Why Margaret River is the wine destination you need to go to next
Calling all gourmands and wine lovers! It's time to plan a weekend away in this Western Australian destination - fine vintages, culinary delights and luxe accommodation await.
- March 2019
On the south-west coast of Western Australia, between Cape Naturaliste to the north and Cape Leeuwin to the south, this extraordinary wine region produces about 20 per cent of Australia’s premium wine. Margaret River’s long warm days and cooler nights are ideal for ripening fruit, then, when winter comes, generous rainfall replenishes the crops and it becomes the perfect place to rug up and enjoy a drop by an open fire.
Where to check in
Wilyabrup, 25 kilometres north of Margaret River’s main township, is synonymous with quality. With its Dutch Cape style architecture, the luxurious Cape Lodge is as much about the small details as it is the grand setting – think complimentary nibbles, great drinks and service with an air of warmth and generosity.
The terraces of the spacious rooms look out to manicured gardens or over expansive lawns to the lake and soothing birdsong provides the perfect soundtrack to the day. The on-site spa treatments and art classes help feed into the feeling of a true retreat.
Even among these magnificent digs, The Residence – a separate house with its own helipad, set on three acres of private grounds within the 40-acre property – stands out as the ultimate luxury hideaway.
Alternatively, the quaint 1920s Margaret River Guesthouse, just a two-minute walk from Margaret River’s main strip, puts you in prime position to experience all that the town has to offer (the owner, Deb, is known for cooking up a delicious hot breakfast).
Wine tasting notes
With over 150 wineries located in the 100 kilometres between the two capes, plotting a wine tasting route here can be overwhelming. The Small Family Wineries trail is the perfect way to get around, providing a curated view of the region. Start your tasting trail through Windows Estate, where hands-on owner Chris Davies can usually be found working the vineyard alone, to try their chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon as well as varietals like an aged chenin blanc.
Then pass by Burnside Organic – one of the region’s smallest producers – to taste organic varietals such as zinfandel and vermentino with Lara and Jamie McCall in their tiny cellar door. Continue on to Glenarty Road in the south near Karridale, where the cellar door also sells farm-grown produce (their cosy restaurant is a local favourite).
The trail also includes Arimia, lauded for their ongoing dedication to sustainability, the family-run Brown Hill and you can end your journey at Cape Grace vineyard. If you prefer to be guided through the experience, Top Drop Tours offer a Wine & Dine option as well as private tours. For the adventurous types, The Margaret River Discovery Co. combines vineyard tours with hiking and canoeing to showcase the region’s best attributes.
And what’s the food like?
The restaurant at Cape Lodge, with its refined neutral décor and panoramic lake views, is every inch the elegance you expect. Executive chef Tony Howell displays his ethos on the plate to offer a stand-out dining experience. Platters heaped with fresh Shark Bay prawns and crab from Bunbury, delicate marron tortellini served in a rich seafood bisque and dhufish caught off the coast of Busselton round out a menu that sings of WA’s ocean and freshwater catch.
Just nine kilometres south of Margaret River, award-winning winery Leeuwin Estate is also home to one of the most exceptional restaurants around. Head chef Dan Gedge, a protégée of Rick Stein, echoes the legendary British chef’s emphasis on local produce in his seasonal menus. Expect to find the pick of WA’s produce – Margaret River Wagyu and venison, abalone and oysters from Augusta, plus delicacies including Manjimup’s famous black truffles.
Established in 1971, Cullen Wines is known in the region as a standard bearer of biodynamic wine production, a philosophy that carries through the menu in their two-hatted restaurant. Under the leadership of chef Iain Robertson, dining here is a refined experience, with local produce – much of it sourced from their on-site biodynamic garden – playing a starring role.