December 8, 2014

Western Australia: my 3 favourite wineries

Who doesn’t love a splash of great wine while dining on food that is more like art on a plate than fuel to sop up the alcohol? Me neither.

I just came back from a week in Western Australia and these 3 wineries are totally worth visiting:

Mandoon Estate, 10 Harris Road, Caversham WA 6055

Mandoon tasting room

The tasting room

It had been open just 6 weeks when we pulled up and was so busy cars were parked on the grass verge down the long driveway that leads to the new restaurant(s). Yes plural s!

Mandoon beer garden

The family beer garden

A winery has been on this site since the first Verdelho was planted in 1829. But in 2008 it was bought and the Mandoon Estate built, Aboriginal for “many trees”. And under those many trees, in the Beer Garden, were families at the 40 picnic tables and sprawled on rugs on the grass listening to live music eating wood-fired pizza or the spit roast that was sizzling. A fenced playground with slides and climbing contraptions kept the boredom at bay and I could imagine spending the entire afternoon here of a weekend. (Open 12noon-5pm Saturday and Sunday)

Mandoon estate brewery

The brewery

But if children and picnics are not your thing, then never fear. In the main building is a brewery with indoor and outdoor seating and fine dining restaurant headed by Executive Chef Michael Hartnell who has created a degustation menu, or you can order a la carte. We did the latter and swooned over the highly recommended marron (a little crayfish critter)

Mandoon lunch

Marron with roasted veal sweet breads and pancetta

Mandoon salmon

Treacle cured salmon and fennel

Mandoon toothfish

Glacier 51 toothfish, chorizo and chimmichurri

Vasse Felix, Caves Road (Cnr Tom Cullity Drive)

This is the first vineyard to be planted in the Margaret River region back in 1967 on eight acres that Dr Tom Cullity bought for $75. I tell you this, not to help you win the next pub quiz, but because Vasse Felix has come a mighty long way since then.

Vasse felix

From the restaurant overlooking some of the older vines at Vasse Felix

By the 70s the wines were winning awards and today chief winemaker, the award-winning Virginia Willcock is the kind of girl I want to be my friend. She is not your typical winemaker: man of few words, wearing stubbies and muddy boots. She’s got a groove about her that made me want to invite her over for dinner. She can bring the wine.

Virginia Willcock Vasse Felix

Virginia checks on her grapes (pic from Vasse Felix Facebook page)

We were lucky enough to sit down with her for a tasting of Vasse Felix’s three ranges of their stunning chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Now owned by the Holmes a Court family, I’d recommend coming here for a fancy lunch in the restaurant overlooking the rolling hills lined in perfect rows with leafy vines.

Vasse Felix cellar

The Hobbit-like wine cellar

But the experience starts with the walk from the carpark to the restaurant. You’ll walk past whimsical and clever art installations owned by matriach Janet Holmes a Court and see the underground cellar looking like a hobbit house with windows opening onto a creek. To the right is the two-story restaurant with a tasting room and art gallery on the ground floor.

Vasse Felix restaurant

Tuna and white proscuitto

Vasse Felix restaurant

Beans on the side (I’m going to do this at home!)

Vasse Felix

Nic declared this the best beef she had ever eaten

Vasse Felix dessert

Deconstructed chocolate cake

Aravina Estate, 61 Thornton Road, Yallingup

This is the estate where local mums come with their kids each day to let their progeny loose on the playground while they drink coffee.

Aravina playground

Standing in the chef’s herb garden looking at the playground and restaurant

It’s the place where petrol heads, bikers and lovers of vintage cars to drool over the personal collection of vintage sports cars of vineyard owner Steve Tobin.

Aravina car museum

Twiggy’s car – complete with eyelashes!

But it’s also the place where garden lovers come to roam the grounds and peruse the homewares and gift store. And this is all before you get to wine tasting or to dine in the restaurant where head chef Tony Howell came out for a chat about his locally produced ingredients – and sent us out some cheeky little samples to amuse our bouches.

Aravina estate restaurant

Tuna caught at Rottnest on the menu the next day

Aravina  estate

Pork belly, pineapple and cashew nuts

Aravina venison

Venison carpaccio with seared scallops and parmesan

Aravina lunch

Red duck curry with roast eggplant and watermelon salad

Aravina restaurant

The fish of the day with handmade linguine

Qantas fly direct from Auckland to Perth from December 2014 to April 2015. They’re also launching an amazing new foodie experience for economy class passengers. Jump here to get amongst it!

For more ideas about the Margaret River region, click here for Tourism Western Australia >>>

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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