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
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!
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.