Travel Story Ray Jordan's picks: wine touring to warm up winter

Vasse Felix vineyard, Cowaramup.
Photo of Ray Jordan

The cooler months are a great time to visit some of Western Australia's best wine regions for tastings and a tasty bite. Our Wine Editor selects some favourites. 

There was a time when you were lucky to get a dry biscuit or stale piece of bread at a cellar door. OK, that was a while ago but then I’ve been visiting cellars for a long time. That all started to change in the late 70s and early 80s, when a few smart people realised the potential of a restaurant at the cellar.

It all made so much sense — for centuries wine had been made to be drunk with friends and food. So could there be a better place than the winery where the wine is made to share the experience with a few good friends?

There were a few examples in other States but nowhere has been done as well or as extensively as in WA, especially at the wineries in Margaret River with places such as Leeuwin Estate and Vasse Felix (pictured above) in the early days showing what could be done to bring the wine and food experience to life.

For me there is no better time of the year to be visiting the State’s wineries and winery restaurants than winter. 

It is the time of the year where the full range of great food and wines can be experienced. The weather is more conducive to long, lazy dining and red wines can be a lot more palatable when the temperature outside isn’t pushing into the 40s. Of course, don’t forget white wines, especially chardonnays, which still have a place on a cold Sunday afternoon dining table.

The other quirky thing about tasting wine at the cellar is that for some reason it always seems to taste better. From bitter experience I have plenty of examples in my early years of wine tasting, where the wine I thought was a cracker at the cellar turned out to be a dud when I eventually opened it at home.

In part this can be explained by tasting with a jaded palate — or worse, opening it soon after returning home following a three-hour trip where it was bounced around in a hot boot. Wine, like people, needs to settle down after a journey.

But in the main, it is simply that tasting wine with interested people at the cellar door makes everything seem so much better — the troubles of the world dissipate with every sip.

So with the cold and rainy months ahead of us, it is time to focus on red wines. In WA, we have some of the greatest cabernets and shiraz being made in Australia. Whether they be from Margaret River, the Great Southern, the Swan Valley or somewhere in-between, there are great wines to be had at pretty much all price points.

The winery restaurants

Wills Domain

Braised oxtail wild garlic truffle and onion

The wine: Wills Domain Block 3 cabernet sauvignon

Cullen

Kangaroo loin, tail, quince, smoked chestnut, beetroot

The wine: Cullen Diana Madeline

Mandoon Estate

Braised short rib, glazed long eggplant, Italian anchovies, charred onion ring, lemon creme fraiche and glazed potato balls

The wine: Mandoon Estate Reserve Frankland River shiraz

Leeuwin Estate

45-day dry-aged black Angus sirloin, king oyster mushrooms, torpedo onion with cafe de Paris

The wine: Leeuwin Estate Art Series cabernet sauvignon

Millbrook

Beef Brisket with snake bean salad

The wine: Millbrook Estate shiraz viognier

Vasse Felix

Beef rump-cap, carrot, onion, nori

The wine: Vasse Felix cabernet sauvignon

Sandalford

Walnut-smoked lamb cutlet, 12-hour braised shoulder, saltbush, baba ganoush, brussel sprouts

The wine: Sandalford Prendiville Estate Reserve shiraz

Rustico @ Hay Shed Hill

Braised Amelia Park beef cheeks with wild mushrooms, chorizo, red wine jus

The wine: Hay Shed Hill cabernet sauvignon

Voyager Estate

Lamb rump, pressed neck, polenta, beetroot, rainbow chard, herb crumb

The wine: Voyager Estate shiraz

Arimia Estate

Hanger steak with confit garlic, carrot puree, sake orange bearnaise and jus

The wine: Arimia cabernet sauvignon

Capel Vale

Margaret River Regional Series cabernet sauvignon match plate

The wine: Capel Vale Black Label Margaret River cabernet sauvignon

Xanadu

Kangaroo, black garlic, cheddar, macadamia, potato, nasturtium

The wine: Xanadu DJL shiraz

Forest Hill

Spice-aged beef fillet, Touchwood oyster mushrooms, baby spuds with white anchovy shallot aioli

The wine: Forest Hill Block 5 cabernet sauvignon

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