If there is royalty in the wine world then surely the queen of grapes is Chardonnay – and that would make Margaret River the royal court. Home to some of the world’s most beautiful examples of this variety, a perfect grape growing climate and highly skilled wine makers, there is no better place in the world to delve into the beautiful world of Chardonnay than Margaret River.

Whilst it accounts for more than half of Australia’s white wine production, Chardonnay hasn’t always been the most fashionable of wines. Throughout the 1980’s, Chardonnay fell prey to a trend of excess which led to a stream of flabby, oaky and buttery wines, leaving some wary of the variety.

Breathe a sigh of relief though – times and tastes have changed. Prepare your tastebuds as today Chardonnay reigns with style, elegance and finesse; particularly in Margaret River.

The Margaret River region is expansive, so to help guide the way we’ve put together a Chardonnay Trail featuring some of the icons and the lesser-known names alike.

Locals tip: Make sure to toss the coin over who will be appointed as driver before you start tasting the region’s superb selection of wines, or enquire about arranging a private taxi/driver service.

STAY: Cape Lodge
DRINK: Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay
EAT: Xanadu Estate

DON’T MISS: The limited release Windows Estate Chardonnay
DISCOVER: McHenry Hohnen’s three different vineyards

Chardonnay Trail Cape Lodge

First things first, base yourself at the elegant and homely Cape Lodge, right in the heart of Margaret River. Set amongst beautiful vegetation and rolling vineyards, this sophisticated lodging is renowned for its fine food, created by one of the region’s top chefs. Carve out some time to indulge in the comfort of Cape Lodge – you won’t regret it.

After waking to the sound of birdsong amongst the estate’s gardens and enjoying a hearty breakfast overlooking the lake, your Chardonnay Trail begins with a leisurely drive through the picturesque Margaret River countryside.

Given the plethora of award winning wineries to choose from we suggest you begin your Chardonnay journey in the north of Margaret River and head south along Caves Road. Along this route are many wineries to explore – but when it comes to Chardonnay, the following are those which typify the region’s top offering.

We would suggest allowing 15 minutes drive time on average between each stop, with 6 wineries being a fair number to visit during the day (allowing time for lunch). Or, why not stretch your adventure out over a weekend – spend Saturday in the north, and  Sunday in the south? Splitting the trail into two days allows for a more leisurely pace and time to really delve into the story of each winery you visit, focusing on the unique characteristics that result in the region’s wines due to its climatic and territorial diversity.

Flametree Wines: Located at the northern gateway to the Margaret River wine region, look out for Flametree’s Hamptons-inspired beachy cellar door that is serving their acclaimed SRS Wallcliffe Chardonnay. Recent vintages have taken trophies at Australia’s top wine shows and been listed in the top 100 wines of by James Halliday; this wine will put you in good stead for the day with a purity and freshness of character.

Windows Estate: A true labour of love, founded and run by a young family, Windows’ story is testament to where passion and hard work can lead. Their newly released 2017 Chardonnay only has 600 dozen bottles produced and is currently ranked as one of the top 3 Chardonnays from 2017 in Margaret River by Huon Hooke.

Woodlands Wines: Located in the Wilyabrup Valley of Margaret River, Woodlands was one of the first five vineyards planted in the area, and the Watson family continue to produce some of the finest wines in Western Australia. Of course you’re here to sample their Chardonnay, but it would be a crime to miss a sip of their iconic Cabernet Sauvignon too.

Pierro: Just down the road from Woodlands you’ll find Pierro, who very humbly boast a Chardonnay that exemplifies the terroir of the region. Since 1986, the Chardonnay style found at Pierro has been racking up accolades internationally. Feel free to give your tastebuds a break and challenge your fellow Chardonnay adventurers to a game of chess on the jumbo set in the gardens!

Vasse Felix: A little further down Caves Road lies the historical centre of Margaret River’s wine industry at Vasse Felix, the region’s founding estate established in 1967 by Dr Tom Cullity. Your visit comes with the opportunity to taste their iconic Heytesbury Chardonnay – one of the  region’s most coveted bottles. Perched beside Margaret River’s oldest vineyard, the Estate offers wine tastings, an award-winning restaurant, art gallery, tours and more.

McHenry Hohnen: With three biodynamic vineyard located around the region, the McHenry Hohnen cellar door provides an education in how different growing conditions and regional terroirs affect the variety of award winning Chardonnays that they produce. See and touch the different soils that the vines grow in and taste the range from Hazel’s Vineyard, Burnside Vineyard and Calgardup Brook Vineyard. Everyone has a different favourite – which is yours?

Xanadu Estate: Moving slightly further south you will find Xanadu Estate, another option for that quintessential Margaret River lunch with a view of the vines – you can put your newfound Chardonnay expertise to good use pairing the liquid gold with local produce. Be sure to stop by the cellar door on your way in as you don’t want to miss a taste of their elegant Stevens Road Chardonnay.

Leeuwin Estate: The last stop on your Chardonnay discovery. Not only will the views and sweeping driveway take your breath away but you will be treating your tastebuds to one of the most famous wines in Australia. Their Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay holds the standard for excellence and it would be sacrilege to miss out on a tasting before the day is done. Beyond a taste, it’s worth sitting down for an afternoon snack with their wine and food flight which features their premium Art Series wines and perfectly paired bite-sized morsels from the chef – for a very reasonable price!

Some things in life are made for each other. Margaret River and Chardonnay go hand in hand. Whether you have discovered a new-found joy in Chardonnay or deepened a well-established love affair, there is no denying that she is the queen of the grapes. How fitting that now is the perfect time to watch the golden afternoon descend with a glass in hand. Cheers to Chardonnay!

Further drinking: Have an extra day up your sleeves and fallen in love with this variety? Try  exploring some more of the producers off the beaten path. Or why not pick up a few bottles and hold your own tasting back at home? Fraser Gallop, Si Vintners, Flowstone, Larry Cherubino and Stormflower are just a few more names to look out for.

Be careful not to drink and drive. If there are no hands up for designated driver in the group, choose from one of the taxi services or private drivers.

Sit back and relax

Margaret River Vintage Tours is one of the few tour operators in the region that take you on an intimate behind the tour of Leeuwin Estate. Often touted as the benchmark to which all other West Australian and Australian chardonnays are judged, you’ll get an insight into the winemaking process and what makes their top drop so special before sitting for a wine flight and two-course meal.

For bookings or further enquiries please contact [email protected] or call (08) 9780 5911.

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