VIRGINIA WILLCOCK’S MARGARET RIVER
Chief Winemaker, Vasse Felix
Former Gourmet Traveller Wine Winemaker of the Year, Virginia Willcock is the name behind some of Australia’s most critically acclaimed wines. She grew up on a vineyard and has worked for more than two decades in Margaret River where, she says, “vineyards meet forest and meet ocean in such a perfect way”.
What is your favourite varietal from the Margaret River region?
It's hard to choose between the best cabernets and chardonnay from the region but, let’s face it, there's room in everyone's diet for a great white and great red on any single occasion. For chardonnay I would be drinking a Xanadu, Deep Woods Reserve, or Vasse Felix. For cabernet a Woodlands, Juniper or Lenton Brae (and yes, Vasse Felix) cabernet sauvignon. In fact, cabernet from the 2012 vintage (which is current release) for most producers is superb.
What is your favourite Margaret River venue for casual dining, and a bit smarter? And a coffee break?
Casual dining would have to be The Settlers Tavern, where the atmosphere and the wine and beer selection are awesome. Miki's Open Kitchen for smarter dining, and for its great Japanese tempura (you must book), and Brew Shack (124 Bussell Hwy, Margaret River, ph 08 9758 8338) for a great coffee.
Is there a little known spot in the Margaret River that visitors should experience?
There a millions of little hidden gems. Many you need to discover with a four-wheel drive; for example, 4WD to Wilyabrup cliffs for a walk and a swim. If you’re not confident doing the tough tracks there are a number of 4WD “discovery tours”. A couple of "natural wine" hidden gems include Dormilona and Si Vintners.
"Get in the ocean in the morning to wash away the hangover from last night."
What is the essential "must do" for any visitor to Margaret River?
Get in the ocean in the morning to wash away the hangover from last night. Head to the Hairy Marron (69 Bussell Hwy, Margaret River, ph 08 9757 2346) for a coffee and then go for a solid mountain bike ride from the cafe, hire a bike if you need to, walk the tracks if you don't like riding, make sure you build the appetite, then head to a winery for lunch. (Leeuwin and Vasse Felix are the high-end wine and food experiences.) If time before sunset, head south down Caves Road to Boranup Forest for a visual experience and then head back to "The Point"/Prevelly for sunset and watch the mad surfers, windsurfers or kite surfers take on the awesome swell until the sun goes down. Head back to Margaret River and stay in town so you can walk to the main street for a Negroni at Morries, a pizza at Swings, or a beer/a great bottle of wine and maybe some live music at Settlers Tavern. Then the next day start again!
Your favourite produce from the region, and why?
The Farm House "Big Red" Pork. Who doesn't love pork? The pigs are a crazy cross breed that free range and forage in a stunning Margaret River wild environment and as a result they have real texture and flavour. You can buy the pork at The Farm House or at the Margaret River produce markets on Saturday mornings.
What makes Margaret River unique?
Stunning vineyards meet forest and meet ocean in such a perfect way. So isolated, fun, delicious and fresh, so fresh.
Finally, what is your favourite "end of the day, time to relax" tipple?
After a normal day tasting wine, a beer is mandatory. Little Creatures Seasonal Brew "Dog Days" is in the fridge at the moment.