March 15, 2023
9 mins Read
One of the most geographically isolated wine regions in the world, Margaret River has come a long way since the founding wineries set up shop here in the late 1960s, converting former cattle farms and timber yards into picture-perfect vineyards. While it may be one of the youngest wine regions in the country, the vintners in this corner of WA have made a name for the place in record time.
According to the country’s foremost wine authority, the Halliday Wine Companion, Margaret River is now home to more five-star rated wineries than any other appellation (of which there are 60-plus) in Australia. In fact, although the Margaret River is responsible for just three per cent of the country’s total grape production, it produces more than 25 per cent of Australia’s premium wine.
Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are the local stars, but plenty of other varietals vie for your attention too: syrah, malbec, and sauvignon blanc semillon blends are chief among them. And just as you’ll find diverse expressions of these grapes, you’ll find a wild variety of cellar doors to boot. If you’re in the midst of planning a vino-centric itinerary to this neck of the woods then read on to uncover eight of the Margaret River’s best wineries.
Cullen is not a winery that relies solely on the strength of its award-winning wines to please patrons. Instead, this Margaret River winery has deployed some imaginative, off-kilter experiences that capitalise on the beauty of the land, honour the heritage of its traditional owners, the Wadandi people, and highlight the sustainability of the venture.
Perhaps chief among them is the private Seated Tasting Experience at the Wannang Storytelling Table, launched in early 2022. This outdoor tasting – which takes place around a table crafted from the trunk of a beloved estate peppermint tree that unexpectedly fell the year prior – is ideal for groups of four to six and can be added to any of Cullen’s other tastings in the biodynamic, carbon-positive wine room.
The winery also offers self-guided biodynamic garden tours, a dining room with a four-course set menu, and homestead accommodation.
Cullen Wines is well-known for its environmentally friendly ethos (in 2007 it became the first winery in Australia to be certified carbon neutral) but the other claim to fame at this regional frontrunner is the Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot, which is one of the few wines in Australia to receive the hallowed status of ‘Exceptional’ in the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine.
Among the more exclusive experiences in the Margaret River region, a visit to Moss Wood is by appointment only. First up, you need to become a member (fret not, you can sign-up for free online) before booking in a tasting at least two weeks in advance, at a cost of $80 (redeemable against any wine purchased on the day).
On the flipside, a visit to this Margaret River winery promises the undivided attention of one of Moss Wood’s staff and a delightfully unhurried experience – taste wine from barrel and tank, visit the museum and view back vintages, and learn more about the winery’s history and philosophy.
And if you’re lucky enough to be in town during vintage (February to April) you may even see the processing of the grapes and try pressed juice during various stages of fermentation.
The wines at Moss Wood are revered for their consistency and known to age exceptionally well, rendering the winery a regional standout that’s a must-visit for any true oenophile.
Planted mere inches from the estate’s merlot vines, Domaine Naturaliste’s cellar door offers a wildly picturesque outlook, with barely a speck of development on the horizon, and instils visitors with a feeling of being in the thick of it all.
Open since the end of 2018, the interiors at this Wilyabrup cellar door somehow strike that elusive balance between smart and homely. Light streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, timber seemingly covers every surface, the low ceilings lend a cosy vibe, and picnic tables line the impeccably manicured front lawn.
Settle in for the afternoon with one of the winery’s made-to-order cheese and charcuterie boards, and punctuate the salty and savoury morsels with the estate’s fruit-forward pours on a six-strong wine flight. It’s a relaxed little spot with friendly and knowledgeable staff where one could easily linger.
If you’re forever on the hunt for that little-known hero that’s a touch off the beaten track then add Victory Point Wines to your itinerary. Recognised as an outstanding winery by Australia’s wine bible (AKA the Halliday Wine Companion) this small, family-owned and run winery is a bit of an overachiever.
Pop in to this small cellar door and you might find co-owner Jude behind the timber tasting bench, pouring tastings of the estate’s premium chardonnay and Bordeaux reds (cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, pinot noir). But it’s not just this Cowaramup winery’s wines that create chatter – it’s the sweeping verdant valley views.
Talk about dramatic – this minimalist and modern cellar door, with its lofty ceilings and riot of textural design elements (native timber, concrete, steel) is impeccably styled. Not only that, but this award-winning building has the unusual distinction of adhering to the principles of feng shui, courtesy of professor Cheng Jianjun.
One of Australia’s First Families of Wine – a collective of 10 of the oldest family-owned wineries in Australia – Howard Park is something of an Aussie icon.
And while the boutique label’s prized Abercrombie cabernet sauvignon is its number one calling card, the Margaret River winery is also making waves with its Jeté range of méthode traditionelle sparkling.
Sample something at the cellar door bar, enjoy a guided tasting flight, or go all out and host a private wine tasting at the estate’s Wine Chapel.
Offering a more casual and relaxed experience than most, Aravina Estate is a bit of a crowdpleaser. Its vast grounds play host to a sizable fenced-off playground, gardens, a surf and sportscar museum, a microbrewery, an a la carte restaurant, and a pizza bar, so it’s a failsafe option, whatever the weather.
Avail yourself of the frequent live music, best enjoyed from the winery’s lawns with a glass of crisp Aravina grenache rosé in hand, and let the kids run riot around the estate as you unwind and drink in the bucolic lake and bushland views.
This Margaret River heavyweight is a triple threat. Beyond the obvious pull of its wines (Australia’s leading wine critic, James Halliday, in fact, named the winery’s Art Series Chardonnay as “Australia’s finest example based on the wines of the last 30 vintages”), Leeuwin Estate boasts a fine dining restaurant and an acclaimed art gallery that houses more than 150 paintings and artworks, from artists such as John Olsen, Arthur Boyd and Sir Sidney Nolan.
Thankfully, the powers that be have recognised the combined force of these three features and channelled them all into a handful of haute experiences. Most notable among them is the ‘Triple Celebration: Art, Wine & Ultimate Lunch’, which spans five hours, costs $259pp and offers a heady introduction to everything this estate does so well. But for those with less time (or cash) try the classic cellar door tastings instead.
One of the newest kids on the block, Walsh & Sons does things a little differently from many of its neighbours. For a start, you’ll only find small-batch, minimal intervention wines at this cellar door, open since January 2022.
What’s more, there’s nothing haughty about the rustic, dog-friendly indoor-outdoor space, where you can expect relaxed and friendly service from the operators Ryan Walsh and his partner Freya Hohnen; sample five wines from their two estates, or simply order a glass (or bottle) to enjoy on the patio.
And finally, you’ll find more than just wine under the tin roof: from the tasting room you can spy the family-run butchery and smokehouse, also known as The Farm House, and enjoy the house-made smallgoods for yourself by picking up one of the grazing boxes.
For more insider tips and inspiration, see our ultimate travel guide to Margaret River.
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