by Keren Moran
I’m the first to admit that I’m no wine connoisseur. Four years of living on a student budget means that my idea of a nice bottle of red has nothing to do with the vintage, region or blend – only the price tag. If I crack the ten dollar mark then you know it’s a special occasion. So it was to be expected that when I rolled up to Amberley Estate, hidden in the beautiful Marri forest, northern Margret River, I would feel somewhat out of my comfort zone.
As I stood at the rustic wooden bar, ready to experience what I had only read about in Gourmet Traveller magazine, I panicked. Was I meant to swish the wine around in my mouth like I would Listerine? Or worse, spit out the delicately smooth and very expensive drink? A quick survey of wine tasters mulling over a Sauvignon Blanc revealed that swallowing was perfectly acceptable, and swishing was definitely optional. Good. The next pleasant surprise was the cellar door maître d’ was not even close to the pretentious, nose-in-the-air, know-it-all I had feared. Instead, she was more than happy to advise the pronunciation of this year’s hot topic, the limited release Shiraz Viognier (it rhymes with an Aussie accented, “on ya”). It didn’t take me long to become a fan of the award winning red. Apparently the aromatics are a blend of perfumed stone fruits, almonds and spicy white pepper complemented with subtle oak toast. To be honest, I couldn’t taste the white pepper. But what I tasted was delicate, fruity and smooth, with subtle sweet notes. Twenty dollars (AU) seemed a small price to pay for a whole bottle.
Driving along the winding road leading to Margaret River, is one of those cheap thrills that make traveling so worthwhile. The tree lined roads are peaceful and the afternoon sun adds a golden hue to the countryside, dotted with vineyards. With so many wineries to choose from, it can be difficult to know which ones to stop at. It is also difficult to not spend a small fortune at each winery.
But if all the wine tasting gets a little much, then the Bootleg Brewery is your “oasis of beer in a dessert of wine”. The beer garden, which is more of a paddock than a garden, makes a great spot for lunch (they do a nice meat pie, but be prepared to fork out a hefty $23 for it). Take advantage of the tasting tray which gives you seven generous samples of Bootleg’s brews for only $10. The beers are lively and flavorsome – watch out for the Raging Bull, at 7.1% alcohol it has a definite kick to it.
To keep shaking things up there is the Margaret River Dairy Company and the Olive Oil soap factory (a product sampler’s heaven – scrubs, creams, oils and scents abound). Both are worth stopping at.
If all this leaves you feeling just a little drowsy, smoke gently billowing from the chimneys of Margaret River will be a welcome sign. Somehow Margaret River has maintained an authentic olden day charm, despite the tourism. Cafes, restaurants, second-hand book stores, gift shops and an old-fashioned lollipop store line the main street. Accommodation abounds, from the economical to the decadent. But before you check in, navigate your way towards the coast, stopping the car somewhere along the road to take in views of the river winding its way to the ocean. Watching the sunset over the beach was a bit of a novelty for me (an east-coaster), and I couldn’t help making Powderfinger’s Sunsets the soundtrack to the moment.
Margaret River is a comfortable 3 hour drive (approx 270 kilometers) south of Perth.
Amberley Estate: Corner of Thornton and Wildwood Roads, Yallingup. Open daily 10a.m.-4:30p.m.
Bootleg Brewery: Puzey Road, Wilyabrup. Open daily 11 a.m.-6p.m.
Margaret River Dairy Company: Bussell Highway, Cowaramup. Open daily 9.30a.m.-5p.m.
Olive Oil soap factory: 135 Puzey Rd Willyabrup. Open daily 10 a.m.-5p.m.
Keren is a twenty-two-year-old Australian who has spent the last four years studying an Arts degree and Journalism in the beautiful coastal city of Wollongong. In her travels she always finds time to detour into second-hand books stores and plenty of cafes.