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Wine

Fruits of the Forest

The produce of Western Australia’s Southern Forests is world renowned, the wines of the region are starting to follow suit.

It’s hard not to be intoxicated by the Southern Forests region, with its towering forests, cascading waterways, sprawling valleys dotted with vineyards and orchards quilted with blossoming fruit trees. This special place is a leisurely three-hour drive from Perth and winds through some of the most fertile land in the world – home to a tapestry of fresh produce. While this quintessentially Australian landscape was historically timber-milling and tobacco country, today it is Western Australia’s third largest wine region – and one of the nation’s richest agricultural districts.

Situated in the lower south west corner of WA, the Southern Forests has over 80,000 hectares of prime agricultural land and includes the Manjimup, Pemberton and Great Southern Geographical Indications (GIs). With its high altitude, cool climate and rich, loamy karri soils, the region is suited to the production of Burgundy-style wines with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay simply thriving in this lush environment. More recently, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Verdelho, Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc have also emerged as important varieties.

And with Margaret River as its neighbour, it is not surprising that this district is forging a solid reputation for its premium cool climate wines to match its world-class produce.

The Southern Forests’ reputation as a top culinary tourism destination has grown exponentially since the introduction of the Genuinely Southern Forests campaign and now the vignerons want their wines to share that international platform. As a result, the Manjimup and Pemberton wine associations are in the process of amalgamating to create a unified brand to further promote their wines to the world. If approved, it will be known as the Wine Industry of the Southern Forests.

“This move will allow us to operate more efficiently in association with the Southern Forests Food Council (SFFC) and effectively benefit all of the membership with the administration and distribution of funds from the recently established Agricultural Produce Commission,” says Mark Aitken of Woodgate Estate.

“For WA to be acknowledged as one of the premier wine growing regions in the world, it needs a critical mass of strong regional brands each with a unique identity in the same way the rest of the great wine regions of the world now operate.”

According to Vic Peos from Peos Estate, this move will allow Southern Forests winemakers to achieve this recognition and continue evolving their styles in the international domain.

“We aim to grow the value of agriculture and give educational opportunities to future generations so they can live, work and have a quality lifestyle within the area. This will also create vibrancy and jobs within the community,” he says.

While the Peos family have been in the region for 80 years, it wasn’t until 1996 that Vic and his three brothers created Peos Estate as a legacy to their late father and grandfather who cultivated grapes in Macedonia a century ago before migrating to Manjimup in the 1950s.

Over the years, the Peos family has farmed dairy cattle, potatoes, cauliflowers and beans so it was no great leap for their farming pedigree to be put to use to cultivate wine grapes.

“Manjimup is one of the coolest regions in WA which allows for distinctive fruit flavours to be enhanced and the sustained ripening period gives some varieties the ability to age and slowly mature.

“Our single vineyard Shiraz is a perfect example of this with its medium-bodied, savoury and complex flavours which are powerful, yet elegant. It is also a great match with food to give you a wonderful culinary experience,” explains Vic.

Epicurean Delights

To say these vignerons are spoilt for choice when it comes to food matching selections to pair with their wines is a huge understatement. It is a melting pot of flavours here with these privileged winemakers having a bountiful choice of seafood, dairy, meat, fruit and vegetables at their fingertips to enhance the gastronomic journey.

Silkwood Wines is one such establishment that has opened a restaurant at its cellar door, showcasing its range of wines and locally harvested produce. All it takes is one afternoon of sitting on the deck overlooking the lake whilst enjoying a glass of their vibrantly fresh Sauvignon Blanc and a tasting plate to become immersed in this region.

At Chestnut Grove, winemaker David Dowden is undertaking wild ferments with his Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs to create an extra layer of complexity, texture and finesse in his wine stable. And not content with wine production alone, the winery is now making a verjuice from its deliciously fruity Verdelho, as well as an extra virgin olive oil.

Whilst most produce will flourish in this fertile land, Monica Radomiljac from Pemberley of Pemberton, says living in ‘karri country’ can be challenging.

“The soil here is too good and too rich. In order to prevent the vines from growing as huge as their famous neighbours, the karri trees, we have to stress the plants using techniques such as minimal or no irrigation and hard pruning,” says Monica.

“This results in grapes that are vibrant with flavours and alive with freshness when they are harvested for crushing from February to April each year.”

Living in Harmony

This symbiotic relationship between the soils and vines extends to something devilishly smelly that also grows here and has gourmands around the world salivating for its pungent, earthy flavours. I am referring to the elusive black Perigord truffle that originated in France and has now, somewhat surprisingly, found a new home in Manjimup. So firmly are their spores entrenched in these soils that the Truffle and Wine Co. is now the largest producer of black truffles in the world.

The marriage of food and wine is such an intrinsic part of any culinary journey and it is at this trufferie where you can experience a truffle and wine degustation lunch with a range of wines that have been specifically created to enhance your truffle experience.

“The fresh produce is a result of committed farming families who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries,” says the Truffle & Wine Co.’s Amber Atkinson.

“A prime example is the new Bravo apple. Research, development and thinking outside the square led to the introduction of truffles to Manjimup. Wine production is no different and wineries from this region continue to gain momentum, which is reflected by wine show accolades across the country.”

As I leave the truffles in my wake, I pass many roadside stalls and open farm gates. There are native finger limes, apples, chestnuts, berries, stone fruit, avocados, cherries, brassica beef, dairy, potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, to name but a few. You can even throw a fishing line in the river for trout and, at certain times of the year, you can snare freshwater marron, endemic to this wonderful region, from one of its many watercourses.

“We aim to celebrate the people, place and produce by creating exceptional culinary experiences,” says Southern Forests Food Council GM, Jayme Hatcher.

“This pristine part of the world still remains relatively undiscovered with its complementary offering of produce and wines, which makes this region a genuine foodie’s dream.”

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Life
17 Must Do Hunter Valley Experiences
Words by Shonagh Walker on 8 May 2017
The Hunter Valley isn't just about cellar doors. Shonagh Walker uncovers a host of activities that may well see you extend your stay. While it's widely known as the destination to uncover  boutique cellar doors  and  world-famous wines , the Hunter Valley has another face that it's worked hard on showing to the world. From balloon rides to nature walks, festivals to art amongst the vines and even animal sanctuaries that will melt your heart, you're spoiled for choice when it comes to filling your itinerary on your weekend or family holiday. Here's a list of some of our getaway inspirations. Be Cheesy Cheese lovers should make a B-line for  The Sebel Kirkton Park  on Saturday June 17 and Sunday June 18, which mark the annual Cheese Lovers Festival. Highlights include 50 exclusive stalls featuring cheese, beer, wine and assorted cheese-related food stalls, cooking with cheese workshops, beer and cheese workshops and cheese making classes. Preceding the official start of the festival is the Classic Cheese Dinner on Friday June 16. cheeseloversfestival.com.au Get Cooking Millfield Hall Cooking School caters for corporate and private groups of eight to 20 people. All produce used is local and seasonal, with citrus and herbs grown in the Hall's garden and eggs coming straight from their own chook pen. Prices are usually around $145 per class, which includes a glass of wine, however, bespoke tutorials can include anything from roasting an entire beast and beer tasting, to matching courses with local wines, which might up the price a bit. millfieldhall.com.au Organic Fare Run by partners Matty and Jimmy Kerr, Nanna Kerr's Kitchen is a mostly organic restaurant and is a huge favourite with locals and tourists alike. Famed for dishes taken from the Kerr matriarch's menu and its farm to table ethos, this restaurant also boasts a retail space where you can purchase the pickles, relishes and jams served on site. Don't miss the Dirty Chai Pannacotta, which was created to celebrate Nanna Kerr's recent 80th birthday. nannakerrskitchen.com.au Be Proud You'll have a blast during the second annual Pokolbin Pride Festival, which this year again sees local businesses band together with wine tasting tours, live entertainment, fine dining and cocktail parties, community markets, guided bike riding winery tours and more. The festival runs from October 20-22. pokolbinpride.com.au A Day On The Green Hit Bimbadgen for this not-to-be-missed event where you'll get your fix of local and international acts teamed with a great selection of wine. This year has already seen rock icons Blondie and Cyndi Lauper entertain, with more acts every summer. When major celebs aren't singing, you can enjoy Esca restaurant and sip a generous wine selection at the cellar door. bimbadgen.com.au Take To The Skies If you fancy yourself a bit of a pilot, then Hunter Valley Joy Flights is for you. Located at Cessnock airport, the company offers Tiger Moth adventure flights where you man the cockpit and fly the plane solo once in the air (an experienced pilot is there to guide you at all times). A less adrenaline-inducing way to get elevated is by Hot Air Balloon. Hunter Valley Ballooning offers exclusive and group flights out of its Lovedale HQ every day and is a peaceful and unique way to take in the views of the region huntervalleyjoyflights.com.au Inspire Your Green Thumb With over 60 acres of international display gardens, you can easily while away a day or two in the lush haven that is the Hunter Valley Gardens, situated conveniently in the Pokolbin region. There's over eight kilometres of walking paths to explore, which reveal 10 individual feature gardens each with a unique theme. The Storybook Garden with its topiary animals including horses, teddy bears and ducks will delight kids of all ages. The Lakes Walk will take you past waterfalls, babbling brooks, Weeping Willows, a chapel and rotunda and stunning seasonal flora. The Rose Garden features over 150 varieties of roses, with around 8000 fragrant and beautiful roses in bloom and the Formal Garden, a nod to French and British garden designs, will transfix you with its manicured hedges, evergreen magnolia and 3000 bushes of Rosa chameleon roses. Make sure you stop by the Wishing Fountain - all proceeds from your wish are donated to local charities. A favourite of this scribe though, is the Italian Grotto, with its Statue of Saint Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment), its lush lavender hedges and incredible bougainvillea. Winter marks the annual Snow Time festival (June 24 to July 16), with a giant ice-skating rink, mega ice toboggan and tubing. You can also build a snowman at in the man-made Snow Play Zone. huntervalleygardens.com.au The Block Four luxury self-contained villas and a three bedroom guesthouse comprise the secluded but stunning accommodation and winery of Block 8. Soak up views of orchards, olive groves, grapevines, open fields and distant mountain ranges as you meet kangaroos and wallabies, sugar gliders, swans and goannas. You can even pat a couple of pigs and handfeed the ducks. Guests also receive bottles of the estate-grown single vineyard wines, generous breakfast hampers and home-baked treats for afternoon tea. blockeight.com.au Get Artsy Sculptures in the Vineyards happens throughout November, stretching across Undercliff Winery and Gallery, Stonehurst Cedar Creek Wines, Wollombi Wines and Noyce Brothers Wine. Works are by renowned local and national artists, with an estimated 100 pieces planned for 2017. sculptureinthevineyards.com.au On Your Bike As the original bike hire company in the region, Grapemobile Bicycle Hire and Tours really know their stuff. Rent from the centrally located vineyard and hire shop in Pokolbin, where you can take a private off road self-guided tour amongst the vines, sampling wines from up to nine vineyards on the way (some even provide free delivery of your purchases to the bike's hire shop). You can also choose to have the Grapemobile bus pick you up and return you from your accommodation or meeting place. All tours include mountain bikes, retro cruisers or tandems, helmets, sunscreen, bottled water, numbered VIP access pass, maps and tour options. grapemobile.com.au Organic Spa Experience There's a plethora of day spas peppered around the Hunter. UBIKA spa at the Crowne Plaza in Lovedale is noteworthy, thanks to its alliance with certified organic skin care brand, Eminence Organics. Hailing from Hungary, this nurturing range relies on ingredients such as blueberries, Arctic berries, and pomegranate. Choose from an array of facials and body treatments including Vichy showers, wraps and exfoliation. Other fantastic spa experiences include iconic Spa Elysia Golden Door, which has partnered with Certified Organic skin care range, Divine Woman and Chateau Elan at The Vintage, where you can enjoy a glass of bubbles in the outdoor Jacuzzi before or after your treatment. crowneplazahuntervalley.com.au goldendoor.com.au ,  chateauelan.com.au Luxe Getaway Just Desserts Sweet tooth? Book a table at Sabor. Famed for its Portuguese Chocolate Mousse made from owner Fernando's grandmother's recipe from 70 years ago, there are over 50 desserts on the menu and each can be paired beautifully with local wines. There are gluten-free options too, as well as Glinelli coffee and a selection of teas. saborinthehunter.com.au A Berry Nice Time Few things taste as sweet as organic, bio-dynamically farmed blueberries, fresh from the bush. At Misty Valley Farm, you can pick your own punnet and enjoy the intense flavour straight away, or freeze your harvest for up to two years. Berry picking season is Dec/Jan, but at other times you can lap up the farm environment in the boutique accommodation, which sleeps up to four people and includes organic farm fresh eggs in the breakfast hamper. mistyvalleyblueberries.com Take A Stroll If you're still feeling energetic and want (or need) to walk off a few calories, take one of several walking trails through Barrington Tops National Park. Choose from easy walks, overnight hikes, or simply enjoy a picnic by the stunning Barrington Tops Falls. Those after more action can 4WD. nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/barrington-tops-national-park See Pigs Fly Where Pigs Fly is a registered charity and sanctuary located in the Lower Hunter region, dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and caring for farmed animals that have been treated cruelly, abused or neglected. With various open days and sanctuary tours (bookings essential) throughout the year, the team is committed to educating guests about the importance of treating all animals with compassion and respect. An open day will see you mingling with pigs, lambs, chickens and cows, living life as they should be - free range and organically. wherepigsfly.org Lush Lavender Daniela Riccio bought Little Valley Lavender Farm five years ago and while she still grows over 100 lavender bushes, the farm is mostly an organic garlic producer, alpaca breeding base and fleece retailer, bee keeper and miniature cattle grazier. It's is also a part of the Department of Primary Industries' Visit My Farm program, whereby city slickers can spend a day learning about farm life. littlevalleyfarm.com.au
Food
The taste of the Adelaide Hills
Words by Mark Hughes on 18 Jul 2017
We traipsed around the Adelaide Hills to discover the most divine food offerings in this picturesque wine region. Just 20 minutes drive from the centre of Adelaide you find yourself in the Adelaide Hills. The ascent from the city is 700 metres, making this a cool climate wine region boasting a range of award-winning wines such as  Pinot Noir ,  Chardonnay  and  Sparkling , as well as elegant  Shiraz , while it is arguably the home of  Australian Sauvignon Blanc . Alongside impressive wines, the  Adelaide Hills  has an array of sumptuous dining offerings. Here are some of the highlights recommended to me by locals during a recent trip to the region. CRAFERS The first village you come to in the Hills along the M1 from Adelaide is Crafers, and it is where you'll find the recently renovated Crafers Hotel. Retaining the 1830s heritage of the original structure, it offers a pub feel with a contemporary dining experience with dishes like beouf bourguignon and duck confit sitting alongside gourmet burgers. There's a range of craft beers on tap, but it is the wine list, or more appropriately, the wine cellar, that is something to truly behold. With an extensive range of local wines and South Australian gems, there's also some hard-to-find wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. With boutique accommodation on site, you could be excused if you called in for lunch, but ended staying for the night. Crafers Hotel, 8 Main st, Crafers. Just up Mount Lofty Summit Road, is Mount Lofty House and the serious new addition to the Hills dining scene - Hardy's Verandah. A recent renovation has seen the long closed-in verandah opened up to become an exquisite dining space with breath-taking views across the Piccadilly Valley. The degustation menu from chef Wayne Brown is edgy and bold with a Japanese focus to local produce and a scintillating wine list curated by sommelier Patrick White. Hardy's Verandah 74 Mount Lofty Summit Rd, Crafers. SUMMERTOWN AND URAIDLA Follow Mount Lofty Summit Road and just a few enjoyable twists and turns up the hill you'll find yourself a culinary world away from Crafers at the Summertown Aristologist. This much-talked about venue is the collaboration of Aaron Fenwick, the former general manager at Restaurant Orana and winemakers Anton van Klopper (Lucy Margaux) and Jasper Button (Commone of Buttons). Housed in a former butcher shop, the vibe embodies a communal epicurean feel. Produce is sought from the kitchen garden or the community of farmers, while artisan bread is baked on premise. There is no set menu as the chef of the day chooses from what's available, but think grazing plates such as buckwheat, kombu and beets or artichoke, whey and ricotta matched with natural wines sourced primarily from the nearby Basket Range sub-region. Friday, Saturday and Sundays for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Summertown Aristologist, 1097 Greenhill road, Summertown . Keep the communal vibe going and follow Greenhill Road down into Uraidla, where winemaker of the moment, Taras Ochota from Ochota Barrels, has teamed up with a couple of mates to open Lost in a Forest - a wood oven/wine lounge in the beautifully remodelled St Stephens Anglican Church. Marco Pierre White called these 'the best pizzas he's ever eaten' courtesy of chef Nick Filsell's intriguing offerings such as cider braised pulled pork pizza with pickled vegetables, mozzarella and pork crackle, topped with housemade sriracha mayo. The bar features wines from nine Basket Range producers, as well as a range of exotic spirits. Lost in a Forest, 1203 Greenhill Rd, Uraidla. STIRLING If in Crafers you decided to get back on the M1 further into the Hills just a few minutes' drive you'll see the turn off for the impossibly beautiful town of Stirling. Its tree-lined main street features boutique shops and a number of cool eateries including The Locavore. As the name suggests, this intimate venue adheres to the 100 mile rule with all produce and wine sourced locally and used thoughtfully in Modern Australian tapas style offerings. The Locavore, 49 Mount Barker Rd, Stirling . Just down the road is the Stirling Hotel, a beautifully renovated pub with a fine dining bistro, grill and pizza bar. Not quite the level of a gastro pub, the food is wholesome and hearty with a substantial wine list. But the highlight is its Cellar & Patisserie. Located in separate premises behind the hotel, it serves a range of mouth-watering pastries, pies and breads and coffee from five different roasters. Stirling Hotel, 52 Mount Barker Rd, Stirling . BRIDGEWATER Just a few clicks up the M1 from Stirling (or along the more scenic route through Aldgate) you'll find an icon of the Adelaide Hills dining scene, the Bridgewater Mill. The former 1860s flour mill was turned into a fine dining restaurant in 1986 by wine industry legends Brian Croser and Len Evans. A few years ago, Seppeltsfield's Warren Randall bought the venue and gave it a major overhaul including a new wine bar and extending the outdoor deck. Local Hills chef Zac Ronayne delivers delicious seasonal offerings enjoyed by the fire in winter, or on the deck overlooking the huge working wheel in the summer. Bridgewater Mill, 386 Mount Barker Rd, Bridgewater . HAHNDORF The main strip of the historic village of Hahndorf is very touristy and you can find any number of German-inspired pubs where you can eat your weight in bratwurst, but there are two gems in Main Road as well. The Seasonal Garden Café celebrates local produce delivered as delicious wholesome meals such as salads, slow-roasted lamb as well as vegetarian options. Be sure to check out the delightful and relaxing kitchen garden out the back. Seasonal Garden Cafe, 79 Main Rd, Hahndorf Satisfy your sweet tooth at Chocolate @ Number 5. Famed for its waffles and exotic hot chocolates, there's also a range of decadent desserts, chocolate truffles and pralines and coffee sourced from a small batch roastery. Chocolate @ Number 5, 5 Main Rd, Hahndorf. Pay a visit to the iconic Beerenberg farm shop before taking the Balhannah Road north to the The Lane Vineyard and Restaurant, where you are greeted with sweeping views across the region. Chef James Brinklow has created delicious seasonal recipes and also offers the Lane Kitchen's Chef's Table experience - scores of dishes matched with wine across an indulgent three hour sitting. The Lane Vineyard and Restaurant, 5 Ravenswood Lane, Hahndorf . WOODSIDE Woodside Cheese features on many menus around the Hills. Being so close, take the Onkaparinga Valley Road and see artisan cheesemaker Kris Lloyd, winner of over 100 awards, including a Super Gold at the 2016 World Cheese Awards for her Anthill - a fresh goat cheese encrusted with green ants - she's been experimenting with a variation that includes lemon myrtle, as well as doing the country's first raw milk cheese. An innovator in the industry, she is a must-visit in the Adelaide Hills. Woodside Cheese Wrights, 22 Henry St, Woodside . A bit further along Onkaparinga Valley Road you'll find Bird in Hand winery. Everything about this place is impressive. Picturesque vineyards, incredible artwork and a top class restaurant, The Gallery. Carlos Astudillo has recently taken over as Chef de Cuisine and has introduced a farm-to-table rotation of dishes with produce sourced directly from local growers and Bird in Hand's kitchen garden. Open every day for lunch, take on one of the two lunchtime dining experiences, Signature Flight, a share-style menu or the more immersive Joy Flight - an exciting seasonal culinary journey that unfolds over three delectable hours, best enjoyed with matching Bird in Hand wines, of course. The Gallery, Corner of Bird in Hand & Pfeiffer Roads, Woodside . Another winery with a stellar restaurant is Howard Vineyard just 10 minutes drive back up the hill to Narnie.  MasterChef  alumni Heather Day has taken over the reins at the recently renovated Clover Restaurant and she's serving up some of the exotic, fresh flavours of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China. The venue hosts acoustic Sunday Sessions and the lush green lawn outside the cellar door is the perfect spot to soak up some cool musical vibes and feast on Heather's delicious Asian dishes. Clover Restaurant, Howard Vineyard 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne . VERDUN If you follow the signs from Woodside  back to Adelaide, you'll pass through Verdun, where there are three final additions to your Hills culinary journey. The Stanley Bridge Hotel is still an 'old school' pub, with a 1970s carpet and undulating floor. And that's its charm. With its cosy inside dining with dishes such as mushroom gnocchi and marinara linguine, it is finding favour with the hip crowds on the weekend who kick on out the back on the petanque rink and frequent the caravan-cum-bar. Stanley Bridge Tavern 41 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun . Only a couple of hundred metres up the road is the Walk the Talk Café. Housed in the old Verdun Post Office (locals still pop in to get their mail) chef/caterer Ali Seedsman and her partner Russell Marchant have opened a funky but unpretentious café. Ali's stellar pedigree (Bayswater Brasserie, Bathers Pavilion, Magill Estate) is evident on the menu - simple but sumptuous shared plates and housemade cakes and pastries. Walk the Talk Café, 25 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun . Still in Verdun, just before you get back on the M1 back to Adelaide, swing up the hill to Maximilian's, acknowledged as one of the best regional restaurants in the state. Casual shared plates, a la carte and chef's degustation journeys matched with wines from the on-site Sidewood Cellar Door. The venue also offers gorgeous views across the lake and vineyard. Maximilian's Restaurant 15 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Verdun .
Wine
Margaret River’s 50th
Words by Danielle Costley on 12 Nov 2017
As WA’s Margaret River wine region celebrates its 50th anniversary, we celebrate the pioneers who brought it all to fruition. A hundred years ago, a couple of Italian immigrants arrived in the south west corner of Western Australia with some cuttings of a little-known grape variety called Fragola. These vines produced the first wines to be sold in Margaret River for the hefty price tag of two shillings a flagon. Fondly dubbed ‘red dynamite’ by the enthusiastic community, this wine was in high demand at the local dance halls where it was sold from the back of a truck. And it was said to pack quite a punch. Times have certainly changed since then and while other growers produced small batches of wines in the ensuing years, it wasn’t until the mid 1960s when agronomist Dr John Gladstones published a report identifying Margaret River’s vast potential for viticulture, that the region, as we know it today, was born.
The Gladstones report attracted the attention of budding vignerons and medical practitioners, Thomas Cullity and Kevin and Diana Cullen. In mid 1966, the Cullens organised a meeting in the Margaret River township of Busselton inviting Dr Gladstones to speak. It was the final push those attending needed. Soon after, the Cullens, in partnership with Tom Cullity, and Geoff and Sue Juniper, planted vines in Wilyabrup, which unfortunately didn’t survive. It was left to Cullity, who in 1967 purchased a mere eight acres of land, to plant Margaret River’s first commercial vines – Cabernet Sauvignon , Shiraz , Malbec and Riesling . He named his venture after French sailor, Thomas Vasse, who had drowned in Geographe Bay. Hoping for better fortunes than the Frenchman, he added the Latin word for happiness – Felix. His first crop, too, was all but a disaster, decimated by birds and succumbing to bunch rot. Undeterred, but determined, Cullity persevered. In 1972, Vasse Felix won a gold medal at the Perth Show for its Riesling. The following year, gold for its Cabernet. Happy days, indeed. The Cullens also persevered. In 1971 they planted vines on their own land where their current vineyard still thrives. At this stage, Moss Wood had been established for two years and within another two years, Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin Estate, and Woodlands had also been established. In what was a fledgling industry at the time, these founding wineries worked tirelessly to forge the region’s reputation as a premium wine producer. “I pay tribute to the winemakers and grape growers of Margaret River,” says Dr Gladstones, who is still a proud member of the Margaret River community today. “It’s one thing to have an idea and put it forward, it’s another this to be brought to fruition. The work and financial commitment that had to go into it has been a big factor in bringing Margaret River to its present world-class status.”
Left: Bob Hullock. Right: Cullen Wines co-founder Diana Cullen  An American influence While the pioneering wineries may have simply dreamed of making good wine, there was a certain Californian who knew of Margaret River’s enormous potential – Napa Valley wine baron, Robert Mondavi. As the story goes, Mondavi was searching the globe for the next great wine region. His search took him to Margaret River and a patch of land owned by Denis Horgan, a chartered accountant, and his wife Tricia. Today, it is Leeuwin Estate. “Mondavi arrived on our doorstep wanting to buy the place,’ says Denis. “We weren’t the selling type, so he became our mentor in setting up a winery. He and his son and winemaker, Tim, came out on numerous occasions to advise on what varieties we should plant, where to plant them, about oak treatment and so on.” Mondavi’s advice was also greatly accepted by Cullity and Kevin Cullen, who Denis befriended and met up with regularly to discuss all things wine. “You would have sworn you were in a dog fight,” Denis says of the trio’s rendezvous. “They used to swear and curse and talk about one another’s wines, and then we’d all sit down and have lunch like we were the greatest of friends.  “They were fabulous guys. It was the best education I could have had because they didn’t pull any punches. They set out to make wines that ranked with the best in the world, and they damn well did it.” A region evolved
Three generations of Credaros in their Woolston vineyard Fifty years on, Margaret River is indeed a world class wine region. While it only produces three percent of Australia’s wine, it contributes 20 per cent of our premium wine production. It is recognised internationally for exceptional Cabernets and Chardonnays, and also produces a stylish signature blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The handful of wineries have now boomed to over 200 with most of them producing the flagships, while also experimenting with other varietals and blends that suit the Mediterranean climate, cooling sea breezes and rich gravelly soils. In the northern districts lies the family-owned Credaro Wines, where some of the region’s first vines were planted by the pioneering Meleri and Credaro families to produce the ‘red dynamite’. These days, they have over 140 hectares of vines spread across five vineyards and alongside the legendary Fragola, and Chardonnay, Cabernet and SBS, they are doing well with Pinot Grigio, Shiraz and Merlot. Thompson Estate is renowned for its Chardonnays and Cabernets, but is also finding favour with its Cabernet Merlot, Malbec and famed Four Chambers Shiraz. The 20-year-old vines are organically grown and produce impressive wines under the watchful eye of Bob Cartwright of Leeuwin Estate acclaim.
Hay Shed Hill, Margaret River At Hay Shed Hill, whose vineyards were first planted in the 1970s, the Block 6 Chardonnay is the star. Dry grown and located on a steep south facing slope, it is lean, light and fresh, but also has “flavour, aroma, body and textural interest,” says winemaker and owner, Michael Kerrigan. In concert with the Block 6, he is also giving plenty of attention to a stunning Cabernet Franc, as well as an intoxicating Shiraz Tempranillo blend. In the cooler, southern parts of the Margaret River, Sauvignon Blanc really finds voice as a single varietal. In close proximity to the Indian Ocean, you will find Redgate Wines, a winery that takes its name from a nearby property that once had a prominent red gate and was known for the production of a rather powerful moonshine. This estate, established by the Ullinger family in 1977, produces a sublime Sauvignon Blanc that is layered with gooseberry and lime. Their Cabernet blends are also beguiling, and they have a Chenin Blanc that is also turning heads. Even further south lies Hamelin Bay Wines, a quaint winery with a simply breathtaking outlook. It produces one of the region’s finest Sauvignon Blancs – fresh, vibrant and tropical, while their Rampant Red, a blend of Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet, is winning fans. Something Totally New When Moss Wood winery was sub-divided in 1982, architect Bruce Tomlinson purchased the land and established Lenton Brae winery. Putting his talents to use, he built a striking rammed earth winery and cellar door with two towers that are home to quintet bells from Westminster and chime on the quarter-hour. A few years ago, the Tomlinsons introduced a new varietal to the region, Pinot Blanc. This unassuming grape is a mutation of Pinot Noir, yet genetically similar to Chardonnay. Winemaker, Edward Tomlinson, says he was drawn to the subtle charm of this early ripening variety. “Essentially, it is a Sauvignon Blanc for grown-ups,’ he says. “The decision to plant Pinot Blanc was a big call. Having seen my father wrestle with the implications of uprooting two hectares of Pinot Noir in the early days, I was amazed at how supportive he was for me to take a punt on Pinot Blanc.” And these are not the only newcomers to the region. There’s been an influx of plantings of Mediterranean varietals in recent years, with Fiano, Vermentino, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese finding favour amongst the growing band of winemakers. A Fitting Half Century
As the 50th celebrations kick off in earnest, it is heartwarming to see much love given to the traditions of the pioneers. Vasse Felix’ s ‘tractor bucket’ party recreated the spirit of founding producers who celebrated each of those crucial early vintages in style with tractor buckets turned into eskys, filled with ice and wine and enjoyed out amongst the vines, even serving as a bed on some occasions. “Anniversaries such as this are an opportunity to share with the world just how special Margaret River is. It is a wine paradise,” says current Vasse Felix owner, Paul Holmes a Court. The single remaining bottle of the 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec is on display in the Vasse Felix vault and to celebrate the winery’s 50th anniversary, they have released a Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec made from those original vines. I am sure the good doctor would approve. And while he would be astounded to see how big the region has grown, he always knew how good the wines were going to be. “I knew because Mondavi told me so,” says Denis Horgan. “He always said that Margaret River was going to make wines that ranked with the best in the world. It was his catch cry.” The best is still yet to come says Dr Gladstones, who fittingly gets to have the last word. “I strongly believe that we’ve only seen the beginning,” he says. “This region has tremendous natural advantages for grape growing to produce top quality wines. “With its environments, experience and now increasing vine age, Margaret River is undoubtedly ripe to walk with the greatest.”
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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