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Plenty of locals would say that we’ve been cheated of a summer this year – we had a long winter, no spring, and there haven’t been that many hot days this summer. We’ve missed out on beach weather!
Personally, I’m stoked. I love autumn and all it brings; crisp, cool mornings, lighting the fire for the first time of the season, pot roasts and robust red wines.
Here at Quality Inn our reception team is often asked “which wineries would you recommend?” and it totally depends on the experience you’re after. You may want to visit one of the big names; Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix or perhaps Voyager Estate – both offer impressive experiences. Or perhaps you’re looking for something more boutique, or more rustic.
Either way we’re utterly spoilt for choice and there’s a wealth of wonderful wineries to visit. I’ve chosen a couple to recommend to you today, because two seems like the right number to visit – you’re on holiday, after all. And I’ve picked them because they produce some of the region’s best red wines. Enjoy.
Lenton Brae, Wilyabrup
Lenton Brae tends to be my go-to when I have friends visiting and we want to go wine tasting. Why? They're generous with their time and knowledge and have some quality wines for you to try. Not only did they create the first Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blend that is so famous in Margaret River, but they offer a fantastic tasting experience.
Lenton Brae are creating their 31st SSB blend this year - they've been making the quaffable white wine longer than anyone else in the region.
And their Chardonnay has twice won Best West Australian White Wine at the Perth Royal Show.
Their cellar door tasting space sits on a platform within their winery, so you can see all the behind-the-scenes winemaking tanks and equipment as you taste the beautiful wines.
It's an intimate family affair, so often you'll get to meet a member of the Tomlinson family who started the winery back in the 1980s. Say hello to Jeannette or Edward for me if you see them!
Cape Mentelle, Margaret River
It was the Cape Mentelle 1982 and 83 Cabernet that put Margaret River on the map as a premium winemaking region after winning the Jimmy Watson medal two years running.
The vines were planted around 45 years ago, and while they obviously produced a cracking drop in the early ‘80s, their wines are going from strength to strength now. It’s said that it takes 40 years for vines to make truly exceptional wines, consistently.
The wines are outstanding and great value for money, and staff go the extra mile to make you welcome.
What I love best about Cape Mentelle is the behind the scenes experiences. There’s two options to choose from;
The behind the scenes tour
Take a 1-hour tour of the vineyard, winery and barrel room. Staff are fantastic and really know their stuff. They’ll talk you through the viticulture, winemaking and history but they have a knack for passing on the juiciest, most interesting stuff.
Following the tour you can taste the range at cellar door.
Food and wine matching ‘masterclass’
Plenty of wineries offer delectable degustations, but Cape Mentelle is the only place in the south west that will teach you how to choose a wine to suit a meal, and vice versa.
Following the behind the scenes tour, you’ll venture into the historic barrel cellar for a private, tutored tasting. Taste 6 current release wines and 6 canapes, including the Icon Cabernet, their flagship wine, and develop the knowledge to choose a wine with confidence.
Tours run 5 days a week; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Behind the scenes tour is $25 per adult, 11.30am-12.30pm.
Food and wine matching (including behind the scenes tour) is $85 per person. 11.30am-1.30pm
Booking are essential, call 08 9757 0888
Julie Stade from Cape Mentelle gave me an update on Vintage 2017 to share with you.
It’s been a late vintage, running 3-4 weeks behind ‘normal’ for all wineries in the region. Cape Mentelle just picked the Zinfandel on Saturday (8th April) and while most people have finished picking whites, there’s still about three weeks of reds to go.
The delay is largely due to cooler weather; winter 2016 was long, there was no spring, and we’ve had few hot days this summer.
Fortunately, it’s still a great vintage. We’ve got an abundance of beautiful fruit, which means we can be selective about choosing the very best fruit to make the wines.
Edward Tomlinson from Lenton Brae is relieved that vintage is just about over; "it's been a mild summer, but we'll still make some awesome wines!"
Taking it easy
Hey, you’re on holidays, and sometimes you just want to relax and let someone else make all the important decisions – like which wineries to visit and where to have lunch.
Luckily, we can recommend some excellent wine tours, where some of the most knowledgeable people in the business will drive you around to wineries, breweries, providores, chocolate factories and lunch.
We recommend McLeod Tours and Margaret River Tours – both have fantastic guides and great itineraries. And if you’re looking for something different please call us on 08 9757 2633 or chat to our friendly reception team – we’re happy to help you book a tour or plan an itinerary!
Dining at Willow Grill – we’ve cherry picked the region’s best reds
That’s right, we’ve done the hard yards for you – carefully tasting (perks of the job!) and selecting the best of the best wines from Margaret River and beyond.
If we’re talking specifically about red wines, and something you can enjoy with a steak, my money is on the Nannup Ridge Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, Watershed Shiraz or Solana Tempranillo. Kingston Estate Petit Verdot (a French varietal) or Watershed Zinfandel are equally as delicious if not as well known.