Southern Star Home to incredible wine, inspiring scenery, warm hospitality and delicious produce, Western Australiaâ€™s Great Southern region is one of the countryâ€™s best-kept secrets.
Photography // Frances Andrijich, courtesy The Lily and Frankland Estate
WORDS Jane Cornes
4/12/13 10:17 AM
Through the vines at Willoughby Park. OPPOSite
(clockwise, from top) The stunning southern coast is a drawcard of its own; settle in at Albany’s Hideaway Haven; stop for a meal at Chicha Street Food. PreViOuS PAGe
(clockwise, from top) The vineyard view from Frankland Estate; The Lily’s striking windmill; the drive through forests in Denmark.
t’s a crisp, cloudless morning in albany, the commercial hub of the Great Southern. But don’t let the city’s moniker put you oﬀ – it’s more seaside town than bustling metropolis. Sweetly hunkered down in a valley created by mounts Clarence and Melville, the picturesque southern port city overlooks one of the world’s largest natural harbours. the coastline alone is reason enough to visit: peroxide blonde beaches, a necklace of islands purpled by distance decorating the horizon and, in some places, smooth, giant boulders mixing it with the surf. I remember the first time I tasted a Great Southern wine. It was on a raspingly hot day at Frankland estate, owned by Judi Cullam and Barrie Smith. Barrie was out in a dusty paddock doing something useful with sheep when I arrived. Luckily – as I hadn’t made an appointment – he saw my car, followed me back to the shed and graciously opened a few bottles. the Isolation ridge riesling knocked me sideways. one of their three singlevineyard rieslings, it’s grown at the edge of a fog band stretching inland from the ocean. there were hints of spice, lime and nectarine. the olmo’s reward, which Judi likes to call her “new World St emilion”, was lean, sinewy and earthily intense. these days, the couple’s daughter elizabeth and son hunter are on board, along with others in the winemaking team, and the wines continue to dazzle.
and the same can be said for producers right across the region, whose wines are increasingly turning heads. the vast Great Southern winegrowing region, 150km long and 100km wide, is divided into five distinct subregions – albany and Denmark on the southern coast; Frankland river, Mount Barker and Porongurup inland. Many wine varieties thrive here, including pinot noir, which grows full-flavoured and true-to-Burgundian style, and the aforementioned riesling, particularly from Frankland river, Mount Barker and Porongurup. names like 3 Drops, Larry Cherubino, Castle rock, alkoomi and Plantagenet are some of many in the region recognised for their riesling, among other varietals. Indeed, some of Wa’s top producers hail from this part of the country. however, the region’s cool climate shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc are not to be outdone, winning national and international accolades with every show. Meanwhile, some winemakers are experimenting with less traditional varieties. these include muller thurgau at Galafrey – a cross between riesling and Madeleine royale – and marsanne at Poacher’s ridge, both based in Mount Barker. Sub-regional wines are all the go and it’s often possible to taste the same variety from the same winemaker, but grown in diﬀerent locations. Larry Cherubino is just one such winemaker who has been focusing on specific sites across the region to explore this diversity. the wines from producers
GETTING THERE Albany is a four-hour drive from Perth. Flights take just over an hour and you can hire a car at Albany airport.
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WHERE TO EAT
CHICHA STREET FOOD // ALBANY
Authentic, cheap Latin American meals and takeaway. Try the rotisserie chook.
BAY MERCHANTS // MIDDLETON BEACH
A village store and cafe serving sandwiches, salads and cakes. Most importantly, they also stock a range of locally made products, including wine.
PEPPER AND SALT // FOREST HILL, DENMARK
The region’s most sophisticated dining room offers modern Australian fare with an exotic touch, thanks to chef Silas Masih’s Fijian/Indian heritage. Try the Cone Bay barramundi.
BOSTON BREWERY // WILLOUGHBY PARK WINERY, DENMARK
The big, casual dining space serves hearty meals and fullﬂavoured beers made using traditional methods. You can also check out the Willoughby Park wines at the cellar door. Very family friendly.
Photography // Frances Andrijich, Alamy, courtesy Hideaway
MALEEYA’S // PORONGURUP
who are operating in this way provide a fascinating insight into the eﬀects of terroir and even the smallest change of climate. ecological sensitivities also run deep here and there is a growing inclination by wineries to employ biodynamic and organic principles. It’s not just about the wine here though – the regional produce is just as exciting. It should be illegal to visit the region without trying the oysters. Smaller than the Sydney rocks, yet closely related, albany rocks have a pronounced minerality and an intense, nutty sweetness. Buy them freshly shucked every Sunday at the Boatshed Market on albany’s waterfront. For another atmospheric community experience, check out the town’s original farmers’ market, held every Saturday. this is the place to go for everything from verdant bouquets of just-picked celery and asparagus as thin as a child’s finger, to organic pasta sauce and locally smoked fish and venison. ➺
THE REGIONAL PRODUCE IS JUST AS EXCITING AS THE WINE... IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL TO VISIT THE REGION WITHOUT TRYING THE ALBANY ROCK OYSTERS.
The dining room is basic, but Maleeya cooks some of the best Thai in WA using her own herbs and vegetables. A custom-built spa chalet here offers seclusion and views of the national park.
PLACES TO STAY
HIDEAWAY HAVEN // ALBANY
A luxurious, hosted B&B, it has great views and is just 10 minutes’ drive from the centre of town. www.hideaway-haven.com.au
THE LILY // STIRLING RANGES
This eclectic and cosily European accommodation is 30 minutes’ drive from Albany and includes a replica 16th century Dutch windmill with pretty surrounding gardens. www.thelily.com.au
THE COVE CHALETS // DENMARK
Choose from various bush chalets, including the secluded, romantic Sanctum, which has an outdoor shower. www.thecovechalets.com
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FEB / MAR 2014
The 10th Taste Great Southern festival will happen throughout March, with a stack of food and wine events rolling out across the region. Karen Martini and Stephanie Alexander will be special guests, and everything from oysters and cheese to farmers’ markets and wine masterclasses will be on offer. For all details, visit www.greatsoutherntastewa.com
the region once earned its collective crust through fishing, farming and thankfully long-gone whaling. albany’s whaling station was decommissioned in 1978, but you can still visit and see how it was in times past. after watching the old footage of whales being flensed, you may pass on a Whalers Burger at the cafe next door.
(clockwise, from top) The pretty setting in Denmark; Forest Hill is open daily for tastings and includes Pepper & Salt restaurant; Singlefile’s busy cellar door in Denmark.
around the bay from albany lies Middleton Beach. take the boardwalk that winds its way west around the headland and you’ll be rewarded with delightful coastal views and perhaps even the occasional sighting of a longnecked tortoise. any accommodation worth its salt makes the most of all that unspoilt beauty. at hideaway haven, a five-star B&B on the outskirts of albany, the owners serve decadent breakfasts – goat’s feta tartlets and strawberry and quinoa smoothies, anyone? – served in a breakfast room with magnificent views of bush, pasture and the sparkling Indian ocean. For the ultimate dining experience, hideaway’s owners can also arrange a private dinner of regional produce cooked by chef Dan Sharp. think locally caught marron and yabbies, plus
berries and more. Dan’s long-standing relationships with local growers, along with his willingness to keep things simple means there are few better ways to experience the produce. the pretty town of Denmark, about 45 minutes’ drive west of albany, lies along the banks of the Denmark river in the shadow of Mount Shadforth. It’s also home to many of Great Southern’s juiciest pinots, while chardonnay and others also shine. For inspiration, look to the likes of James halliday’s Dark horse Winery of the Year, Singlefile Wines (the Family reserve Chardonnay is a stunner), or Yilgarnia Wines (seek out their Semillon Sauvignon Blanc), Forest hill (see why their Block 1 Mount Barker riesling is a standout) and Willoughby Park (don’t miss their barrel-fermented Kalgan river albany Chardonnay), among many others.
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If you’re heading to Denmark from albany, stop in at the eclectic Bushfood Factory and Cafe for bushfood-themed products and take a guided tour through one of the largest bushfood plantations in australia. one of the state’s prettiest stretches of road runs along the South Coast highway from Denmark to Walpole. one moment you’re driving through pockets of Karri forests, the next you’re out of the dapple and into coastal scrub, with the impenetrable virgin bush of the Walpole Inlet ahead. Make the most of this scenery by checking out the Valley of the Giants tree top Walk, a 600m semi-rigid steel walkway rising 40m into the canopy of rare tingle trees. the world-famous Bibbulmun track also passes through. then, of course, there are the inland sub-regions, all destinations in their own right – particularly for lovers of fine wine. Porongurup is becoming synomynous with outstanding riesling, while Mount Barker’s distinctive reds continue to find fans. and pretty Frankland river may be long regarded for its riesling and shiraz, but its cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc are fast catching up. It’s important to note that some people unaccustomed to Western australia’s innate vastness have been known to plan a look-see of Margaret river and the Great Southern over the same weekend – it’s at least a six-hour WANT round-trip from MORE? Margaret river For regional wine to albany. Most ideas, turn to importantly, the James Halliday’s Great Southern picks on page 109. deserves a party of its own.
WINERIES TO VISIT
Here Is a snaPsHoT oF soMe oF THe WInerIes In THe GreaT soUTHern. anD IF YoU’re noT HeaDInG WesT anY TIMe soon, THIs sHoULD ProVIDe PLenTY oF WIne IDeas.
Emeritus Professor Mike Dilworth offers tastings of his ﬁne riesling and pinot here. www.abbeycreekvineyard.com
PAUL NELSON WINES
ABBEY CREEK WINES
Taste their exceptional wines – perhaps the 97-point 2011 A&W Riesling – and with a minimum day’s notice, enjoy a specially prepared picnic on their grounds. www.castlerockestate.com.au
Having won top awards for their wine and cellar door, stop by and see why they’re on a roll. www.singlefilewines.com Light meals and barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc are just two reasons to make the pitstop. www.paulnelsonwines.com.au
Five-star wines and a top restaurant are to be found here. www.rockcliffe.com.au
This winery has a cafe that serves their wines by the glass or bottle. www.ironwoodestatewines.com.au
Discover rich, vegan-friendly reds made to organic and biodynamic principles. www.bunnwine.com.au
Tastings of their exceptional wines are offered daily and the acclaimed Pepper & Salt restaurant is also here. www.foresthillwines.com
Also with a Margaret River winery, their Great Southern rieslings and shraz consistently, and deservingly, rate highly. www.burchfamilywines.com.au
Boston Brewery is also here and a playground will keep the little ones busy while you sample from the Willoughby Park, Kalgan River and Jamie & Charli wine ranges. www.willoughbypark.com.au
The cellar door was designed in 1997 to look quaint, and they offer a diverse range of wines to try. www.wignallswines.com.au
Settle in with a cheese platter – the perfect match for their highlight whites and shiraz. www.montgomeryshill.com.au
FRANKND RIVER ALKOOMI WINES
Established more than 40 years ago, their diverse riesling, semillon sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet all shine. www.alkoomiwines.com.au
This picturesque winery includes a lodge - the ideal retreat after a vertical tasting at their cellar door. www.bobtailwines.com.au
Set among the Stirling Ranges, take in the backdrop while tasting their range – don’t leave without trying their Malbec. www.ferngrove.com.au
This winery remains in family hands and their single vineyard rieslings are a highlight. www.franklandestate.com.au
MOUNT BARKER GALAFREY
Their dry-grown single estate wines are outstanding, and they’re also making the region’s only muller thurgau. www.galafreywines.com.au
This winery is 40 and continues to produce aromatic riesling, citrusy chardonnay, Rhone-style shiraz and smart cabernet. www.plantagenetwines.com
Enjoy local delicacies at their cafe, alongside their stunning shiraz and riesling. The estate’s cottage is also available for hire. www.poachersridge.com.au For more details, visit www.greatsouthernwine.asn.au
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