Two friends and I went to Margaret River for a winter escape recently and after looking at our options for exploring the infamous local winery scene we decided to try a full day tour with Margaret River Tours.
We were picked up from in front of our accommodation, by our guide, Kylie, exactly on time. As soon as we got into the bus I noticed it was very clean and modern. We stopped and picked up two couples before heading out of town towards the first winery and on the way our driver told us a bit about the Margaret River Wine Region and also about our itinerary for the day. We were ready, willing and excited participants in our planned wine tasting journey of discovery.
Stella Bella’s wines were delicious and I was really glad that our host suggested I make notes of the wines we tasted so that I could refresh my memory at the end of the day. I was interested to learn that many of Stella Bella’s wines came from vineyards further south and I thought it was great to get a taste of a neighbouring, more southern climate zone as an added bonus. This first winery of the day certainly made a memorable first impression. We really loved the intimacy of the space at Stella Bella, the style of the cellar door there was a great combination of warm and friendly and our host was similarly welcoming and informative. The interior of Stella Bella’s cellar door is modern in its simplicity and marries industrial-style fittings with old school down south charm. I really felt at home here and I plan to go back there to relax under the vineyard gazebo next time we visit Margaret River as it looked like an ideal spot to spend a lazy afternoon.
Back on board our tour bus to the next stop of the day we ventured closer to the coast, to Leeuwin Estate. As we drove in to the estate the soaring trees and expansive rolling lawns made me sit up in my seat and take notice. The huge trees there literally drag your eyes skyward and I could easily understand how the grounds alone of this estate has earned iconic status. It was a wintery day and the stone fireplace, long, timber tasting bar and dome ceiling which floods the tasting arena with natural light created an impressive space to taste the equally impressive wines.
The Chardonnay here was amazing and I really felt that I was tasting the jewel in Margaret River Wine Region’s crown and we were only at the second winery. Our cellar door presenter was justifiably proud of the Estate’s wines and was eager to share all he knew, discussing the different varieties, regional differences and winemaking techniques that contributed to creating each wine. We were lucky enough to have a few spare minutes to check out one of the most amazing private art collections I have seen in a long time, including furniture, indigenous art and some original paintings that feature on a few of Leeuwin Estate’s wine labels.
Time for us to hit the road again and we head towards Watershed Premium Wines. The ambience in the Watershed cellar door is elegant and yet relaxed created with the extensive use of timber and stonework. The glass walled cellar door was well lit and welcoming, complete with a crackling fire and a pretty cool gift shop. I bought a beautiful woolen scarf there and I wasn’t expecting that lovely find to be in a winery cellar door. After sampling an impressive list of award-winning wines we adjourn to the restaurant for lunch. Such a beautiful vineyard view from here and I think this winery is both classy and modern with so many photo opportunities to be had on the lawn. Our lunch was delicious and served with a glass of Watershed wine. I chose the Caesar salad, which was quite large, possibly a bit too much for me but that’s not really a complaint.
Back on board the bus, we had the pleasure of meeting three people who had joined us for the afternoon session. These crew were doing the Half Day Wine Tour and were fully energized, as opposed to us full day crew who were starting to wonder if they weren’t food and wine superheroes after all. The first stop after lunch was a real change of scene and definitely woke us up. Voyager Estate boasts manicured English style gardens including rose arbours, hedged walkways and a sunken rosarium filled with the fading autumn blooms of a diverse range of rose bush varieties. There is also a white-walled vegetable garden with raised beds that produce organic food for their restaurant. We definitely felt inspired by this showpiece garden presented in a formal style that we had not yet found in the region. What a delight to then taste a very elegant selection of wines from the estate to match and to be offered special rates to buy wine and produce as a thank you for visiting Voyager Estate Winery hosted by Margaret River Tours. The seated tasting was perfect for taking notes and for relaxing while we enjoyed our cellar door presentation.
in the Voyager Estate gift shop, we got back on board the bus and headed to a boutique sized winery, McHenry Hohnen. We learned that one of the winery’s owners, David Hohnen was the winemaker who won the coveted Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1984 (putting Margaret River on the Australian wine radar) and that he then went on to start Cloudy Bay in New Zealand . I was so impressed by the selection of wines they offered us to taste. Once again, getting VIP treatment from Margaret River Tours, we got to taste Farm House smallgoods that are produced on premises to complement an impressive wine flight.
The grounds at Vasse Felix lived up to our expectations with meticulously manicured vineyard and long sweeping driveway. The Vasse Felix cellar door was a sensational blend of the old down south charm combined with new fittings and fixtures including a lounge area with a fireplace. The wines here did not disappoint and we bought a carton of their Classic White wine, which was conveniently arranged by the staff to be shipped directly to my home, as well as a special bottle of cane cut dessert wine that we planned to enjoy later that evening. Our tasting was both informative and relaxing and because we were with Margaret River Tours we got a sit-down tasting and VIP treatment. The restaurant upstairs looked like a great place to eat so we made our way upstairs to book a table for the following day, that we were lucky to get due to a cancellation. After this awesome final wine tasting of the day we took some photos of each other, and our new friends who were on the tour with us, alongside their very intriguing modern art sculptures and peaceful creek-side gardens.
Our guide, Kylie, told us that we had two more stops, the Margaret River Chocolate Factory and The Margaret River Cheese Co. We stocked up with snacks and treats for the evening ahead at both of these stops. After such a huge day it was hard to believe we wanted to indulge in more food and wine, but I guess with all that practice we were becoming experts at sampling and enjoying the best culinary delights that Margaret River had to offer us. We will definitely take this tour again as I think there was so much to take in, just like a classic movie – it could be enjoyed more than once.