Cheapest wine in Margaret River is about to end

A bottle for Margaret River Cabernet Merlot for $5? That’s right, $5. Seriously, you can’t go wrong – and it’s not a bad drop actually. I reckon it’ll round out and be beautifully smooth in a few years. Even if you don’t love the wine now, at $5 a bottle it’s cheap enough to use it in cooking without getting the guilts.

Zorba and I love The Growers in Margaret River. Every trip ‘down south’, we pop in to their cellar door on Wildwood Road and stock up on wine, our favourite being the dessert Botrytis, and at $45 for a full-sized 750ml bottle, the great value continues.

Sadly, it was announced today that The Growers will be coming to a close. One man behind the label and chief wine maker Phil May said that he might stay working at The Growers if the new owners give him a role, but what he’d really love to do is write a book. Everyone has a good book inside of them, and it’s exciting that the next chapter in Phil’s life may be just that. We wish him the very best with whatever he decides to do come the end of November.

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The Growers, 1071 Wildwood Road, Wilyabrup in the Margaret River region, Western Australia

If you are in Margaret River between now and the end of November, I encourage you to pop into The Growers, and besides picking up a case of Margaret River wine for $60 – which in itself sounds too good to be true, here are five reasons to visit:

  1. You can taste all their wines before buying – take advantage of it and stock up on great value wines while you can
  2. The setting is very picturesque, a long gravel driveway flanked by rows of vines, stopped with a rose bush. In front of the carpark is a pretty dam which you can overlook from a picnic table. Bring some snacks and enjoy the tranquility, and bring your camera
  3. Besides great value wine, you can stock up on wonderful Wilura olive oil – which is all we use in our house – it’s gorgeous, buy olive oil soap products, wine and cheese accessories, platters, pottery, and natural honey which we love.
  4. The friendly service – just by popping in to The Growers and taking five minutes to chat to Phil about his wines, we’ve gotten to know him and he always welcomes us with a warm friendly hello, like we’re old friends.
  5. You won’t find any cheaper Margaret River wine anywhere. And while I don’t believe cheaper is always better, I do believe in value for money, and this is a case point (pun intended)

The Growers CabMerlot sml

In the 2013 Wine Companion, James Halliday said (2010 vintage):

Bright crimson-purple; Peppermint Grove is the second label of The Growers, in a classically simple, uncluttered typeface. Perhaps this is why I am taken by the expressive cassis/red fruit simplicity of the wine.

In the Ray Jordan’s WA Wine Guide 2011, he said:

This is made as a simple current drinking red wine. Good red berry and light plum mix on the nose carries seamlessly through to the soft and supple palate. It’s a drink now wine at a good price.

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Overlooking the dam at The Growers

Here’s what The Growers released today:

The current manifestation of The Growers is coming to an end.

It is highly likely that we will cease our direct sale distributions on Friday November 20, 2015 in readiness for our departure from the leased winery and cellar door premises a week or so later.

 

The relationship with the landlord remains excellent and the business is as strong as it has ever been but the time has come to close the chapter on my involvement in a business that was initially founded to assist WA grape growers. Without your support, the journey would have ended long ago. Thank you.

 

In the meantime, the recently released Peppermint Grove Cabernet Merlot remains available for purchase and, as it has for a long time now, remains the lowest cost postage inclusive wine offering from Western Australia.

 

As always, I invite you to send any queries that you may have about our wines directly to me, Phil May, the winemaker and co-owner of The Growers; phil@thegrowers.com

 

Click here to download the order form – Full Product List

Click here to download the order form – Gift Pack

Ordering Options:
Email:Send a scanned version of your completed order form to: emma@thegrowers.com
Web:Order online at www.thegrowers.com
Fax:You can fax your completed order to +61 8 9755 2286
Tel:You can place an order over the phone by calling +61 8 9755 2121
Post:Or you can post your completed order form to:
The Growers, PO Box 361, Dunsborough, WA 6281

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TheGrowers - 2

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Wills Domain, Margaret River – a winner

Walking through a light-filled art gallery into the cellar door of Wills Domain, I’m not looking at the the gorgeous installations because the view has captured my full attention. Undulating hills with rows and rows of vines that seemingly lead to a Manor-style house on a far-away hill opposite.Will Domain - 1

Just off Abbey Farm Road in the Gunyulup Valley, Wills Domain was established 14 years ago on 60 hectares of prime grape-growing land.

I’m here for the food, and some wine (I’m driving), but mainly food. People have been raving about Wills Domain of late. I ate here about two years ago and it was, well, non-descript really. Nice enough but it didn’t blow my mind. How things have changed.

If you haven’t eaten at Wills Domain in the last 18 months, then book a table and go there now. Chef Seth James is ex Cutler & Co (Melb) and has a strong food philosophy and has been working to make his mark in the region.

In his effort to further develop his focus on seasonal, local and fresh produce, he has created his own vegetable and herb garden behind the restaurant using its bounty daily . Under his leadership, Wills Domain for the second year in a row proudly won the West Australian Good Food Guide’s Best Regional restaurant 2015.

Unusual ingredients feature in his dishes – many of them foraged and / or native – and the poor wait staff were so patient with my bombardment of questions, and impressively, knew all the answers:

Q: What’s bunya bunya? (in the entree Marron, quandong, jamón and bunya bunya)
A: It’s a type of pine nut, an indigenous ingredient. It’s a little bit sweet

Q: And quandong? That’s a fruit isn’t it?
A:  Yes, it’s a bush tucker fruit, sometimes called a bush peach.

Q: What’s fat hen? (in the main Flinders Island Wallaby, celeriac, Illawarra plum, fat hen).
A: It’s a weed, the chefs went foraging this morning and got it from over there (it’s also related to quinoa)

Q: And nettle? (in the main Market Fish, Jerusalem artichoke, smoked nettle and nashi)
A: It grows wild, a bit like a weed, the chef foraged for that this morning from over there [waiter points to yonder]

Will Domain - 7

Marron, quandong, jamón and bunya bunya

After a refreshing glass of sparking wine, our entrees came out.  Spectacular plating made each dish seem more like a work of art than something to chow into.

My Marron, quandong, jamón and bunya bunya ($26) was magnificent. The marron was perfectly cooked and the unusual flavours of quandong and bunya bunya has my taste buds delicately dancing. All the flavours worked together.

Out comes the gorgeous Single Vineyard Chardonnay to accompany my main of Market Fish, Jerusalem artichoke, smoked nettle and nashi (MP, $40).  The elegant chardonnay was golden in colour with hues of straw, a toasty bouquet of stone fruit and cashews and a light buttery mouthfeel. Hints of subtle oak lingered after each sip. It was a stunning testament to Margaret River chardonnays ($36 bottle from cellar door).

Snapper, Jerusalem artichoke, smoked nettle and nashi

Snapper, Jerusalem artichoke, smoked nettle and nashi

My main meal was as impressive as my entree. Beautiful snapper that was mixed with surprising flavours that simply made every mouthful a delight. All elements were perfectly executed and the dish beautifully plated.

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Fresh figs, salted caramel and fennel. The balls are salted caramel – amazeballs!

Dessert was next. The maitre de warned me that today was not a day to give up sugar.  So for one course only, I strayed from the paleo way to indulge in all three desserts offerings that our table shared: fresh figs, salted caramel and fennel ($17); orange & poppy seed, blackberry, fromage blanc and green olive ($19); and also chocolate, beetroot and caraway ($18). I love that the chef uses savoury ingredients in the dessert.

Wills Domain chocolate, beetroot and caraway

Chocolate, beetroot and caraway

My mind hasn’t be blown by a meal for a long time (besides Guy Grossi’s tiramisu which I’m still dreaming about).

The day we dined, chef Seth James was on a day off, so I didn’t have the opportunity to shake the talented man’s hand. His team did a truly excellent job and I can’t wait to go back to eat there again and try some different dishes.

Verdict:  9.5 / 10.

Perfectly executed food, plated beautifully, featuring unusual flavours that all married well together, friendly yet professional service, a stunning winery setting with vistas of rolling hills and vines, and really gorgeous wine. The upper end of the scale as far as price point goes, but worth it. A winner.

 

FACT FILE

Wills Domain
Lot 341 Brash Road, Yallingup (off Abbey Farm Road)
Tel: 08 9755 2327

Open 12pm – 3pm, seven days per week. Bookings recommended.

Wills Domain on Urbanspoon

Will Domain - 2

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Win an awesome Margaret River Weekender

Vine Collective is an awesome online winery and wine rating website that connects wine lovers to each other, and direct to the wine producer. They’ve been a client of my day job, Pronto PR – I don’t usually share client work on Travelletto, but Vine Collective is a site that I think you’ll love. I do!  And they have a cracking competition that’s worth buying wine for – more below.

Vine Collective is like the UrbanSpoon of the wine world, but better. What I love the most about Vine Collective is that they have gone into bat for the little guy. Since I’ve met Doctor Ben Thomas, the MD of Vine Collective with a PhD in wine tourism, I’ve learned that Woolworths and Coles own 80% of the bottle shops and liquor retail in the country.  Small boutique wineries simply can’t afford the shelf space at the major retailers, nor do they produce the volume. As wine lovers know, it’s often the small boutique wineries that produce the most interesting wines.

Margaret River information on Vine Collective

Margaret River information on Vine Collective

One of my favourite features on Vine Collective is that you can store wines you like in your virtual cellar – so when you’re out visiting wineries or in a restaurant, or anywhere really and taste a wine you like, you can grab your phone and add that wine to your virtual wine cellar. When you want to buy, go to your cellar. Vine Collective makes their money by taking a percentage on each sale – much like a retailer, but the percentage is lower, which means better prices for the consumer.

Win!
The summer competition on Vine Collective has some really great prizes;
1. Margaret River Weekender – 2 Nights @ Smiths Beach Resort, Winery Tour with Top Drop Tours and Dinner at Knee Deep.
2. Vintec Wine Cellar – 38 bottle wine cellar refrigerator
3. Plumm Glassware Package – Fast becoming the wine glassware of choice in the industry
Every bottle purchased through the website equates to a single entry. Buy a dozen, get a dozen entries. Every purchase until the end of February goes into the draw. For all the details you can head over to the site – http://vinecollective.com.au/blog/wine-events/summer-competition
What I bought:
  • Silkwood Pinot Noir – $27.50, this is a terrific Pinot Noir from Pemberton. It’s smooth, light but still has great structure. I love this Pinto Noir. A gorgeous winery with stunning chalets – read more here.
  • Silkwood Leaf Pinot Noir – $21.70, this seems to be Silkwood’s cheaper label and I haven’t tried this one but I’m keen to compare it to the wine above. $22
  • Willow Bridge Gravel Pit Shiraz – $29.40 I bought this based on Joel’s recommendation below and the critic’s scores. I love a good shiraz.
Joel Pember from Juicebox Creative, the designers and website developers behind Vine Collective, loves wine almost more than anything else and he has a great palate. Here are his recommendations:
Joel recommends for something a little different but delicious to try Xabregas Mad Men Riesling
Xabregas is also offering free delivery indefinitely across their wines, so good value.
Vine Collective home page

Vine Collective home page

Vine Collective is a beautiful website, it’s user friendly, and there’s some great content on there about wine regions.  When you register on Vine Collective, please follow me!
Check out Vine Collective and let me know what you think. I think it’s a brilliant idea and it’s going to just grow and grow to give more wine lovers better access to boutique wine producers.

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Margaret River Gourmet Escape 2014

After an epic time at last year’s Gourmet Escape in Margaret River, I didn’t think it could get any better, or any bigger.

I was wrong on both counts. The main event, the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate had over 140 exhibitors on both Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd November – chocolate, farm produce, olive oil, cheese, coffee roasters, cocktail specialists, kitchen gadgets, condiments, bakeries, patisseries, gelatarias, truffle products, brewers, wineries of course and more. For the uninitiated, the huge choice together with the buzzing activity, smells and sights could be a little overwhelming.

Bahen Chocolate - the unflavoured variety has just two ingredients, cacao and sugar

Bahen Chocolate – the unflavoured variety has just two ingredients, cacao and sugar

Besides wandering around sipping and nibbling tasty offerings, there were demonstrations and education sessions galore. The star line up of chefs included Heston Blumenthal, Massimo Bottura (Italian 3-Michelin-starred chef), Rick Stein, Sat Bains, as well as Australian chefs Peter Gilmore, Frank Camorra, George Calombaris, Poh Ling Yeow, Matt Stone, Aaron Carr and Tony Howell just to scratch the surface. They demonstrated their dishes on the main stage that was like a rock concert set for chefs, big screens and all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Margaret River Gourmet Escape main stage

If you’ve always wanted to learn how to chop through an onion like a chef – then the Chef’s Skillery was for you. For those who’ve just found their wine palate, expert sommeliers were teaching beginners the art of wine tasting at the Around the Barrel sessions. There were Farm to Table demonstrations, wine and food matching, table talks, seafood master classes, book signings and more.

The Brewhouse was a great new addition, showcasing local and boutique beers. I enjoyed the natural lager of Young Henrys and the clean taste of Colonial #1 Brew.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Canon Food Photography Classes were a new edition this year. For just $20, a small group of six were given the use of Canon 70D DSLR cameras and expert instruction for an hour on the art of lighting.

The team at Canon teaching us how to photograph food and lighting techniques

The team at Canon teaching us how to photograph food and lighting techniques

At the end of the class, we got to keep our 8GB SD card containing all the photos we’d taken. For foodies like myself, this was an awesome inclusion.

Canon Food Photography workshop, $20

Canon Food Photography workshop, $20

The VIP Area

On Sunday I had the pleasure of being invited into the Audi Platinum Lounge, inside the Leeuwin Estate restaurant. It was my kind of foodie heaven. An oyster shucker opening fresh Albany and South Australian oysters, a sashimi bar with king fish, encrusted salmon and chargrilled octopus, a charcuterie station that included duck liver parfait, prosciutto, chorizo, and terrine, a cheese buffet with gorgonzola and the biggest wheel of parmesan in the State, and more. I was polite and did not gobble everything up at once, which required a skill of restraint that is hard to exercise in such situations.

Encrusted salmon sashimi at Leeuwen Esate

Encrusted salmon sashimi at Leeuwen Esate

Best of all, I was able to rub shoulders with the who’s who of the food and wine world and invited celebrities. I chatted to Kirk Pengilly from INXS – yes, INXS and again, extreme restraint was exercised and I did not ask for a selfie, as much as (really) I wanted to. Two glasses of Leeuwin Estate Art Series wine were included with the $220 entry ticket and I reckon it’s worth it – I could’ve eaten my ticket price in oysters (bit didn’t – see above).

Gorgonzola - heavenly creamy

Gorgonzola – heavenly creamy

Satellite Events

There were also over 20 satellite events that included the top tier $600 per head international cabernet tasting at Cape Mentelle, a long table lunch at Fraser Gallop, Gourmet Beach BBQs, a long table fiesta, Food for Thought panel sessions, Feast in the Forest, Foraging dinners, a trivia night, Sunset Beats and Bites and more. The tickets ranged in price, starting from $50 per person.

Food for Thought Session - Farm Graze Forage with AA Gill (MC), chefs  Jock Zonfrillo, Daniel Berlin & Matt Stone

Food for Thought Session – Hunter-Gatherers with AA Gill (MC), chefs Jock Zonfrillo, Daniel Berlin & Matt Stone

I attended the Hunter Gatherers Food for Thought session at Voyager Estate as a guest of the event. Hosted by the controversial AA Gill (food critic), chefs Jock Zonfrillo, Daniel Berlin & Matt Stone talked about eating native food, not wasting food, eating what’s in season, eating organic, and choosing food for nutrition value and taste, rather than what it looks like.

My new food hero is Matt Stone – he has a fantastic food philosophy of not wasting food and eating in season. He was the chef behind Perth’s Greenhouse which was built using 100% recycled material, and his restaurant in Melbourne, Brothl, uses scraps from Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurant to make nutritious broths. There is no wastage of food or anything at Brothl.

Margaret River Gourmet Escape Event Tips

On Saturday, we enjoyed the Gourmet Village by deploying our event strategy:

  1. Arrive early
  2. Buy extra GEMs in the queue to enter (Gourmet Escape Money, 1 GEM = $7)
  3. Immediately find a shady spot to use as a base for the day
  4. Ensure you have a big enough posse to mind the base and take it in turns to explore the event

It worked well, as it had done in previous years. What I hadn’t done so well was study the program from cover to cover, something I would recommend the avid foodie do in order to decide which sessions to go to. With so much on offer, it was easy to get distracted chatting to a producer, watching one demonstration while missing a big name chef was on the main stage, or an interesting session at the Farm to Table or Table Talk elsewhere.

It’s been announced that the Margaret River Gourmet Escape will continue until 2017. Since it generates 33,000 room nights in the region, my number one tip is to book to go as soon as next year’s dates are announced.

The lovely Michelle and Sarah from Tourism WA enjoying the event

The lovely Michelle and Sarah from Tourism WA enjoying the event

Verdict

The crowds were up this year, or so it felt. It was busy in the Gourmet Village on both Saturday and Sunday. Queues for the 16 restaurants offering tasting dishes were long by mid-afternoon and one stallholder had sold out by 2.30pm with several others selling out before the end of the day, which seemed like bad planning on their part. Having said that, there was more space, more shade, a bigger event footprint, more chefs, more stalls, more interactive sessions, and new sessions as well as favourites repeated from the past two years. It was another stellar weekend in the stunning Margaret River region.

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Disclosure:

Dianne Bortoletto was invited as a guest of Escape Lounge into the Audi Platinum Lounge VIP area.  Travelletto was invited to the Food for Thought Session by the event.

A similar version of this article was first published on Escape Lounge, CheckIn.com.au’s inspiration travel page.

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Hay Shed Hill winery in Margaret River has it all

Alfesco deck with views of rolling vines, tick. Delicious wines you can sip for hours, tick. Great house made food that makes you want to never leave, tick. Art gallery and retail space, tick. Add some live acoustic music on the weekends, and it’s fair to say that Hay Shed Hill in Margaret River has it all. HayShedHill 13

Start with some wine tasting at the cellar door. Hay Shed Hill’s range includes their Block Series, World Series, Vineyard Series, Pitchfork, and my favourite, Kerrigan + Berry.  K+B is the joint venture of two wine makers and good friends, Hay Shed Hill winemaker, Michael KERRIGAN and West Cape Howe winemaker, Gavin BERRY.  They source the best grapes and make wine that they want to drink, and so do I. It’s so good, their Riesling is outstanding and I love its mineral characteristics – an all time favourite of mine ($30).

As the adage goes, where’s there’s good wine, there’s good food. Hay Shed Hill’s young chef, 20-year-old Travis Bulbeck was running the kitchen the day I ate there and he impressed with maturity beyond his years. Hay Shed Hill has a reputation for its great cheese and deli counter, but the showstopper was the dishes coming out of the kitchen. The food was sophisticated enough to feel special, but not complicated or pretentious. It’s clear that head chef Jack Drachenberg places utmost importance on fresh local produce.

At Hay Shed Hill, the kitchen cures meat for the charcuterie boards, they make their own rillettes and terrines, bake their own bread, and use herbs from their garden. Everything is made from scratch.

Cheese counter with a huge variety of local and imported cheeses

Cheese counter with a huge variety of local and imported cheeses

Sugar cured salmon, pomegranate, za'atar and grapefruit

Sugar cured salmon, pomegranate, za’atar and grapefruit, $18

Baldivis rabbit presse, white peach, blue cheese and hazelnuts

Baldivis rabbit presse, white peach, blue cheese and hazelnuts, $24

Poached duck leg, white bean and black pudding braise

Poached duck leg, white bean and black pudding braise, $37

Wild mushroom pastry, smoked potato, asparagus and goat's curd

Wild mushroom pastry, smoked potato, asparagus and goat’s curd, $28

I can’t rave about the food enough at Hay Shed Hill. Every mouthful was a delight with terrific combinations of flavours that were perfectly balanced. Best of all, the prices are reasonable. Imagine these colourful plates of goodness coming to you on a sun drenched deck as you sip a chardonnay that isn’t overpowered by oak, but rather perfectly balanced and just a little buttery, urging you to take another sip. Vistas of hills, big rolls of hay, some wrought iron artwork, and rows and rows of green vines….ah, yes, it’s one of the regions special places to while away the time.  I’ll definitely be back.

Hay Shed Hill is also open for early morning coffee and breakfast. Keep an eye out on the events section of their website to see when they have live music scheduled – often on Sunday afternoons in the warmer months.

FACT FILE

Hay Shed Hill
Harmans Mill Road, Wilyabrup WA 6280
Tel: +61 (0)8 9755 6046
info@hayshedhill.com.au

 

Disclosure
My lunch at Hay Shed Hill was part of a hosted trip organised by the Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association. I’ve been there several times before but not had a proper meal – just grazing plates and charcuterie boards (which are very good!)

Hay Shed Hill Deli on Urbanspoon

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