Day 8: Transit

This day wouldn’t really amount to much. Between the three hours’ drive back to Perth (during which I slept, mostly, missing the beach we stopped at on the way), a five hour flight to Sydney and a three hour time difference, the day was all but gone once the transportation ended. A quick batch of pasta and we were all off to bed.

Day 7: The odyssey

So, kangaroos were a pretty common sight now. They lounged all over the villa’s grounds in the mornings when we awoke, gnawing on grass, just like the sheep. Roos + sheep: it was confirmed, we were most definitely in Australia.

We started our day at a nearby beach, watching the waves crash into the western shore and taking a bit of a stroll. We very definitely saw a whale that day, breaching and blowing just off the shore, on a common migration route back to cooler waters.

We drove into the town of Yallingup itself for coffee and some bacon sandwiches. There we again saw waves crashing, and saw several people riding them — Yallingup being very much a surfing town. But surfing, whales and bacon be damned, today was about wine!

We visited eight wineries (!) in total:

  • Swings & Roundabouts, where they were very nice but we didn’t buy anything
  • Clairault, which looked stuffy but wasn’t (but we still didn’t end up buying anything)
  • Laurance, for which we had such high hopes after our Cab Sauv two nights previous but which was, in the end, terribly poncy and not very good at all in the wine department
  • Knee Deep, a very pleasant, friendly and proficient winery where we purchased a wonderful Cab Sauv and would have eaten lunch if we could have
  • Woodlands, which he happened into completely by accident but which ended up being maybe the find of the trip replete with charm, friendliness and a happy dog, and from which we took a spectacular Pinot Noir
  • The Growers, actually a consortium of several small producers which offered lots of wine at incredibly reasonable prices, though nothing quite remarkable enough to take home
  • Deep Woods, in which we met a lovely Belgian gentleman who spoke BBC-perfect English and who, quite generously, offered us a nearly-full bottle of Cab Sauv to take home for dinner
  • Swooping Magpie, our final (thank goodness!) stop of the day, where we had our favourite Shiraz of the trip to date, taking a bottle with us

In between cellar doors we stopped at Bootleg Brewery for an excellent sampler of beer, and returned to Swings & Roundabouts for a lunch of wood-fired pizzas on their outdoor patio. This, incidentally, was the first time during our first week in Australia that we had warm, sunny weather.

Earlier in the afternoon we’d decided to have a simple dinner back in the cottage, and so we picked up lots of meat, cheese, bread, pate and produce to go with all the wine we now needed to drink rather than carry it back on the plane.

You can’t see the many bottles of wine but trust me, they’re there.

Day 6: Lake Cave, two sheds, Stella Bella, warm breads

Before we began the day’s wine tastings we decided to expore another of the area’s features: caves. We drove to the southern end (more or less) of the region and booked in at Lake Cave. We had a little time to kill before getting started so we tried zooming down the road to Eagle Vale, but they weren’t open.

The cave itself was better than I expected. It wasn’t cheesy and, as the name suggests, featured a small lake on the floor of the cave. We had an interesting tour, saw some beautiful underground sights, even spent a few moments in complete darkness. It was a worthwhile visit, even though we had to climb some 300+ steps on the way out.

Our first winery of the day wound up being Redgate, which was okay. They were sold out of the Cab Franc that we’d wanted to try, but we picked up a very nice Chenin.

By this time our rummies were tumbling, so we stopped in the actual town of Margaret River for lunch at Must. It was very good — the brother claimed his burger was one of the best he’d ever had — but it took a long time. Not that we were on a tight timeline or anything, though, so we didn’t particularly care.

We hit four wineries in quick succession after lunch:

  • Watershed, which had a beautiful building and where we picked up a very decent Zinfandel
  • Howard Park, which had a serious reputation but which I found extremely haughty and disappointing (even so Nellie picked up a Moscato)
  • Hayshed, which was a hundred times friendlier and tastier and where we picked up a superb K+B Cabernet Sauvignon which is on the ‘take-back-to-Canada’ list
  • Stella Bella, a favourite of the brother’s and, now, of ours. We ended up ordering a case from them, six for the brother and six for us: two Cab Sauv, two Sauv Blanc and two sweet dessert wines. I don’t know what we’ll do with them all, but at least two of them are coming back to Canada with us. Here’s Nellie’s scoring system from the tasting sheet. No, we couldn’t understand it either.

It was late afternoon by this point, and we decided we needed more of that fresh bread. We returned to the bakery and saw people literally hugging their bread as they walked to their car. One gentleman was so hungry he began biting chunks off the bread cradled in his arms while walking to his car. After we picked up our loaves, Nellie took a page from his book and ripped into the white bread just as he had done. The bread would not be denied.

We were a little too tired for a giant meal, and the first place we called was booked up anyway, so we visited a nearby wine bar and had tapas. Decent food, and blessedly small. The weather turned foul on the way home — lightning and heavy rain — so there was naught to do but hunker down and plan the next day’s visits.

Day 5: To the wine!

We returned to Tart, the previous night’s restaurant, for a coffee to fuel our drive south, toward the Margaret River. Within a few minutes of leaving Perth, the view turned far more countryside-y than anything we’d seen so far. We even saw kangaroos in the distance, though not nearly close enough for Nellie’s liking. We stopped off in Bunbury to see their beach and pick up supplies, and in Busselton to see their beach and ginormous jetty.

After leaving Busselton we drove up to the Eagle Bay Brewing Company, where we enjoyed great food, tremendous beer and amazing views.

Our first winery stop of the day was Wise Vineyards, just down the road from our lunch spot. It too featured incredible views, and was hosting a couple of weddings. We picked up a bottle of Verdelho, which was quite decent, and debated as to whether we’d seen a whale breaching in the distant Indian Ocean.

We then arrived at our heretofore-secret accommodations: the Wildwood Valley Villa. We had a nice 3-bedroom cabin to ourselves with a proper kitchen, grill, deck, etc. tucked into the rolling hills just outside Yallingup: a perfect base from which to launch our excursions.

Our host gave us the lay of the land, suggested restaurants for dinners and — perhaps most importantly — told us about a local bakery adored by locals and which would be producing bread fresh from their ovens in just twenty minutes. Fresh hot bread? Allons-y! We jumped in the car and headed that way with all speed, slowing only when we got a close-up of some roos hopping alongside the car.

The bakery was hard to find, but was swarmed by cars of people coming to get the bread. We took a sourdough loaf for later and a fruit loaf for breakfast and drove home to nap and strategize before dinner.

Our dinner that evening was at Studio Bistro. Because of the large lunch, constant snacking and tired bones none of us felt quite up to the gastronomic (read: tasting) menu, though it looked fantastic. Still, all our meals were excellent, and the red I randomly selected from the list — a Cab Sauv from Laurance — earned the winery a spot on our must-visit list over the next two days.

That was enough excitement for one day, so we drove home and crashed hard.