Friday 16th November 2001, Margaret River Oz.

There are so many wineries in the Margaret River region, that it was hard to select the 4 or 5 that we should not miss. The assistant bar manager at the Margaret River Hotel had helped a bit. Her recommendations were: Voyager, “the second largest flag in Oz (?)”; Leeuwin, “fantastic”; Vasse Felix, “nice flowers (!); Xanadu, “great wines, nice people”; and Palandri, “just have a look …”.

After careful deliberation, over the last dregs of coffee, we decided on the following itinerary for the day: Evans & Tate, Fermoy Estate, Brooklands Valley (for lunch), Chapman’s Creek, and Palandri … so much for the advice!

Evans & Tate, who are in the middle of building an ambitious visitor complex, export to the UK. Of all the wineries we have visited, they seemed to have the most consistently drinkable wines. We particularly liked their inexpensive “Classic” red and white wines, but we will be sure to look out for Marks & Spencer’s “Snappers Cove” when we get home (also one of theirs).

Fermoy Estate, whose excellent 2000 Chardonnay we had drunk with dinner on Wednesday night, also had a delicious, award-winning, Merlot. But, on our meagre budget, we weren’t sufficiently impressed to shell out Aus$30 for a bottle.

Brooklands Valley was a beautiful estate, with immaculate fragrant flower beds, and a restaurant overlooking a carefully landscaped lakeside vista. We had lunch there, and bought a bottle of their “Verse 1 2000 Shiraz”, which seemed good value.

We stopped in at the tiny Chapman’s Creek winery, which has been established since 1988 and has won awards for its wines in the past. This year, however, it had not and, due to a glut of regional wines, was selling some bargain “clean-skin” wines (wines that carry only the scantest information on a plain label, and are not attributable to any particular winery).

Our taste buds had more or less had enough by the time we arrived at Palandri, but we were intrigued by the comment, “just have a look …”. This was wine production at its most commercial. An enormous gift shop/visitor centre sold everything from picnic hampers to designer fleeces (naturally all stamped with the distinctive Palandri “lizard” logo). There was a full-scale café, and regular winery tours, coach parking facilities, and an art gallery. The wines themselves were good enough, but the whole thing was a bit of a circus.

Exhausted, we made our way back to the campsite, and a little later walked into town for dinner at “Winos”. Despite the naff name, dinner was excellent, though we were surprised to find that only one local wine featured on the wine list!