separate regions – whilst remaining within the landholdings of McHenry Hohnen. We tasted some recent award winning Chardonnay, along with Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends including a lovely Tempranillo and Bordeaux Blend. Despite the ladies having an educated journey through the wines of this vineyard, we left with smoked meat products rather than wine! We said our goodbye’s to Vicki and Karl. It was so lovely to share our experiences of the region with them! Thank you and look forward to catching up again in Sydney, where Karl will teach me how to surf!
Final destination for the evening was Cape Grace Wines to form a mixed dozen wines from the Margaret River region (which we had chosen on Tuesday) to send eastbound to home. Caroline entered the vineyard whilst I remained on UHF to answer any questions as the girls slept. Another dozen wines sent back to Sydney – a fantastic way to end our blast through MR!
We headed back to the caravan to feed the girls. We had some “Annie Park Lamb” which we cooked on the weber with some jacket potatoes, accompanied by a 2015 Cabernet Shiraz from Cape Grace. Yum! The girls especially loved the lamb!
Tomorrow, we think we will head for Pemberton to taste some of the Pinot Noir. Our only concern is that it is the Annual Cherry Festival in the next door town which acknowledges the cherry harvesting within the region which begins this weekend – a big thing for the region we believe!!
So final tally for the Margaret River region, approximated 35 vineyards (things) we have ‘done’ from the probable 150 odd attractions (synonymous for vineyards). Another trip in the future is definitely on the cards. With caravan or ‘sans’ caravan is the question!
Chicky edit – morning photo of Lach doing the morning toilet walk – Crocs and socks!!!