A Breezy Excursion
May, 2018 [Margaret River, WA]
“It’s the fresh air,” said Timmy.
A sense of calm had filled the cabin. Beyond the usual relief of pressure felt when arriving at a holiday destination, there was a sense of peace and mindfulness. A ‘forget the world and smile’ kind of energy. No wonder our friends here always seem so laid back, so passive and easy-going. Dylan and Taryn have always emanated a kindness that would change your day. It started to make sense. Any settlement laden with stunning beaches, swells and inherently high calibre fruit, couldn’t possibly afford its humans anything shy of pure bliss.
It’s established that wine, if it’s made authentically to express it’s true self, will taste, smell and even feel like the place it comes from. Nuances, temperaments and life itself, trapped in a bottle. Surely the energy of a region as distinct as Margaret River not only breezes through every person, truck and doggo in tow, but every consumable crafted within its reaches. Aptly, Margaret River is adorned with beautiful names, gifted by our First Nations people, that end in ‘up’, meaning ‘place of’. As a place, regardless of expectation, of your knowledge of wine or ability to paddle, Margs is the place of one very breezy excursion.
We arrived in Perth in early May with a dozen of South Australia’s friendliest, most relevant winemakers. We crossed the border acknowledging a parallel once shared, that’s evidently now dissolved. Wine, in both our states, remained stagnant in its breadth of appreciation. We only drank our own and for good reason—we both make incredibly good booze. Parochial attitudes were justified, but our collective palates now look for a bit more.
The Fruitful Pursuit celebrates the new, the edge, while embracing soul and conscientiousness in all approaches to the craft. We love independents who challenge the status quo and and make wine what it should be—a very human way of connecting with the earth and with each other, while having a bloody good time. We’ve enjoyed many visitors from the Left Coast. Since 2016, we’ve hosted a bevy of rising stars, some of whom have returned and again, but all of whom are integral in the forward movement of Australian wine. A visit to ‘Margs’ was inevitable.
Day one. We saddled up mid-morning with Timmy, an ex-Adelaide lad and true swooner of all things grape-related who gave up bird watching (actual) to pursue winemaking. Timmy landed a position at Vasse Felix, who we recognise that despite its commercial prowess, has been pushing its own boundaries from within. ‘C-Mac’, a compelling assertion of Cabernet Sauvignon made using 100% carbonic maceration, unsurprisingly held a perch in almost every relevant venue we checked into in Perth.
Mr Barval was a great intro to the region. Rob Gheradi’s genuine love for the craft and boyish charm is always humbling. “I didn’t get into winemaking to be the rockstar winemaker, I actually really like making wine.” Rob builds interest into his wines with technique, minimal intervention and very gentle handling. He’s pure-to-style and precise; happy to leave the funk for the others to play with.
A chance stop-in with Nick James-Martin of Wines Of Merritt, a very-well packaged new venture, was heartfelt. Nick’s expressing small parcels of a few lesser-played grapes in the region: Chenin Blanc, Vermentino and Cab Franc.
Before a quintessential sunset frothy at The Beer Farm, our expedition closed with a vineyard walk that bled into forest at its edges. Alongside swills of classic Chardonnay, we melted over mustard, rillet and terrine made by Stephanie Cornu of The French Pantry, procured earlier at Rob’s place.
Dylan Arvidson and Taryn Hogan are the ‘purveyors of fine libations’ you’d otherwise know as LS Merchants. We fell in love with Dylan’s demeanour and ‘future classic’ booze in 2016. It’s a friendship that spawned the SAWA SAWA collaboration, but also plugged us into Western Australia and all its gems in the most selfless manner. With Wine For Dudes in the driver’s seat, we set upon our second day under Dylan’s guidance; a local, afterall, knows best.
McHenry Honan holds a certain stature but is certified Biodynamic. We gazed over estate vineyards in the morning while tuning into one-to-watch winemaker, Julian Grounds. While playing the local classics with a lightened finesse, he set our attentions on a cellar brimming with large- format oak and all manner of up-vibe new directions.
Jo ‘Dormilona’ Perry’s become a beacon of many things we adore. It’s not simply what she’s playing with and the package that results, it’s her level of attention to detail. If wine’s an embodiment of everything that goes into it, Dormilona plays every hand in the game, every opportunity the craft affords to the fullest.
Sunset brought us to the water’s edge, metres up, still sipping, as we watched wave after wave surround the surfaces below. Suffice to say that Margaret River, and its ‘wine experience’ is far more than a cellar door. It’s boundaries are set by those who chose to experience it for themselves, who chose to dig a little deeper.
The last day in paradise. Pierro carpark. Enter Nic Peterkin. Nic’s a real-life 'kid in a candy store' and quite the visionary. L.A.S. Vino, with its unabashed, hire-wire dangling of the rule book, brings a fresh scope to variety and style and the possibilities that still remain between them. Our final hours were spent fireside with local friends. Humans putting their passions back into the region.
A very pleasing realisation was the Margaret River is a light touch. It’s imprint upon and connection with the landscape seemed far more kindred, contrasting our impressions that ‘big business’ wineries and the flow of money from WA’s mining boom had stamped itself more deeply into the coastline. The cliffs. Giant swells that ebb then swallow formations older than our comprehension. Deep breathing forests. The sands into soils. Connect with a local and you’ll find it’s all very intact. It’s a very special place.