Our epic Australia tour has started with the opening leg beginning in Margaret River – three hours south of Perth in Western Australia.
We kicked off with a casual Italian dinner in La Scarpetta restaurant – a very convivial evening was had by all as we began our research into this acclaimed region with some Semillon/Sauvignon, Tempranillo and a light little Chardonnay/Pinot Noir sparkler, which washed down our pasta, pigs trotter and tiramisu rather well.
Our first full day in Margaret River greeted us with bright blue skies, a gentle breeze and a temperate 20°C – an ideal climate for exploring vineyards. Our first stop was 30 minutes north of Margaret River at the acclaimed Windows Estate. With six hectares of vines within a 120 acre farm – we arrived literally a few days before they become officially organically certified after the pre-requisite three year waiting process. Respect for the land and a mindset dedicated to improving every aspect of the estate was very clear from the outset as owner Joanne Davies spoke passionately about the work they do. The estate had a lovely ambience and sense of peace as we walked round – clad in some rather elegant plastic foot protectors. There is no phylloxera in the area so most vines are ungrafted – bio security is therefore very important. Following our walk we then spent an idyllic hour tasting outside – right by a little lake created by a natural spring. We tasted through the range – a méthode traditionelle, Sem/Sauv, contrasting Chardonnay vintages, Syrah, Cab Sauv and a Bordeaux blend. This was a great start to the day and tour.
From Windows it was just a 10 minute drive to Pierro – one of the most famous estates in the area – but our meeting was with Nic Peterkin – son of the owner – who has set out to test the wine boundaries with a particularly eclectic approach in creating his own range, ‘LAS’ which stands for Luck Art Science. Nic was very energetic and engaging and whizzed us round the vineyard and winery before we settled into some serious tasting from barrel.
We started with a barrel fermented Chenin Blanc, really luscious, and then things got a bit wierd. Pinot Noir fermented on Chardonnay skins, Chardonnay fermented on Pinot skins, and a Cab Sauv that is spending 12 months macerating in an oak barrel – six months in it tasted amazing! Onto his bottled range – the Albino Pino – 80% Pinot Noir/20% Chardonnay; Chenin Blanc part fermented in amphora; a Grenache and then his Pirate blend – an eclectic mix of Portuguese varieties.
Phew! 18 wines tasted and we haven’t even had lunch.
Two minutes down the road we found Cullen Estate – a legend and founding father of the region, to be greeted by Vanya Cullen, who is winemaker.
Here a seven course degustation lunch awaited us – and a truly magnificent meal unfurled over the next three hours. Exquisitely presented, perfect proportions, beautifully defined flavours and a different wine with each course made for a truly fabulous afternoon.