That’s Our Five A Day

Tues. 7th May 2019

Beautiful Autumn colours in the vinesWhile on our RTW trip, we had many good days but one of our most successful was cycling around the Marlborough wine region in New Zealand. Given that there are similarities between Marlborough and Margaret River – besides the first couple of letters of their names, both are sprinkled with great wine producers that are not too far apart and over terrain that is mostly flat. This time, though, we don’t have our own bikes on the back of our RV but Google helps us find Lifecycle Bikes who quickly set us up with a pair of very decent mountain bikes. Even better, they take the time to mark out a route on a map that takes us past a good selection of wineries.

Most of our cycling was on tracks like this 'Rail to Trail'For the most part, it looks as if we’ll be able to stay off main roads as we quickly move on to a track that is marked as being ‘Rail to Trail’ – so, presumably, as in the UK they are repurposing old railway lines. Our first stop is Stella Bella where we get a warm welcome and quite a long list of wines to create a tasting list from. Whilst it is very quiet while we were there apparently there have been a couple of tour groups through already. We are so glad we’ve again managed to stay off the organised tours – they are so regimented and time constrained it must take away much of the pleasure. By contrast, we take our time and as in Marlborough make sure that we ask about the wines and engage the waiter. They even have some offers on their wines so we make notes. No point carrying bottles of wine around for the rest of the day when we can return tomorrow with the car!

Beautiful view out over the estate at Watershed WineryNext up, was Watershed Winery, and whilst we did enjoy the wine tasting there, what sticks in our mind is not so much  the rows of vines stretching out beyond the dramatic building to the lake, but the Chinese couple and their tour guide taking ridiculous posed photos against this beautiful background. We went for the much tamer version just looking out from the balcony of the restaurant.

Its not just Janet that takes reflection photos!We’d been told that the (tasting) highlight of our trip would be Leeuwin Wines (named after the Dutch galleon that mapped this southwestern corner of Australia back in 1622) and so it turned out to be. There was a bit of a scare where after cycling down a track, we found the gate across the service entrance (that we’d been told to look for) was padlocked. Once we spotted the nearby pedestrian gate all was well and we rode in past the rows of manicured vines, the trees reflecting on the pond and what we later learned was a Kookaburra posing on the lawn in front of the main building.

They even serve scruffs in the lovely restaurant at Leeuwin WinesJust as with Cloudy Bay in Marlborough, our experience at this prestigious winery was just wonderful. Rachel, behind the counter, was a Wolverhampton girl. She was chatty and friendly and smiley and she took us through all 5 of the complementary tastings, the 4 premium wines and 1 of the exclusive ($110) wines (because she wanted us to taste & smell the difference between the wines) – then declined to take any money us. Easily our favourite wines (even the cheaper ones) and far away the best experience. By now it is lunch time and of course there is a restaurant here with great service and wonderful food (so, so tender venison with sliced plums and macadamia puree for me) and, naturally, accompanied by a glass of their lovely wine.

The main building at Voyager - not as old as it looks!Of course, we’re now at our furthest point from town and our bottoms are not happy to be reintroduced to bicycle saddles nor our legs to the rigours of pedalling – especially along the rolling main drive that seems to be much more uphill than down. If Leeuwin was our best experience, then Voyager Winery was possibly our least favourite – coming across as being pretentious rather than sophisticated and charging by the glass for the tasting (so we were forced to buy a bottle of wine to set against the tasting cost. Sigh!)

Don't think this racer is going anywhere anytime soonAt least it had the decency to rain whilst we were inside so, in the break between the showers we press on to Xanadu (winery not pleasure dome, and sadly no Rush playing either – see here). By the time we finish here we’re happy (in both senses) and have done enough tasting for one day. Cake is what we now need and fortunately there’s a bakery not far off our route back to our lodging. Over tea and cake we reflect on our day and compare it with other wine tastings we’ve done. We certainly preferred Margaret River wines to those from Barossa Valley (subtler flavours and less tannin) and as an experience right up with Marlborough or our guided tour in Stellenbosch).

A delicious lunch at Leeuwin WinesThe one downside of our pedal-powered wine tour is that the car is in the car park for Lifecycle Bikes (not sure I’d risk driving it anyway). Sunset is early here (heading in to winter) and it is dark by 6:30. We’re too far out of town and too many streets have no lighting to want to try cycling in for dinner so, it is a fall-back plan of trusty Dominos pizza delivery. We even treat ourselves to an impromptu movie night – Fast & Furious something or other (the one with the plane that runs along the runway for about 15 minutes trying to take off before a car crashes its way out of the front of it). Anyway, highly unrealistic  but satisfying movie night and with today’s wine combined with tomatoes and pineapple on the pizza – that has to count for our five-a-day!

Margaret River Wine Tasting route

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