Tom Cullity Wine Trail: A Margaret River guide

This 5km drive is an ideal starting point to explore Margaret River, Western Australia’s most famous wine region. Resident Danielle Costley discovers a kaleidoscope of tastes and experiences along the way

Spectacular coastlines, lush forest and valleys blanketed with grapevines await in Western Australia’s world-class wine region of Margaret River, where winemaking is its lifeblood and ancient soils nourish its soul.

Some of the world’s finest Chardonnays and Cabernets are produced here, in a region that celebrates its wines as much as intoxicating abundance of fresh produce, especially in November during the annual Gourmet Escape wine and food festival.

While its origins date back to the 1920s with the planting of an Italian grape variety called Fragola, it wasn’t until 1967 when Dr Tom Cullity established Vasse Felix winery, that the Margaret River wine region was truly born. Cullity’s humble enterprise began with just 3ha of land, with plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Malbec and Riesling.

Fact file: Margaret River

  • 175 wine producers
  • 90 cellar doors
  • 2% of Australia’s wine production
  • 25% of Australia’s premium wine production
  • More than 36 varieties planted
  • 5,480 hectares under vine

Times have certainly changed since then, with 175 wineries now established throughout the region, many with restaurants featuring local produce as the dish of the day.

The Tom Cullity Wine Trail pays homage to this cardiologist and budding vigneron.

Stay in Margaret River (300km from Perth) and take a day or two to drive along the 5km stretch of wineries along Tom Cullity Drive that boasts wildflowers during spring and a gushing Willyabrup Creek during the winter months. Stop for a glass of wine, a waterside picnic, handmade chocolate, nougat or a fine dining lunch, and discover Margaret River’s evolution from its humble beginnings.

Begin your journey at the Margaret River Chocolate Company, where you will find more than 200 chocolate products, including gin and tonic or salted caramel truffles, macadamia nut clusters, gourmet chocolate bars, and chocolate-coated honeycomb.

Providore platter

Providore picnic platter

Fill your picnic basket at Providore, a gourmet deli, with a selection of homemade tapenades, jams, chutneys, cured meats, dressings, cheeses, olive oil, wine and liqueurs. Everything is made on site, even the cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil from its Tuscan olive trees, with most produce picked from its organic vegetable garden.

A visit to the Heydon Estate cellar door won’t take long to reveal the Heydon family’s passion for cricket, with wine labels such as The Sledge, The Urn and Hallowed Turf. Try the Cherry Viognier Rosé on a balmy summer afternoon or The Willow Chardonnay with seafood as the sun sets.

Be enveloped by French oak barriques as you sample Thompson Estate’s wines in its contemporary barrel room. Established by Peter Thompson, the Four Chambers label acknowledges his – and Tom Cullity’s – parallel careers of vigneron and cardiologist.

The picturesque Juniper Estate is situated on the banks of Willyabrup Creek. Step inside its rustic cellar door and taste a fine selection of wine varietals crafted by winemaker Mark Messenger. This quiet-achieving winery is renowned for its award-winning portfolio of reds, but its Fianos are equally impressive. Sit by the water’s edge under the shade of the trees with a picnic basket from Providore and a glass of wine. Keep an eye out for the rare Baudin black cockatoos that live in this pristine realm.

Follow the winding blue gum- and jarrah-lined road until you arrive at a mud brick cellar door. This colonial style tasting room was built by the Devitt family from the mud in its dam when they created Ashbrook Estate some 40 years ago. Riesling was the highest planted variety in Margaret River in those days, and while Chardonnay and Cabernet are the hallmark varieties of the region today, this family continues to produce a Riesling from those original plantings.

Indulge in a fine-dining experience at Vasse Felix and pay tribute to the man who had such perseverance and foresight into what this region could become with a glass of the Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec. Margaret River’s wine journey began from those grapes, picked from the founding vineyard and delicately woven into this elegant wine. Devour Japanese and Korean-infused cuisine with Brendan Pratt’s wine-led menu that is paired with Vasse Felix wines. The Kingfish Wing is served with smoked eel and mushroom XO sauce, partnered with the winery’s hallmark Heytesbury Chardonnay. Book a Cellar Experience tour with a stroll through the organic vines, before a back-vintage tasting in The Vault with a viewing of the original bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec from its first vintage in 1972.

Vasse Felix vault

Vasse Felix

Complete your trail at Bettenay’s Nougat. Watch the nougat being made whilst sipping on a coffee or honey-based liqueur with a slice of salted-caramel nougat.


Accommodation

Constellation Apartments

Stay on the town’s main street at these stylish one-bedroom flats, complete with modern conveniences and original artworks.

  • Address: 141/139 Bussell Highway

Pullman Resort

Let the ocean lull you to sleep when you stay at this resort on Bunker Bay, with accommodation choices ranging from studio rooms to family bungalows and a boardwalk that leads to the beach.

  • Address: Bunker Bay Road, Naturaliste, WT, 6281

Cape Lodge

A stylish country house hotel. All rooms are light and spacious, offering garden or lake views. Make sure you opt for an inclusive experience, which incorporates breakfast, afternoon tea and a vineyard tour.

  • Address: 3341 Caves Road, Yallingup

Olio Bello

Glamp in a safari-style lakeside bungalow at this organic olive grove. Stroll to the café next door for an olive oil tasting, lunch and glass of wine. Breakfast hampers and dinner platters are also available.

  • Address: 36 Armstrong Rd, Cowaramup 6284
Olio Bello

Olio Bello


Restaurants

La Scarpetta Trattoria

Enjoy traditional Italian cuisine and homemade pasta on the main street in Margaret River with dinner at in a relaxed vintage-chic setting, with an extensive Italian and Margaret River wine list.

  • Address: 73 Bussell Highway, 6285
  • Open: Monday-Sunday 5pm-9.30pm

Pizzica

Authentic wood-fired Italian pizzas and charcoal grilled meats including t-bone steaks, pork ribs and lamb chops in this humble, yet welcoming rustic pizzeria.

  • Address: 73 Bussell Highway, 6285
  • Open: Monday-Sunday 5-10:30pm

Yarri

Drive 45km north to Dunsborough and tuck-in to some authentic Australian cuisine, where locally foraged edible native foods star on this ever-changing menu.

  • Address: Cyrillean Way, Dunsborough
  • Open: Monday-Sunday lunch 12pm-3pm, snacks 3pm-5.30pm, and dinner 5.30pm-9pm

Bunkers Beach House

Dine on sustainably caught local seafood in this absolute beachfront dining. Dishes change daily but can include roasted whole Nannygai fish with grilled lettuce and seaweed and bacon butter; dry-aged Amberjack carpaccio served with dune vegetables; or octopus and chorizo with polenta, olives, carrots and buttermilk dressing.

  • Address: Farm Break Lane, Bunker Bay, Naturaliste WA 6281
  • Open: Monday-Friday 12noon-3pm, Saturday, Sunday & Monday bank holiday, breakfast 8.30am-11.30am, lunch 12noon-3pm

Bars

River Hotel

A favourite watering hole for the locals to while away an afternoon in the beer garden with an interesting locally crafted spirits and beer selection, accompanied by live music or a silent disco.

  • Address: 40 Wallcliffe Road
  • Open: Monday-Friday 12noon-late, Saturday & Sunday 11am-late

Settlers Tavern

With about 600 wines on its award-winning list, also offers small pours of select back vintage wines through the Coravin preservation system.

  • Address: 114 Bussell Highway
  • Open:  Sunday-Thursday 11am-12am, Friday 11am-1am, Saturday 10am-1am

Shops & Tours

Walk Talk Taste

Bring your appetite on this walking brunch tour and discover some of the region’s best local produce. Sip on cold-drip coffee with chocolate, freshly made ice cream from a local dairy, pair cheeses with wine, and taste freshwater marron plucked from Margaret River dams.

Margaret River Collaborative

Here, several artisanal producers specialising in local, handmade products are showcased under the one roof. There’s coffee, tea, crafts, clothing, cheese, artworks, body products and wine.


Getting there

Fly to Perth, Western Australia’s capital, then hire a car and drive south for 300km to Margaret River. Or book a Cessna turbo-prop seaplane with Swan River Sea Planes and be in the wine region within an hour. Helicopter flights are also available with Corsaire.


 

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