For our last day, we woke up early with the intention of heading far south to a beach where, reputedly, there were manta rays in the water docile enough to let you pet them. Lulu even saved a few scraps of tasty fish pieces to feed them, in the event they preferred Tai Snapper. This side trip never happened because the weather started acting up and we found ourselves instead sitting in the middle of a crunchy, local café sipping banana lassi and eating buckwheat pancakes and mushrooms on toast.
Our regularly scheduled plans, a trip to Voyager Estate, went off without a hitch. The unexpected colonial South African–styled site cast a stylish white profile on the green woods of southern Margaret River; the obscenely large Australian flag had been lowered, we suspect, only because of the impending storm front. In perhaps one of our most telling and extensive tastings of chardonnay in Margaret River, we dove into not only vintage comparisons but clonal comparison (Gin Gin v. clone 95, aka Dijon) with Voyager chief viticulturist and winemaker Steve James and marketing manager Fiona Findley. An aggressive hailstorm descended on us during our lunch at Voyager, leaving a thin layer of white pearls on the lawn to match the surrounding buildings. Having arrived in Margaret River to nearly ideal weather, this development was quite exciting.
From southern Margaret River, we hightailed it up to Yallingup, on the northern tip of the region, to meet winemaker Ben Gould. He got his start at Deep Woods (a family affair) and has recently garnered a notable following for his own project, Blind Corner.
His pétillant naturel of Chenin Blanc and his other textural, natural styles represent an exciting new direction for Margaret River. Ben’s new property (he moved there a few months ago) includes some chardonnay plantings that he plans to convert in part to aligoté.
The gusts of rainy wind coming off the ocean on our drive back up to Perth nearly blew our windsail of a passenger van off the highway, but we managed to arrive safely in the capitol city. We saw a double rainbow all the way! In the city, we hit up Lalla Rookh, and Must, a wine bar where we paired a bottle of Flowstone Chardonnay with some pretty tasty beef tartare, house-smoked salmon, and grilled oysters with Champagne sabayon. Tomorrow we depart bright and early for California. There is absolutely no way we are smuggling back kangaroo sausage, bush berries, or raw cow cheese!
This story appears in the print issue of jan 2019.
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