Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Trip to Margaret River.

JD's job took him down to south, first to a mine in the middle of nowhere, and then to some wineries in Margaret River - one of two main wine regions of Western Australia. I wasn't sure what I'd do for a couple days on my own, but no no, I was invited to go too! I was ecstatic to get a chance to see another part of the Western Australia and especially to the wineries, it was like our own little stage, and better yet, partly on the work expense account! Because Thursday was Australia Day, a national holiday, JD booked his meetings in Margaret River the day before so that we could stay the extra day to visit the wineries on his day off. Brill.iant. 

For three hours we drove south, through what looked like the outback, but we were still pretty close to the ocean's coast - relatively. For three hours, I had my eyes intensely on the look out for kangaroo's. Didn't see any, but saw a lot of cattle, dry brush, and the sands changing colours. For three hours, I learned about energy demand response. It was pretty appropriate because it was the main reason for the trip and also because we were on a 7-day high-temperature alert which posed the risk of an electric power grid black out.  I asked a lot of good questions, learned a lot, so go ahead, ask me anything. 

Then for nearly two hours, while I sat in the middle-of-nowhere-mine's company parking lot, I read about Margaret River and it's great wine producers. There are 200 vineyards with 90 wineries that produce some award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Semillon. So what did I get to do while JD was at work, go to the tastings of course! 

The first winery was Cape Mentelle, but the meeting was at 9am so I sat outside and enjoyed the vineyard views and early morning hustle and bustle of wine work. Then we went to Clairault where I walked in right after a family of three. The guy behind the bar walked us through a couple white wines and then the family left. The woman, who was severely overweight and that doesn't really have anything to do with the story, but was talking about how they were just down from Perth for the weekend and visiting some wineries and going on about some fishing trip where the fishing is left up to the men and she's just like where's the wine, do we have enough wine for the trip?! She clearly liked her wine. Neither the husband nor the daughter tasted any wine. They left because she said she didn't like red wine, she only drank white wine. I was left behind and the bartender was confused on why I wasn't leaving too. Oh, I'm not with them I explained and he let out a big oooooh as though something finally made sense. It was just bizarre that the three of them were going around to all the wineries, tasting only the white wines, not buying anything, while the husband and daughter just tag along and drive her place to place. I didn't buy anything either.

Next we went to Flametree which I didn't like as much, but the woman behind the bar was very chatty and I welcomed the conversation. And the constantly filled glasses with encouraged tastings. 

The cool thing about Margaret River is that it is on the ocean, and the coast is stunningly beautiful. So along the 100 kilometers that run north to south, not only are there wineries, but there's the beach with great surfing, a cute downtown with lots of good restaurants, and vast surrounding areas to explore on bikes or hikes.  I mentioned before how expensive Australia is. We went to the beach to have lunch with a view and found this little hut with a window with a blackboard with a few food options. As a point of reference, I ordered a vegetable ratatouille sandwich and a bottle of water, JD had a chicken club sandwich and a lemonade. All together = $35. The sandwiches although pricey, were satisfingly tasty, but the views were spectacular and made the lunch worthwhile. 

Back to the wineries, we went to Saracen which was a beautiful estate, absolutely handsome. Their wines were award winning and delicious. We then went back to Cape Mentell where we got a private tour of the vats and casks because JD and I started asking questions, UNISG would be so proud, and the guy realized I knew a thing or two about wine as I was helping him explain and elaborate on some wine things to JD. 

Apparently, although we couldn't decipher, in Australian, Arkavaris is actually Ark of Iris, a restaurant we went to per the suggestion of Evan, who I keep wanting to call Will.

The next day was AUSTRALIA DAY. It started with a $21 breakfast sandwich, so instead, I had coffee and a fresh juice of the day. And then a muffin because the article on the wall said it was one of the top 50 things to try before you die. I'm not a big muffin eater, but man, this was seriously a good muffin. Moist, spongey, soft, melted chocolates, bleeding berries, sugary the paper wrapper edible too?

We then went for a swim in the ocean. Ignoring the signs on the beach, or ignoring the self-conscious fat and extremely pale stares that were in my head, I walked straight in. Straight into the strong rip tide. It was fine floating for a while, but I couldn't get out of the water. The waves were crashing and I didn't know how to handle the water. I dove into the waves like I have seen surfers do. But it must've taken me ten minutes to get out of the water, out of breath and completely freaked out. Then I was made aware of the signs saying it's safe to swim in between these signs. And I was on the outside. Lesson learned. 

Back to the wineries. After reading about the area and knowing some of the wine labels, I had a list of places I wanted to visit. First stop: Voyager which is home to Western Australia's tallest flag pole. Yes, it's pretty damn tall. It was an absolutely gorgeous estate, and I was shocked that there wasn't a wedding going on. It would be the perfect setting. 

"But I want to eat so many"
"where's the wedding? Seriously."

Next, we went to Howard Park, which has a couple cheaper labels such as Mad Fish. The bartenders were German and Irish and although they kept mixing up our tasting choices, they were extremely friendly and gave us their tasting chart as I tried to describe the what wine wheel is. 
Wet Hay. Dumb. Complicated. Length. Burnt Rubber. HA. We were so professional.
Sucker for a sale. We bought some wine. 

They suggested lunch at Hay Shed Hill (their other label is Pitchfork) where we dined on pizza and a cheese plate of an Australian blue outside under a tree next to the vineyards. We went inside as we brought in our plates and joined in the tasting where the guy indulged us on a lesson on the different wine bottle shapes and how one meant the wine was from Burgandy and the other meant it was from Bordeaux but now a days it is just an aesthetic choice of the wine maker. 
Eating grapes off the vine. 
Different shapes. Different colours.
Our lunch outside and wine tasting lingered on with a little too much fun that we didn't realize the time and had 15 minutes before the wineries closed. We rushed, running on little to no gas, to Cullen, a biodynamic vineyard I was interested in but no luck and then on to Vasse Felix, another one I wish we had been to. Just means another trip back!!

 We had to head back to Perth anyways, but not without a stop to the beach

spot the goober

 The area behind the sand used to be full of green bush, but there was a massive, dramatic fire that just swept through the area. It was pretty intense. 
still putting out the fire.

 and then another beach called Bunker Bay,
 classic, necessary foot shot.

 and then to the lighthouse.
 Beautiful sunset. Fun trip. I'm very thankful.

View on the way to the lighthouse. Lighthouses are sexy.

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