Wine, Food and Fine Times in the Margaret River Region
PHOTO: Wine producers open their cellars to visitors in the Margaret River region. (Photo by James Ruggia)
Western Australia, which roughly comprises the western half of the continent, has Perth for its capital. A city rich in restaurants, galleries and music venues, Perth is neighbored by the vineyards of the Margaret River where more than 220 wine producers and more than 100 cellar doors are open to the public. The region has become an important destination for Australians who go there for long weekends to enjoy the wines on an experiential level by shopping for artisanal foods or visiting the vineyards, world class restaurants, boutique hotels and the scenic grandeur of a rugged park-lined coast. Almost all of the more than 40,000 Americans who explore the region are repeaters to Australia.
They come to Margaret River for the same reasons they go to the Loire Valley, Napa Valley or Tuscany – that special combination of food, wine, relaxation and nature that are essential to lifestyle travel. This fall, late spring down under, they’ll host the annual Gourmet Escape (Nov. 20 to 22), an event that attracts chefs and vintners to the region, which produces more than 25 percent of the country’s premium wine.
All of that great wine attracted an equally great wave of culinary professionals. A boutique hotel like the Cape Lodge, for instance, speaks to the quality of the region’s tourism. The lodge is a five-star 22-key property surrounded by vineyards with a kitchen run by Executive Chef Michael Elfwing, which placed fourth on Conde Naste’s Best of Food Gold List.
The wine and the chefs are sustained by the production of great food including the large, freshwater crayfish known as Marron; and Pemberton Finger Limes, small, oblong-shaped citrus filled with bright green or pink caviar-like beads used to garnish raw oysters, desserts and cocktails. The Manjimup Black Truffle is a regional specialty served at many restaurants throughout the country, including The Truffle & Wine Co. Every June, it serves as the quarry of the Truffle Kerfuffle where foodies learn to cook with truffles, hear lectures on truffles, sample truffle dishes and go on truffle hunts. It all takes place at Manjimup where 70 percent of Australia’s black truffles are grown.
Last November, three Michelin-starred Chef Eric Ripert shot six episodes of his culinary travel program, Avec Eric, in Australia, with one episode dedicated entirely to Western Australia. The episode shows Ripert and indigenous Wardandi Aboriginal expert, forager and guide Josh Whiteland foraging for abalone, playing the didgeridoo in Ngilgi Cave, and discussing Whiteland's philosophy about the land and the importance of seasonality. Ripert also travels to Margaret River's Aravina Estate to meet with the cooking staff and the winemaker Jodie Opie to taste wines paired with the Estate's cuisine.
The Cape to Cape track runs along a section of coastline featuring pristine beaches, limestone cliffs, coastal bush land, wildlife and the famed Boranup Karri forest. Walk into Luxury explores the Margaret River wine region on the Cape to Cape track with post-walk massages, exclusive food and wine experiences, luxury accommodations and more. The Margaret River Discovery offers tours of the top wineries as well as the Karri forest, the Cape to Cape hiking trail and canoeing on the river.
The Margaret Region is not only about eating and drinking. Cape to Cape Explorer Tours run half-day, full-day and evening tours with such titles as Sunset Forest, Cave Explorer and Wild About Margaret River taking in the landscapes, environment and history as well. It’s also an area where the surf is challenging enough to host one of the world’s top 10 surfing competitions every April entitled the Margaret River Pro. The event attracts the world's 36 top-ranked male and 18 top-ranked female surfers to battle for points towards the World Title.
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