This weekend just past I disappeared for a long weekend. A friend of mine who I met on international travel adventures invited me over for the Margaret River Wine Festival. He informed me it would be the fourth and final time he ever went, so with that as mu inventive, I impulse purchase airline tickets and got on a red-eye flight out of Brisbane for my first ever trip to W.A.
I can give no comment on Perth except to say that it is probably a really lovely city. I landed midnight on Thursday and was whisked away 7:30am Friday before I even finished my coffee to collect a few more festival buddies for the drive down the coast.
The Margaret River region, as opposed to the Margaret River township all of itself, is a 2.5 – 3 hour drive south of Perth. Having never been to W.A. and not really thought about it, I was surprised at how dry the land looked. Which isn't to say it wasn't beautiful; sparse red-earthed farm country dotted with beautiful old eucalyptus.
Deep Woods Vineyards.
The main festival was on Saturday, so on Friday our host-with-the-most had decided on a day of cellar door visits (six in total) followed by lunch at his favourite winery in the region – Hay Shed Hill. As you can probably tell from the photos, it was a glorious afternoon.
The vines and scenes at Hay Shed Hill.
Our afternoon of deliciousness was finished off with a trip to The Pour House (haha) in Dunsborough, just around the corner from our rented beach house, and a sampling of some of the wines we'd all purchased that day.
All in all there were 10 of us, most of whom had never met but we had a friend of a friend. What we did have in common was that with the exception of our hosts, we had all flown across the country to attend this festival. Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra were represented. Later in the afternoon we were joined by three new friends, a couple of guys from Bunbury and a new friend from Adelaide. So our full festival team numbered 13.
Walking along the Dunsborough foreshore on Saturday morning.
Saturday was the official FESTIVAL DAY! Yes, we were so excited it warrants CAPS. The festival itself had been re-located from Margaret River to a winery close to the centre of Dunsborough – Palmers Winery. Our full team caught the shuttle bus in from town and arrived at the dot of 11:03, three minutes after open time.
There were some 38 vineyards with over 300 wines to taste, plus an assortment of art sellers, food stalls and of course, live jazzy music. I'll gloss over the day itself, because between 11 and 5:30 when I got back on the bus I made new friends, I learned to love my 24-hour-old friends and I drank a lot of wine. Before lunchtime was devoted to whites, then careful lining of the stomach and then the reds; my luscious, luscious favourites – the reds. Margaret River is known for it's Sauvignon Blanc Semillions and Chardonnays, neither of which I particularly enjoy, and its Cabernet doubles – Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz – which I cannot get enough of.
I was very strong and refrained from purchasing any wine, having reached my carry-on luggage limit the day before. Some of my friends were not so sensible and the next morning there was some confusion as we tried to figure out who had bought that bottle and why on earth had someone bought the $75 Cabernet Shiraz – good as it was, why?!
With friends old and new.
Sometime around 2:20 while I was sunning myself with a new friend discussing Estonia, our host ran past yelling “4 minute warning, this is your 4 minute warning!” 4 minute warning for The Rose Challenge. The Rose Challenge is apparently a tradition stretching back years. One does the white circuit, then the red – so as not to ruin the palate and then when we're all nice and toasty, you get on to the rose. The only rule is that the sellers cannot know that you are doing The Rose Challenge and the winner ... is never quite decided, really. My Rose buddy Tim and I definitely won though. We even got someone to mix a new Rose for us. Beat that! We did however get sidetracked by a nice looking 2004 Cab Sav that we hadn't tried yet.
The full team of 13.
I had expected the Festival to be a big event, drawing a bit of a tourist, but it was mostly locals who were stunned to hear we'd come so far. If you ever had the chance to go along I would leap at it. It is a beautiful part of the country and there is so much to see and do. The Festival is just a great excuse to visit.
Some fellow festival-goers.
Sunday was quiet as we finished off our touring with a short visit to the beautiful Bunker Bay and famous Busselton Jetty.
It sounds like a long way to go just for a long weekend, and it was - it was also worth every flight-delayed minute. Good friends and good wine are all you need to have a spectacular time.
The famous Busselton Jetty.