Roses at Margaret River Vineyard

Margaret River Wineries You Won’t Want To Miss!

So you’re off to Margaret River, you have 3 or 4 days, there are over a 100 wine producers around, and you’re wondering which to shortlist.

Let me just say straight off the bat that if you want the big guns, yes, please go ahead to visit the likes of Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix, Cullen, Cape Mentelle – these are known as the “founding five” wineries of the Margaret River region.

But when I asked a few locals in the know, the answer was pretty much the same.

“Do you want the whole experience or do you want good wines?”

WIlls Domain Vineyard
Plotting my next move.

I realised later that all they were merely saying is that if you want to go to a fancy location with manicured lawns and shiny facilities, then that would be categorised as the “whole experience”.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the wines are not good and conversely, it doesn’t mean that all smaller, boutique wineries produce excellent wines.

For me, I am always on the lookout for the rare and unique. So yes, I naturally veer towards the family-owned, smaller places. The wine tasting almost always seems more personal and enjoyable too.

{Shocker} Margaret River is NOT where it’s at:

We use the catch-all phrase “Margaret River” to define the wine-making region. But, Margaret River itself denotes the township within the “Margaret River region” which is a relatively long area – spanning 100km from north to south, marked by Cape Naturaliste in the north and Cape Leeuwin in the south.

For us boutique wine-lovers, the Wilyabrup locality (nearer north) has the highest concentration of premium wines in the Margaret River region. So staying at one of the townships further up north could be a good idea.

That said, even if you stayed in Margaret River town, it would take you around 20 minutes to hit the wineries nearer Wilyabrup, so don’t sweat it.

We stayed 2 nights in Yallingup (up north) and another 2 nights in Margaret River town itself (central-ish).

A Fabulous Stay at Smiths Beach Resort:

Sunset at Smiths Beach Yallingup
Smiths Beach
Kangaroo Margaret River
Spotted a local on our walk.

At Yallingup, we stayed at the Small Luxury Hotels-accredited resort, Smiths Beach Resort. The range of accommodation spans from homely Beach Shacks to Dual-storey Ocean View Villas. The beach here is stunning, white sands, azure waters… you will see surfers going about their business, as do dogs on their daily run!

We stayed at a Beach Shack, the name of which does not do justice to the place. It’s a large space, with all the modern trimmings, including a fully-functional kitchen and laundry. Each shack has its own patio and BBQ should you be inspired to whip up a feast.

Staying at Smiths Beach Resort means close access to the heart of the Margaret River wine region. Here are my picks of where you can stop for a tasting and sometimes, lunch.

{Also Read: If you’re heading to Margaret River from Perth, which you might most likely be doing, do check out my story on Foodie Hangout in Perth’s Hottest Hood}

Let’s Get Tasting At The Wineries!

Wineries with Restaurants:

Amelia Park Winery Margaret River
Amelia Park Margaret River Entrance
Amelia Park Winery Margaret River 2

Amelia Park:

Ok this one takes the cake for the most dramatic entrance. Lined by wine barrels on both sides, the heavy wooden doors automatically part to reveal the cellar door with a stunning backdrop of the vineyard. Find unique wines here, evoking the essence of the terroir.

You might notice many restaurants in the region serving Amelia Park lamb. I didn’t have enough days to visit this one-hatted restaurant, but I will definitely do so the next time round!

Cullen:

One of the founding wineries in the Margaret River region, the focus here is on biodynamic, with all wines being naturally fermented as well.

I didn’t have a chance to try the two-hatted onsite restaurant but I’ve heard good things about it. Ambience-wise, it looked rather chaotic, so if you’re looking for a more leisurely lunch, consider one of the others I have mentioned.

Vasse Felix :

Another founding wine estate, the location is also home to a two-hatted restaurant, and one of the nicest places for lunch. You overlook their vineyard from the 2nd-storey terrace. We had one of our 14th wedding anniversary meals here.

Vasse Felix Lamb
Vasse Felix Wine
Swirl game strong.

Arimia:

Getting to Arimia was fun. Driving through a narrow, unpaved dirt road, you feel like you’re entering bushland. It is also part of a Small Family Winery Trail, a “collection” of sorts with Windows Estate, Cape Grace, Brown Hill and Glenarty Road wines. You can go around tasting, picking up bottles as you wish, and the last winery on your trail will consolidate and ship them back for you.

Arimia Estate Margaret River Entrance
Margaret River Gabriel Chocolate

Tip: Along the road in, you will see Gabriel Chocolate. Stop by to pick up some bean to bar goodies.

Wills Domain:

I’ll save my best wine tasting experience for the last. Maybe I was lucky because my tasting was hosted by a lovely young lady who was knowledgeable and generous with options to try – I think I tried 12 wines! But it sure convinced me to make my 1st shipment of a case of wine back to Singapore.

Wills Domain Photo Frame
Wills Domain Restaurant

I also think that the two-hatted restaurant at Wills Domain is THE best place in Margaret River Region to have a vineyard lunch.

Wills Domain Squid
Wills Domain Fish
Wills Domain Lamb

Winery-only:

Juniper Estate:

This was the 1st winery we stopped by. There was a sole person busy in the backroom when we dropped in bright and early, but he was very accommodating and friendly. Wines are processed in small batches, truly boutique and the whole place is just so charming.

Juniper Estate Margaret River
Juniper Estate walking in
Walking in for my 1st tasting of the trip.

Fraser Gallop:

You can sense the great pride in this team – they have even referenced Master of Wine Jancis Robinson’s quote on their homepage; that their Parterre Chardonnay is “worth comparing to a Burgundy Grand Cru”.

Well, I didn’t have time to visit them, but I have had my fair share of Fraser Gallop thanks to the previous company I worked at here in Singapore that imports this. I would visit them when I head back to Margaret River.

Moss Wood:

You can’t just rock up to this one. Tastings are available for members only, and you can experience an intimate session from barrel to glass. There is a visit fee of $80 per visit / group which is redeemable against any wine purchase. Might sound like a bit of planning is required but I’ve heard it’s well worth it.

Margaret River Cellar door

Robert Oatley:

A family-owned winery, consistently producing high scoring wines. There are 3 luxury guesthouses onsite as well so a good option for a stay in the Wilyabrup locality.

Howard Park:

If sparkling wines are your tipple of choice, then head to Howard Park. It is the biggest producer of these sparkling wines in WA, and the only winery in Margaret River to make Champagne-method in-house.

On a separate note, Howard Park also has the popular Mad Fish range under its belt. My hubby used to love this, until he discovered Burgundy.

The Big Guns Come Out Nearer to Margaret River Town:

We stayed at the perfectly-located Margarets in Town Apartments for two nights. It’s a large space, very comfortable with all the kitchen and laundry amenities you would need. There is a common heated pool as well. All around you are cafes, restaurants, grocery stores and cute boutiques.

What we ended up doing for dinner was cook, we were just too inspired by the large kitchen and all the fresh produce that we could find at the nearby supermarkets! Not to mention, we wanted to enjoy the wines we had bought from our vineyard sojourns.

Parma Melon Margaret River
That parma and melon starter would have cost me a pretty penny at a Singapore restaurant but here… wow!

Now, the interesting {read: boutique} wineries I had mentioned earlier are in the Wilyabrup region, and if you had time to explore just one area, I would suggest you stick to Wilyabrup for your wine tastings.

They thin out as you head to Margaret River town itself. Below are a few more wineries, featuring more well-known ones, for you to do tastings should you have more days in the Margaret River region.

Voyager Estate flowers

Leeuwin Estate:

Featuring an award-winning restaurant, cellar door and gallery, this is one of the bigwigs of the region. We bought a couple of bottles here which we promptly polished off over our next two dinners at our apartment.

Voyager Estate:

I was in two minds about this place. As I said, I am more of a boutique winery sort of person, and sure enough, you can smell the commercialisation in the air here. Tastings are paid ($9 onwards) but are redeemable against wine purchase.

Voyager Estate Flower Garden
Well, I just had to.
Voyager Estate artichoke
Admiring artichoke at Voyager Estate’s lush garden.

The grounds are amazing, the most well-kept I had seen with several rose gardens and herb patches.

The one-hatted restaurant was also recommended to me by a friend, but I wasn’t keen on its deposit policy. Plus, there were two-hatted restaurants which I wanted to try – I mentioned them above.

Cape Mentelle:

Another member of the “founding five” of Margaret River wines.

Again to steal a quote from its website featuring the eminent Jancis Robinson: “Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood and Vasse Felix make an indecent proportion of Australia’s most refined wines.”

So I guess that’s that!

Margaret River Vineyard views
Let me not trip over now!

Well, there you have it. It’s easy to cover all these wineries over 3-4 days. For me, visiting 4 each day is my limit. Because, sooner or later, they all start to taste the same, unless they have very clearly differentiating properties, like the one at Amelia Park that my jaded tastebuds could discern – the eucalyptus in my cab sauv.

And I realise I didn’t identify varietals, but that’s because you can assume most of the wines I bought were Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. That’s what is produced mostly in the Margaret River region.

Margaret River Semillon vineyard
Vasse Felix vineyard
A Burgundy snob like me trying to find what’s distinct about the soil.. Did I succeed? Hmm.

In any case, drive around, drop in, find your favourites. And let me know which one I should add to my list for MY next visit!

{Tip: You need to drive around Margaret River to enjoy it fully. We used Margaret River Rent-A-Car. Roger Secker, the owner, is great and the rates are very good. Hit him up at roger@mrrac.com.au or 0897579627 or 0402384617}

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.