Australia Part 1: Margaret River and the Wine Region

I went to Margaret River for the wine…as it`s one of the biggest wine regions in Australia and why not?

When I arrived in this small town, I was so happy to see a few things like:

Target.  Seriously, Milena and I had to go and it was fun to see normal things again.  It was a Target Country (mostly clothes but still fun)

Big grocery stores like IGA and Coles.  The way we shopped this store, you would have thought we haven`t eaten in years.  We were hoarding all the things we missed and Milena had to keep telling me we were only shopping for two meals.  I was so excited to go back and buy more.  I`m talking about cheese, fresh veggies (still no baby carrots – but I`m still looking), Doritos, and all sort of normal brands and normal prices.  It was too exciting.

A Big Pharmacy.  I could get any medicine I wanted and somewhat normal prices.  I still think things are overpriced here, but I guess its all imported.

*The first highlight, was being at a hostel with a huge kitchen and BBQ so Milena and I were able to make a great dinner and were in heaven.  I guess after traveling in Asia for 3 months where I never had a kitchen and all the food was so cheap, it wouldn`t make sense to stay in to cook.  I see a lot of cooking in my future and can`t wait!

*On December 3, Milena and I decided to take a wine tour and she looked into all the options before I arrived and chose “Wine for Dudes” as it sounded the best (or maybe she wanted to find her own dude).  Funny thing is when we were picked up the next day and met all the other 11 people on our tour, there were only 2 dudes and 9 chicks.

*The tour group was great.  We all bonded at our first winery, Tassel Park.  I really liked all the wines we had and was so tempted to buy, but figured I`d buy at another place.  The region is famous for Sav Blanc and Semillion (or the blend of the two fis known as either  SBS or SSB).  Very light and easy to drink wines – guess for the hot weather.

*Cheese tasting….this was something I missed so much in Asia and the tour took us to the Margaret River Cheese Company for tastings.  Yum.  All the cheese we could eat and I had to buy the double creme brie for later (which was a nice treat for my bacon, egg and brie breakfast sandwiches (as Milena bought so many eggs and bacon before I got there, I was eating it for days and the brie made it so much better!).

*Next stop was Hay Shed.  This was where tasted 14 wines from newer wines to old vines.  I had to laugh as when they said old vines, that was about 30 years old (compared to Napa`s old vines that could be 100 years old).  The wines here was good, but not great, but I benefited from Milena not liking them much and got her pours too.  I`m always a good friend and took her extra so she didn`t offend by dumping the wine out.  We also got to do some “wine blending“, which was new for me.  We got to taste 100% pure Cab Sav and 100% Merlot, then mixed 50% of each and then got to decide what we like to make a glass for lunch.  It felt like science class all over again as we used beakers and had to measure out 20 ml (or in my case, I think I may have poured a little more here or there).  Not being a big fan of Merlot as it`s so light, I went for a 90% Cab/10% Merlot blend and then topped off my glass with more of each so the wine didn`t go to waste!  The two “dudes” on our tour also decided to treat all the ladies and bought more wine for us to enjoy with our picnic lunch so it was a very happy lunch time.

*After a lot of wine and lunch, why not stop at the famous Margaret River Chocolate Factory?  John told us that we were going to be quick since we were late for the next stop to “feel no obligation to buy  just go in, eat the free stuff and get out”!  That`s my kinda of tasting and there was about 10 things to sample, but I loved the chocolate chips in white, milk and dark and had to pick up the whole bowl and almost pour it into my mouth…but stopped so I wasn`t rude.

*Final stop was Saraced Estates.  This was the newest winery in the region (#106 in the region to give a range of how many there are to try).  This was a very fancy building and had a brewery attached to it.  Great venue for party – but didn`t feel like the smaller boutique winery that I prefer.  I think the wine was good, but at this point, we were all drinking the wine and it tasting the same or our taste buds just weren`t as good anymore.

All in all, a great day and it continued at a pub back in town as the whole group stayed to buy our driver John some drinks since he would walk home afterwards and successfully drove us all around.

*Now – as I`m always looking for a deal, I started talking to John (also the tour owner) and really wanted to go on the tour again another day to try some other wineries, but said I couldn`t afford the price and wanted to know if there was a repeat customer discount.  He thought about it and said it I could find 7 people to join and call him I could go for free.  That would be hard.  As the night continued at the pub, it lowered to 3 people and the next day he stopped by the hostel to see the owner, and he said I could go for free.  Yea!!!  I was excited.

*So I took a day off from drinking, as it was a long one, and decided to take surfing lessons on December 4th.  I have always wanted to learn to surf (and never did while I was at Santa Barbara which is one of the premier surf places in the world – silly me).  Margaret River is one of the best surf locations in all of Australia and there is a world famous surfer Josh Palmateer that runs a surf academy (he`s a 4 time state champ!)  Now I knew it was hard to surf, but until this point, really didn`t realize how hard it was.  I have a new respect for surfers as you have to learn how to stand up on the board, shift your weight, maintain balance and that`s just to get on the board.  There`s also the paddling against the waves (as they crash into you and push you backwards) and it was hard.  I was able to get up a few times and ride the waves in and I also managed to do many face plants too.  Glad I tried it, but not something I will pursue as new hobby.

*December 5th was my second wine tour and 6 of the others were in my hostel and 2 girls were in my room, so we already had a heard start at having fun.  With a new skipper Erin, (as the driver is called here), we were off to a large corporate winery.  I hate to say I don`t remember the same and I was sober…but the wine wasn`t good, the feeling was so institutional and time to move on.

*Back to Hay Shed (as I knew we would go there again as it`s where we do the blending).  The same wine host Phil was there and welcomed me back and said I was one of the friendly and loud American (guess Milena was the other), but he did tell the new group we added a lot of fun to the last tour we were on.  Guess we made an impression…

*Fish Tail Winery was the next stop and had a great sparkling wine.  At this place, the wine maker was a famous surfer who then became a wine maker, so the tasting room had lots of fun surfing memorability to look at as we tasted.

*We even got one more stop at Bootleg Brewery which was nice as we got a large tasting and sat in the sun to consume.  At the end of this tour, we were not as drunk as before, but had a very fun time none the less.

*This time the wine tour group all decided to stay at a pub in town for dinner, more drinks, a live band and we closed the pub down at get this…11:30.  That was when last call was, and at 11:35 they were kicking us out the door.  Crazy how early things closed.  But in true style, I found another pub down the street that was still open and stayed there until it closed at 12:30am.  Oh the late night in Margaret River.

*Somewhere on this wine tour, I got to talking to two Scottish girls, Aileen and Kiri, who are both working/living in western Australia and took a road trip to Margaret River for the week.  After some talk, we decided to meet up the next day and head out for a new city and since Kiri had a car, that meant a drive to the city and not a bus – such a treat!  That`s one of the fun parts of my trip, meeting new people and making plans like this and heading out.  More details in the next entry.

Logistics:

Margaret River Backpackers – Brand new hostel opened same year and so nice.  The kitchen alone was huge with 6 full ranges.

www.margaretriverbackpackers.com.au  08 9757 9572

Wine for Dudes – great wine tour and I would highly recommend for a fun day (as I decided to go for 2 trips).  Website is www.winefordudes.com

Surf Lessonswww.mrsurf.com.au or 9757 3850 or 0418958264

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