I was there in 2005.
I have planned, taken and enjoyed many a trip. Some were scenic, some spiritual, some educational, some hedonistic but none was as surprisingly rewarding as my recent seven days in Western Australia.
The pictures are at http://www.pbase.com/wwll/wa
The wines of Western Australia truly display the concept of terroir. The wineries of Western Australia are architecturally distinctive and the staff most welcoming and accommodating. The food in Western Australia was terrific, from the unique marron to Thai fusion, most enjoyable. The scenery was amazing, with vistas of grapevines, uncountable sheep, deer farms, many kinds of forests and ever changing skies to impress anyone. Finally, there are the people of Western Australia, friendly and helpful to a fault.
The red wines of Western Australia are elegant and subtle rather than the fruit bombs I have come to associate with Australian wines. These smooth and balanced reds can be enjoyed with food. The chardonnays are almost identical to California chardonnays. The distinctive white is the sauvignon blanc-semillon blend, offering a little more body than New Zealand sauvignon blancs. I tried a sparkling merlot and introduced Teresa to a sparkling shiraz.
The best winery experience was at Voyager Estate. Voyager Estate is truly from outer space. There are formal gardens like
at Versailles, and a sunken garden. Another wonderful winery experience was at Alexandra Bridge in Kerridale. We arrived at 4:10 pm and they are open until 4:30 but the cellar door lady insisted we taste through the entire lineup. We were wondering why she was so nice then she told us we were her only visitors that day.
The best winery architecture was Fox River at Mount Barker. A yellow building just off the road, the vista was unbelievable. I asked the cellar door lady how much she pays to have that job.
The top whites were Pierro Chardonnay 2003 (A$65) and Leeuwin Artist Series Chardonnay 2002 (A$76), both with great chardonnay nose and long finish.
The top reds were Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Shiraz 2003 (A$52) and Leeuwin Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (A$51). In Western Australia they use almost exclusively French oak.
The best value wine was a cleanskin (2000 Prevelly Cab/merlot) that we took to Ze Arc of Iris one night. Ze Arc is the best restaurant in Margaret River and strictly BYOB.
In my opinion the best overall house was Pierro.
We had two memorable meals at winery restaurants. At Leeuwin we got a corner table where the table consisted of a tree trunk so we had to sit side by side. We had a half marron, a local crustacean that is very sweet and the meat very tender. We also had filet magnon with a glass of their brut. At LaMont in Yallingup the restaurant was on a lake. We had Thai chicken curry and venison osso buco. As we dined, the weather changed from pouring rain to sunshine and the colors changed every few minutes.
We were in Western Australia when a series of storms broke a 12-year drought. It rained all seven days. One night we stayed on the beach in Prevelly and saw tremendous surf coming off the Indian Ocean. We moved to a B&B with an indoor jacuzzi. Kangaridge is set in a 2.5 acre opening of forests. Snuggled under covers we would hear the wind, beginning from a low moaning, rising to a howling like a chorus of demons and then fading to an anticipatory peace.
A few words about the wine town of Margaret River. It has no traffic signals. Rush hour was five cars in a row down the main road. To show the movie "Sideways" a special showing was arranged for the wine trade because there is no movie theatre in Margaret River.
I wish to thank my friend Ted in Perth who provided advance logistic advice and dinner one night and my friend Teresa who accompanied me.